Screen Shot 2015-09-28 at 09.44.06A gathering of 300 entrepreneurs has celebrated the cream of the region’s business community at the prestigious North East Entrepreneurial Awards.

Run by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, the annual awards have been held for more than a decade, honouring those business people who lead dynamic, innovative companies that stand out from the crowd.

Hosted by Julia Hartley-Brewer, the glittering entrepreneurial party saw a host of business leaders paying tribute to their peers and in the process raising money to support both the Olivia Mae Foundationand the North of England Children’s Cancer Research Fund.

A special Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Barclays, was presented to Geoff Turnbull, chairman of the Peterlee-based GT Group, who follows in the footsteps of past winners of the coveted accolade, including Sir John Hall.

In his citation for Mr Turnbull, Graham Robb, Institute of Directors North East Chairman and Senior Partner of Recognition Marketing and PR, said: “This year we are going to make this award to somebody very special. A person who has no equal in his field in this region. He has innovated, pioneered and prospered and ensured that his considerable success has been wisely invested for the future.”

In partnership with the North East LEP for the second year running, the awards were presented at a special ceremony taking place at the brand new Crowne Plaza Newcastle – Stephenson Quarter.

Winner of the Emerging Talent Award, sponsored by United Carlton, was Alice Hall who started Pink Boutique in 2012 with only £90. Phenomenal growth has seen the company scale-up quickly and in three years the business now turns over more than £6 million and rising, ships its products around the world, selling more than 2,000 dresses a day and operating from a 30,000 sq. ft. site in Newcastle.

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum highly commended talented entrepreneurs Richard Kirk, of PolyPhotonix, Ben Staerck, of the Furniture Clinic and Tom Riley of Whitewash Laboratories.

The Ward Hadaway-sponsored award for Entrepreneur of the Year was presented to Geoff Thompson, of Utilitywise. Geoff is a science graduate and holds an MBA from Newcastle University. He founded Utilitywise in 2006, having previously held senior posts in consultancy and in industry. The company now employs more than 1,300 people and supports thousands of businesses across the UK and Ireland.

In one of the most competitive years on record, the other shortlisted entrepreneurs were John Reece MBE, of Reece Group and Tony Cleary, of Lanchester Wine Group.

Mentor of the Year, sponsored by the Malhotra Group, was presented to serial entrepreneur Alastair Waite. Alastair is perhaps best known for his involvement in building Onyx Group where he remains as the second largest shareholder. He left 18 months ago and embarked on two new ventures; he founded Altrelli Limited, a consulting company mentoring businesses and individuals to achieve their potential and is also Group CEO of Altec Engineering Limited which is the fastest growing precision engineering company in the North East.

As a board member of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum and non-executive director of numerous organisations, Alastair continuously offers his time to altruistically support the growth of fellow entrepreneurs’ businesses through the development of strategy, business plans, fund raising, mergers and acquisitions and mentoring. Alastair was recognised earlier this year as one of the UK’s top 100 Entrepreneurs who give something back by investing in and mentoring the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Gillian Marshall, chief executive of the Entrepreneurs’ Forum said: “Once again, this was a fantastic occasion that celebrated the achievements of the entrepreneurs who drive our economy in the North East.

“Our congratulations go to all who were recognised, either as winners or shortlisted candidates for these awards, which really do reflect the cream of North East business.”

Networking and drinks sponsor for the evening was SGP Technology Group, with Growth Accelerator supporting the Awards programme and Carat Media and iProspect Newcastle sponsoring Perry McCarthy – the original Top Gear Stig – as the after dinner speaker.

For more information about the Entrepreneurs’ Forum, visit