Published: 10:41, 10 January 2020
| Updated: 19:49, 14 January 2020
Nominations for this year's Kent Excellence in Business Awards - better known as the KEiBAs - have opened for 2020.
The launch of the 12th year of the region's most prestigious business awards took place at a glitzy launch at the Hythe Imperial Hotel on Thursday night.
KMTV with details of this year's KEiBAs
Guests at the invite-only event heard from key figures organising the event and from past winners who explained the benefits of entering one of the 16 awards up for grabs, introduced by the chairman of judges, Geoff Miles.
The KEiBAs are organised by Kent County Council and the KM Media Group.
Steve Walker, chairman of Walker Construction, saw his firm win Family Business of the Year at the gala awards night at the Kent Event Centre last June.
He told the audience: "We have been a family business through three generations and winning a KEiBA has been one of its ultimate highlights.
"Since receiving the award we have tremendously increased our profile throughout the county and beyond.
"In addition, we've seen a large increase in visits to our website and social media platforms.
"At the many business events we attended since winning the award, people have mentioned our success.
"This has given us a pathway to develop new contacts, opportunities and work streams as well as strengthening and reinforcing our existing ones."
Kresse Wesling, co-founder of Elvis & Kresse, winner of Small Business of the Year 2019, added: "Just being talked about locally has increased the footfall to our factory which we really couldn't believe. It's just been amazing."
Mike Whiting, Kent County Council cabinet member for economic development, added: "The KEiBAs are a great initiative to celebrate the best of Kent businesses.
"This year looks set to be a very exciting year indeed - whatever Brexit may bring.
"Hopefully, we will see our economy continue to edge forward and to continue to grow in confidence.
"There are 16 categories and winning a KEiBA can really propel your business."
James Gurney, managing director of the KM Media Group, added: "I would urge everyone to consider entering.
"Since its inception in 2009, our judges have given awards to the very best businesses and innovation this county has.
"And over the last 12 years, the launch event has become the county's first major networking event of the year.
"We are grateful too for all the sponsors of this event."
All entries for this year's awards must be submitted by Friday, February 21.
The winners will be revealed at a special gala awards on Thursday, June 18.
Charities to benefit from the event will be Victim Support and We Are Beams, which supports disabled children and their families.