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Winners of Croydon Business Awards celebrate their success


THERE was triumph again for the borough's manufacturing industries as specialist joinery and fit-out firm, Martek Contracts, was last week named as Croydon's business of the year.

The New Addington-based company had a double reason to celebrate at the presentation evening held at Fairfield last Wednesday, as it also picked up the award for the Best Green Business.

Martek's success comes on the heels of the overall business win last year by SLE Ltd, of South Croydon, which manufactures specialised neonatal ventilation equipment for premature babies.

SLE continued its own success by picking up this year's award for the best medium-sized business.

Martek has been in business for 31 years, moving to its New Addington base in King Henry's Drive in 2004 and now employs around 70 people on the site.

Its work extends across health services, education, commercial catering and the cinema industry.

The firm's specialised skills have seen it manufacture reception areas, science laboratories in the education sector and restaurants for commercial catering - with clients including Costa Coffee and Virgin Atlantic.

It also fits out the vending areas for food and drink at Odeon cinemas in the UK and for other cinema chains worldwide.

Derek Galloway, the company's managing director, said as part of the changing markets, there were growing pressures from customers for improved environmental credentials.

He said he believed the company's drive to improve these standards had played the key role in it picking up the best green business award.

Mr Galloway said: "We have increased the amount of recycling we undertake and we also work to ensure our products are made out of as much recycled material as possible."

Working will large amounts of wood and chipboard leaves Martek with a mountain of cut-offs which Mr Galloway said he was anxious did not go to waste.

He said: "Rather than put it in the skip, we burn it to generate our own heat for the factory."

Other "green" initiatives have included the replacement of conventional lighting with LED lights, which greatly reduce energy consumption.

Mr Galloway said he was delighted that manufacturing had again be successful.

He added: "The reality is that these are difficult times for everybody in the UK.

"Winning the awards puts manufacturing in the forefront of people's minds which is quite exciting and makes us feel very proud."

Mr Galloway added: "It's an acknowledgement for all our staff and everyone who has worked hard to get there were are."

