The inaugural awards form part of the StartUp Awards National Series

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The inaugural awards, part of the StartUp Awards National Series, recognise excellence in nascent entrepreneurship across nine UK nations and regions of the UK - sponsored nationally by BT, EY Breakthrough Incentives, Clearco, Dell Technologies & Intel, Moblox, Fearless Adventures and with regional support from SwagPack and the Moja Group.

The awards ceremony was held at the Students Union at Reading University and saw 19 awards.

The StartUp of the Year for the South East was won by The Rainforester, which has combined the pet industry and the world of conservation to create a completely new business.

By commercialising non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and turning them into premium natural pet treats, they can use the profits to provide indigenous communities with the financial empowerment they have long been denied by large conservation organisations.

The awards were judged by a panel of prominent judges, including successful entrepreneurs and their supporters such as Sanjay Lob of onHand, Jo Tutchener-Sharp of Scamp & Dude and Joel Dalton of Clone Media and SwagPack.

Originally formed as the Wales StartUp Awards in 2016, the Awards Series has joined forces with the Great British Entrepreneur Awards to take the celebration newly formed businesses nationwide. Creator of the awards Professor Dylan Jones-Evans OBE said the inaugural event not only celebrated the best new firms in the South East of England but recognised the amazing entrepreneurial talent across the nation.

Prof Jones-Evans said: “In our first year, we have had some incredible businesses enter that truly show the diversity and talent across the South East of England. The stories of how they started their businesses during the Covid pandemic were inspirational in so many ways and all these local entrepreneurial heroes are amazing role models for others to follow in their footsteps.

“Supporting entrepreneurs needs to be at the forefront of economic policy at both a national and local level in the UK and I hope this year’s awards have showcased the contribution that startups make to prosperity and boosting employment.

“A huge congratulations to all the category winners and especially to The Rainforester for being named StartUp of the Year. Their commitment to sustainability and conservation signifies the contribution entrepreneurs make to both the economy and society and reflects the growing commitment of businesses to supporting these global imperatives.”

Rob Shuter, chief executive of BT’s Enterprise unit, said: “It has been inspiring to be a judge for these awards and it’s clear how many talented people there are out there in the startup space. BT is a proud headline sponsor of the awards and we’re really passionate about supporting them because startups and small businesses are so important for our economy.

“Through our BT Skills for Tomorrow programme, we’re also helping startups and small firms unlock their potential by providing support with digital training and boosting their business’ presence online.”

Full list of winners

South East StartUp of the Year

The Rainforester

Business-to-Business Services StartUp of the Year

Think Wow

Consumer Services StartUp of the Year

Four State

Construction and Building Services StartUp of the Year

Absolar Solutions

Creative StartUp of the Year

HanSpringett

Digital StartUp of the Year

The Car Guide

Fintech StartUp of the Year

Emergo UK

Food and Drink StartUp of the Year

The Keto Collective

Graduate StartUp of the Year

Anydaymade

Green StartUp of the Year

The Rainforester

Innovative StartUp of the Year

Angel Alliance

Manufacturing and Engineering StartUp of the Year

The Online Wine Tasting Club

Mobile and Emerging Technologies StartUp of the Year

Fact360

Online Retail StartUp of the Year

Handmade in Harpenden

Professional Services StartUp of the Year

Polymensa

Social Enterprise StartUp of the Year

Naturally Talented Me CIC

Tourism and Leisure StartUp of the Year

True North Travel

Young Entrepreneur of the Year

Edison Search

Rising Stars

&Asian

nookary

Shogun Social