Red carpet treatment for BETA Business Award winners

The red carpet was rolled out for the equestrian trade when members gathered to hear the winners of the 2016 BETA Business Awards announced. These highly prized accolades, presented during the annual BETA Gala Dinner at the National Motorcycle Museum, near Birmingham, on Sunday 24 January, acknowledge companies and individuals judged to have made considerable contributions to the industry.

Guests enjoyed a drinks reception before taking their seats for a three-course dinner. Once the meal and presentations were over, guests danced and some even took their turn on the indoor, nine-hole mini-golf course.

The event’s raffle raised £1,600 for Riding for the Disabled and HorseBack UK. Prizes included a £240 leisure spa break voucher from Whittlebury Hall, a set of glasses from Burridge Trophies, a luxury hamper from BETA International and champagne from BETA.

“I would like to congratulate all the winners and finalists who have come so far against some extremely tough competition,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams. “Once again, our judges had a tough task in selecting the final winners, as we received a high degree of nominations providing extremely compelling reasons why each nominee should receive an award. It is fantastic to see the BETA Business Awards continue to develop and grow in this way.”

The winners of the 2016 BETA Business Awards are... 

Winner: Jane Yeoman, Countrywide Farmers, Bridgend, Mid Glamorgan
This award recognises the employee showing initiative, excellence in customer service, product knowledge and commitment to professional retailing. It is intended for shop-floor employees only, not managers, and nominations were invited from employers or sales representatives. The finalists were interviewed to determine the winner, who received a cash prize of £200, with BETA training vouchers going to her employer.

One of the judges said of the winner’s interview: “Jane was everything an employer could want – calm, clear, relaxed, pleasant – and gave detailed and thoughtful answers. Her experience and professionalism shone through. If Jane were an employee of mine, I would be nothing short of elated!”

Winner: Suzi Law, TopSpec, Pickhill, North Yorkshire
This award rewards excellence in product and customer knowledge. Retailer nominations were followed by votes and an interview with the finalists.

Suzi was repeatedly described by nominators as having fantastic product knowledge and being extremely friendly and enthusiastic about her work. A judge said of her interview: “Suzi showed immense dedication and commitment to her job, being prepared to go the extra mile to provide a really good service. Her enthusiasm for her work positively bubbled down the phone.”

Winner: Vale Brothers, Walsall, Staffordshire

Runner-up: Group55 (Animology), Preston, Lancashire

This award is presented to the company that has achieved sustained increases in export activity over a period of three years. This year saw the most nominations ever received for the award. Judges noted that Vale Brothers was a company not afraid to tackle difficult markets. The winner showed a good strategic approach that didn’t shy away from markets others might perceive as challenging. The company also proved the importance of market visits to get to know its customers, something that has patently reaped rewards.

Winner: Horse of the Year Show

Runner-up: Your Horse Live

This accolade acknowledges the event at which tradestands are present that best works with its exhibitors and takes their needs and requirements fully into consideration, and views its tradestands as an integral part of its success.

Known as the world’s most famous horse show, the winning event attracts long-established and loyal visitor numbers year after year. In 2016, the show is in its 68th year. A nominating visitor said it provided “a magical atmosphere, with great shopping and attractions, with a variety of competitions on each day”.

This award, in two categories for the first time, rewards the company that best embraces social media and uses it to powerful effect throughout its marketing strategy. The judging panel considered application presentation, innovation and use, originality of content, compelling nature of presence, interaction with audience and accuracy and engagement of information.

20 Hours and Under
Winner: Burghley Horse Trials
All three judges were unanimous, saying: “Their pages were packed with interesting and effective posts with original and shared content, and a high level of engagement. They managed to succeed in maintaining a bright, snappy presence all year round.”

Over 20 Hours
Winner: Horseware Ireland
Judges praised “strong pages with lively and eye-catching images and avid engagement”, adding: “Content is fresh, original and constantly updated with product information, inspirational quotes, plenty of videos and graphics. The voice of the pages is warm, chatty and good-humoured. Their pages are upbeat and entertaining.”

This award, for tack shops and feed merchants, is divided into four categories – large, medium, small and mail order/Internet retailers. Customer nominations were followed by a vote of BETA trade members, mystery shoppers and incognito telephone calls.

Large Retailer
Winner: Aivly Country Store, Ringwood, Hampshire
Runner-up: Norvite Farm & Country, Insch, Aberdeenshire
A nominator praised the winner’s “exceptional service and quality products”.  A judge commented: “Lovely shop with good sales assistants who acknowledged us straight away despite being busy.”

