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24 May 2019

Top 11 small businesses of 2019 named by FSB

Family business Cruise Loch Ness was named as the FSB UK Small Business of the Year 2019 by the Federation of Small Businesses last night (23 May) in London. The top 11 small businesses were named.

Sara Davies, who the BBC recently named as Jenny Campbell’s successor on the Dragon’s Den panel, won International Business of the Year for her globally successful firm Crafter’s Companion, based in County Durham. Hampshire vegan pet food brand, Vegeco, created by two eco-entrepreneur bothers, was named as Ethical-Green Business of the Year, whilst independent Kent Crisps Ltd., which was taken from loss to profit in six months by new entrepreneur owner Laura Bounds, was named as micro business of the year; and Pioneering high-tech Pharma Packaging Ltd. from Worcester, which has taken the global industry by storm, were amongst 11 winners from across the UK.

A special FSB Chairman’s award was given to company Allegro Optical, West Yorkshire, because of the way it has overcome adversity to grow despite one of the co-founders being struck down by a life-threatening illness just months after opening its doors.

FSB National Chairman Mike Cherry said: “This year’s award winners illustrate how small businesses are embracing and driving investment, innovation, technology and creativity to better the UK’s economy and inspire the next generations. Small businesses make for a strong economy, and it is through supporting small businesses such as these that we’ll continue to lead the world in entrepreneurialism.”

Small Business Minister Kelly Tolhurst said: “Congratulations to all of the fantastic small businesses who have won and been nominated for this year’s FSB Small Business Awards.

“Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and as a former small business owner, I’m passionate about helping them seize opportunities and ensuring they can thrive in the future. Through our modern Industrial Strategy we are committed to growing our status as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business.”

Established in 1968, Cruise Loch Ness won both Family Business of the Year and the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards grand prize triumphing against more than 100 finalists from across the UK. The business, which has in the past set sail with Ewan Macgregor and the Olympic torch aboard its boats, was singled out for its sustained investment over its 50 years in operation. It also launched a bespoke online booking system.

After years of investment, the business now runs five boats from the bank of the loch and employs 18 people, many of whom have been with them for more than 20 years. In 2018, the business launched a new custom designed catamaran - The Spirit of Loch Ness – allowing it to set sail with 354 passengers across all its vessels.

Debi Mackenzie, director of Cruise Loch Ness, said: “After more than 50 years in operation, we’re thrilled to see our family firm recognised by the Federation of Small Businesses. Year after year, we’ve reinvested in the business, testing new ideas and making sure that our customers have absolutely the best experience possible. While we can’t guarantee they’ll spot the monster, we can ensure that they have a world class experience in one of Scotland’s most iconic locations. It is fantastic to see the service we offer recognised.”

The full list of winners at the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2019 is:

UK Family Business of the Year and FSB Small Business of 2019:
Winner: Cruise Loch Ness, Scotland
A strong digital presence has been instrumental to this tourism company’s growth. The launch of a bespoke online booking system increased sales experientially.

UK Business and Product Innovation Award
Winner: Pharma Packaging Systems Ltd., Worcester
A High-tech packaging solutions for the pharmaceutical industry. The company works with some of the biggest brands in the pharmaceutical industry including Glaxo Smith Klein, Abbott and Johnson & Johnson.

UK Micro Business of the Year and joint runner-up 2019:
Winner: Kent Crisps Ltd. Entrepreneur Laura Bounds took the company from running at a loss to turning a profit within the first six months of ownership. The brand is stocked in independent outlets and in selected Waitrose, Co-op, Southern Co-op and Asda stores.

UK Start-Up Business of the Year
Winner: Aidie, London
Aidie London specialises in infant footwear designed to specifically enhance cognitive development in children as they learn to walk.

