As we are in the midst of applications being entered for the 2019 Cherwell Business Awards (CBAs), we interviewed last year’s winner and this year’s sponsor of the Small Business Award, Sarah Jaycock, Executive Director of High Spec Composites, who kindly shares their story of winning the award and as sponsors how they hope to encourage other businesses in a similar position and size to them to enter the awards and in turn reap the rewards and benefits they have.

Can you provide a brief overview of the company?

High Spec is a leading composites company supplying high-specification carbon fibre components to a range of industries worldwide, specialising in components for Formula One. With a prime location in Oxfordshire, a newly-equipped facility and over twenty years of composite experience High Spec are able to offer high quality components, using the newest of technologies and materials in excellent lead time.

What inspired you to enter the awards?

In 2016 we were strongly encouraged to enter the CBAs by an associate who knew of our passion for training and apprenticeships. To our surprise we went on to win the award for Apprenticeship of the Year and in turn found ourselves in a position to celebrate and advertise our hard work and training schemes in an unprecedented way. Our success at the awards opened the door to new business networks and opportunities that simply would not have arisen otherwise.

The end of 2017 and start of 2018 were a difficult period for High Spec; although the company was thriving, the reality of running a business was taking its toll on both company Directors. Remembering the positivity, renewed energy and exciting opportunities which followed on from the CBAs 2016 we decided to enter the Small Business and Established Business Awards in 2018. Once again, we had no expectations and were absolutely thrilled to be selected as a finalist in the Established Business category and winners of the Small Business Award.

Can you explain a bit about the process and how you found it?

The process of entering was very simple. In 2018 we entered two awards using the online application forms. We saw the process of answering set questions and sharing documentation with judges as an opportunity to review our existing business plans and progress. Shortly after applying we were contacted by the category sponsors and arranged a suitable time for them to visit us in person. We enjoyed sharing our story with the sponsors as it once again gave us renewed vision of our business and opened communication lines with new networks.

What did you learn through the process?

We learnt a great deal about ourselves and our business through the process of entering the CBAs. It’s very easy as a business owner to get caught up with day-to-day tasks and tribulations but the application process for the awards gave us a much-needed opportunity to sit down and really assess our business from a detached perspective. Not only did we assess, but whilst trying to promote ourselves as worthy applicants we started to see and understand once again our successes and achievements which in turn gave us a renewed energy for our business and future goals.
In addition to learning about ourselves we also had the opportunity to learn a lot from others throughout the process; we met with many business people, from sponsors and judges through to other applicants and found, regardless of sector, many shared similar experiences. We were able to share stories and tips and found an unexpected, yet very welcomed, sense of community.

How did it feel when you won the award?

Being a small, family-run business in a niche market, we had absolutely no expectations upon entering and were thrilled to win Small Business of the Year. We had already gained so much by entering the awards and meeting new business associates; winning really was the icing on the cake.
We saw the award ceremony as an opportunity to treat our management team and their respective partners to a much-deserved night out and found accepting the award collectively on stage to be an invaluable team-building experience.

Did you do any marketing around the awards?

Yes. Working in a rather secretive sector, we are seldom able to share details of our business, however the awards really gave us an opportunity to share a recognised form of credibility and connect with our network and followers; We posted of our success via all forms of social media, on our website and in a few local publications.

In the months that followed our win, our company directors were also invited to share the news of the award along with information on our business via several radio interviews and podcasts which were not only of great value to our business but also incredibly fun to record!

What benefits have you received as a result of winning the award?

We have opened ourselves and our business to a much wider network of business associates and opportunities. We have been able to promote ourselves with, as mentioned above, a recognised and celebrated form of credibility. We have also been able to display our certificates and trophy in a place which acts as an ongoing celebration of our team’s hard work!

One such opportunity which has arisen as a direct result of winning the award, is the chance to return to the CBAs in 2019 as a sponsor of the Small Business Award, which we have gladly accepted. We are both proud and excited to be giving back to those who have to helped launch our business forwards whilst as the same time allowing the same opportunities, we have been given to the rest of the Cherwell District!

Why would you recommend others to enter the awards?

The awards for us, from start to finish, have meant allowing ourselves the time to sit, assess and present our business to others with renewed energy and excitement for the future whilst also celebrating the successes of High Spec with the team who have made such achievements possible. We have also opened ourselves to a much wider network and the all of opportunities which come along with such exposure; We believe that any business, or business person, applying for the awards can benefit in the same ways that we have.