Liverpool & Sefton Chambers of Commerce toast stars of the future at annual dinner and awards

Elkie Durkan of Document Direct, and Raja Pitalia, a graduate trainee at Pall Mall Medical were named winners of the Aspire Award category. Tony McDonough reports.

Elkie Durkan from Document Direct, centre, receives her Aspire Award from Liverpool & Sefton Chambers CEO Jenny Stewart and Ian Page of BT. Picture by Ant Clausen
Elkie Durkan from Document Direct, centre, receives her Aspire Award from Liverpool & Sefton Chambers CEO Jenny Stewart and Ian Page of BT. Picture by Ant Clausen

Two of Merseyside’s brightest young employees took centre stage at the Liverpool & Sefton Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Awards.

Elkie Durkan, who started off as an apprentice at Document Direct, and Raja Pitalia, a graduate trainee at Pall Mall Medical were named winners of the Aspire Award category, sponsored by BT.

Other leading city region businesses also won accolades at the event, which saw hundreds of guests gather at Liverpool Football Club’s new main stand.

Aspire

There were a record number of nominations, more than 100, for this year’s awards which were split into four main categories – Strive, Ignite, Reach and Aspire.

They in turn were split into sub-categories with Elkie and Raja both coming out on top in Aspire, this year split into two parts – apprentice and graduate.

Based in Liverpool city centre, Document Direct offers transcription services for law firms and Elkie has already established herself as an invaluable member of the team.

The judges said she had come across as “very professional and more mature for her years and experience” during the interview.”

They added: “It was refreshing to meet a young person with such an admirable, responsible and diligent attitude towards both their personal development and responsibilities in the workplace.  

“It came as no surprise that they have been instrumental in winning several accounts for the business.”

Pall Mall Medical is a private healthcare provider with an outlet in Liverpool’s commercial district.

Raja Pitalia from Pall Mall Medical, centre, receives his Aspire Award from Liverpool & Sefton Chambers CEO Jenny Stewart and Ian Page of BT. Picture by Ant Clausen
Raja Pitalia from Pall Mall Medical, centre, receives his Aspire Award from Liverpool & Sefton Chambers CEO Jenny Stewart and Ian Page of BT. Picture by Ant Clausen

The chamber judges were clearly impressed with the promise Raja has demonstrated, saying: “The judges felt that the winner of this award really stood out and displayed a full range of skills.

“He was extremely focused and fully understood the company’s need for investment for the longer term future.

“He displayed great business acumen for someone so young.”

Strive

The Strive category, which recognised exceptional growth in city region firms, was  sponsored by SP Energy Networks and was split into three with separate awards for micro, small-medium and medium-large businesses.

Winner of the micro accolade was Meet & Potato, a venture that organises events for corporate clients. The judges said it was “outperforming large competitors after adjusting for size” and promised “terrific plans for the coming years”.

Recruitment consultancy Kingsley scooped the small-medium accolade, pipping competitors to the post in what the judges described as a “highly competitive and professionally challenging category” adding the firm had a “clearly signposted roadmap for future growth”

M&Y Construction was the medium-large winner. Judges congratulated the firm on an “inspirational pitch on their business plan”.

“The judges found the CEO to be a very dynamic and inspirational character, particularly her open and honest work ethic,” they added.

Ignite

Sponsored by NatWest, the Ignite Award aimed to celebrate the successes of entrepreneurs from The Chambers’ Spark Up programme and the winner was Franklin Energy, which installs and maintains changing points for electric vehicles.

The judges said they were “impressed with the progress of this business, securing significant investment, relationships with some major clients across the UK and creating employment for four additional staff”.

Reach

Dan Tech UK was the winner of the Reach Award, which looked to celebrate success in exports and growing into new markets. It was sponsored by Liverpool John Lennon Airport.

The firm is a manufacturer and supplier of processing, lifting and handling, container washing and hygiene equipment.

The judges said: “Not only has the overall growth in the winning business been impressive but the proportion of the turnover that comes from exports has continued to grow.”

Great dynamism

Chief executive of Liverpool and Sefton Chamber of Commerce, Jenny Stewart, had previously described the calibre of nominees in the awards as “outstanding”.

Following the dinner, she added: “It has been a tough few years for the business world since the recession and companies across our city region have shown not only great resilience, but also a dynamism that is driving growth and innovation in the local economy.

“Such was the standard of nominations that the judges had a fiendishly difficult task not just picking winners, but even compiling the shortlists.

“In particular, I am pleased with the success of the businesses that have graduated from the chamber’s own accelerator programme, Spark Up, who have demonstrated the entrepreneurial spirit is is alive and thriving across the city region.

“The present is important, and so is the future, which is why it was so encouraging to see the high standard of nominations in the Aspire category.

“Elkie and Raja were worthy winners but the exceptionally high standard of all the young nominees in this category fills me with excitement for the future.”

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