Small Business

Sponsored by University of Suffolk

The Small Business award is presented by David Collins, left, of the University of Suffolk  to Helen Mytton-Mills and Jason Hawkins-Row of Aponic. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN


The Small Business award was open to any business with an annual turnover of less than £1m, regardless of how long the business had been trading.

The judges took into account a broad range of factors including not only financial performance in terms of turnover and profit but also covering aspects such as evidence of growth or growth potential.

This year the judges were also looking at innovation within this category and were looking to recognise a business with a groundbreaking technology, product or service that has been responsible for strong revenue growth within the business.

Judges also considered working practices and engagement with employees and the local community.



Aponic started in 2014 with a small business start-up loan to develop a vertical soilless growing system.
It is now taking orders from Australia, Dubai, Kenya, Jamaica, Portugal, Spain, India as well as the UK farming sector for its freight container farms and sustainable food growing equipment while also aiding charities and NGOs in Africa to enable people to sustainably grow their staple foods even in drought conditions.
The judges said: “The innovation at the heart of Aponic is beautifully simple, but one with huge global potential.
“The soil-less vertical growing system developed by founder Jason Hawkins-Row has multiple applications: from aiding amateur allotment-holders and helping domestic farmers to diversify, through to improving food security in developing countries, cutting worldwide food miles and using scarce natural resources more effectively.
“The company also has local loyalty, however, sourcing its materials nearby and working with charities, schools and colleges, and is sensibly bolstering its team to capitalise on the opportunities on the horizon.”

The runners-up

Spider Web Recruitment

Spider Web Recruitment is a fixed fee web recruitment company. Traditional and expensive recruitment methods are replaced by Spider’s innovative online advertising service.
It supports companies by organising and publishing online recruitment campaigns on multiple premier recruitment websites.
Since launching in 2013, it has supported hundreds of companies hire great talent, with a success rate of more than 80%.
The judges said: “Spider Web Recruitment’s fixed-fee approach is an innovative solution in a recruitment world which is changing rapidly.
“In the early days, the company had to convince established players of its concept but has seen enthusiastic take-up from the small businesses it was designed to help, with realistic growth plans mapped out for the next five years.
“Though it works primarily through a digital platform, the company takes its role in the community seriously, supporting schools and charities, while founder Michelle Pollard is a voice for other small businesses through her ambassadorial roles.”

The Recovery Hub Ipswich

The Recovery Hub’s mission is to provide affordable addiction treatment in a unique environment, helping people detoxify and engage with a dynamic treatment programme that explores and deals with underlying issues and equips and skills residents for a long term recovery.
Using a variety of approaches, therapists, fitness, creative therapies, meditation and practical skill development, it aims to provide residents with the skills and confidence to successfully
re-engage with families, communities and work.
The judges said: “Set up to offer affordable and effective residential drug and alcohol addiction treatment, The Recovery Hub is not only helping its residents but its community.
“Supported by the East of England Co-op, the community interest company has breathed life back into a derelict pub in Ipswich and has already seized growth opportunities, trebling its bed capacity within a year.
Completion rates for treatment are above average and residents often return to volunteer, a virtuous circle which means that management has its eyes on further expansion.”