The Stray Ferret Business Awards 2024: meet the winners
Last updated Mar 15, 2024

The second annual Stray Ferret Business Awards sponsored by Prosperis recognised the best and brightest in the area’s business community once again last night (Thursday, March 14, 2024).

A crowd of fake paparazzi — courtesy of Harrogate Phoenix Players — greeted over 360 guests when they entered the Pavilions of Harrogate on a red carpet, before settling in for a night of celebration and socialising.

The business awards sought to showcase the diverse range of talented individuals and businesses from Harrogate and the surrounding areas, with 14 finalists ultimately crowned the winners of their categories.

While the quality of submissions this year made the judges’ job especially difficult. The winners’ entries all stood out for specific reasons – find out exactly what the judges said about them below.

The judges were Sarah Barry, chief executive officer at Harrogate Town football club, James Rycroft, managing director of Vida Healthcare, Niall Gunn chief executive of Prosperis and Heather Parry, director of Expect Events Ltd.

Dynamic Leader – sponsored by NT Hosted Solutions

Winner – Alastair Taylor, NYnet

Alastair Taylor, NYnet

Alastair Taylor is described by colleagues as being transformational in the role of CEO for NYNet. His knowledge and approach to strategy, communication and leadership set him apart from the other finalists, in the judges’ eyes. 

Best Independent Retailer – sponsored by Hornbeam Park Developments 

Winner – The Cheeseboard of Harrogate

Gemma Ackroyd, The Cheeseboard of Harrogate

The Cheeseboard of Harrogate is a business that has reached the status of  ‘an institution’ in the local area, having overcome its fair share of challenges.

Judges were impressed with The Cheeseboards approach to their suppliers, customers and their successful digital transformation. 

Employee Appreciation – sponsored by EnviroVent

Winner – Darren Hall, Pavilions of Harrogate

Darren Hall, Pavilions of Harrogate

Darren Hall from Pavilions of Harrogate is described by his peers as ‘simply the best’ and the judges felt as though they couldn’t disagree with the glowing nomination, which highlighted his dedication to the team, and the business.

Business Growth – sponsored by Raworths

Winner – Starling Independent Bar & Café

The team at Starlings

Starling Independent Bar & Café’s diverse strategy approach and unapologetic boldness in a sector that has had more downs than ups ensured it was a clear winner for the business growth category.

Best Use of Digital – ASE Computer Services

Not-for-profit winner – Harrogate Community Radio

The team at Harrogate Community Radio

Harrogate Community Radio has embraced changing technology by offering an online streaming platform of its radio broadcasts which has resulted in a growth of 30 per cent to their website. 

Commercial winner – Harvey George

The team at Harvey George

Harvey George impressed judges with the development of its own bespoke manufacturing software, the integration of which allows for a flawless conversion of customer orders into production data.

Business of the Year – sponsored by Reed Boardall

Small business winner – Little Bird Made

The team at Little Bird Made

Little Bird Made’s strategy of supporting small businesses by facilitating them to grow and develop to move onto bigger and better things struck a chord with the judges.

Large business winner – VIDA Healthcare

James and Chris Rycroft, Vida Healthcare

Judges were impressed with VIDA’s commitment to their residents, employee development via the VIDA Academy, staff retention and its strategy to become carbon neutral.

Sustainable Business – sponsored by York & North Yorkshire Growth Hub

Joint winners – Harrogate Organics and Number Thirteen

The team at Number Thirteen

Harrogate Organics is a business which has seen growth of 800 per cent in the past three years whilst keeping sustainability values at the core of what it does. For example, every order received they plant a mangrove tree, as well as investing in recyclable packaging, and printing with soy-based ink.

Number Thirteen stood out as a business which was created with the environment as the core focus. Everything in the café is either preloved, upcycled or handmade and produce is locally sourced with all waste collected by a specialist recycling waste company. 

Highly Commended – Flotilla 

The climate tech platform and consultancy business uses technology, science-based intellect and expertise to help businesses measure their carbon footprint, and develop a net-zero strategy.

Rising Star under 30 – sponsored by Thompsons Chartered Accountants

Winner – Emily Smailes, Marketing Adventures

The team at Marketing Adventures

At just 22 years old, Emily Smailes impressed judges with her drive and determination which is reflected in her successful co-owned business, Marketing Adventures. 

Highly Commended – Becky Andrews, Pavilions

Becky is described as ‘incredibly bubbly and positive’ and has made a huge impact on the Pavilions team since joining, helping to deliver some of their biggest events to date.

Employer of the Year – sponsored by Jones Myers 

Winner – Northern Energy

The team at Northern Energy

Judges were overwhelmed with the support Northern Energy provided for Emma Hynam during her battle with cancer, which left them in no doubt that Northern Energy’s commitment to creating a positive and caring environment must be celebrated.

Highly Commended – Harrogate Bus Company

Harrogate Bus Company’s motto is ‘we talk, we listen, we make it happen’ which judges felt is an accurate reflection of the dedication shown to employees.

Inclusivity – Kempston Parkes Chartered Surveyors 

Winner – Network Scientific 

The team at Network Scientific

The agency demonstrated to judges that they had a robust inclusive policy with an exemplary proven track record -including a rating of five out of five rating for inclusivity on careers website Glassdoor.

Special Recognition – sponsored by Prosperis 

Winner – Greenwoods Solicitors

The team at Greenwoods Solicitors

The judges unanimously felt that Greenwoods Solicitors deserved a special recognition for their resilience in the face of personal tragedy. Not only were they able to continue providing the same level of service which they’ve always been known for, but the business has actually grown.