All our entries are independently judged by a carefully selected panel of industry experts and insiders.

Judges will score and pick the winners in each of the 23 categories for each region from information provided and research done on the individual entries.

The 2017 judging panel is as follows:

Holly Bonfield

National Councillor, FSB |

Holly Bonfield is Regional Vice Chairman for the FSB in the Manchester & North Cheshire region and National Councillor for the region.

As an FSB member for more than 15 years, she is passionate about supporting small businesses to achieve their goals.  Her background is in leadership and skills development and she currently runs the Manchester Mediation Network, supporting businesses to resolve workplace conflict.

Rob Dixon

Owner, Joineryworkshop.com Ltd |

An active entrepreneur and university lecturer with an expertise in small business growth. Over the last 15 years Rob has balanced growing his business - Joineryworkshop.com, a Sash Window and Period Property Joinery Restoration specialist company, with lecturing in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University. To date the company has restored over 10,000 Sash Windows around the North West, Yorkshire, Bristol and London.

Robert Downes

Development Manager, FSB |

Robert Downes is the Development Manager for the FSB in the Manchester & North Cheshire region. He supports FSB with regional lobbying, PR & marketing, events management, co-ordinates regional publications, and manages social media and member support in the region. His background is in journalism and PR.

Simon Edmondson

Regional Chairman, FSB |

Simon Edmondson is the Regional Chairman for The Federation of Small Businesses in Manchester & North Cheshire. A former chartered surveyor and business owner, Simon is responsible for the interests of 4,500 members and business owners in the region. He is also the membership advisor for the organisation, covering Manchester City Centre and south Manchester/North Cheshire.

Kevin Feddy

Former Business Editor, MEN |

Kevin Feddy is a vastly-experienced and respected journalist who worked on daily newspapers for more than 25 years.

He spent most of his newspaper career at leading regional title the Manchester Evening News, where he was business editor until 2013 before he established his own public relations, copy writing and media training agency.

In total, he worked for more than 12 years on the MEN’s business desk, building a fantastic network of contacts.

Tricia Gibbs

Regional Sales Manager, Bizspace |



Philip Hargreaves

Head of A2F, Business Growth Hub |

Philip has worked in commercial and corporate banking for the past 35 years. He is now responsible for the Hub’s Access to Finance Team, together with the North West Business Angels and the Grants Advisory Service. Working closely with partners in the business and professional communities, Philip and his team are passionate about supporting local SMEs who are looking to grow. “Fundraising in the current marketplace is often complex, requiring time and specialist understanding of all the available options. Putting the right finance in place, at the right time, can mean the difference between success and failure.”

Martin Keelagher

Business Advisor and Venture Capitalist, Walford, Cunningham and Hayes |

Martin’s background is that of an Entrepreneur and Institutional finance specialist, having worked several years in international markets and launched several businesses. 

In his current role as a Director of the boutique Venture Capital and Advisory business; Walford Cunningham & Hayes, he holds a number of positions, that of Advisor, Partner and Director, working with a select number of clients to aid them in maximising the full potential within their businesses. Advising on Strategy, Business Development and funding requirements, to name but a few key areas.

He also acts as trusted advisor and portfolio manager to Walford Cunningham & Hayes’ investment portfolio, maximising value within the businesses and taking an active role in driving them forward. 

Outside of Martin's commercial roles, he also holds a number of Trustee positions and Directorships within Charities and Not-for-profit organisations. 

Steve Kunciewicz

Principal Lawyer, Slater and Gordon (UK) LLP |

Steve is a principal lawyer in the business advisory team at Slater and Gordon Lawyers in Manchester.

He specialises in intellectual property, media and social media law with a particular emphasis on the creative, digital and technology sector. Steve is listed as a "recommended lawyer" in tier 2 of the Legal 500’s 2014, 2015, and 2016 North West Technology, Media & Telecoms section.

He is a regular media spokesperson, and has given interviews to the local and national press through BBC Breakfast, Sky News, ITV, BBC Radio 2, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live and LBC London. Steve's first book, "Legal Issues of Web 2.0 and Social Media", was published in June 2011 and his second book "Legal Issues of Corporate Communication in the Online World" was published in June 2012.

Chris Marsh

Director, UKFast |

Chris has worked in the tech industry in Manchester since 2000 and is now Director of Partner Development at UKFast and a member of the Manchester Digital Council.

His days consist of assisting to build the brand at UKFast and helping businesses which they are working with.

Chris also sits on steering committees to help industry sectors at Pro Manchester, he is an ambassador for Forever Manchester, a mentor with the Business Growth Hub, helps to run a Code Club to teach primary school children how to use IT skills and a school governor.

Councillor Sue Murphy CBE

Deputy Leader, Manchester City Council |

Sue was elected as a member of Manchester City Council in 1995. She is a Labour and Co-operative Party Councillor, representing Brooklands Ward in Wythenshawe.

She is Deputy Leader of the Council, and has held that position since 2010. Her current responsibilities include Public Service Reform, international links, social inclusion and equalities.

Previous portfolios include Finance and Resources, and Employment and Skills.

She is also a member of the Local Government Association's Resources Board, and leads on European Funding for the LGA, as well as Employment and Skills.

Sue is also Chair of Governors of The Manchester College Group, which includes one of the largest FE colleges in the country. She is also Chair of Novus, part of the same group, and the biggest provider of education in prisons in England. She is also chair of trustees of MASH (Manchester Action on Street Health), who work with marginalised and vulnerable women involved in sex work.

Previous jobs include working for a newspaper, and for a Member of the European Parliament.

In her spare time, Sue enjoys reading, sewing, travelling and is a lifelong Manchester City fan.

Shelim Rahman

Partner, Beever and Struthers |

Shelim is a chartered accountant with over 15 years’ experience. He has trained and worked with some of the largest accountancy practices in the UK and has focused his service delivery specifically at Small to Medium Enterprises (SMEs). 

Shelim is the head of our Freelancer team and has detailed knowledge of the challenges and opportunities facing these businesses. He also leads our Innovation, Communication and IT sector.

Within our SME department he advises a wide range of clients and has a special interest in helping entrepreneurs, sole traders and start-up businesses. 

Adding value to a sustainable business is his key focus and this is achieved by gaining the confidence of clients through proactive and relevant advice, breaking down often complex tax principles into simple to understand terms.

Professor David Spicer

CIPD Fellow & Dean, Salford Business School |

Prior to joining the University of Salford, David was at the University of Bradford where he was latterly Interim and immediately prior to this Associate Dean Academic Management and Planning. His academic interests are in the areas of change management and organizational behaviour. His research is concerned with organizational learning and change, and he is currently engaged in this regard on a project looking at the dynamic capabilities of high technology firms. David’s research also has a strong interest in exploring the value and impact of learning and education. He has worked and consulted in both public and private sectors and with a number of well know organizations including AstraZeneca, Cannon, the BBC, Emirates airlines and the NHS, and well as a ranger of smaller businesses. 

David has a BSc from the University of Bristol, an MBA from the University of Stirling, and a PhD in organisational learning from the University of Plymouth.  His commercial experience prior to his MBA was in the retail sector; working with Woolworths as a store manager and in the Human Resources department where he had responsibilities for both recruitment and management development.

David is an Academic Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development and a member of the Higher Education Academy and thereby an accredited Higher Education Teacher and an alumnus of both the prestigious International Teachers Programme and Harvard Business School’s Global Colloquium for Participant Centred Learning. David is also a member of American Academy of Management, and the British Academy of Management; where he is on the executive of the Knowledge and Learning Special Interest Group.

Tarik Toma