BUSINESS leaders gathered at Blenheim Palace for the launch of the 10th annual West Oxfordshire Business Awards.

New WOBA 2020 categories include the Wise Investment Winner of Winners Award, open to all previous WOBA winners, to recognise who is flying the flag for the area, in addition to the Young Entrepreneur Award open to people under 30, as WOBA looks towards the next 10 years.

WOBA organisers, who met for the launch at the Woodstock stately home, are campaigning to make WOBA 2020 the biggest celebration of business this decade as the awards will be taking a year off the following year.

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Jo Sensecall, spokesperson for the WOBA team, said: “WOBA 2020 is a unique opportunity for businesses to gain recognition at a time when West Oxfordshire is thriving.

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“We are excited to be celebrating our 10th anniversary and have refined some of our existing categories in addition to creating new categories to help ensure the awards are open to any West Oxfordshire business, irrespective of size or sector.”

A new headline sponsor has been announced with Aston & James taking up the helm of awarding the West Oxfordshire Business of the Year 2020.

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Ms Sensecall said: “Aston & James as a company embodies what WOBA stands for.

"It started as small entrepreneurial venture and is now celebrating its 30th year of supplying workplace solutions in Oxfordshire, not to mention they are a previous WOBA winner!”

Referring to the decision not to run the WOBAs in 2021, Ms Sensecall added: “We have had 10 wonderful years of WOBAs but the cycle of running the Awards is relentless.

“This is the right time to take a year out, give the team a well earned rest so we can review what we do well, what we can improve and come back properly refreshed for another 10 years.”

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Commenting on why a business should enter WOBA 2020, Joshua Taee, managing director of cafe chain Huffkins, which won three awards in 2017, said: “Becoming a WOBA winner had wonderful effects for Huffkins.

“For our team it was a very welcome source of independent recognition for the hard work put in. Naturally our company benefitted greatly from the platform and exposure, but the application process itself was perhaps most valuable of all because it forced us to reflect on and review our strategy over the successive years in which we entered.

"This culminated in a clearer focus and sense of identity permeating throughout our organisation.”

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The awards launched in 2011 to fly the flag for business and entrepreneurship in West Oxfordshire and are organised by a group of volunteers from the local business community.

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All finalists are considered for the Cally Robson Award to recognise an outstanding business with great potential

All category winners, except Business Person of the Year Award and Young Entrepreneur Award, are considered for the Aston & James West Oxfordshire Business of the Year Award

Entries for WOBA 2020 are now open and it is free to enter. Entries close at midnight, Monday 2 December 2019.

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Finalists will be revealed in February with WOBA 2020 winners announced at a 10th Anniversary Gala Dinner in March 2020.

Categories include: the Retail Award (available for sponsorship, the Meech Business and Community Award, the Owen Mumford Innovation Award, the Blenheim Palace New Business Award, the Young Entrepreneur Award (open to under 30s and available for sponsorship) and the Aston & James Business Person of the Year Award.

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