Suffolk Business Awards 2021: meet the Business Person of the Year finalists

Vanessa Penn of Penn Commercial

With over 30 years’ experience in commercial property, Vanessa Penn has become a highly-respected figure in the industry - Credit: Penn Commercial

The Business Person of the Year Award at this year's Suffolk Business Awards recognises business leaders who have worked in the industry for many years, or entrepreneurs who are accelerating their career with speed. Meet the finalists for this year’s Business Person of the Year Award, which is sponsored by The Churchmanor Estates Company plc.

Vanessa Penn - Penn Commercial

Vanessa Penn has run commercial sales and letting agency Penn Commercial since 2007, having previously worked for Countrywide and other notable property companies. She has grown Penn Commercial into a team of 10, with a head office on Fox’s Marina in Ipswich, offering commercial agency and professional services across East Anglia and nationally.   

With over 30 years’ experience in commercial property, Vanessa has become a highly-respected figure in the industry. Constantly innovating around changing market conditions, she has recently developed and grown a successful property management department, as well as specialist markets around the ports and logistics industries. 

The judges noted that Penn Commercial “regularly wins respected industry awards”, adding that Vanessa “has developed a strong team around her, is a prominent figure in the local business scene and has good plans for further growth in place”. 

Peter Wilson of Cory Brothers Shipping Agency

Peter Wilson has led Cory Brothers Shipping Agency through a period of growth since being promoted to group managing director in 2019 - Credit: Cory Brothers Shipping Agency

Peter Wilson - Cory Brothers Shipping Agency

Starting his career as a trainee shipping agent in 1998, Peter Wilson is now the group managing director of Cory Brothers, a worldwide shipping agency headquartered in Ipswich. He is also a board member for several other shipping companies, as well as Home-Start in Suffolk and Suffolk Business Women. 

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Peter has led Cory Brothers through a period of growth since being promoted to group managing director in 2019 – successfully navigating the Covid-19 pandemic, capitalising on opportunities presented by Brexit, and overseeing a merger between Cory Brothers and Vertom Group.  

Cory Brothers didn’t take advantage of the furlough scheme and has recruited 42 new people under Peter’s leadership, while creating new departments, opening new offices and increasing profits.  

The judges said Peter and his team have “demonstrated a clear strategic vision for the business”. Highlighting Peter’s passion for equality, health and happiness across the business, they added that people are clearly at the core of his leadership and everything the business does.

Lucy Reeves of Primal Raw

Lucy Reeves turned her passion for feeding her dogs quality raw pet food into a successful and fast-growing business - Credit: Primal Raw

Lucy Reeves - Primal Raw

After starting her career in the entertainment industry and then spending 14 years in the fitness industry, Lucy Reeves eventually took her passion for feeding her dogs quality raw pet food and turned it into a successful and fast-growing business.  

Over the past five years, Lucy has grown Primal Raw into a business turning over £1.5-2.5 million turnover. Having started out producing and supplying value-for-money, quality raw pet food from chest freezers in her garden shed, she now employs 16 staff and runs an Ipswich shop seven days a week, as well as a nationwide delivery network.  

The judges highlighted that Lucy is keen to support other local small businesses, using local suppliers wherever possible, and also collaborates with competitors across the UK. They added that she is passionate about the health benefits of quality raw pet food, demonstrates a passion for her team’s wellbeing and has ambitious plans for further growth.

Daniel Pilley, owner of Nine Jars in Haverhill

Daniel Pilley led the development and launch of a town centre loyalty app to benefit businesses in Haverhill, and gave free meals to NHS workers during the pandemic - Credit: Nine Jars

Daniel Pilley - Nine Jars

After a successful career in retail management, Daniel Pilley decided to start his own business by resurrecting a derelict pub in the centre of Haverhill, Suffolk. Over the last five years, he has grown Nine Jars into a premium cocktail bar, tapas restaurant and hotel that employs 22 people from the local community. 

Like many hospitality businesses, Nine Jars had to act quickly when the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Determined to adapt to the situation, Daniel and his team launched an online shop, takeaway, delivery service and community hub, as well as a hair salon. He also led the development and launch of a town centre loyalty app to benefit businesses in Haverhill, and gave free meals to NHS workers. 

At the same time, Daniel campaigned through his local MP Matt Hancock to allow all pubs in the UK to act as takeaways. With further ambitious growth plans for Nine Jars, the judges said Daniel “demonstrates an innovative way of working to reach his goals”.