Sunderland business boss who started company in his garage 'gobsmacked' with lifetime achievement honour at the Sunderland Echo Business Awards

A ‘gobsmacked’ business boss picked up a prestigious award – and admitted he had no idea that it was coming his way.

Sean Thompson won huge applause when he was announced as the winner of the Lifetime Achievement honour at the Sunderland Echo Business Awards.

But he was lost for words – even when the citation all about him was read out to a 300-strong audience at the Stadium of Light.

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It detailed his life story and how he had developed a business called Ashford Orthodontics but also helped so many Wearside people along the way.

A special night for Sean Thompson at the Sunderland Echo Business Excellence Awards.

"I didn't really know what to say about that because I was sitting listening to it and thinking ‘this sounds familiar!’ said Sean.

"But I had absolutely no idea of that so I think whoever has done this on my behalf, I would like to thank them very much.”

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Sean has had a passion for his industry for more than 40 years.

He left school in 1980 to start a job but then he took his mam's advice and went back to school to study his A levels. Thank goodness he did because it put him on the path towards a career which helped him give jobs to dozens of people.

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Lifetime Achievement Award winner, Sean Thompson (left) with host Jeff Brown at the Sunderland Business Excellence Awards.
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He told the Echo: “I started in the garage and about 5 years after that, we expanded into a limited company and we brought in two really good friends Craig Stevens and Graeme Winyard who sadly passed away.

"It was about us as a group of friends, getting on and doing something special with great opportunities for others.”

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Sean Thompson proudly holds his trophy.
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And so, a Sunderland success story gathered pace. By 2020, Ashford had grown to become the largest specialised Orthodontic Laboratory in the UK with 65 staff on the books.

Many of them were people who Sean had trained from the long-term unemployment lists. He said there was something special about giving people a chance to climb on the career ladder.

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"It gives me great pleasure and makes me proud,” he added.

Sean was one of a host of winners at the Sunderland Echo Business Excellence Awards night and we will have interviews with all of them in a supplement in the Sunderland Echo on Friday, November 25.

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The Sunderland Echo Business Excellence Awards.

In the meantime, our thanks go to all of the sponsors who helped to make the event a great success.

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Also on board were the North East BIC, Chilli Mangoes, Marelli, Wilf Husband, Harrison and Brown, Thompson Waste, Gentoo, Sunderland University, The Stack, BGL, Audi, North East Ambition and Sunderland College.

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Watch out for a post awards supplement filled with interviews and photos with all of the winners. Make sure you get your copy which will be in the Sunderland Echo on Friday, November 25.