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Outstanding employees and innovative companies were given their moment in the spotlight at the biggest ever Solihull BID Excellence Awards.

More than 430 people attended the sold-out awards ceremony on Thursday, November 23, at the St Johns Hotel on Warwick Road.

The awards shine a light on the up-and-coming Solihull town centre trainees and businesses leading innovation and customer service in a variety of sectors including retail, leisure, professional services, banking, technology and charity.

Winners celebrated in style as they were announced by ITV News Central newsreader Sameena Ali-Khan. The evening featured a rousing performance from Sing Solihull, the town centre business community’s very own choir.

The awards were split into eight categories; Team of the Year, Outstanding Customer Service, Outstanding Innovation and Enterprise, Best Independent, Best Trainee, Best Apprentice, Best Hospitality and Leisure, and Best Fundraising or Community Project.

For the first time, merit awards were also handed out to each of the shortlisted apprentices after judges felt they all deserved recognition.

The Excellence Awards are arranged by Solihull BID, the Business Improvement District for the town centre, and sponsored by IM Properties, Solihull College & University Centre, Touchwood, BNP Paribas and Phoebus Software.

Housing and employment support service Advance Employment took the title of Team of the Year.

Working on behalf of the Department for Work and Pensions, Advance Employment is responsible for the Work Choice programme in Birmingham, Solihull and the Black Country.

The scheme helps disabled people who want to get into work and judges described Advance Employment as a ‘really motivated team who are absolutely passionate about what they do’.

The judges were particularly impressed with the engagement the whole team had with potential employers and how they continued to work with people once when they were placed in employment to monitor progress.

Apprentice of the Year was Omar Naeem from Sky Retail, who won over the judges by ‘having the courage to change career ambitions, follow his instincts and having great ambition’.

Achievement of Merit Awards were handed out to shortlisted apprentices Lauran Wright of Six Nine Nine Creative Hair Design, Katie Pell from Xoserve, Beth Pittaway from Kate+Co and Meghan O’Rourke from Kent’s Barbers.

Mad Hatter’s Children’s Charity won the Best Fundraising or Community Project category, Phoebus Software scooped the Outstanding Innovation and Enterprise award, while the High Street branch of RBS won Outstanding Customer Service.

Property consultancy Projex Building Solutions was named Best Independent and Station Road pub The White Swan won the Leisure and Hospitality category.

The Best Trainee category was shared between Hannah Clarke from John Lewis and Paulina Czapiewska from personal finance company BNP Paribas.

“We have 472 businesses within an area of less than two square miles that are bursting at the seams with qualities that make us the best place to do business in the UK,” said Melanie Palmer, Director, Solihull BID.

“These awards continue to prove what a hotbed Solihull town centre is for business stars of the future and showcase our broad variety of sectors and skills.

“From professional services to property and finance to engineering, Solihull town centre has it all and is truly a great place to live, work and visit.”

The Excellence Awards were judged by David Bradnock MBE, HM Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands, Paul Brown, Director, Government and Public Sector, Ernst & Young LLP, Eileen Schofield of employment lawyers Schofield & Associates, John Callaghan, Principal, Solihull College, and Stacey Barnfield, Director, Edwin Ellis Creative Media.

SOLIHULL BID EXCELLENCE AWARDS 2017 WINNERS

BEST CUSTOMER SERVICE

RBS, High Street

Highly Commended: Turtle Bay Restaurant

OUTSTANDING INNOVATION & ENTERPRISE

Phoebus Software API

BEST INDEPENDENT

Projex Building Solutions

Highly Commended: Six Nine Nine Creative Hair Design

BEST TEAM

Advance Employment

BEST APPRENTICE

Omar Naeem (Sky Retail)

Achievement of Merit: Lauran Wright (Six Nine Nine Creative Hair Design), Katie Pell (Xoserve), Beth Pittaway (Kate+Co), Meghan O’Rourke (Kent’s Barbers)

BEST TRAINEE (JOINT WINNERS)

Hannah Clarke (John Lewis)

Paulina Czapiewska (BNP Paribas)

Highly Commended: Matthew Oakey (Phoebus Software), Melissa Locke (Quality Solicitors Davisons)

FUNDRAISING OR COMMUNITY PROJECT

Mad Hatter’s Children's Charity

BEST HOSPITALITY & LEISURE

The White Swan

Highly Commended: Crowne Plaza Solihull

Stacey Barnfield, Director Edwin Ellis Creative Media; Melanie Palmer BID Director; Paul Brown, Director Ernst & Young LLP; The Mayor of Solihull, Councillor Stuart Davis; David Brandnock MBE, HM Deputy Lieutenant for the West Midlands; Eileen Schofield, Schofield & Associates; John Callaghan, Principle & Chief Executive at Solihull College and University Centre