BAHBAS 2019 Brighton Hilton Metropole Simon Callaghan Photography 183 WEB

Brighton & Hove is a city where business excellence thrives, and the Brighton & Hove Business Awards (BAHBAs) is the ultimate celebration of the best companies and the most inspiring entrepreneurs. 

We hear from some of this year’s big success stories including interviews with Company of the Year, RocketMill, and winner of the CSR Excellence Award, Search Seven. We also get the low-down on what it means to win an award from some of this year’s winners and finalists including, Brighton & Hove’s Best Independent Retailer, Present in the Laine; One to Watch, Katherine Swift, founder of OMGTea; Start-up of the Year winner, Anything is Possible; MacConvilles Surveying, winner of the Professional Services Award; and Highly Commended in both SME Business of the Year and Best Independent Retailer, Velvet Stores. 

Sit back and be inspired… 


RocketMill

Winner – Company of the Year

Ten years ago, brothers Sam and Ben Garrity created the beginnings of their multi-award winning agency aged just 31 and 24. Born from a desire to help small businesses grow by reaching their customers effectively, the essence of RocketMill remains the same today. 

RocketMill is a full-service digital marketing agency that puts people first. They help businesses implement the right technology, derive the right data from it, deliver strategies, and then activate campaigns via their creative and media teams. This model is trusted by some of the UK’s biggest brands and most ambitious SMEs, with retained clients including National Geographic, Dropbox, Kimberly-Clark and Gatwick Airport.

“We were recently placed 12th on The Sunday Times 100 Best Small Companies to Work For, have been recognised as one of Campaign’s 50 Best Places to Work, and featured as Number 15 in The Drum’s Top 100 Independent Agencies Census,” Sam beams.

“Winning Company of the Year at the BAHBAs on top of all of this felt both surreal and right. It rewarded 10 years of hard work for us and our team, but the icing on the cake was my children’s reactions the next day. I woke up to them reading the award aloud asking, ‘Daddy - you have won company of the year? You’re the best company in all of Brighton…and Hove? Even better than the Harry Potter shop?’, that gave me real perspective.”

They then opened the fizz at the office and celebrated with their team, attributing the success to them, “It’s all about them” states Sam. “Their talent attracts and retains the clients so this award is certainly for all the people at RocketMill.” 

How the Rocket launched
Sam and Ben started the business by identifying that the companies spending money on directories were behind the curve of their consumers’ needs. “They were getting screwed,” said Ben – the brainchild behind RocketMill. “I started my career in sales and could see how businesses were spending money ineffectively. I wanted to help them market their business direct to their customers so asked Sam to partner with me in modernising the approach by building websites for companies and marketing them on Google. We set up in the height of the credit crunch but succeeded because we are accountable and deliver measurable results.” 

Their first sales are among their career highlights so far; Ben fell off his chair in a MOT garage pitch (it literally fell apart), and Sam presented on the dashboard of a builder’s van. Cold-calling prospects from his sisters’ loft where he lived with his then heavily pregnant wife, Sam recalls, “I had three appointments set up. Two didn’t show and the third didn’t commit. I felt like I had the weight of the world on my shoulders and slumped back into my car, but then heard a tap on the window. It was the owner of the business who said; ‘I’ve changed my mind. I trust you and believe in what you’re offering so I’m in and I’ll pay you one year fees upfront’ - that was a defining moment, I just knew everything was going to work out.” 

Ben echoes that feeling; “The first bit of business was one of the happiest moments of my life (excluding Liverpool winning the Champions League in 2005 and the birth of my daughter of course).”

Ben and Sam used their own money in the beginning, not taking a salary for over a year and today, with a few wrong turns and many proud moments en route, RocketMill is one of the largest independent agencies in the UK.

With Sam as CEO and Ben as Chief Revenue Officer, they have different strengths which combine to great effect and, though in agreement that working with your brother is challenging, they declare their bond provides a shortcut in every discussion to the real truth. 

So what does the future hold for this ambitious agency? “Our recipe for success remains the same, we will never stand still - we can’t go back - so we will continue to move forward, putting our people first.” 

While they remain steadfast in retaining clients and talent, they also want to attract new clients and talent, “Our clients see us as an extension of their internal team; more of an investment than a cost,” they share. “We cherish the clients the big agencies neglect, optimising their business not just their marketing.”

