The clock is ticking as we move into the final days to enter Southwark’s first business awards – so if you have not entered yet, enter now.
The deadline for applications across all fifteen categories is 5pm on Thursday, March 29.
After a glamorous launch at the luxurious 5-star Shangri-La hotel in London Bridge, some of the smaller businesses in the borough may feel that this glitzy affair is out of their league, but the judges, sponsors and organisers are urging them to jump on board.
Southwark is home to some of the world’s leading global firms, yet 87 per cent of businesses in the borough are small, with less than nine employees.
Stretching from Southbank to London Bridge and Surrey Docks in the east, and to Bermondsey, Peckham, Camberwell and Dulwich in the south, the assortment of industries working out of the borough is vast.
Stationers Postmark in North Cross Road, East Dulwich, which employs just five people is a prime example of a small business that believes in shouting loudly about what it does. Owned by husband and wife team Mark and Leona Janson-Smith they are entering the Best Independent Retailer category.
“There has always been a fantastic community feel to Dulwich – a real sense of neighbourhood – and we have always found it really friendly and a great place to do business,” said Leona.
“The area has changed over the years, with people moving out and others moving in, so it’s good to let people know, for example that there is a great market on in North Cross Road at the weekend and that there are also great independent shops and lovely cafes here too. It’s a lovely place to come and visit and spend your money to support these little local businesses, and entering the awards is a good way to let people to know that.”
Leona knows that she is not alone in an area that is jam-packed with independent retailers.
“The new awards are a great idea – anything that helps to promote Dulwich and the businesses here has to be good,” said Leona.
“There are a lot of independent shops in Dulwich that perhaps people don’t know about and this is a good way of making some noise about what we do here and the brilliant range of shops we have to offer, from clothes shops, to DIY shops, and butchers and bakers, to cafes and restaurants.”
Postmark, which opened in 2009 specialises in design-led greetings cards at an affordable price, has already won national awards as a top independent card retailer.
At the other end of the borough on Bermondsey Wall East is a businesses that started small and is now global. Entering the Entrepreneur of the Year and Best Employer categories is VHR.
Managing Director Danny Brooks has seen his turnover rise from £500,000 in 2003 to a massive £35 million today.
“Southwark has been our base from the beginning and it is the perfect business location,” said Mr Brooks. “We are close to the city, surrounded by a thriving local population, and with 30 per cent of our employees living or originating from Southwark and south London, the borough has proven ideal for our internal recruitment.”
Azem Hoti, 24, and Rebecca Fagan, 22, are prime examples, having both been promoted three times since joining VHR as teenage trainees over five years ago, making them two of the most successful employees in their departments.
“Rebecca is also now leading the VHR Academy training programme, lending her knowledge and experience to eight trainee recruitment consultants and helping them build their own successful careers,” said Mr Brooks.
The VHR CEO believes Southwark’s new awards programme is “fantastic for our borough and for the city of London” and is urging other Southwark businesses to enter.
He said: “They are a brilliant way to raise your business profile locally and internationally, and recognise a variety of business and individual achievements. It’s all about celebrating the wealth of talent that Southwark has to offer.”
“Brexit is generating a lot of negative press for the UK and businesses may be reluctant to invest in Britain in the current political climate; we need to promote the success and business growth of our cities and our country. The awards serve to highlight the excellent performances of business leaders and employees in the local area, increasing awareness of the rewarding career paths available to local young people and empowering them to succeed.”
The future opportunities for growth in Southwark are massive and the awards have attracted developers undertaking vast regeneration programmes to come on board as sponsors. British Land is sponsoring The Southwark Cultural Commitment Award category.
Its Canada Water Masterplan covers a 46 acre site incorporating Surrey Quays Shopping and Leisure, the SE16 Printworks, and the historic Dock Offices. British Land also recently exchanged contracts on the former Rotherhithe Police Station, which will be incorporated into the Masterplan.
It hopes to deliver up to 3,500 new homes, two million sq. ft. of workspace and around one million sq. ft. of retail, leisure, entertainment and community space set in a network of streets and spaces connected to the wider area. The plans, due to be submitted this spring, seek to reflect and build upon the culture and heritage of the area.
The scheme is expected to create up to 20,000 jobs once complete and generate an average of 1,200 roles in construction each month.
Emma Cariaga, Head of Operations for Canada Water for British Land, said: “We are committed to working with the community to deliver a range of long-term benefits for those who live in, work in and visit the area.
“Canada Water is a unique place, so culture and heritage has been embedded in the Masterplan from the start. We’re developing a cultural strategy which aims to respond to people, local residents, businesses and place, which acknowledges communities’ histories and traditions while exploring new and surprising opportunities. It will also cover the spectrum of the creative ways we live, whether through ideas, art, entertainment or heritage.”
Like all categories The Southwark Cultural Commitment Award is free to apply and open to every cultural or creative business based in the borough, big and small. In Southwark that includes everything from art galleries and music and performance spaces, to theatre companies and orchestras, as well as art, ballet and drama schools, to design businesses and print works – any business, in fact, that has art and culture at its heart.
As media partner Southwark News will be listing all shortlisted nominees in April. The highlight of the six-month awards programme will be the glittering, black-tie Gala Dinner and Charity Ball awards ceremony for 400 people on 21st June, hosted by a celebrity compere.
A supplement showcasing the night will also feature in the Southwark News.
Backed by Headline Partner, Lewisham Southwark College, and Awards Partners, Southwark Chamber of Commerce, Southwark Council, and White Label Creative, the awards are sponsored by British Land, Grosvenor, UAL London College of Communications, and Sellar. The programme is supported by Shangri-La Hotel, Jensen’s Gin.
To enter the awards visit www.southwarkawards.co.uk