Meet Our Finalists

Since 2004, our annual awards have recognised, celebrated and illuminated the North East's best entrepreneurial talent with finalists representing every stage of the business lifecycle from One to Watch to Lifetime Achievement. Now, we’re delighted to unveil our finalists for 2024.

One to Watch

Hamish Adamson, Harlyn Solutions

Hamish Adamson, Harlyn Solutions

Hamish Adamson founded Harlyn Solutions in 2020 to address logistics challenges faced by engineering firms, enabling efficient delivery of equipment to site globally. Their innovative Engineering lead approach, combined with investment in talent, have driven Harlyn Solutions’ rapid growth and strong financial performance, positioning it as a leader in the logistics sector helping many local and international clients deliver on their challenges.    

Ian Brown, Chestnut BioPolymers

Ian Brown, Chestnut BioPolymers

Ian Brown founded Chestnut BioPolymers in 2019 to create sustainable biopolymers, addressing significant environmental challenges such as microplastic pollution. Their strapline, ‘made robustly, not to last’, captures their mission to replace plastic products with sustainable alternatives. This revolutionary approach, backed by international patents and funding, positions Chestnut BioPolymers uniquely in the market.  

James Widmer, Advanced Electric Machines

James Widmer, Advanced Electric Machines

James Widmer launched Advanced Electric Machines (AEM) in 2017 to address the environmental impact of rare earth materials used in electrification. AEM create high-performance motors that eliminate the need for these materials, significantly reducing ecological harm and enhancing recyclability. AEM aims to scale its impact across transport sectors, becoming a global leader in electric motor supply.

Natasha Boulding, Low Carbon Materials

Natasha Boulding, Low Carbon Materials

Natasha Boulding founded Low Carbon Materials with a mission to develop the next generation of building materials - with no compromise to our planet. LCM's flagship products (OSTO and ACLA) allow LCM to reduce carbon emissions associated with concrete and asphalt. LCM is an Earthshot Prize finalist who works with multiple global organisations and reimagines how our world should be built. 

Dr Olusola Idowu, Hexis Lab

Dr Olusola Idowu, Hexis Lab

Dr Olusola Idowu is the founder of Hexis Lab, a company specialising in skincare and haircare research and development (R&D) by utilising artificial intelligence. Looking ahead, Hexis Lab aims to grow by offering innovative R&D services and launching tailored skincare and haircare lines into emerging economies like India, China and parts of Africa. 

Impact (Supported by UMi)

Bethany Ainsley, OptiMe

Bethany Ainsley, OptiMe

Bethany Ainsley, a serial entrepreneur, founded Nuvo Wellbeing 15 years ago, recognised internationally for addressing health-inequalities and has impacted over 50,000 individuals. She most recently founded OptiMe, a tech company enhancing workplace wellbeing, productivity, and mental health. An award-winning author and David Goldman Prize recipient, Bethany aims to expand OptiMe globally through partnerships, AI-development, and the launch of OptiMe Shop. 

Charlotte Windebank, FIRST

Charlotte Windebank, FIRST

Charlotte Windebank is the co-founder of FIRST, an accredited learning and development agency which specialises in empowering enterprise skills and entrepreneurship for underrepresented groups. As the only provider in the country with an Ofsted Good rating for entry level enterprise education, FIRST’s innovative model supports individuals at the earliest stages of exploring business, emphasising personalised guidance tailored to learners' ambitions and needs.

Kari Owers, O.agency

Kari Owers, O.agency

With over nearly two decades of continued re-investment, Kari has not only grown O.agency into a leading creative agency but has become an award-winning employer of choice for creative talent.  Passionate about inspiring the next generation, the former North East ‘Women Entrepreneur of the Year’ has worked consistently over decades to support women and young people in business. 

