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Big prize for garden firm

Jan East and daughter Morgan of Hawley Garden Centre. Picture: Mick Gell
Jan East and daughter Morgan of Hawley Garden Centre. Picture: Mick Gell

Green turned to gold for this year’s Dartford and Gravesham business of the year.

Hawley Garden Centre and Nursery scooped the top accolade in the eighth annual Dartford and Gravesham Business Awards, which are supported by the Messenger.

At a glittering gala dinner at Dartford Football Club’s Princes Park on Friday night, hosted by kmfm presenter Andy Walker, staff of the 32-year-old enterprise shouted with joy when the overall winner was announced.

Owner Janice East was overcome with emotion after accepting the trophy and £500 cheque.

“It’s absolutely fantastic,” she said. “I can’t believe it – we’ve never won anything since we started in 1981. To be recognised like this is brilliant.” The prize money would be invested in growing plants that currently have to be bought in, she added.

Ten finalists were invited to the ceremony after being chosen from a large number of entries.

Other winners were Coachwork Renovations, an accident repair centre, which was named Gravesham business of the year. Claremont Motor Engineers was Dartford business of the year. Each won a trophy and cheque for £250.

Matthew Soper, founder of The Creation Lab in Dartford after redundancy, was named entrepreneur of the year.

Matt Kear, commercial manager with Lloyds Bank and chairman of the judges, said all the finalists formed an “elite” group.

He said: “You showed a huge amount of passion and commitment. It feels as though we have finally turned the corner and confidence is returning to the marketplace. Your determination and courage in recent challenging times stand you in good stead going forward.”

Other finalists were: Amax Estates and Property Services (runner-up, Gravesham business of the rear); PLP Fire and Security (runner-up, Dartford business of the year); Bluebell Physiotherapy; Crossways Recycling; Meopham Fencing Works; Pilgrims Petcare.

The awards were sponsored by Barnes Roffe, Dartford council, Gravesham council, Kent Business School, the KM Group, Lloyds Bank Commercial, North West Kent College, Perducta, Thomson Snell and Passmore, and the University of Greenwich.

For more on all the finalists, see this Thursday’s Gravesend and Dartford Messengers.

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