Steelite International Holdings entrepreneur wins prestigious regional award

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20 June 2012: Kevin Oakes, of Steelite International Holdings, was named the EY Midlands Entrepreneur Of The Year at an awards dinner last night.

Kevin was also named the winner of the Business Products category at the ceremony held at the Hyatt in Birmingham.

Steelite International Holdings, which is based in Stoke-on-Trent, is a world-leading manufacturer and supplier of tabletop ranges for the international hospitality industry.

The judges described Steelite as ‘a truly international business’ and a ‘great example of taking a traditional Potteries business and reinventing it’, they also praised Kevin’s ‘calm, organised approach and innovation’.

The event, sponsored by Credit Suisse, celebrated leading entrepreneurs in the Midlands who have demonstrated the innovation, creativity and tenacity to succeed despite the tough economic environment. The awards ceremony was hosted by TV and radio presenter Jeremy Vine.

Adrian Roberts, Midlands Entrepreneur Of The Year Sponsor Partner, said: “At EY, we have had a long track record of recognising successful entrepreneurs in the Midlands and this year, I have been really impressed with the diverse range of sectors represented by our finalists and the success contributed both locally and internationally.
“It’s really important to celebrate those entrepreneurs who are succeeding under the current pressures of a difficult economy. Through their unique innovation, vision and determination they are driving our region forward.

“We wish all of the Midlands winners well as they go on to compete in the UK final later in the year.”

The category winners on the night were:

Construction and Building Products

Nick Rutter and Graham Whitworth of Sprue Aegis PLC, based in Coventry. The judges described Graham and Nick as ‘a very professional duo who have developed an outstanding safety product and won leading market share in the UK’.

Manufacturing and Engineering

Leigh Robinson, Director of Trac Group Ltd, based in Birmingham. The judges commented that Leigh is ‘a brilliant entrepreneur, who has been innovative and taken risks, but in a calm and organised way in order to build a business that will last forever’.

Consumer Services

Tony Seaman Sales & Marketing Director and Paul Stobbs Managing Director, Attraction World, based in Birmingham and Oliver Ragg and Mike Tomkins, Co-founders and Directors of Top CashBack, based in Uttoxeter were jointly awarded for this category.

The judges described Tony and Paul as ‘real entrepreneurs who spotted a gap in the market and have built a great business’.

Oliver and Mike were praised by the judges for ‘having a very clever, unique idea and creating a business in a very short space of time’.

Power and Energy

Stephen Fitzpatrick, Managing Director of Ovo Energy, based in Cirencester. Stephen was recognised by the judges for being ‘a classic entrepreneur who has kept it simple and has quickly grown his business from scratch to a 100,000 customer base’.


Richard North, CEO of Wow! Stuff, based in Wolverhampton. The judges described Richard as ‘a true entrepreneur, incredibly innovative and has established a global network with some of the biggest toy retailers in the world’.

Emerging Entrepreneur

Chris Sutor, Managing Director of All Eco Energy based in Redditch. The judges commented that Chris is an ‘entrepreneur who is very customer focused and has exciting growth plans for the future – creating his own market place’.

Social Enterprise

Sheila Brown, Chief Executive of Newlife Foundation for Disabled Children, based in Cannock. The judges commented that Sheila has ‘a real passion for what she does - is inspiring and authentic and has continued with a single minded idea to make disabled children's lives better’.

Business Services

Matt Denman COO and Mark Hawkins CEO, HD Decisions, based in Nottingham. The judges described Matt and Mark as ‘very clever guys who identified an opportunity and worked at developing a very good business model to deliver this service’.

Consumer Products

Tracy Lewis, Chief Executive of Eveden Group, based in Kettering. The judges commented that Tracy ‘oozes passion and is very personable, she knows her customers and markets and is creating niche brands appropriate for each market’.

All of the winners will now represent the Midlands at the UK finals, alongside the other regional winners.

A special Midlands region award was also given to Jayne Cresswell and Jayne Hulbert, Directors of The Sweet Project, based in Birmingham. The judges were ‘massively impressed’ by Jayne and Jayne and added that they are ‘true, genuine social entrepreneurs’.

Independent judging panel

The independent judging panel in the Midlands for 2012 comprised of John Russell, Chief Executive Officer of Manganese Bronze, Bridget Blow, Non Executive Chairman of Harvard International, Martin Kinsella, Chief Executive Officer of P3, Mike Lord, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive officer of JSJS Designs, Garry Metcalfe, Chief Executive Officer of Inviron, Andy Street, Managing Director of John Lewis Partnership, Ian Wakelin, Chief Executive Officer of Biffa Group