KEY figures in the business community gathered for the launch of the Dorset Business Awards.

More than 100 were at St Giles House, Wimborne St Giles, as entries opened for the 24th awards.

The launch was sponsored by Wessex Internet with hospitality by Beales Gourmet at St Giles House.

Hector Gibson Fleming, managing director at Wessex Internet, said: “We are hugely proud to be part of the Dorset Business Awards 2018 as a fantastic way of recognising the most innovative businesses in our area. “It’s fantastic to be the sponsor for this launch event at St Giles House, where we have had a longstanding relationship with Shaftesbury Estate to bring the benefit of gigabit fibre to their tenants and the village as a whole.”

Organised by the Dorset Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) in association with the Daily Echo and Dorset Echo, the awards are backed by Wave 105.

The categories are:

  • Business Leader of the Year Award sponsored by Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) – new award category sponsor. Honouring an individual making a significant contribution to the wider business community and the local economy.

  • Creative Impact Award sponsored by Liz Lean PR and Digipigz – new award category title and new co-sponsor. Recognising the talent and contribution of the creative sector in Dorset.

  • Dorset Environmental Business Award sponsored by Poole Harbour Commissioners (PHC) and Dorset Wildlife Trust – new award category and sponsors. Recognising a business with an outstanding commitment to manage its environmental impact.

  • Employee Health and Wellbeing Award sponsored by BWT Physio and Ouch Training Team – new award category and sponsors. Honouring an employer leading in their commitment to the health and wellbeing of their workforce.

  • Exporting Excellence Award sponsored by HSBC and PSP Worldwide Logistics – new award category title and sponsors. Recognising a business which has achieved the most sustainable levels of international growth through exporting.

  • Lester Aldridge Company of the Year Award. Acknowledging all-round business excellence.

  • Outstanding Customer Service Award, sponsored by Beales Gourmet at the Italian Villa and Teachers Building Society – new co-sponsor. Celebrating a business exceeding customer expectations by delivering a world-class experience.

  • PKF Francis Clark Family Business Award. Recognising the success and significant role family businesses play in our local economy.

  • TeamJobs Team of the Year Award. Rewarding the professionalism and hard-working teams in the county.

  • The ScaleUp Award for Business Growth, sponsored by Enhanced – new award category and sponsor. Honouring a business demonstrating spectacular growth with a robust plan for sustainability.

  • Developing Talent Award sponsored by Sunseeker – new award category title. Celebrating a Dorset employer who applies innovation to the retention and development of its people.

  • UK Health Insurance Investing in Dorset Award. Acknowledging Dorset businesses that proactively support other businesses in county for the benefit of the local economy.

  • Young Apprentice Ambassador of the Year sponsored by Superior Seals – new award category and sponsor. Recognising young individuals who are strong advocates of apprenticeships.

Stuart Dixon, head of marketing communications at DCCI, said: “The awards serve to represent Dorset businesses on a national stage and to attract investment and talent into our great county. It showcases our innovation, leadership and togetherness while inspiring and honouring the people at the heart of our business community.

"It is an awards programme with purpose and one that Dorset Chamber extremely proud to organise.

“We’re also thrilled to welcome nine new sponsors and four new award categories to the awards campaign and look forward to receiving a diverse range of entries.”

Westover Group, the official Auto Partner for the awards, showcased the Hyundai i30n and Renault Koleos models.

Mark Whittam, group operations director for marketing from Westover Group, said: “Westover Group is extremely proud to be the Auto Partner for the 2018 Dorset Business Awards. We brought along the new Hyundai i30n as its picking up so many awards in the hot hatch sector and the stunning all new Renault Koleos SUV, for those who want something a little bigger to move the family around.

“We are pleased to announce we are currently offering an affinity scheme for all Dorset Chamber members and their immediate family. Depending on your model of choice, you could save thousands off your next brand new Hyundai or Renault.”

Lord Shaftesbury said: “Over the past seven years we have been restoring this beautiful old Dorset home, to bring it back into use as a venue for a range of different activities such as weddings, concerts and corporate events.

“During the restoration we have focused a lot of energy on preserving the magic of the building whilst also bringing in our own individual style. We feel lucky to be part of a vibrant business community here in Dorset and all the opportunities that living here brings.”

The awards are open to everyone; there is no need to be a member of DCCI. Entrants will need to submit an entry via by Friday August 3 and judging will take place in late August and early September. Finalists will be invited to the gala dinner on Thursday November 1.

The award gala dinner drinks reception sponsor is Caterpillar Marine Power UK Ltd and Brighter Productions has come on board for the fourth year running as production sponsor of the ceremony.