It’s the most prestigious night of the year for businesses and businesspeople in Northern Ireland. And this year, the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards in partnership with Ulster Bank were bigger and better than ever. Around 450 of the business world’s brightest and best attended the glittering ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Belfast.
This was the third year in a row that the Belfast Telegraph was honoured to partner with our overall sponsor Ulster Bank to hold the awards.
Companies and individuals were honoured across 15 categories throughout evening.
This year also brought the addition of a live pitching session in which the audience heard one-minute pitches for investment from five high-achieving entrepreneurs. The audience then got to vote for the best pitch in a nail-biting moment — not just for the five entrepreneurs, but for the entire room.
Stephen Beck of Zero Waste Biotech won the prize of £4,000 and a full place on Ulster Bank’s renowned Accelerator Programme for start-up businesses. Sadly this meant that Harry Eves of Rotapal, Tricia Mcneilly of Otzibrew, Paudie Fearon of Wibble and Jessica Wilson of Stand left empty-handed on the night, though it’s safe to say their acumen and eagerness made a lasting impression on the crowd of potential investors.
The night was hosted by BBC NI journalist Mark Simpson, who reminisced about his time working in the Belfast Telegraph.
Richard Donnan, the Ulster Bank head in Northern Ireland, welcomed the crowd and
congratulated all the nominees.
And Alastair Hamilton, the chief executive of Invest NI, gave an address on the economy. Mr Hamilton also reflected on almost a decade at the top of the economic development agency, as he will be leaving the post later this year.
He said that over 160 companies have come to Northern Ireland in the past 10 years with commitments to create 10,000 jobs. “In the past five years, Belfast has attracted more FDI jobs than any other UK city, including London,” he said.
This year marked a new era for the Belfast Telegraph Business Awards.
After a long history of chairing the judging panel for the awards, economist Professor John Simpson retired from the role last year.
This year was therefore the first in the hot seat for new chairman of the judging panel, Professor Mark Durkin, Executive Dean of the Ulster University business school.
The remainder of the panel was made of John Simpson — who remains as a judge — as well as Richard Donnan of Ulster Bank, Professor Ian Mcconnell of PWC, Professor Geoff Simmons of Queen’s University, Roger Pollen of the Federation of Small Businesses, Clare Guinness of the Warrenpoint Harbour Authority, Ann Mcgregor of the NI Chamber of Commerce, Jennifer Mckeever of Airporter, and Ciara Lagan from Tughans Solicitors.
Despite the uncertainty of Brexit, the night was overwhelmingly one of positivity and celebration for Northern Ireland businesses and businesspeople who will let nothing stand in the way of their success.
The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Owen Brennan of Devenish Nutrition by Richard Donnan, head of Ulster Bank NI, and Belfast Telegraph publishing director Sarah Little at the Business Awards in association with Ulster Bank
Outstanding Business of the Year, sponsored by Ulster Bank, presented to Tony Convery and Brendan Maynes from CDE by Richard Donnan, head of Ulster Bank and Gail Walker, Belfast Telegraph Editor
Declan Magee, Joint Head of Litigation, Carson Mcdowell, presents IT Company or Team of the Year to Lorna Mcadoo and John Harrower from Version1
Retailer of the Year Award winners William and Chris Suitor from Suitor Brothers Tailoring, with Retail NI President, Peter Mcbride
Sara Murphy and Brenda Mulligan from SPAR collect the Excellence in Marketing award from Jonathan Martindale of Phoenix Natural Gas