Video Highlights: Region’s best celebrated at Yorkshire Business Masters

THE man who has spent the last 15 years putting Yorkshire on the global stage by bringing some of the world’s biggest names to the region was among those celebrated for their achievements at the inaugural Yorkshire Business Masters Awards.

Mike Firth, chief executive of the annual Yorkshire International Business Convention, who has previously brought illustrious names including former US President Bill Clinton and former Soviet Union premier Mikhail Gorbachev to speak at the conference, was named Yorkshire Ambassador.

More than 200 senior business figures attended the awards ceremony, which was held at Aspire in Leeds yesterday and sponsored by law firms Walker Morris and Gordons, accountancy firm KPMG, peer support organisation The Alternative Board, and the region’s official tourism agency Welcome to Yorkshire.

Hundreds of readers of voted for their winners in each of the five shortlisted categories in the Yorkshire Business Masters, which were compiled following a vigorous judging process.

The Yorkshire Ambassador category, sponsored by KPMG, recognised an individual who has made the greatest contribution to business in Yorkshire.

Receiving his award Mr Firth, a larger than life character, joked that he would like to get Elvis Presley to speak at a future YIBC. He said California’s Senator Arnold Shwarzenegger was billed to appear at last week’s event but had to cancel because of his schedule.

Mr Firth, who has organised YIBC for the last 15 years, hopes to secure ‘Arnie’ as a keynote speaker next year.

Mr Firth described YIBC as a “fantastic” event for Yorkshire.

“When you’re up on stage it’s like talking to your mates because as a business community we all know each other,” he said.

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In the Yorkshire Grit category, which celebrates overcoming and making a real difference, engineering firm Sheffield Forgemasters International was named the winning company.

The company, which has survived uncertainty to become a major global player, beat off tough competition in the category, which was sponsored by Gordons.

Graham Honeyman, chief executive of the firm, couldn’t be at the event to receive the award because of an accident at the company’s premises the previous day.

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Tom Acland, of Leeds-based Cafe2U, was named Yorkshire Newcomer. Mr Acland has led the growth of the mobile gourmet coffee retailer since bringing the concept over from Australia.

The category, sponsored by The Alternative Board, recognised the best new business initiative in the region.

Mr Acland said Cafe2U’s business model had been simple: “We took coffee to the business worker.”

He said the company presently had 54 franchisees but was aiming to increase that to 350 over the next four years.

“Coffee is a stimulant to work so keep drinking it,” he said. 

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Graham Bowland, managing director of Leeds-based Surgical Innovations, won the Yorkshire Innovator category. The award celebrates the most creative or original business thinking and was sponsored by Walker Morris.

Surgical Innovations has developed instruments to improve keyhole surgery operations and is growing in the US. 

Mr Bowland described Surgical Innovations as “the Gillette of the medical devices world”.

He said on a recent visit to the company’s headquarters, Prime Minister David Cameron had been “astounded” by the innovation on show.

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In the Yorkshire Pride category, Jonathan Wild, of Bettys and Taylors of Harrogate, was named the winner.

The category, sponsored by Welcome to Yorkshire, recognised the most meaningful philanthropic initiative by a business, organisation or leader.

Mr Wild encouraged organisations to “get passionate” about getting involved in charitable and philanthropic ventures and said it made “sound business sense” to do so.

Mr Wild has been instrumental in developing a United Bank of Carbon in association with other organisations to help preserve rainforests.

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David Parkin, Editor of, compered the event and interviewed each shortlisted individual and organisation before naming the winners.

Mr Parkin said the Yorkshire Business Masters had recognised the talent, innovation, hard work and skill of the business community in Yorkshire.

Mr Parkin said: “Can I please thank everyone for making these awards such a fantastic success.”

And he told the audience: “You only have to look around this room to see the quality of people here.

“What we wanted to achieve was to bring senior business people toegther not just to celebrate success in Yorkshire but to offer an opportunity to meet old friends and make new ones.

“If that can help you to do business that makes this event a success.”

For interviews with all the shortlisted businesses, judges and sponsors, and more pictures and video highlights, visit on Monday.