By Jonathan Davies

After winning the Social Enterprise Entrepreneur of the Year award at the Great British Entrepreneur Awards, I caught up with Matthew Sanders, CEO of the Brookfield Rose group to talk about his award.

Tell us a bit about your story and the business..

I set up my first business, de Poel aged 26, selling my house and borrowing on credit cards to help finance the start-up. Just over 13 years later, the Brookfield Rose group consists of nine businesses, employing almost 200 staff in Knutsford, Cheshire. We have come a long way, but my aim for the future is to build on our success and diversify into new sectors, including education and volunteering.

What was your immediate reaction to winning the award?

Complete surprise. The Social Enterprise category was full of inspiring entrepreneurs, with amazing stories and successes. I was delighted to win, as was my colleague Janice Henson, Director of de Poel Community. The award serves as recognition for her hard work and dedication to creating social change through business.

What do you think it was about your story or your business that impressed the judges?

de Poel Community, originally launched in 2010 as ‘placeability’, was founded under the philosophy of assisting employers to realise the benefits of a diverse workforce. de Poel Community helps people with barriers to work, to find sustainable employment. The judges recognised our passion for helping people with disabilities, as well as the unemployed, to get back into employment. I believe that the work Janice and her team do offers a vital link in the employment chain. de Poel Community has national partnerships set up with Welfare to Work providers and referral partners, to source candidates who are of working age and require help and support, to find and stay in work.

What does it mean to win the award?

The recognition is fantastic and it means so much to win the award. I believe entrepreneurialism can lead to the big businesses of tomorrow, as well as supporting economic growth today. In my opinion, we need to do more to encourage entrepreneurial spirit in young people, and include it as a career option.

How important are the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in making entrepreneurs aware that their work does not go unnoticed?

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards provide exposure are recognition, as in my opinion there should be more promotion of entrepreneur success stories, to inspire those thinking about going it alone. We need to be heralding the twenty and thirty-somethings making new ground, achieving new goals and realising their dreams. This range of role models will inspire younger and more mature entrepreneurs alike, to show them what it takes and the results they could achieve.

What do you think the award will do for your business?

If even one person sees the award and it inspires them think about their own employees and the possibilities of a more inclusive workforce, then the recognition will mean a lot for my business. de Poel Community helps people who want to work to do so, but also campaigns to raise the profile of the benefits that employers can reap by hiring from an untapped talent pool.

For more information on Matthew Sanders and Brookfield Rose visit:

The Great British Entrepreneur Awards took place at Old Billingsgate, London on 19 November 2014. You can find a full list of winners [nur]here[/nurl].