This year's National Enterprise Awards will pay a special tribute to small businesses that are working tirelessly to overcome the dual challenges of Covid-19 restrictions and Brexit.
Organised by the network of Local Enterprise Offices, the awards recognise the achievements of Ireland’s small businesses in creating jobs, contributing to their community or innovating new products and services.
The National Enterprise Awards are an initiative of the Local Enterprise Offices and supported by Enterprise Ireland, local authorities and the Government of Ireland.
This year’s finalists are competing for eight regional awards: Dublin Region, South West, Mid East, South, South East, North West, North East and West.
As well as established awards for export success and for innovation in bringing a new product or service to market, this year will see the introduction of several new award categories, designed to reflect the changing business landscape.
These include a Future Focus Award that recognises actions taken to improve sustainability, to implement lean initiatives or to improve their business’s carbon footprint or energy efficiency.
The Pivot Award will go to a business that has taken specific actions to address the unprecedented challenges of the last 12 months.
Also new this year is a Brexit Ready Award, designed to acknowledge a business that excelled either through new market development, action to improve competitiveness or spotting new opportunity on foot of Brexit.
The prestigious Overall Award recognises not just a business’s exceptional performance in other categories but leadership in management and team capability, growth and employment potential, as well as strategic focus.
Every bit of exposure we got led to an increase in business, whether direct from consumers or from stockists
It rewards the entrepreneurial skills of a founder with vision, drive and commitment, who has also made a clear contribution to local employment and the economy.
The most recent Overall Award winner, for 2019, was Sonia Deasy, co-founder of international skincare firm Pestle & Mortar, which was backed by Local Enterprise Office Kildare before becoming an Enterprise Ireland client.
“Every bit of exposure we got led to an increase in business, whether direct from consumers or from stockists,” says Deasy.
“If you are calling somewhere, people are more likely to know you, and you are more likely to be seen.
“We are in 32 countries now and, when it comes to meetings with distributors, we find that in countries such as China, they love awards, so it’s a huge help.”
This year sees the launch of a major new award, for Outstanding Achievement.
The category showcases the strength, local impact and longevity of the businesses that have been supported by the Local Enterprise Office network.
The inaugural winner of the Outstanding Achievement Award is David Walsh, co-founder of Netwatch, a security systems provider headquartered in Carlow which serves a quarter of a million customers across four continents and employs more than 500 people.
Walsh recently co-founded HaloCare, a healthcare company which helps track movement and health data of older people in their home, with support from Local Enterprise Office Carlow.
“David Walsh is a great example of a serial entrepreneur who came through the Local Enterprise Offices before going on to become an Enterprise Ireland client,” explains Breda Fox, chair of the National Enterprise Awards Committee.
Shortlisted businesses have come through a rigorous judging process in which they must present a detailed business plan across operations, sales, markets and financials, demonstrating both their progress to date and plans for the future.
“Everybody on the night won’t win an award, but everyone there has achieved a significant result in terms of creating jobs, or having a positive economic impact on their community, or having developed an innovative new product or service,” says Fox.
Over the past 20 years the awards have been the benchmark for excellence in micro-enterprises across the country
The importance of small businesses to the Irish economy cannot be overstated, given that they are responsible for seven out of 10 jobs.
The network of Local Enterprise Offices nationwide is an essential resource for businesses, providing them with mentoring, training, expert advice and financial supports.
Previous winners of the National Enterprise Awards include Irish Yoghurts, professional engineering services group Obelisk, pilot training technology specialist Simtech Aviation, and Terra NutriTech, an automated supplement system for animals.
According to Minister of State for Business, Employment and Retail Damien English, who will be announcing the winners, the National Enterprise Awards celebrate the very best in small, local companies who are leading in their field of business expertise.
“Over the past 20 years the awards have been the benchmark for excellence in micro-enterprises across the country,” he says, pointing out that National Enterprise award-winners, many of whom are trading successfully across the globe, are nothing short of inspiring.
As the awards are being broadcast online for the first time, more people than ever can join in what is always one of the most positive and uplifting events in Ireland’s business calendar.
This year's event is being broadcast from Dublin's Mansion House on Thursday, 11th February, from 6pm to 7.30pm. Watch it live via LocalEnterprise.ie/Awards.
A shortlist of 30 companies is competing for the highly coveted awards and their share of a €50,000 prize fund.
All have been selected by Local Enterprise Offices around the country and span a range of sectors, from food to technology.
The event, which is in its 22nd year, is creating even greater anticipation than usual, as last year's finals were postponed due to pandemic restrictions.
This year's national finalists:
- Carlow: Irish Fluid Controls
- Cavan: Cootehill Precision Engineering
- Clare: WowWee.ie
- Cork City: Submit Software Solutions
- Cork North & West: Travelmaster Events Ireland
- Donegal: O'Donnell's Bakery
- Dublin City: VRAI
- Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown: ZiggyTec
- Fingal: Kianda Technologies
- Galway: Armour Interactive
- Kerry: Lorge Chocolatier
- Kildare: QPQ
- Kilkenny: LoanITT
- Laois: IntegriLeads
- Leitrim: Dromod Boxty Ltd
- Limerick: Odyssey Studios
- Longford: 5Global
- Louth: Spoonful Botanical
- Mayo: Velvet Cloud
- Meath: Qualitas Electronics
- Offaly: Euro Stallions
- Roscommon: Lidan Designs
- Sligo: StoryLab
- South Cork: Complete Calibrations
- South Dublin: The Artisan Pizza Company
- Tipperary: The Old Barracks Coffee Roastery
- Waterford: Knockanore Farmhouse Cheese
- Westmeath: Bevcraft Group
- Wexford: Dulann
- Wicklow: Gravitie Data