Champions! Meet the businesses who have been crowned the best in Sunderland

Phil Cronin of Tombola, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Tombola also picked up the Large Business of the Year and Overall Business of the Year Awards.
Phil Cronin of Tombola, winner of the Lifetime Achievement Award. Tombola also picked up the Large Business of the Year and Overall Business of the Year Awards.
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A business boss who built a multi-million pound empire and kept it growing in Sunderland has been honoured on a night of champions.

Phil Cronin, chief executive and founder of Tombola, took the Lifetime Achievement title at last night’s Sunderland Echo Portfolio Awards.

Winners in the Sunderland Echo 2018 Portfolio Awards at the Stadium of Light.

Winners in the Sunderland Echo 2018 Portfolio Awards at the Stadium of Light.

He was hailed as “a real success story of homegrown regional talent and boy done good”.

Tombola’s night of triple triumphs also included taking the Large Business and Overall Business of the Year titles.

Judges described the firm as a “celebration of Sunderland business – and still rooted in the city.”

They heard how the firm is a major employer for Wearside , as well as having workers in Italy, Spain and Gibraltar.

It has been a nice mix of businesses

Portfolio Awards judge

But Tombola’s success story was only one example of outstanding business achievement for Wearside and County Durham companies.

Judges hailed this year’s standard as the best they had ever seen and heralded the area’s business elite with 23 honours.

Other winners included New World Designs, who took the Small Business of the Year title. The bullet time photography specialists boasts clients such as the England rugby and cricket teams.

Medium Business of the Year was telecommunications specialist Nice Network, with Emmersons Solicitors highly commended.

The Health & Lifestyle winners were flourishing fitness experts Hansom Devils, with East Coast Fitness highly commended.

Hyperdrive Innovation, which develops clean energy alternatives to fossil fuels, won the Best Use of Technology Award and the Best Green Business title.

The Business Education category winners was BIC-based Geo Journey, which creates amazing explorer kits for children.

The Social Enterprise champions were Bishopwearmouth Co-operative CIC for their work with vulnerable adults.

Frank Cronin of Tombola receives the Large Business Award from Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief exexutive of Sunderland College.

Frank Cronin of Tombola receives the Large Business Award from Ellen Thinnesen, principal and chief exexutive of Sunderland College.

Richard Reed Solicitors were crowned City Centre Business of the Year for their impressive work after 70 years in industry.

New Business champions were precision products firm Triotec, which doubled the size of its premises, and the Corporate Social Responsibility winners were the Wonderful Wig Company, which sources the best wigs globally for people suffering hair loss.

Barber industry trainers – Sunderland-based SB Barbering – was the Best Training Provider, while The Roker Hotel won the Leisure Business sector for going the extra mile for clients.

Artist Frank Styles was Sole Trader of the Year, and The Fans Museum was the Best Age Friendly Business, with Station Taxis highly commended.

The Foundation of Light took the Special Community category for engaging with tens of thousands of people each year.

And congratulations to Roker-based Sue’s Cafe for winning the Judges Choice Award for the way Sue and Tom Parkin have worked so hard to make a difference in their community.

Nicola Wood of The Wonderful Wig Company, winner of the Corporate & Social Responsibility Award at the Sunderland Echo 2018 Portfolio Awards.

Nicola Wood of The Wonderful Wig Company, winner of the Corporate & Social Responsibility Award at the Sunderland Echo 2018 Portfolio Awards.

Thanks to our tremendous sponsors. MAKE it Sunderland sponsored our overall Business of the Year Award, as well as a Lifetime Achievement award, which is in the sponsor’s gift.

MAKE it Sunderland also backed the Small Business Category.

BIC sponsored the Social Enterprise Award.

Other backers were Northumbrian Water, Stagecoach in Sunderland, The Bid, ResQ, Maxim Brewery, Sunderland College, Creo, Northern Railway, Station Taxis, Gentoo, Bradley Hall, and PG Legal Commercial Solicitors.

* Watch out for interviews and more photographs in a 16-page supplement in the Echo on Wednesday, November 7.