Glitz and glamour filled the Hilton Avisford in Arundel last night as the winners of the Observer Business Excellence Awards were announced.
The prestigious awards celebrate the best businesses in The Observer Series territory and are judged by a panel of local business people.
These included Stephen Ireland, senior associate solicitor from the evening's headline sponsor, Irwin Mitchell; Vicki Meadows Smith, chief executive of Chichester Chamber of Commerce and Industry; Paul Wells, managing director of Unique Workwear, Printing and Embroidery; and Gary Shipton, editorial director with JPIMedia and this newsgroup.
Writer and broadcaster Vicky Edwards hosted the evening and said: "Times have been - and continue to be - tough, but our nominees have shown not only superb acumen and dedication, but they have also tapped into their resources; adapting and continually developing.
"Your phenomenal achievements will surely earn you the respect of your peers. Sharing your success stories is certainly a great privilege for me."
Shortlisted businesses were wined and dined before the highly commended businesses and winners were announced.
The list of winners are as follows:
Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Award: The Best Western Beachcroft Hotel, in Felpham.
General manager Phill Roberts said: "We are constantly developing the business that we have and trying to find new customers and a lot of it is down to the customers we have got."
Start-up Award: We Mean Clean Ltd, in Bognor Regis
Managing director Phil Divers said he and his team were 'surprised and excited' to find out they had won the awards.
He said: "It was very nice to see that people recognise us as a good start-up business. We just shared the experience with all the other winners and others that attended, it was really good."
Small Business Award: Pure Employment Law, in Chichester.
Nicola Brown co-founded the solicitors firm in 2010 and said the award couldn't have been won without her team. She said: "I was really delighted to have won. You turn up hoping you're going to win but you don't expect it.
"It has been a team effort and we've had a really successful couple of years and it was just great to have it recognised."
Medium Business Award: LMS Group, Chichester.
Marketing manager Cameron Logan said: "It was a really good event and everyone really enjoyed themselves. We were all pretty ecstatic and its good to see that everyone's hard work has paid off. We had a few laughs, a couple of people had a few drinks.
"A big thank you to everyone that organised the event and well done to everyone that won an awards, everyone who was nominated, and anyone who made it that far."
Large Business Award: Bennett and Game Recruitment, Chichester.
A representative from the company was unable to attend but host Vicky Edwards said there had been 'a number of aspects' of the business which impressed judges but 'especially your investment in people'.
Community Engagement Award: St Wilfrid's Hospice, Chichester.
A spokesman for the hospice said it was 'really important' to them that there was 'such regard and affection' for the team.
"I think everyone at the hospice appreciates the community feel around us. It really is part of what we do."
Innovation of the Year Award: Go Apply Ltd, Chichester.
Employer of the Year Award: Dometic UK Blind Systems Ltd, Chichester.
Employee/Team of the Year Award: Kiwi Recruitment, Chichester.
Speaking on behalf of the company, Brendan joked the secret to running a 'well-oiled machine' and 'happy ship' was to have a gin and tonic every Friday at 1pm.
"We work incredibly well together and we spend time away from the office as well."
Environmental Project Business: BCB Cleaning Ltd
Lifetime Achievement Award: Derek Howell, from Tawny Nurseries.
Derek Howell, 92, founded Tawny Nurseries back in 1977 and worked 7am to 9pm seven days a week. These days Derek is still working at the nurseries and spends his time potting plants, taking clippings and generally managing the site.
He said the secret to a long successful life in business was 'a good pair of shoes and a job you love'. "I was surprised that I won it. It has been a lovely evening."
Derek was joined by his son and daughter Gloria and Adrian who said they are 'very proud'.
Overall Business of the Year: Bennett and Game Recruitment