The North East’s leading business figures have been recognised by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum at its 15th annual Entrepreneurial Awards.

Held in partnership with the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP), each year, the North East Entrepreneurial Awards honours entrepreneurs leading dynamic, innovative businesses and who are making a genuine change to the region.

Benedict Allen, one of the world’s leading explorers, hosted the event at the Hilton Newcastle Gateshead hotel, which was attended by more than 350 business leaders and entrepreneurs from across the region.

Lianne Walker MBE, group managing director of Washington-based Walker Filtration, was named Entrepreneur of the Year, the evening’s most coveted award. After taking over the company from her father in 2005, the firm has grown to become a £30m turnover business, and is set to become one of the world’s largest manufacturers of filtration products after it was acquired by Swedish firm Atlas Copco, in March.

Sunderland-based entrepreneur Paul Callaghan CBE was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award. Paul, the chairman and co-founder of global software and internet company, Leighton Group, was praised for his vision and innovation, as well as his passion and impact supporting the region’s economy.

Kevin Brown, managing director of Houghton-le-Spring based home services company Pacifica Group, was the winner of the Scale-Up Award. Under Kevin’s leadership, the Group has grown from just four employees into one of the largest companies of its kind in the UK, employing in excess of 470 staff on revenues of £27m.

The Emerging Talent award was presented to Jordan McCabe of Aztec Diamond Equestrian, who has turned a childhood passion for horse riding and clothing design into a successful and highly profitable business. Jordan, a keen showjumper, launched the clothing range for equestrians after realising there was a gap in the market for clothing which was fashionable, technical and affordable, and has plans in place to export the brand in the United States.

Pamela Petty was named Mentor of the Year after founding her own entrepreneur mentoring business, Entreprenising, in June 2016. She was described by those entrepreneurs who have benefited from her business mentoring as having a “passion for UK manufacturing” while she was further praised for being extremely knowledgeable and trustworthy.

James Robson, chairman of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, said: “We received extremely strong nominations in each of the categories which are very encouraging for the future of innovation and the creation of bold and successful businesses here in the North East.

“I hope this will inspire the current crop of emerging entrepreneurs and I look forward to hearing about their success stories at future awards events.”

Lifetime Achievement Winner Paul Callaghan CBE said: “It’s an amazing honour to receive this award from the Entrepreneurs’ Forum.  I remember when the organisation was first set up and to see where it is today is truly fantastic.  It is very noticeable the number of young and female entrepreneurs in the Forum, which is wonderful.

“The North East is a great place to do business and we are proud of what we are achieved here.  Its important to find a location, set down roots, stay there and grow there.  The support we have received has been astonishing and it has allowed us to succeed in the North East.”

The 2018 North East Entrepreneurial Awards were supported by the NELEP, Ward Hadaway, MAKE it Sunderland, IA Growth, NBS, Malhotra Group, The North East Fund and Lexus Newcastle.

Established in 2002, the Entrepreneurs’ Forum represents more than 300 individual member companies which have a combined turnover of more than £2.3 billion and in excess of 23,000 employees.