BUSINESS acumen and a desire to support young people helped Byron Cole and his company BLC Property Services pick up two prizes at the Croydon Business Awards. His company was named as the Best Business for Work Related Learning and Employment for Young People. Mr Cole himself was also chosen as as the winner of the Real Life Entrepreneur award by the Federation of Small Businesses. BLC Property Services, based in Sydenham Road, Croydon was established around five years ago and supplies services to private landlords and estate agents to ease their work in buying or selling properties. The FSB, in making its award, said for a young man of 28, Mr Cole had "his head well and truly screwed on", had found a niche in the market and was well aware of the needs of modern business including having good web presence. The FSB also praised his work in helping young people find work. Mr Cole said he was particularly keen to support young people and the company runs an annual apprenticeship scheme, which has resulted in several apprentices moving on to take middle management jobs with BLC. He also operates mentoring services for young people at John Ruskin College, in Selsdon, and Brunel University.
THREE years ago, working with just a small computer and a telephone line from a room in his home, Bessem Bikhazi launched Gooey UK. Today, his unique database listing all major contacts for the world's airlines and airports has gone global and been taken up in not far short of 200 countries. And last Wednesday, the success of the company was recognised at the Croydon Business Awards, where it was named as the 2013 Best New Business. Mr Bikhazi, himself a qualified pilot, got the idea for the database while working as sales representative for an airline magazine. He said: "I realised there was a gap in the market and there was no database listing all the contacts for airlines and airports which could be used by the aviation industry and suppliers." The painstaking task of compiling the initial database took Mr Bizhazi around eight years, before he was ready to launch on to the market. But the growth of the company has been rapid and among clients now using the database are airports in Manchester, Birmingham, the USA, France, Belgium and Dubai. And from being a one-man band at the start, Gooey UK now has a total of 30 staff, dealing with keeping the database up-to-date, marketing the product and ensuring its presence at industry events. It now operates from offices at the Capital Business Park, in South Croydon. Mr Bikhazi said: "We are still the only company providing direct links to all the key decision-makers at airlines and airports." Looking ahead, Mr Bikhazi said he was working towards running his own awards scheme for industry suppliers.
COMING out on top among Croydon businesses is becoming a bit of a habit for SLE Ltd. The South Croydon-based company, which manufactures specialist neonatal equipment for premature babies, won best business of the year in the 2012 Croydon Business Awards, coupled with the prize for the best international business - an award it also took the previous year. When results of the 2013 awards were announced last Wednesday, SLE was again at the top, winning the medium-sized business of the year prize. Bernard Nelligan, managing director of the company, said: "This year was different for us because we entered a category where the competition was much more varied than in previous year. "It was therefore particularly pleasing to have won." Mr Nelligan added he was also pleased to see fellow manufacturing firm Martek Contracts win the best overall business award. He said: "I am happy that manufacturing is getting the recognition it deserves and its profile is being raised." He added that winning another award had gone down very well with the company's 90 staff. Mr Nelligan said: "Bringing the trophy on to the factory floor to share with the staff on the morning after the awards was a joy to do. "Winning awards like this is very good for morale." The Best Medium-sized Business award was judged by Croydon Advertiser editor Glenn Ebrey. He said: "It was a very tough call between some outstanding businesses, but I was particularly impressed to see two manufacturing firms doing so well in these tough times. "What also struck me was the sheer variety of businesses doing some great work across the borough. The candidates for this award included everything from a housing association to a firm of bailiffs. But they all had one thing in common; excellent business models."
AFTER being sponsors at last year's Croydon Business Awards, chartered surveyors Arnold & Baldwin decided to have a go at winning themselves this year. And it proved to be the right decision, as they walked off with the award for Croydon's Best Small Business. Now Joe Arnold, managing director of the firm based in Southbridge Place, South Croydon, is confident winning will act as catalyst to business expansion. The firm, which employs nine people, was founded by Mr Arnold and Jobie CORRECT Baldwin in 2007. Initially based in Caterham, it moved to Croydon two and a half years ago to take advantage of the town's greater business opportunities. Mr Arnold said: "We have quadrupled the size of the business since then." The bulk of its business centres on carrying out surveying and valuation work for banks including HSBC, First Direct and Metrobank. The portfolio also includes renting and selling commercial properties in Croydon, Purley, and Caterham. Mr Arnold said it was looking for further expansion and he is hopeful that it will be able to take advantage of new renting, selling and surveying opportunities which will arise from the regeneration of the town centre, driven by the Westfield and Hammerson plans to redevelop the Whitgift Centre. He said that with Croydon being so close to London, there was a tendency for contracts for major projects to go to large firms in the capital. Mr Arnold said: "We hope through having won this award we will have more of a competitive edge. "We are hoping to companies like Westfield and Hammerson will realise that there is lot of talent in Croydon and they don't need to go to London for the advice they need."
The full list of winners of this year' Croydon Business Awards:
Best Overall Business and Best Green Business: Martek Contracts Ltd, New Addington. Best Small Business: Arnold & Baldwin Chartered Surveyors, South Croydon. Best Medium Sized Business: SLE Ltd, South Croydon. The FSB Real Life Entrepreneur: Byron Cole of BLC Investments, Croydon. Best New Business: Gooey UK Ltd, Croydon which provides a database for airlines, airports and handlers, South Croydon. Best Business for Work Related Learning and Employment for Young People: BLC Property Services, Croydon. Best Business for Customer Services: Catherine Johnstone Recruitment, East Croydon. Best Business for Training and Development: Flemmings, accounting and taxation specialists, West Croydon. Commitment to the Community: Phase 1 Enterprise Training Ltd, Purley.

Winners of Croydon Business Awards celebrate their success

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