A record number of people turned out to celebrate the best in business at the 22nd annual Peterborough Business Awards 2017.
More than 300 business people and their guests enjoyed a glittering presentation ceremony at the East of England Arena and Events Centre on Friday.
Trophies for outstanding achievements across 11 categories of key aspects of business life were presented to representatives of Peterborough companies and organisations.
Guests were enthralled by celebrity guest speaker Josephine Fairley, a co-founder of the niche chocolate maker Green & Black’s, who told of her exploits to start the company in 1991, which is now a £100 million brand and was later sold to Cadbury’s.
She revealed how she successfully told her bank that she wanted to borrow £20,000 to buy two tonnes of chocolate.
During the evening, a special collection held by Peterborough Regional College raised a staggering £1,735 for the Peterborough Educational Trust to fund a gliding scholarship for students.
Terry Jones, the principal of Peterborough Regional College, which was the headline sponsor for the business awards, said: “It was an incredibly successful evening.
“It was a fantastic showcase of the best of the Peterborough business community. We are delighted to be sponsors for the event.”
Mr Jones added: “We were also blown away by the generosity of guests at the awards who donated £1,735 for the Peterborough Educational Trust to fund a gliding scholarship for students.
He said: “And we felt the guest speaker was absolutely inspirational.”
The awards presentation was compered by Lincolnshire radio presenter Melvyn Prior.
The coveted Business Person of the Year award went to David Yiend (66), the long-serving chief executive of AB Agri, based in Innovation Way, in Lynch Wood.
During his tenure, the group’s turnover has increased from about £70 million to more than £2.5 billion, with staff increasing from 35 to more than 3,000 globally.
His many achievements include being the first western investor in agriculture in China in the 1990s, where more than 1,000 people are now employed.
Mr Yiend said: “I am hugely honoured. It is a real privilege. But it is really due to a lot of great people in the business.
“There has been a great reaction from our customers.”
Mr Yiend has been with the business since its creation in 1989.
He said: “The award is great for the business. It was started from scratch 25 years ago and now employs 300 people in Peterborough alone.
“Receiving this sort of recognition does help to encourage people to come and work for us.”
The Young Entrepreneur of the Year award was presented to Raj Regmi, owner of the Lakeside Kitchen and Bar and the Ferry Meadows Cafe.
Guests heard how Mr Regmi (35) had left Nepal for England at the age of 19 with just £1,000.
He said: “I am so proud to have won. The fact that I have won is still sinking in.
“I feel it is a massive achievement. I have only been in the country for 16 years and I just wasn’t expecting anything like this. It is just out of the blue.”
The audience was told Mr Regmi had worked at London’s Hilton Hotel and Selfridges before successfully applying to take over the running of Ferry Meadows and Café. Although he did not have a company or a bank account, he was awarded the contract.
He has now turned a loss making enterprise into a profitable business and a year later had the opportunity to tender for Lakeside Kitchen and Bar.
He was given a 10 year contract to operate both premises in 2016 and has invested a substantial sum in both properties.
Mr Regmi said: “It is really a fairy tale come true.
“The reaction from customers has been tremendous and really if it wasn’t for them I wouldn’t be here.”
Winner of the Lifetime Achievement award was Michael Vincent, who retired in the summer after selling his retail business ChromaSport, in Wulfric Square, Bretton, after 12 years at the helm.
A former director of Peterborough United Football Club, Mr Vincent who has worked for 40 years in business in Peterborough, said: “I am humbled to receive the award.
“It was completely unexpected.
“I am deeply honoured and it means a great deal to me.
“I’d like to thank everyone who has played a part in my business life, and in particular, my wife Mary, without whose support over the years this would just not have been possible.”
There was a double awards success for Peterborough-based construction industry experts Princebuild, which was presented with the Larger Business of the Year award and the corporate social responsibility trophy.
Matthew Pudney, director of Princebuild, in Empson Road, Peterborough, said: “The timing of our submission for both the corporate social responsibility and Larger Business of the Year categories felt right, as our business has grown significantly over the last two years.
“As such we have committed more resources and investment into the communities we work in.
He said: “Corporate Social Responsibility is all about maintaining sustainable communities, and it is Princebuild’s belief that all businesses have a responsibility to help support not only their industries by inspiring new talent to join them but also to support communities where a business’ skills can make a difference.
“To receive recognition for both the continued success of our business and our work in the community is a true accolade to a very dedicated and committed team.”
Afterwards, chairman of the awards’ judges, Chris Collier said: “It is so important for Peterborough’s businesses to be acknowledged, and the awards is a great way to show the range of talents in the city.
He said: “The evening started with an inspiring talk from Jo Fairley who founded Green and Black’s, and is a good example of an entrepreneur, and this set the tone for the evening.
“The standard of entries this year was excellent with manufacturers, service industries, builders, retailers, restaurateurs and charities among those who received awards.”
Mr Collier added: “With over 300 guests this year the atmosphere created was superb, and it was so good to acknowledge David Yiend, chief executive of AB Agri, as Business Person of the year, as this company is a hidden giant in Peterborough.”