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

Employees at Seven Resourcing in an Ibiza themed office

The judges were impressed by the innovative culture that had been fostered within Seven Resourcing - Credit: Seven Resourcing

The SME of the Year award, sponsored by Larking Gowen, recognises businesses with a turnover between £2 million and £5 million that have shown stability in their ownership of market share, as well as a commitment to their purpose, community, employees, customers and development of products or services. Meet the finalists for this year’s SME of the Year award.

Seven Resourcing

Founded in 2011, Seven Resourcing is a global recruitment agency growing rapidly across seven major sectors. With over 100 employees operating from offices in Ipswich, Colchester, Miami and the Gold Coast, the company is one of the UK’s leading suppliers of health and social care staff, and also recruits for some of the world’s largest pharmaceutical and veterinary organisations. 

The judging panel was impressed by Seven’s use of technology – from the sales button used to motivate and reward employees for making a sale, to learning new programming skills to provide a customer-centric solution to paper-based timesheets. They also highlighted the “first class” treatment of staff, including trips away and numerous reward packages. 

Overall, it was the innovative culture that had been fostered within the business, with a key focus on improving the customer experience while looking after employees, that most impressed the judges.

The Priory Hotel, owned and operated by Cameron Ventures Group

Cameron Ventures Group came up with innovative ways to keep revenue coming in while hospitality was effectively shut - Credit: Cameron Ventures Group

Cameron Ventures Group 

The Cameron Ventures Group is a family-run hotel group based in East Anglia. Founded by Brian and Kelly Keane in 1999, the group has hotels in Suffolk and Norfolk, including the Priory Hotel in Bury St Edmunds. The company employs more than 200 people and plans to more than double its hotel portfolio by the end of December 2021.  

The judges said it was humbling to hear the stories of what the business did for the community during the various lockdowns over the past two years. Management, led by Brian, came up with innovative ways to keep revenue coming in while hospitality was effectively shut by the government.  

As a result, the business has been able to emerge strongly from the pandemic and acquire additional assets, which is “testament to the hard work put in by the team and the passion that Brian has for hospitality.” The judges also praised “the small acts of thoughtfulness designed to improve customer experience in a number of small ways”.

A well-designed garden on a sunny day

Caribbean Blinds has navigated supply chain and distribution issues, while remaining true to its roots from its Sudbury factory - Credit: Caribbean Blinds UK

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Caribbean Blinds UK

Caribbean Blinds is a family-run business based in Sudbury, Suffolk that specialises in external shading systems. Its 24-strong team designs, manufactures and installs innovative patio awnings, external blinds and louvered roofs for homeowners and businesses across the UK.  

The past two years could have easily dampened the spirits of Caribbean Blinds and its managing director Stuart Dantzic. However, such is its desire to spread the word that Stuart spoke to the judges from a service station on his way back from meeting a designer in Belgium. 

While the business has benefited from the national boom in home improvements, what really impressed the judges was the way in which it has navigated supply chain and distribution issues, while remaining true to its roots from its Sudbury factory.

The future looks bright for the business, with ambitious expansion plans and a commitment to the community, not least through the sponsorship of the local football team.

Exterior shot of Hemisphere Freight

Hemisphere Freight's focus on improving the customer experience has paid off in terms of growth and customer loyalty - Credit: Hemisphere Freight Limited

Hemisphere Freight

Hemisphere Freight is a global logistics company that has grown to be one of the largest independent UK providers of logistics solutions across Europe, Asia, North America, South America, Africa and Australasia. 

Headquartered in Ipswich with additional premises at Felixstowe, London Heathrow and Skelmersdale, Hemisphere can handle every aspect of its clients’ logistics needs, no matter the origin or destination of their goods.  

In an industry that has had to navigate the challenges of Brexit and large price increases from suppliers, the judges were impressed by Hemisphere’s focus on improving the customer experience, which has paid off in terms of growth and customer loyalty. 

Through the development of its Compass platform, Louis Perrin and the extended management team have transformed the way in which they interact with their customers. The innovative platform allows customers to see all their shipments from different carrying lines and freight methods in one place.