“To achieve the success our clients’ needs, we’ve always chosen the best people from the get go. Some have been with us from the very beginning and we’ve been fortunate enough to be a part of their adventures; seeing their development, marriages, children, promotions. It’s a must and a pleasure for us to look after them.

“After all, creating business value starts with creating value for people - true for our team, our clients and their customers.”


Search Seven

Winner – CSR Excellence
Highly Commended – Professional Services
Finalist – Gavin Willis, Businessperson of the Year   

Not every company can claim that they pledge up to 7% of their profit through fundraising donations yet Brighton-based digital marketing agency, Search Seven is one of them. If they fall short of their target, they also make up the difference. And last year they launched #share7, a year-long 2018 charity campaign, which raised over £20,000 for seven charities and the local community. 

It’s no wonder that at this year’s BAHBAs Search Seven won the CSR Excellence Award, received Highly Commended in the Professional Services category, while Gavin Willis was a finalist for Businessperson of the Year.

Tell us a bit about yourself as a businessperson
I’m passionate about great customer service and making a difference to my community - these are the two main drivers that get me going. I previously worked at Propellernet, a great local agency with a people first ethos. I managed a small team of my own with around 25 client accounts before an opportunity presented itself to me to continue working with those smaller clients who were becoming too small for the agency. This was a big shift in direction for them but an opportunity for me to set up on my own. 

How important is it to ‘make a difference’?
Massively important. I set up Search Seven to be a vehicle that makes a difference. I wanted something to drive and motivate the team and to make clients and partners more aligned to us and our CSR values. By the end of 2019 we will have helped to raise £50,000 for charity in our eight years to date. Getting to know the charities we support and seeing first hand the impact of where our fundraising goes is priceless. 

Why did you decide to enter the awards?
We were planning to enter the Professional Services Award as we wanted to shout about our great customer services and results. We’ve achieved a lot and I thought we should tell this story in our entry, however, we were then nominated for the CSR Excellence Award by Brighton Chamber and I was nominated by RISE (one of the charities we support) for Businessperson of the Year. 

What does winning a BAHBA mean to you?
We were the only business to be up for all three awards that we entered so to receive this kind of recognition from the judges and the business community was fantastic. Winning an award provides reassurance that you are doing things right and gives the whole team confidence that they are helping to make a difference.

Where do you see yourself in five years?
The agency had a real turning point in 2018 when we moved to new offices and focused more on our operational services and CSR activities. Our team has more than doubled in the last 18 months and in five years’ time we would love to see the team and turnover double from where it is now. We hope to continue to host our own charity events, get involved in team building events and continue to have fun, putting purpose ahead of profit. Personally, it would be great to hit 100k in fundraising in the next five years and set a milestone of £77,000 by the end of 2021 to mark our tenth anniversary.


Anything is Possible
Winner – Start-up of the Year 
Finalist – Company of the Year    

Please explain what your business does
We are a media, creative and knowledge agency that helps businesses grow through better advertising. Our team are experts in media planning and buying across digital and offline, digital marketing services and creative production. We have built consultancy services that upskill clients and empowers them to be more effective at marketing.

What do you think impressed the judges about your company?
Anything is Possible is more than our brand, it’s a mindset that we all share. We’ve built a people first business that enables better working and smarter ideas that deliver better results for clients. Cutting-edge technology, transparent working processes and innovative commercial models have fuelled our growth and enable us to work with a host of national and international brands who are all brought in to better advertising. The marketing and advertising industries are ripe for change and we are here to make it better for everyone; the brands that advertise, the people who make them and the people who see them.

What does winning the award mean to your business?
We are absolutely delighted. Brighton is an amazing city with a fantastic and diverse talent pool. We see this as the ideal location to build a world class media business. We have a fantastic team who have helped us to where we are today and will be the platform for our future growth. To receive this recognition is a massive boost and a fantastic achievement.


Velvet Stores 
Highly Commended – SME Business of the Year
Highly Commended – Best Independent Retailer   

Please explain what your business does
Velvet is 20 years old next year; it’s a large and beautiful independent retail store, occupying 2500 sqft over two floors and is full of wonderful fashion, homeware and lifestyle products. We sell clothing, accessories, shoes, gifts, home interiors and stationery and also offer personal shopping, customer order services and host special events.