Simon Briton and Neil Henry, Grace House North East

Simon Briton and Neil Henry, Grace House North East

As Trustees, Simon Briton and Neil Henry have transformed Grace House North East into a thriving organisation which serves disabled children and families across the region. Their unique vision has stabilised Grace House financially, fostered inclusive cultures and expanded services which empower young people with disabilities to lead inspiring lives. 

Champion

Ammar Mirza CBE, SME Centre of Excellence

Ammar Mirza CBE, SME Centre of Excellence

Ammar Mirza CBE champions regional entrepreneurship, believing in its transformative power. As Chairman and Co-Founder of Asian Business Connections, he has driven social and economic improvements in the North East, aiming to make it the UK's most inclusive region. He supports start-ups and scale-ups through his SME Centre of Excellence, delivering a range of programmes, and as a North East Combined Authority Business Board Member.  

Charlie Hoult

Charlie Hoult

Fourth-generation family business leader Charlie Hoult champions entrepreneurship in the North East and beyond. The co-founder of HyHubs, Opencast, Cheviot Insured, Futureheads, tech network Dynamo, Metrocube and Loewy, Charlie promotes regional regeneration and connect key players for prosperity. He's proud to have led advocacy for initiatives such as National Innovation Centre for Data and North East Futures UTC. His recent mentorship of Olympic boxer Adam Olaore reflects his belief in uplifting others and fostering community growth. Charlie uses his profile to ‘talk up’ the region and was runner-up in the 2019 North of Tyne mayoral election. 

Steve Pugh, Roadmap MBA

Steve Pugh, Roadmap MBA

Steve Pugh is dedicated to democratising business education through his venture: Roadmap MBA. Understanding the power education can have on changing someone’s life, Steve invested £200,000 to create a free online platform, books and podcasts. Steve is inspiring and supporting entrepreneurs worldwide providing access to the tools and information needed to build successful businesses, supporting users in over 140 countries. 

Steven Rawlingson, Samuel Knight International

Steven Rawlingson, Samuel Knight International

Through altruistic mentoring and hosting the 'Unlock Your Mindset' podcast, Steven Rawlingson inspires business owners to scale and is passionate about helping owners who are based in the North East. Steven's journey, of overcoming challenges with investors and scaling his business Samuel Knight internationally, shapes his mentoring approach, focusing on practical strategies for growth and resilience.   

Scale-up (Supported by White Digital)

Charlotte Staerck, The Handbag Clinic

Charlotte Staerck, The Handbag Clinic

Founded on principles of sustainability and craftsmanship, The Handbag Clinic stands out as the original and largest global luxury aftercare service, uniquely offering fully circular pre-owned shopping experiences and expert handbag authenticity services. Charlotte aims to solidify the business’s role as the leading authority in luxury handbag care and sustainability through global expansion and brand partnerships.

Mark Edmondson, Inflo

Mark Edmondson, Inflo

Inflo is revolutionising the accounting profession by advancing audit technology globally. Launched in 2016 by Mark, the Inflo business and platform have earned acclaim with international awards and strong organic growth under 100% private ownership. Inflo is making audit more attractive to solve talent challenges in the accounting profession and improve the relevance of audit services to the modern business world. 

Victoria Lynch, Additional Lengths

Victoria Lynch, Additional Lengths

Managing Director and Founder of Additional Lengths and Brand Creator of Remi Cachet, Victoria Lynch is an award-winning entrepreneur and innovator who expanded her business to a 20,000 sq ft distribution centre and office, store and specialist salon. Renowned for quality, she is focusing on global expansion, especially in the US, and improving workplace environments to attract and retain top talent.

Entrepreneur of the Year (Supported by Ward Hadaway)

Our judges will select one of the above four winners to win the overall title of 'Entrepreneur of the Year'. This will focus on performance in the past 12 months alone.

Lifetime Achievement

The most prestigious award of the evening, our Lifetime Achievement award is decided by the Entrepreneurs' Forum board and remains top secret until the winner is announced on the night! 

It is awarded to a business leader who has shown huge commitment over a significant period of time and made a major impact to the regional economy.

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