"I am absolutely delighted to have won the Pioneer 10 award and Im still on cloud 9 as all my hard work has paid off. I was up against some incredibly tough competition."
A Market Harborough business owner has won the prestigious Pioneer 10 award for growth, ambition and innovation.
Caroline Hunt, Director and Owner of recruitment company, Emerald Starfish, was up against six other pioneering business owners and entrepreneurs for the award, funded by Harborough District Council, and took the title at the final presentation and ceremony at Harborough Innovation Centre.
The Pioneer 10 journey started seven months ago for Caroline, who went through two rigorous stages of the competition before being selected as one of the six final business ‘Pioneers’ alongside businesses from sectors such as marketing, architecture, SEO and engineering. As well as the main award, the programme aims to support candidates with workshops over the seven-month competition, from experts in accounting, HR, business growth and public speaking. The final Pioneers were judged on how they have taken these learnings into consideration to grow their businesses in innovative and sustainable ways.
Caroline commented on the process: “I applied for Pioneer 10 because after working so hard to develop and grow my business, I was curious to see if the programme’s business experts thought it was recognisable for scalability ang growth potential. I was over the moon when I was accepted onto the programme and very shocked when I got through the second stage to become a final Pioneer! The support we have received throughout the programme with the business coaching and workshops has been second to none and the whole process has been an incredible learning experience. I never dreamt that my business would go on to win the final award.”
Emerald Starfish was founded in 2010 and is a unique recruitment offering, acting as an outsourced recruitment department for businesses across the UK. Working without commission or placement fees, Caroline uses her 19 years of experience to help companies throughout the whole process, charging for the time spent on each project. She deals with every aspect of recruitment from CV sifting and assessment centres to hiring consultancy, to help them make the best decisions for growth.
After experiencing 37 per cent growth in her business over the past year, Caroline’s unique business model, together with her ambitions for expansion, caught the judges’ eye when it came to the final stage of the competition.
The final judging saw all six Pioneers give a five-minute presentation on their ambitions for growth and innovation within their businesses, followed by a two-minute pitch on what their companies do. Judges included some of Leicestershire’s most successful business people; Accountant and Finance Manager, Rona Purdham, Solicitor, Caroline Hemsley, Business Strategist and Marketeer, Steve Chapman and Innovation Director at Oxford Innovation, Kate Jackson.
Kate Jackson, who acted as business coach for the Pioneers throughout the process, commented: “It has been a real pleasure to work with these local entrepreneurs over the last few months and seeing their impressive achievements has been particularly rewarding. I congratulate Emerald Starfish on winning this award amidst such strong competition.”
After the final presentations and judge’s deliberation, a VIP lunch was held for leading businesspeople from across Harborough and South Leicestershire, including Chairman of the Harborough District Council, Lesley Bowles.
Norman Proudfoot, joint Chief Executive of Harborough District Council who presented the award to Caroline Hunt, said: “Huge congratulations to Emerald Starfish who are deserving winners. We’re very proud to fund this initiative which brings some of the most innovative entrepreneurs to the fore and gives them a fantastic platform, and valuable support, to help achieve their maximum potential. Well done to all involved.”
Caroline continued: “I am absolutely delighted to have won the Pioneer 10 award and I’m still on cloud 9 as all my hard work has paid off. I was up against some incredibly tough competition and every candidate involved had learnt and developed from the experience. Hopefully, winning the award with help to raise awareness of Emerald Starfish and how we do things differently from other recruitment firms, especially within the SME market, across Leicestershire and beyond.
“Through the award win, my business will receive support from the expert judges and Leicester University for the next 12 months, which will be invaluable in putting all of my plans for growth into action. I’m looking forward to utilising the tools that the programme has provided for me and my business, to help more companies recruit in the most efficient and effective way possible. Thank you once again to the whole team at Harborough Innovation Centre and Pioneer 10 for this amazing opportunity!”