OUTSTANDING businesses across the South East of England have joined our campaign to shine a light on their success as part of our initiative in partnership with NatWest.

Companies at the heart of their communities have been nominated as part of our campaign to find the best businesses across the region. 

They have been nominated in nine separate categories, ranging from Small and Medium Enterprises and Entrepreneur to Community Focus and Customer Focus.

A panel of judges has sifted through all the nominations to identify our winners.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who have engaged with us in this campaign.

Here, we give an introduction to our judges and the outstanding work they do in their respective fields of commerce.

‘What drives me is being able to create fairness and equity’


SHARNIYA Ferdinand’s enthusiasm for her role within business banking is infectious and inspiring.

When she talks, the word ‘passion’ comes up often, and it’s clear passion’s what she has for her role as an enterprise manager for NatWest.

Not only is Sharniya responsible for championing enterprise, but also supporting ethnically diverse business owners across the UK.

As a member of NatWest’s London and South East Regional Board, she is particularly involved in community and business initiatives in the South East region.

Last year, among many other projects and initiatives, Sharniya led the Black History Month marketing campaign for NatWest.

The campaign featured social clips, articles and videos featuring black British business owners. The content was viewed more than 165,000 times across Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, with videos being viewed more than 16,200 times across the channels.

It’s just one of the projects that Sharniya has got her teeth into since her role began, demonstrating a drive that has seen her win multiple awards.

For Top 100, two things Sharniya will be looking for are “passion and innovation” when judging the nominees within her category She said: “One of the things I will be looking for is innovation. It’s very exciting to find out about organisations that are doing things in new ways or addressing issues in new ways and creating new ways of addressing a problem that previously may not have been able to be fixed.”

Talking about what drives her in her role, Sharniya added: “I think, ultimately what drives me is being able to create fairness and equity, for as many people as possible.”

‘Looking for businesses who can demonstrate resilience’


SARAH Bilby is passionate about helping small businesses flourish.

With a wealth of experience garnered over a long, illustrious career, she helps dozens grow and prosper in her role as a regional managing director for NatWest.

She takes huge pride and satisfaction in seeing people make a success of their business, heading up the regional business banking franchise and supporting small and mediumsized enterprises (SME).

“My dad was self-employed and, over the years, I watched and admired the way he grew his business,” said Mrs Bilby, who started in banking in 1984 and has been in leadership roles for 25 years.

“It gave me great insight and that’s something I took into my own career, having started in banking when I was 16.

“I enjoy that side of my job and have a real passion for leading people and helping them achieve their goals and ambitions.

“Starting a small business is a challenge and a risk, but everything we do has the customer and our people at the heart of it.”

Mrs Bilby says her current role is the most enjoyable of her career.

In addition to championing small businesses, she is also passionate about promoting those set up and run by women.

“I’ve always taken an interest in women in business,” said the 53-year-old.

“As a working mum, it’s not always been easy to juggle work and home but being organised and resilient has been key to my success.

“I’m looking for innovative businesses who can demonstrate their resilience,” she said.

“I’m also interested in how businesses consider their impact on climate.”

‘We have provided more than £2bn in loans for businesses’


FROM phone calls to business owners during the pandemic to grassroots support for not-forprofits, Stuart Johnstone does all he can to see businesses thrive.

Stuart, regional managing director, corporate and commercial banking for NatWest, and his team provided more than £2 billion in loans for thousands of struggling businesses during the crisis in the South East.

“The most obvious thing we do is provide financial services: from running bank accounts to helping people with working capital needs through to funding longer term investment to people who need to pay staff or export overseas,” explains Stuart.

“Often we use the power of our network to signpost them to people who we know who can help them with a particular area of expertise that we can’t.

“During the pandemic we have been at the end of the phone or Zoom, to talk to business owners about any difficulties, in some cases we talked about opportunities, and we have provided businesses with liquidity to keep them going.

“A big part of that is helping them access the various Government loans, such as the Bounce Back Loan Scheme (BBLS) and The Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme.Businesses are definitely feeling more confident than they were. I think we are going to see, hopefully, a gradual return of confidence.”

NatWest is sponsor of COP26, the 2021 United Nations climate change conference due to take place in the UK in November.

Stuart is involved with the Business Growth Fund (BGF) which provide growth capital to SMEs in the UK but they will only ever be a minority shareholder.

He also works with a charity that helps not-for-profit social enterprises which support local communities.

‘It may be the perfect time to explore fresh opportunities’


JUST do it. That’s the advice to anyone keen to start their own business, according to Georgina Mackey, Natwest’s regional ecosystem manager for London and the South East.

Miss Mackey has a proven record of helping start-up businesses succeed, supporting more than 150 at any one time via the NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme.

The 27-year-old believes now could be the perfect time to explore fresh opportunities and said: “My advice would be just do it.

“Many people are at crossroads in their lives and there are various factors to take into account, like finance, the sense of risk, a lack of confidence and issues like childcare.

“There can be a gap between the idea itself and making it profitable and our job is to reduce that barrier.

“If someone has a great, untapped idea, and it serves a customer need, there’s never been a better time to make it a reality.

“Take advantage of resources like NatWest’s Business Builder.

“It’s a completely free online tool, there to support earlystage businesses through both challenges and opportunities.

“Having supported more than 20,000 entrepreneurs so far, it’s entirely self-serve and can be accessed 24/7.

“There’s so much support out there and that also applies to people already running their own business but needing help.

Don’t be afraid to ask for it.”

Islington-based Miss Mackey helps businesses overcome challenges and gain clarity, pushing boundaries.

She helps start-ups refine their business strategy and prepare for investment, enabling their ambition to grow and scale, creating capacity and motivation to succeed.

“At NatWest, we want enterprise to grow and thrive,” she said.

Denise Rossiter, Chief Executive, Essex Chambers of Commerce

DENISE leads the way in business development across Essex as chief executive of Essex Chambers of Commerce, acting as an outstanding advocate for commerce and banging the drum for business in the county and beyond.

The chamber has a presence on every significant strategic partnership body in the county and represents the voice of its membership on all major regional development projects.

Whether you are a multinational organisation keen to influence Westminster or a small business wanting to make the right local connections, Essex Chambers of Commerce helps businesses move forward.

Regardless of whether businesses are supersized or super keen, Essex Chambers of Commerce is here to help them make it bigger, bolder - better!

Anne Newton, Chief Executive, Richmond Chamber of Commerce

ANNE Newton, on the London Chambers of Commerce leadership team and CEO of the Richmond Chamber of Commerce, held UK and international business director roles at De La Rue - leading consultancy into FMCG boards on anticounterfeit technologies and strategies to their respective supply chains and business infrastructures; in airline retail IT track and trace technologies and logistics solutions; in UK and international FMCG packaging sector; in sports sector on innovations for global brands; and in leading pharmaceutical FMCG marketing consultancy.

Glyn Jones, Chief executive, London Southend Airport

GLYN started his career with British Airways where he was trained in sales and marketing.

He moved from aviation to aerospace, joining BAe Commercial Aircraft, where he was responsible for sales of commercial aircraft in Asia.

He then moved to DHL as a marketer, before becoming commercial director for the UK.

Glyn’s first role in general management was at Bournemouth Airport, where he was managing director for four years.

He then ran the pal letised distribution network, Palletline, for four years before becoming managing director at London Luton Airport, where he worked for seven years.

Glyn joined Stobart in September 2015 as chief executive officer for the aviation division, including London Southend Airport