What do you think impressed the judges about your company?
Our complete passion for proper shop keeping, exceptional customer care, and a large, thriving and welcoming store. In January 2018, I worked on a new business plan for Velvet which included a new shop fit, new layout, large social media campaign, new buying strategy and development of the team and this has enabled our large growth over the last 18 months, a turnover up 30% and profits trebled. With a huge local following we are completely bucking the high street trend!

What does winning the award mean to your business?
Receiving two Highly Commended categories means the world to us. Being recognised for being the second best business in Brighton and Hove feels great after nearly 20 years of being in business. We have survived and thrived and have big things planned for 2020. I have an amazing team of 12 who work very hard and have a huge amount of passion for the business and most importantly customer care. We have had an amazing 18 months and to receive two highly commended BAHBAs is the icing on the cake!


Katherine Swift, OMGTea
One to Watch – Businessperson of the Year

Please explain what your business does
Velvet is 20 years old next year; it’s a large and beautiful independent retail store, occupying 2500 sqft over two floors and is full of wonderful fashion, homeware and lifestyle products. We sell clothing, accessories, shoes, gifts, home interiors and stationery and also offer personal shopping, customer order services and host special events. 

What do you think impressed the judges about your company?
Our complete passion for proper shop keeping, exceptional customer care, and a large, thriving and welcoming store. In January 2018, I worked on a new business plan for Velvet which included a new shop fit, new layout, large social media campaign, new buying strategy and development of the team and this has enabled our large growth over the last 18 months, a turnover up 30% and profits trebled. With a huge local following we are completely bucking the high street trend!

 

What does winning the award mean to your business?
Receiving two Highly Commended categories means the world to us. Being recognised for being the second best business in Brighton and Hove feels great after nearly 20 years of being in business. We have survived and thrived and have big things planned for 2020. I have an amazing team of 12 who work very hard and have a huge amount of passion for the business and most importantly customer care. We have had an amazing 18 months and to receive two highly commended BAHBAs is the icing on the cake!


Present in the Laine 

Winner - Best Independent Retailer 

Please explain what your business does
Present in the Laine is a gift, accessories and fashion boutique selling a colourful and exciting mix of products in Brighton’s North Laine. We are proud to support local and independent suppliers, artists and makers through our mix of jewellery, clothing, women and men’s accessories, homewares, cards and art. We have become one of Brighton’s go-to shops for gifting and have now turned our attention online to providing curated gift sets and boxes for all occasions and are also branching out into corporate gifting.

What do you think impressed the judges about your company?
I think the judges were impressed by the product selection, atmosphere, customer service and of course our fantastic window displays. For a small space we pack a punch in terms of choice with new stock arriving weekly, and as a small independent we also go the extra mile for our customers whether its gift wrapping or contacting them personally when items are back in stock.

What does winning the award mean to your business?
Winning the award is a fantastic achievement and a pat on the back for me that I made the right decision when it felt like a big risk starting the business five years ago with some savings and a lot of courage and sup- port from my husband and family. It is also a wonderful testament to my team for all they do in supporting me and offering the same brilliant customer service. I hope they feel very proud to be working for Brighton’s Best Independnet Retailer, I’m certainly proud of us!


MacConvilles Surveying
Winner - Professional Services Award

Please explain what your business does
Established in 1938, MacConvilles have been proudly providing public and private sector clients with surveying and related professional services. We started life in Brighton as a Quantity Surveying firm and this expanded to include Building Surveying services and a number of specialisms including Project Management, Expert Witness, Sustainability, Party Wall Awards and CDM Advice.

What do you think impressed the judges about your company?
We hope the judges recognised how we add value, offer a quality service and take ownership of projects. We have successfully retained our ISO accreditations for 9001, 14001 and 18001 and were pioneers in achieving BS 76000 “Human Resources and Valuing People Management Systems”. We’re hugely committed to the community, working on local pro bono projects that will make a difference to the area we live and work.

What does winning the award mean to your business?
We are really humbled to have won this award, it is a positive reinforcement of the culture of high-quality service that we foster in our team, and to see that recognised is incredibly empowering. The value of this award in our marketing is huge as we know locally it is a mark of quality that really resonates with businesses in the South East, therefore we will be shouting from the rooftops for all to hear! We truly believe the award will create unique opportunities for our business to flourish and we are excited to see where the journey takes us.

 

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