john hays
Entrepreneurs Forum

Member Article

Entrepreneurs Forum Hall of Fame

A roll of honour that recognises some of the North East’s most successful entrepreneurs is set to grow as business people are inspired to nominate the latest generation of worthy winners.

Reading like a Who’s Who? of the great and the good in business, The Entrepreneurs’ Forum’s Hall of Fame highlights the figures who have achieved outstanding success and added greatly to the wealth generation of the region.

Each one has been recognised in The Entrepreneurs’ Forum annual awards that were first presented in 2004 and remain among the most coveted accolades handed out in the region.

Nominations are now open for anyone to put forward the names of people they believe deserve to be added to the list in 2012 by visiting www.entrepreneursforum. Net.

Nigel Mills, chairman of The Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “Our Hall of Fame highlights not only the people who embody the entrepreneurial spirit at the heart of the North East but also serves to show the ongoing diversity to be found within the regional economy.

“Our awards presentation following our Annual Business Conference is a highlight of the year. All past winners say they felt privileged and honoured to win because the awards represented recognition from their peers within the North East’s community of entrepreneurs.”

This year’s winners – to be honoured on May 17 – will join an elite group.

The inaugural winner of the Entrepreneur of the Year in 2004 was John Hays, the creator and managing director of Hays Travel.

John worked in merchant banking in the City but returned to Seaham 30 years ago to set up a travel counter in his mother’s children’s wear shop.

Now, as well as Hays Travel’s extensive bureau network and call-centre serving, the company undertakes work outsourced from other independents and has continued to be successful within a highly volatile and competitive sector.

John was joined by Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 Steven Bell, who gets much of the credit for building Bells Stores into a region-wide chain after a modest start on Teesside and later selling to Sainsbury’s; Mike Browne, executive chairman and founder of furniture retailer ScS; Ian Gillespie of Fone Logistics and now Activ Telecom; and Dr Tony Trapp, a former visiting professor of innovation at Newcastle University, who built The Engineering Business, now owned by Dutch giant IHC.

More big hitters continued to join the cream of North East business including former professional tennis player Ian Baggett, whose Adderstone Group has excelled in commercial property development, and Graeme Lowdon, co-founder and chief executive of Nomad Digital, which has broken new ground in networking data services on trains.

As one of Britain’s few female builders’ merchants, it was only right that Anne Ganley should become the first female Entrepreneur of the Year, recognised for her drive and determination as head of Thompsons Building Centres.

Last year she was joined by fellow Sunderland entrepreneur Phil Cronin, founder of Tombola, the UK’s biggest online bingo business.

In 2006, the region’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year was recognised for the first time with Tarek Nseir, chief executive of TH_NK, announced as the inaugural winner, followed in 2007 by Matthew James of UK Biometrics Ltd.

Tarek founded the Newcastle digital strategy and innovation agency while studying at Newcastle University in 2002.

The company’s resilience was severely tested when its biggest client Northern Rock went into public ownership in 2008 but it survived and counts Sony, Warner Bros, Bupa, Anglian Water, Lloyds TSB, Blackberry, Capita, ITV and the BBC among its clients.

In 2008 the accolade was renamed the Emerging Talent Award to recognise the achievements and future potential of young entrepreneurs.

The first winner was Lisa Hart Shepherd, the CEO of Newcastle-based Acritas, launched in 2002 and now a leading provider of specialist research programmes to the professional, financial and public service sectors in the UK, Europe and the USA.

Later Emerging Talents were Chris Peacock, managing director and the fourth generation of his family to lead Peacock’s Medical Group, which manufactures and supplies a range of specialist equipment to the NHS and private sector; and Sara Davies, founder and chief executive of Crafter’s Companion.

Some of the North East’s most successful entrepreneurs have dedicated their lives to business and have built sustained success over several decades.

This exceptional, select group have been honoured by the Forum since 2008 with its Lifetime Achievement Award.

The inaugural winner was Michael Hogan, a founding director of Esh Group, one of the North’s leading construction firms which employs more than 1,000 people and generates almost £400m for the economy and the communities in which it operates. Michael was group chairman of Esh Holdings until 2004.

Alan Reece, of SMD Pearson Engineering, was honoured in 2009 for “maintaining the highest standards during a lifetime in business”. The company saves the lives of soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan by supplying anti-mine equipment to Britain’s Royal Engineers, the US Army and US Marine Corps and recently took 55th place in the North East list of Top 200 companies.

Bob Thompson was recognised for almost 40 years as MD and chairman of Pyeroy with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, most recently followed by Anne Preston, chairman of Preston’s of Potto, one of Britain’s best known haulage companies.

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Entrepreneurs Forum .

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