All the winners from Sunderland Business Excellence Awards 2023
The ceremony took place at the Stadium of Light
and live on Freeview channel 276
"We are very, very proud."
Vantec Europe were the big winners as the cream of Wearside business gathered at the Stadium of Light.
The auto parts company scooped the Large Business of the Year category at the Echo's Sunderland Business Excellence Awards 2023, before going on to be named overall Business of the Year.
Hundreds of people gathered in the stadium's Montgomery Suite for what is one of the highlights of the Sunderland business calendar.
Compere Alfie Joey welcomed guests before Echo editorial director Tim Richardson outlined the reason for the evening: "Sunderland has some of the best examples of businesses in the country and I am proud that through The Sunderland Echo and these awards we are able to showcase some of these.
"Everyone here is a winner whether they take a trophy home at the end of the night or not."
Cllr Kevin Johnston, of chief sponsor Sunderland City Council, said partnership with business was essential 'as we work towards delivering our city plan and achieving our ambition for Sunderland to be a connected international city, with opportunities for all'.
And he paid tribute to everything the city's business community had achieved despite the challenges of recent years, including Covid and the cost of living crisis.
Speaking after the firm was named Large Business of the Year, Vantec MD Martin Kendall said: "I We are absolutely delighted, we really are.
"We never expected it at all - it was a fantastic field, we were up against some fantastic competition,
"It is an absolute credit to the team."
Things went from good to great when the company was named Business of the Year. Head of HR, quality and Training Diane Elgar said she was 'shocked but very, very proud'.
"We were a bit surprised but we are very proud.
"We have been very impressed by the overall standard and have had a great night."
Our Lifetime Achievement Award went to Unipres' Gary Graham - "His passion and drive throughout his career has always earned the respect of his colleagues particularly in the challenging fast paced automotive industry," said the judges.
No stranger to the awards himself, Gary was taken aback to be honoured: "I am humbled," he said.
"I am a regular visitor on a yearly basis and I know previous people who have accepted this prestigious award.
"Although it is an individual award, it is not really. It reflects 40 years in the industry, 40 years of colleagues, employees and partners I have worked with.
"It is their contribution that has enabled me to achieve this award, so really, I dedicate this award to them."
Apprentice of the year, sponsored by Chameleon Training: Branden Hartley The Encore Group (Envelopes And Packaging) Limited
Best Independent Business of the Year: Asset55 Ltd. Highly Commended: AK Teaching
Best Large Business of the year, sponsored by City Dental: Vantec Europe
Business in the Community, sponsored by Mobility Care Solutions: Swim City LLP
Employer of the Year, sponsored by Sunderland College: Ocado Retail. Highly Commended: Penshaw View
Entrepreneur of the Year, sponsored by Thompson Waste: Louise Kennedy, Oculus HR
Retail, Hospitality & Leisure Business of the Year, sponsored by The Holiday Inn Group: Sunderland Empire. Highly Commended: Diego’s Joint
SME Business of the Year, sponsored by North East BIC: Owben, Highly Commended: Kirtley Co
Social Enterprise of the Year, sponsored by North East Bic: Space North East
Sustainable Initiative of the Year, sponsored by Sunderland City Council: Pacifica
Best Business Transformation, sponsored by Trustmark Roofing and Building: Apexon, Highly Commended: Harrison and Brown
Innovation Award, sponsored by Sunderland Creatives: Haskel. Highly Commended: Building Design Northern
Business of the Year, sponsored by Sunderland City Council: Vantec Europe
Special Recognition Award: Sunderland BID
Lifetime Achievement, sponsored by Wearside Audi/ Lookers: Gary Graham of Unipres