Belfast Telegraph

Six of best set for cross-border business battle

Six Northern Ireland companies are going head-to-head with businesses from across the island to compete for the prestigious Ulster Bank Business Achievers Awards, with the winners to |be announced in Dublin on March 10.

The local firms were selected for the all-island competition by winning prizes in the Ulster heats of the awards, which are run in association with the Belfast Telegraph and supported by Invest Northern Ireland and Intertrade Ireland.

The Business Achievers Awards aim to reward established businesses across all industry sectors, regardless of size, for their leadership, successes and contribution to the economy in the face of many challenges and obstacles.

Entries are open to established businesses, start-ups and entrepreneurs whose businesses have achieved success and |have demonstrated innovation and leadership in overcoming the current difficulties in the marketplace.

The overall all-island winner will receive a comprehensive prize package including an Executive Education programme at Harvard University Business School and a significant advertising package — an online and print package worth in excess of £10,000 in the Belfast Telegraph if the overall all-island winner is from Northern Ireland.

And the finalists are...

International Business Award

First Derivatives Plc

Newry-based First Derivatives Plc is a global provider of technology solutions to the capital markets sector.

It was established in 1996 and has more than 13 years experience working for leading financial institutions across the world.

It recently acquired Reference Data Factory, a New York-based technology company specialising in financial data management systems, for $10m.

It also bought an Australian technology company in April 2009 for £4.5m and has interests in a significant California-based firm. First Derivates has an annual turnover of £11.4m and it employs 250 people.

Start-up Award

Business Lir-Med

Portadown based Lir-Med was established in 2008 by engineer |Diarmuid McAlinden and businessman Geoff Baird to manufacturer medical guidewire products using innovative manufacturing machinery. It has aggressive expansion plans and has already secured customers in a range of international markets including India, Brazil, Poland and Malaysia. It is projected to achieve a turnover of £5m within five years.

One to Watch Award

Willowbrook Foods

Willowbrook Foods was established in 1968 on land farmed by the McCann family for over 200 years in County Down. Today, John McCann is the managing director. The company has its operational headquarters in Killinchy and has a newly refurbished facility in Newtownards, supplying retailers across the UK and further afield. It produces hundreds of speciality items, with a core product range of salad bags, salad bowls, soup mixes, vegetable mixes and stir-fries. The company employs up to 200 people during its peak season. It has just completed a successful research and development project supported by Invest Northern Ireland to create a more advanced washer and drier. This allows for more flexibility, increased production capacity and greater efficiency.

Emerging Technology Award

rehabstudio

Belfast-based rehabstudio is a digital creative production company whose clients include global advertising agencies, major brands and the public sector.

It was created through the merger of a technology company owned by rehabstudio partner Jurgen Prause and a design company owned by Tim Rodgers, rehabstudio’s creative partner. Its main production facility is in Belfast but it has a London studio which client-faces with multinational brands.

In addition to working for clients in Northern Ireland and across the UK, the company does some work for clients in New York and San Francisco. It has plans to grow its business in the US over the next few years.

Agri-Food and Drink Award

Kestrel Foods

Portadown-based Kestrel Foods and its Forest Feast brand were founded in October 1996 by entrepreneurs Michael and Lorraine Hall, now the company’s co-owners.

It was an Invest NI supported start-up company which has significantly exceeded its targets, achieving sales of £10m in 2008/9 and exporting 90% of sales. Kestrel provides a range of premium snack options, including dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Its clients include multiple retailers such as Tesco Ireland, Dunnes Stores and Musgrave in RoI and Waitrose, Tesco and Sainsbury’s in the UK.

It also has listings with Dutch department store de-Bijenkorf, the Alma retail chain in Poland, Swiss chain Globus, the Magazin stores in Denmark and Portuguese retailers El Corte Ingles and Continente. The company also has listings in Dubai and the Far East.

Social Entrepreneurship Award

Employers for Childcare Vouchers

Lisburn-based Employers For Childcare Vouchers is a thriving social enterprise providing employers with a cost-saving enhancement to their employee benefits package through |the operation of a childcare voucher scheme.

Set up in 2004 as a small community project, the company now supports employees, employers and carers through free services such as a helpline; an online childcare search facility; research; a consultancy service; and seminars and conferences. Since 2006, the organisation has enjoyed growth in usage of 40% among employers and 60% among employees year-on-year and now has 1,000 employers, 5,000 working parents and 2,000 carers as members.

As a private company and social enterprise, 100% of its profits are put back into the community through the company’s charitable arm.

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