Eight high-achieving Northern Ireland companies will go head-to-head with firms from across the island later this month to compete for the prestigious Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards, following their recent success in the Ulster final of the scheme.
The all-island winners will be announced at the Mansion House in Dublin on Thursday, May 30.
The firms were selected for the all-island competition by winning prizes in the Ulster heats of the awards, run in association with the Belfast Telegraph and supported by Invest NI and IntertradeIreland.
Ian Jordan, director of Ulster Bank, praised the Ulster winners.
“We had a record number of entries this year, so the competition was intense and all of the companies who were in the running should be very proud,” he said.
“However, there were eight |deserving winners who reflect the growing diversity and strength of the SME sector and I am confident they will represent Ulster extremely well in the all-|island final.”
Here we take a look at the eight high-achieving Northern Ireland companies.
Further information about the awards is available at businessachieversaward.com or find us on twitter @ulsterbank_BAA / #businessachievers.
The NI winners
BEST BUSINESS START-UP: AUTOMATED INTELLIGENCE
Automated Intelligence was founded in 2010 as a Belfast-based software company that combines vision and expertise to deliver success and growth, demonstrated by revenues of over £1m in its first year of trading, and over 100% growth year on year.
The company doubled in size in one year, now employing 25 permanent members of staff and is currently recruiting for eight new roles, with further expansion plans for the coming year.
It has a strong customer base in the UK central and local government and has secured business in Europe.
Automated Intelligence, whose chief technology officer Simon Cole (right) collected the award, has developed a ground-breaking approach to information lifecycle management for unstructured data. Its information service software solutions allow organisations to analyse and optimise their existing data holdings, reducing costs and increasing quality.
Its technology further enables organisations to exploit their data through managed compliance and increased governance for SharePoint and better connected working through cloud and mobile platforms.
FOOD & DRINK AWARD: AVONDALE FOODS
Avondale Foods, based in Craigavon, is a leading producer of coleslaw, wet and side salads, fresh soup and meal accompaniments.
The company produces fresh chilled food ranges under the Country Kitchen brand and also for customer-own labels – products found across Ireland and the UK in leading retailers and food service customers.
The company, whose award was collected by Greer Geddis (right), has a team of over 380 people working in its state-of-the-art facility, with all products being manufactured on the same site.
Avondale Foods' research and development department creates products to meet ever-changing customer needs.
The on-site engineering department and skilled production managers ensure that products maintain quality and integrity from the development kitchen to the kitchen table. Over the past five years Avondale has continued to review its progress and as a result regularly monitor its ranges against projected volumes, market expectations and margins.
Business will increase by 11% this year to over £40m and the company aims to grow over the next five years to ensure maximum profitability across all sectors of the business.
AGRI-BUSINESS AWARD: MASH DIRECT LTD
Mash Direct is an independent, family-owned farming and food production enterprise located at their farm in Co Down, close to the shores of Strangford Lough.
It is the market leader in quality, convenient vegetable and potato dishes ranging from traditional accompaniments of mashed potato and champ to complete vegetable-based ready-meals.
It supplys a choice of over 30 'Mash Direct' branded products to retailers ranging from small shops through to the supermarkets throughout Ireland and the UK.
It also supplys catering-sized packs to the foodservice sector and vegetable ingredients to food manufacturers.
Over the next five years, Mash Direct plans to double in size and continue to increase market share and to develop new markets abroad. Mash Direct products have recently become available in Dubai.
INNOVATION & EMERGING TECHNOLOGY AWARD: SIPFIT
Sipfit was established in 2009 to carry out research and development into 'Modern Methods of Construction' (MMC). The research sought to develop solutions to meet the opportunities arising from the legislation surrounding the Government's Low Carbon Transition Plan.
Sipfit manufactures structurally insulated panels (SIPs) as a means of providing sustainable off-site manufactured fast-track building solutions with high thermal efficiency
Sipfit delivers a 'Fabric First' methodology through large format panels, modular, in-fill panel or cladding options. Sipfit has delivered all exemplar performance specifications including Zero Carbon and Passive build. Sipfit specialises in modular solutions for hotels, student accommodation and social housing.
INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS AWARD: CDE GLOBAL
CDE Global is a leading supplier of washing equipment for quarries and mines on the global market.
Through a dynamic and innovative team, CDE Global are committed to engineering excellence and constantly evolving sector-defining equipment while ensuring each client receives a professional experience.
CDE has a track record of bringing new products to market. In the last two years these developments have included new products for customers across the globe.
CDE's current strategy sets a target of $100m (£64m) turnover by 2016. Through continuous focus on innovation, development of its workforce, and development of the right partnerships, CDE's ultimate goal is to be the number one washing equipment supplier in every country in the world.
SOCIAL ENTERPRISE AWARD: BRYSON CHARITABLE GROUP
Bryson is Northern Ireland's leading social enterprise, making a real difference to people's lives for more than 100 years and is now the third largest social enterprise in the UK.
Operating seven distinct businesses with a combined turnover of £35m, it uses a modern business model to tackle our major socio-economic challenges; caring for vulnerable people and families, eradicating fuel poverty, getting people back into employment, assisting asylum-seekers, supporting black and minority ethnic families, and enabling people to recycle.
It is one of Northern Ireland's largest employers with an annual turnover of £35m. Over 650 staff deliver 25,700 services each day to families and individuals across Northern Ireland and into Donegal. Bryson has doubled its scale in RoI and recently moved into the wider UK market, winning a major recycling contract with Conwy County Borough Council.
Bryson, whose award was collected by John McMullan (left), is committed to building better futures through a service excellence approach to social policy priorities and has recently been awarded the Social Enterprise of the Year in the UK Private Business Awards, a Queen's Award for Sustainable Development and an Ireland Excellence Award in the EFQM process.
WOMEN LED BUSINESS AWARD: BUDGET ENERGY LTD
Budget Energy is a Northern Ireland electricity company and is led by business woman Eleanor McEvoy. It was established in 2011 and is a low cost electricity supplier supplying the Northern Ireland market. Its goal is to be cost effective, competitive and operational in real time, bringing much-needed consumer choice to the marketplace. Budget Energy is the only electricity provider to retain profits in the province for the benefit of its customers and suppliers.
Since trading commenced, Budget Energy has acquired around 25,000 customers. This is projected to increase by 13,000 customers per year. The objective to December 2017 is to acquire 23% of the market share of the keypad (pre-paid) market and 3% of the bill pay market.
Budget Energy has plans to expand into the Republic of Ireland. Customer service and price is at the core of its offering.
BEST ESTABLISHED SME: TES NI LTD
TES is a Cookstown-based environmental engineering expert in water purification, water recycling, power conservation and distribution.
With in-house manufacturing capabilities, TES provides services including design, build, installation and project management to the water and power industries in the UK, Ireland and globally.
The TES business model is based on the concept of "Lifecycle Engineering", where the principles of protecting and improving the lifecycle of the planet's resources have inspired and underpinned how TES delivers each project.
TES's approach to provide an all-encompassing service from design through to commissioning – combined with an emphasis on developing client partnerships – has led to rapid and sustained growth and expansion of business operations over recent years.