Wolverhampton-born founder of Poundland, Steve Smith, who was the keynote at the Nachural Summer Business Awards which took place at the Wolverhampton Racecourse, said in times of uncertainty, focus was key to success. He also added that his success was down to the quality of the workforce who lived in Wolverhampton and had worked for him.

“Without doubt,” he said, “it was the people of Wolverhampton who worked for me who made the company successful – I am so indebted to them. The people of Wolverhampton are simply the best.” Steve, who started his company in 1990, went onto build it into a national chain with over 1 million customers per week employing 5500 people. He eventually sold it in 2002 with the chain now turning over £5 billion annually, with over 85% of the UK’s population visiting a Poundland shop.

Mr Ninder Johal, who is CEO of the organisers of the Awards, and who was until recently the President of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, and sat as a Black Country LEP Board member, spoke about the ongoing cost of living crisis and the risk to business. He said that despite the testing 36 months, the future of the region was bright. He pointed out many positive indicators including the full letting of high premium office space like I 9 and I 10 in the city of Wolverhampton.

The manufacturing sector recovering strongly with Aerospace leading the way and Foreign Direct Investment in the West Midlands region also extraordinarily strong. Other parts of the Black Country were also showing positive signs and reminded everyone that Sandwell continues to have a strong advanced manufacturing basis and that the entire region was the foundation of the logistics sector too.

The various Town Fund deals were also performing well throughout the Black Country region and bode well for the future. There were some notable award winners on the evening including the Life Time achievement award winner – Entrepreneur and Founder of Tipton based Panesar Foods – Bill Panesar who has built a business turning over £60 million and employing almost 300 people and who continue to supply sauces to many supermarkets throughout the UK.

The overall business of the year went to Telford based Denos Manufacturing UK ltd who since 1990 have been manufacturing plastic mouldings, aluminium pressings, heat exchangers and pipe and hose components. With a turnover of over £130 million and employing over 700 people, the company was judged to have been the best in creating a people centric business who are well embedded in the local community and have placed diversity and inclusion centre of their operations.

Other award winners included:

Business Start-up of the Year – BCIMO (Dudley)

Excellence in Technology – School of Coding (Wolverhampton)

International Business of the Year – Cellomatics Biosciences (Nottingham)

Promoting Apprenticeships – Argus Fire (Stourbridge)

Entrepreneur of the Year – Hiten Shah (Birmingham)

Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion – Memories Greetings Cards (Dudley)

Community Excellence – Oxford Business College (Oxford)

Business Person of the Year - Richard Andrews (Dudley)

Excellence in Customer Service – Mercure Telford Centre Hotel

Small Business of the Year – Nant ltd (Wolverhampton)

Excellence in Innovation – Energy From Waste Project (Dudley)

Business Woman of the Year – Stacey Ryan (Birmingham)

Enterprise of the Year – Cozy N Safe (Wolverhampton)

Highly Commended – Cambridge Spectacle Co. (Dudley), West Midlands Cyber Resilience Centre, Crowe (Oldbury), TopBuild Carpentry (Birmingham), Bilal Farooq (Luton). The headline sponsor for the event was The Business Influencer Magazine.

Other sponsors included: FBC Manby Bowdler, Wolverhampton Council, Royal Airforce Museum and Vision Print and Design, Emelda Grace, Fraser Stretton, Lets Sanify, Jhoots Pharmacy, DesiCity, SPR, Proteger Midlands, Sandwell Council, Gloss. Acorns was the charity on the night where over 470 people attended. Host for the evening was Des Coleman and the music for the evening was provided by DJ Tony.