Following on from last years success for Newry businesses in the Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Award, the search is on yet again for the top performers and movers in business and local companies are urged to enter.

Organised by Business Eye and First Trust Bank the awards known in the business community as the ‘BEFTAs’ -  will be held at Belfast’s Crowne Plaza Hotel on Thursday, 31st May 2018.

Now in its fourth year, the awards have become an important part of the business calendar and have produced some notable winners. Last year a number of Newry businesses took home trophies including who won the Small Business Marketing Award and Bluezone Technologies who  picked up a Highly Commended award in the ‘Start-up Business of the Year’ category.

Seamus McGuckin, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank and Brenda Buckley, Commerical Director, Business Eye call on small businesses across Northern Ireland to enter the Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Awards which is now open for entries.
Seamus McGuckin, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank and Brenda Buckley, Commerical Director, Business Eye call on small businesses across Northern Ireland to enter the Business Eye First Trust Bank Small Business Awards which is now open for entries.

This year, a total of 14 different categories will be open to businesses based in NI with 50 employees or less.

As well as a headline ‘Small Business of the Year’ Award, top performers in key sectors such as technology, agri food, manufacturing and tourism and hospitality will also be recognised. There will also be awards for our leading small business exporter, most innovative and customer focused businesses as well as top marketing and community initiative.

One new award joins the line-up this year and we will recognise a leading ‘Family Business of the Year’ for the first time.

Hundreds of entries are anticipated across the 14 categories and the winners will be chosen by an elite panel of judges from Northern Ireland’s business community led by First Trust Bank’s Head of Business and Corporate Banking, Brian Gillan, and Business Eye’s Richard Buckley.

Speaking about the Awards, Seamus McGuckin, Head of Business Banking, First Trust Bank said “We are delighted to partner with Business Eye once more to recognise best practice in our vibrant small business sector. Amidst ongoing economic and political uncertainties that continue to test the resilience of our business community, we see a commitment to creativity, innovation and ambition from our SME sector. The role and the voice of small businesses - which account for the vast majority of our private sector - is therefore more important than ever, and we look forward to celebrating excellence at the BEFTAs ceremony this May.”

Richard Buckley, Editor of Business Eye, says that the BEFTAs have helped to place a number of our leading small businesses onto a wider stage.

“Our small businesses have to compete with the big names in the business world in most of the awards which exist on the local front, but these awards are different in that they turn the spotlight on the most important part of our economy.”

“These awards give small businesses right across the spectrum the chance to go head to head with businesses of a similar size and scale, and we’re very confident that we’ll be seeing some excellent case studies emerge between now and the start of May.”

For further information please contact Ciara Donnelly at Business Eye on 028 9047 4490 or email

Closing date for entries is Friday 27th April 2018, and local small businesses can enter online at

The Categories

Small Business Marketing Award
Open to companies in all sectors of the local business community, this award sets out to recognise and showcase the organisation which best uses marketing – including advertising, PR or the strategic use of digital platforms and social media - to enhance business performance across the board.

Innovative Business of the Year Award
Open to companies operating in any business sector, this award will go to the organisation which best illustrates the most effective use of innovation through investment in innovative practices, leading edge products and/or services to contribute to overall business success.

Start-Up Business of the Year Award
This award will recognise Northern Ireland’s most promising start-up enterprise. The award will go to a young company of one year old or less since establishment which, in the view of the judging panel, best illustrates what can be achieved by start-up businesses across any sector here in Northern Ireland.

Community Contribution Award
Despite smaller budgets, corporate responsibility plays a role for small businesses in Northern Ireland. This special award will recognise the best example of how small businesses here can help to make a difference in the communities they serve.

Hospitality & Tourism Business of the Year Award
A special category aimed directly at Northern Ireland’s growing number of small tourism and hospitality-related business enterprises, including pubs, restaurants, cafes, smaller hotels, tourism activity businesses and transport and travel providers.

Family Business of the Year
A new addition to the line-up for 2018, the Family Business of the Year category is open to all businesses (less than 50 employees) which remain in family ownership and are based here in Northern Ireland.

Manufacturing Business of the Year Award
A category open to all small businesses engaged directly in the manufacture of products for sale in Northern Ireland and in export markets. The judges will look for evidence of research and development and innovation in manufacturing.

Exporter of the Year
An award which will recognise the top achieving exporting company from Northern Ireland’s small business community, recognising sales achievement in all markets outside of Northern Ireland itself, including both the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

Independent Retailer of the Year Award
This award will recognise a leading player from Northern Ireland’s traditionally strong independently-owned retail sector. The category is open to locally-owned retail businesses, including both single site retailers and independent retail groups who meet the overall Small Business Awards criteria, i.e. 50 employees or less. The judging panel will look for evidence of innovation, strong business performance and both customer focus and customer satisfaction.

Healthcare Business of the Year Award
Another specialist category, aimed at small business enterprises in the healthcare field here in Northern Ireland. This category is open to all business-led healthcare related organisations including opticians, dental practices and enterprises such as care homes for the elderly.

Agri Food Business of the Year Award
Northern Ireland’s leading small business operating in the agri food sector, to include food and drink producers, farm-based enterprises and companies providing products and services to the agri-food industry here.

Technology Business of the Year Award
This award is open to all small businesses based in Northern Ireland who provide products and/ or services in the wider technology field, including IT services, software development, technology product innovation and consultancy.

Customer Focus Award
Our judging panel will single out the local small business which most effectively brings to life best practice in customer service across all of its operations. The judges will look for clear evidence of customer satisfaction.

Small Business of the Year Award
The small business enterprise of 50 employees or less which, in the opinion of the judges, exemplifies best practice and achievement across the board. Entries for this premier award category can be made directly and winning entries in all other categories will also be considered.

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