BIBAs winners were a testament to the resilience of Lancashire's business community
The larger than life star performer Shane Ritchie may have tried to steal the show at the glittering BIBAs' Blackpool Tower ceremony, but it was the businesses of Lancashire that truly shone after a turbulent 18 months.
North West supermarket chain Booths has been named the Business of the Year at Lancashire' s leading business awards.
The family-owned business, which has 15 branches across the county, collected the top award at the Be Inspired Business Awards' prize-giving ceremony at the Blackpool Tower on Friday night.
It was one of 18 businesses which collected awards with Myerscough fertiliser specialist Levity Crop Science walking away with the double of Global Business of the Year and Most Innovative Business of the Year prizes.
A sell-out crowd of more than 1,000 people were entertained by The Shane Richie Band, fronted by the Eastenders' actor performing a lively selection of hit songs from the 80s, in the venue's Tower Ballroom.
Babs Murphy, chief executive of the North and Western Lancashire Chamber of Commerce which organises the awards, said the event was "a perfect celebration" after a tough 18 months for the county's business community during the COVID-19 pandemic. The last time it was held was in 2019.
She said: "Lancashire businesses have used innovation, enthusiasm and sheer hard work to overcome so many challenges over the past 18 months, and The BIBAs was the perfect way to recognise them.
"Regardless of the sector they are in or the size of the business we have had to dig deep and rely on the character of our people to get us through this tough period.
"Now we are hopefully coming out of the other side we can use the inspiration of all those businesses involved in the BIBAs to help return us to growth."
Graham Booth, from the family behind the Business of the Year winner, said: "It has been an incredibly difficult 18 months for everyone, this award comes as something of a recognition for all the hard work everyone has put in. We are delighted to have won this honour."
For the first time, the awards judging team decided against presenting its annual lifetime achievement award, Lancastrian of the Year, instead focussing on recogniseing the achievements of the companies across the county.
An awards spokesman said: "The successes we celebrated at The BIBAs were a recognition of a real collective success by so many people, it did not seem right to single out an individual this year."
Despite the relaxation of restrictions around gatherings, the BIBAs' organisers still had restrictions in place with all guests showing negative COVID-19 test results upon arrival.
Inside the Tower Ballroom, all guests had access to hand sanitiser on their tables to ensure all attendees remained safe.
But the night belonged to those Lancashire businesses which had overcome adversity, including the owners of the Longlands Hotel near Carnforth, which collected the Most Resilient Business of the Year award sponsored by UCLan Business.
Other winners on the night included Preston chemicals firm Evans Vanodine which won the Family Business of the Year, Lancaster textiles firm Standfast and Barracks which collected the Manufacturer of the Year and Preston Vocational Centre, the winner of the Education Establishment of the Year.
Ross Brown of Lytham-based Melling Performance Springs won the Apprentice of the Year prize and Blackburn-based Sales Geek was named the Scale Up Business of the Year.
The night was hosted by top business commentator and former investment banker Justin Urquhart-Stewart with Lancashire-based international opera star Sean Ruane performing for the audience, and celebrity Shane Ritchie entertaining guests until the early hours.
Justin Urquhart-Stewart said: "This night is about what you as Lancashire business have achieved in the past year. Lancashire has always had a great spirit as shown throughout the pandemic. Tonight's winning businesses have proved the red rose is blooming!"
Business of the Year: Booths
Medium Business of the Year: Cherry Tree Bakery
Micro-Business of the Year: Hoofcount
Employer of the Year: Service Care Solutions
Global Business of the Year: Levity Crop Science
Service Business of the Year: Cube HR
Small Business of the Year: Nutree Life
Digital & Marketing Business of the Year: Soap Media
Community Business of the Year: Pendleside Hospice
Family Business of the Year: Evans Vanodine
Scale-Up Business of the Year: Sales Geek
Apprentice of the Year: Ross Brown, Melling Performance Springs
Education Establishment of the Year: Preston Vocational Centre
Innovative Business of the Year: Levity Crop Science
Green Business of the Year: Old Holly Farm
Construction Business of the Year: Elektec
Most Resilient Business of the Year: Barry Robinson Leisure (Longlands Hotel)
Start-Up Business of the Year: Scoff Paper
Manufacturer of the Year: Standfast & Barracks