The entries are in, the nominations have been read by our expert panel, and now we're able to reveal the shortlist in the business categories of the 2018 Exceptional Awards.
We received multiple entries in this year's Exceptional Awards - the prestigious Perrys event that highlights remarkable work by businesses, individuals and charities across the county of Kent.
In the business category, there are two awards – Exceptional Business and Exceptional Business Community Initiative. We're delighted to announce our shortlist here, along with further details about the companies in the running.
Exceptional Business Shortlist
Explore Learning, Ashford
Explore Learning takes a unique approach to maths and English tuition. Mapped to the school curriculum, work is tailored to every child's individual strengths and areas of development, ensuring children progress academically and socially. 35,000 children attend the nationwide centres every week, including the six centres in Kent. They run a specialist course to help children prepare for the competitive Kent Test. Since 2001 over 200,000 children have reached their potential and achieved the best possible results with Explore Learning.
Orchard Garage, Dartford
Orchard Garage service, repair and MOT cars, vans and motorbikes from its onsite workshop. They also sell fully serviced used cars which come with a 12 month MOT. The garage is proud to be AA certified and a Which Trusted Trader.
Revitalize Health & Fitness Clinic, Gravesend
Revitalize Clinic is a health and fitness centre offering an extensive range of services to promote full body health and fitness. Pain relief therapies include herbal medicine, physiotherapy, osteopathy, sports therapy and sports massage. Fitness sessions focus on yoga and personal training. Revitalize Clinic's main goal is to facilitate the achievement of their clients health and fitness goals, whatever they may be.
The Whitstable Cake Company, Whitstable
The Whitstable Cake Company bakes hand-crafted bespoke cakes and cupcakes for any occasion. Winners of a clutch of awards, the company operates from a Church Street shop and makes stunning, delicious cakes for celebrations such as weddings, birthdays and anniversaries. They also teach cake decorating courses and host corporate events and birthday parties.
Exceptional Business Community Initiative Shortlist
Bickley Park School, Bromley
Bickley Park School was nominated for its initiative to bridge the gap between age groups in the community. Every week a group of three-year-old children visits the Crown Meadow Nursing Home where they engage with the elderly residents, reading stories together and playing games. Bickley Park headteacher Patrick Wenham says: "What's interesting is that the children are blind to the age and frailty of the residents. They see them more as playmates or grandparent figures, and they love chatting to them. It's deeply moving to see the pleasure the residents gain from interacting with the children."
Café du Monde, Dartford
Nominated after Café du Monde generated an amazing £160,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support over the last 13 years, Kay Banfield says: "Back in 2005 we decided we wanted to give something back to our local community. We chose Macmillan as not only was it a trusted cancer charity, but also the idea of holding a coffee morning seemed a perfect partnership for our business. They're not the normal coffee mornings and raise around £5,000 in five hours. The whole team has also taken part in challenges such as runs, hikes and cycle rides and this year alone we've raised £20,000. I'm proud to say our fundraising has gone from strength to strength."
Kent Football Association, Aylesford
Kent FA is the governing body of grassroots football in Kent. Back in 2017, they launched a Charitable Foundation, reinvesting money into grassroots football to enable participants to improve their mental, social and physical wellbeing. Over £100,000 has been invested on programmes including an initiative to encourage football participation among under-represented groups. The Association held its first community day this year, raising money and hosting tournaments for children and adults alike, including a walking football event. Meanwhile, their Charity Partnership raised £25,000 to refurbish a soft play area and therapy room at Demelza Hospice Care for Children in Sittingbourne.
Kuflink Foundation, Gravesend
Kuflink is an online peer-to-peer investment platform that also raises much-needed funds for the local community via The Kuflink Foundation. Working in close association with Gravesham Borough Council and Kent County Council, the Foundation has helped fund a clubhouse extension and skateboard ramp at Istead Rise Community Centre; deliver a project with Dhells Fitness Centre to help improve the lives of disadvantaged youths; and launch a community initiative at The Grand in Gravesend, which holds networking events and exercise classes.
Martin Tolhurst Solicitors, Kent
The 150 staff of Martin Tolhurst, based in six offices around Kent, overwhelmingly chose the Ellenor Foundation as their chosen charity, raising an impressive £21,000 in a year via a series of fundraising events. Events completed by staff included daring sky dives, cake sales, marathon runs and volunteering work. The solicitors' firm has a long history with terminal illness support charity Ellenor, which started as the Lion Hospice in the 1980s before being renamed in 2007. Staff have raised thousands for the charity over 30-plus years. Partners have carried out pro-bono work for the charity. This year, as well as raising funds, Martin Tolhurst put Ellenor's name on every one of the five million emails sent to clients and suppliers, resulting in numerous extra donations to the charity.
Stewart Pope, CEO at Perrys Chartered Accountants, said:
"Each year the awards bring together individuals, charities and businesses from across the county who demonstrate everything that makes Kent a great place to live and work. We are always blown away with the quality of the entries we receive and the people we hear from who have gone to such lengths to support the communities around them.
"Reading through the nominations in the business categories, I'm struck by just how positive the business community remains – a fact that runs counter to the gloomy narratives we so often read. Congratulations to all our shortlisted entrants for your inspiring work."
The winners of the Perrys Exceptional Awards 2018 will be announced at a ceremony at Leeds Castle in Maidstone on Thursday 8 November.