UK International Business of the Year
Winner: Crafter’s Companion, Durham
Founded in 2005 by Sara Davies MBE, while she was studying for a business degree at York University. During a placement at a small craft company, Sara spotted a gap in the market for a tool that could create bespoke envelopes for handmade cards. The company currently exports to more than 40 countries across Europe, Asia, South Africa, Australasia and America. Sara Davies was recently named by the BBC as Jenny Campbell’s successor on the Dragon’s Den panel.

UK Employer of the Year
Winner: DBS Internet Marketing, Lincolnshire
in 2017 DBS became an employee-owned company when owner David Clarke handed all his shares to DBS team members at no charge.  He felt it made sense to reward the very people that helped to him build DBS over 23 years. As everyone is a shareholder the firm retains employees as each team member has a vested interest to grow the business and share the profits.

UK Scale-Up Business of the Year
Winner: Flame Heating Group, Tyne & Wear
Flame Heating Group is a fast growing heating and plumbing merchant, specialising in the supply of heating spares for commercial heating and plumbing purposes, renewable energy and bathrooms. The company has also introduced a revolutionary customer app which can perform diagnostics on boilers and identify the parts required.

UK Digital Innovation Award
Winner: Ocucon Ltd., Newcastle upon Tyne
In 2016, frustrated with the limitations of existing CCTV technologies on the market, Ocucon founders Stuart and Gary began to explore the possibility of launching their own solution. They conceived the idea of developing a fully managed system that could offer unlimited cloud-based storage with zero capital expenditure on the part of the client and from this began Ocucon, the Video Surveillance as a Service (VSaaS) system.

UK Ethical-Green Business of the Year
Winner: Vegeco Ltd., Havant, Hampshire
An ethical organisation owned by eco-entrepreneur brothers Damian and Darrell who gave up teaching and media careers to start a business selling vegetarian and vegan food online in 2003. The business is entirely powered by ecotricity and its latest product uses a farmed seaweed biodegradable bag and donates to ocean conservation projects. It reduces habitat destruction and leaves no plastic in the environment.

UK FSB Chairman’s Special Award
Winner: Allegro Optical, Meltham, West Yorkshire
Optician business that provides bespoke optical services to musicians and performers worldwide. College of Music, The Halle Orchestra and Huddersfield Philharmonic, the team help student, professional and amateur musicians who struggle to focus on printed music and written notation due to a various eye conditions.

UK Young Entrepreneur of the Year
Winner: Liv Conlon, ThePropertyStagers, Bothwell, Scotland
20-year-old Liv Conlon’s million pound business, ThePropertyStagers was created when Liv’s mother Ali struggled to sell her investment property and so Liv decided to start a property staging company.

More than 2,000 small businesses from across the UK entered the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards 2019.


Notes to Editors

About small businesses in the UK
There are 5.6 million small businesses in the UK and these account for 99.3 per cent of all private sector businesses. The combined annual turnover of SMBs in 2018 was £2 trillion, 52 per cent of all private sector turnover. SMBs account for at least 99.5 per cent of the businesses in every main industry sector. There has been a significant increase in the economic contribution generated by women entrepreneurs over the last few years, according to a recent FSB report. Almost 40 per cent of the award finalists were businesses owned by women.

About the FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards

More than 2,000 small businesses from across the UK and from almost every sector entered this year’s FSB Celebrating Small Business Awards and the UK final was held following area finals in each English region and devolved nation. The awards, run by the Federation of Small Businesses celebrate and recognise the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed.

Media contact:

Kerry Curtis at FSB: / 020 7592 8120 / 020 7592 3356

About FSB

As the UK’s biggest business support group, FSB is the voice of the UK’s small businesses and the self-employed. Established 45 years ago to help its members succeed in business, FSB is a non-profit making and non-party political organisation that’s led by its members, for its members. As the UK’s leading business campaigner, FSB is focused on delivering change which supports smaller businesses to grow and succeed. FSB offers members a wide range of vital business services, including access to finance, business banking, legal advice and support along with a powerful voice in Government. FSB also runs the UK’s annual Celebrating Small Business Awards. FSB is a signatory of the Armed Forces Covenant.