He came on singing Any Dream Will Do, but as surprise guest performer Jason Donovan took to the stage at the Tower Ballroom in Blackpool, the dream had already come true for 19 Lancashire businesses.
The Be Inspired in Business Awards (BIBAs) saw more than 1,000 people enjoy a glittering night in the famous venue to celebrate the best in the business in the county with the Australian Neighbours star entertaining the crowd with his hits in the venue where he appeared on BBC's Strictly Come Dancing.
And in the climax to the presentations, made by entrepreneur and TV personality Justin Urquhart Stewart, Lancashire business leader Ann Dean picked up a lifetime achievement award.
The former High Sheriff of Lancashire was named the Lancastrian of the Year in front of a sell-out crowd.
Preston tile supplier Roccia collected the Business of the Year award and Garstang-based Hoofcount, which sells chemical baths for cattle, was the only firm to walk away with more than one award, winning Growth Business of the Year and Micro-Business of the Year.
Francis Egan, chief executive officer of headline sponsor, Cuadrilla, said the awards’ winners recognise the wider benefits that the business community brings to Lancashire.
He said: “The people behind businesses the length and breadth of Lancashire are bringing prosperity, jobs and investment, but they are doing so much more than that. They are inspiring, mentoring and helping to grow the communities around them and it is this wider role which the BIBAs recognises as much as their success in the world of business.
“Every year, I walk away from the BIBAs ceremony feeling enthused by the strength of the Lancashire business community and this year was no exception – a huge congratulations to all the finalists and winners.”
Lancastrian of the Year award winner Ann Dean, of Broughton, near Preston, is involved in a wide range of roles in business, charity and educational organisations.
Her business interests include a role as a director of Gutterking, a family-owned group of builders’ merchants, founder and owner of Benetimo PR, which specialises in the healthcare sector, and a role as a director on the Lancashire Enterprise Partnership.
Anne said: “The award in itself is amazing – but also to be the first woman to be given this award is very special.
“I just hope it will help push forward other women in business.”
She said the huge amount of charity and educational work she did was about giving something back to society.“That is so important,” she added.
“I also think it’s important to mentor young businesses and one thing I always advise them is to get involved outside of work. It is not all about money, it is about how you spend your time too.”
A total of 20 awards were handed out on the night.
Blackburn’s Tayla Reynolds collected the Most Inspiring Young Person prize for her work with British Sign Language.
Chorley-based Scorpion Automotive won the Manufacturer of the Year award with Sunshine Events, of Preston, being named Service Business of the Year for the third year in a row.
Pet food manufacturer, GA Pet Foods, which is based in Buckshaw Village, won one of the awards’ new categories, Green Business of the Year, with Pendleside Hospice named the Third Sector Business of the Year.
The over-riding ethos behind all of the award winners on the night was teamwork, with all the successful businesses praising the work of their staff.
Zabir Patel, managing director of Preston-based tiles and kitchens and bathrooms firm Roccia said they were delighted to have won Business of the Year.
He said: “It is important to connect with the whole team and every member has played a part in this success, everyone has been so engaged.
“We had a team building exercise in Wales for development and to get to know each other.
“It has been an amazing year. This year is our 25th year so this a wonderful win."
The winners will now become the latest entrants to The BIBAs Academy, which will give them access to masterclass sessions with Lancashire business leaders, exclusive visits to top businesses and growth workshops designed to support further growth.
All profits from the ceremony, which attracted another sell-out crowd to The Blackpool Tower, will go to The BIBAs’ Foundation, which offers grants to individuals and organisations that support enterprise programmes designed to create the next generation of Lancashire’s award-winning business leaders.
The full list of winners:
Lancastrian of the Year - Ann Dean DL
Most Inspiring Young Person of the Year - Tayla Reynolds
New Business of the Year - Nutree Life
Engineering Business of the Year - Cutting Edge Services
Exporter of the Year - Evans Vanodine International
Digital and Marketing Business of the Year - Learn Live
Employer of the Year - Connect Childcare
Green Business of the Year - GA Pet Foods
Family Business of the Year - Cummins Mellor
Professional Services Business of the Year - David Cox Architects
Manufacturer of the Year - Scorpion Automotive
Micro Business of the Year - Hoofcount
Construction Business - Anderton Gables
Leisure and Tourism Business of the Year - Hallmark Hotel Preston
Third Sector Business of the Year - Pendleside Hospice
Service Business - Sunshine Events
Small Business of the Year - Nextday Freight
Medium Business of the Year - Tharstern
Growth Business of the Year - Hoofcount
Business of the Year – Roccia