Medium Retailer
Winner: Jet Set Saddlery & Countrywear, Dundonald, Ayrshire
Runner-up: Houghton Country, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland
The winner’s “great customer service with knowledgeable, friendly staff” was noted by a nominator. Judges said: “They offered an excellent selection of products and friendly service.”

Small Retailer
Winner: Equicraft of Backwell, Somerset
Runner-up: Tower Farm Saddlers, East Barton, Northamptonshire
One of the nominators described the winner as “very helpful, always going above and beyond to find what I need”. A judge said: “Staff were knowledgeable and clear in their advice.”

Mail Order/Internet Retailer
Winner: Houghton Country, Heddon-on-the-Wall, Northumberland
Runner-up: Mane Supplies, Harrogate, North Yorkshire
“They always give excellent service and advice,” said one nominator of the winner. Judges said: “A well-structured website with good navigation and shopping tools. Their dispatch and customer service put them clearly at the top of the list of finalists.”

Winner: TopSpec Equine, Pickhill, North Yorkshire

Runner-up: Saracen Horse Feeds, Aylesford, Kent

This accolade goes to the company that offers exemplary service in nutritional advice to customers, both trade and retail. Customer nominations were followed by incognito telephone calls. Judges praised the winner’s “excellent, friendly service and brilliant follow-on from the call, with product information and vouchers received in the post within 24 hours”.

Winner: Trilanco, Poulton-le-Fylde, Lancashire

This award goes to the manufacturer, wholesaler or distributor judged to offer the best in delivery, customer service, product knowledge and awareness of retailers’ requirements. Nominations from both retailers and suppliers themselves were accepted. Judging of shortlisted companies was followed by a retail members’ vote. One nominator described the winner as “efficient and reliable, with high-quality goods and excellent service”. Judges said: “The winner’s commitment to customer service was clear in their entry and reflected in retailer comments.”

This award, in two categories, acknowledges sponsored riders who make the greatest contribution to the trade, as nominated by their sponsors. It is presented to those who have participated fully in building a relationship with their sponsors, generating good results for them as well as themselves.

Amateur Rider
Winner: Ricki Riley
Nominator Horzehoods began a small sponsorship of the winner two years ago, when it was a young company. Not only has Ricki been a great ambassador but, says Horzehoods, she has also become part of the product development team purely for the love of developing great products and to live up to her role as a sponsored team rider.

Professional Rider
Winner: Ben Hobday
Equilibrium Products praised the winner for his extremely hard work. “Adding Ben to our team of sponsored riders provided us with access to a new demographic, helping us to reach a new, young audience,” said the company. “Our sponsorship of him has led to a notable increase in our social media following and an increase in brand recognition.”

Winner: Bill Vero
Bill received the Lifetime Achievement Award in recognition of the great contribution he has made to the equestrian industry through his commitment to rider safety as a pioneer of protective headwear.

He joined his family’s business, Everitt W Vero & Co – known for its Everoak brand of helmets for the equestrian, motor-racing and motorcycle-racing sectors – in 1960. His job was making the mould and painting distinctive patterns on helmets for legends of the motor circuit, including Jack Brabham, Jim Clark, Graham Hill, Stirling Moss and Barry Sheene.

When the Jockey Club and Brigadier Tony Teacher approached the business, Bill was involved in the design of the original fibreglass jockey skull cap, working closely with those such as Brough Scott who trialled it while racing.

From the 1970s, he was a member of British Standards Institution committees for both equestrian and automotive helmets. He worked on helmet testing in California with George Snively, of the American Snell Foundation, and was a member of the original PAS015 helmet committee, as well as that devising the European standard for equestrian headwear, which eventually became EN 1384 1996.

Bill made a cross-country helmet for Princess Anne at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and designed the hat worn by her daughter, Zara Phillips, at the 2012 London Games. In 1981, one of his hats suffered two large cracks when Willie Carson was trampled by half a dozen horses in the Yorkshire Oaks, fracturing the base of the champion jockey’s skull, but it was credited with saving him from worse injuries – and an example of the many lives his protective headwear has saved.

Bill, who retired in 2012, was involved in BETA’s first safety training course and has been generous with his time and expertise over the years. He believes passionately about the safety of all riders and his advice is sought by BETA as well as many other hat manufacturers. Indirectly, Bill’s efforts have probably saved more lives than any other individual in the equestrian industry. “We know him as a quiet man who hides his light under a bushel, always working in the background, happy not to take the limelight, but passionate about improving protective headwear,” said BETA executive director Claire Williams.