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Annual Dinner 2005

The Entrepreneurial Exchange has awarded the title of Entrepreneur of the Year 2005 to Ann Budge, chief executive officer of IT services company Sopra Newell & Budge.

Richard Dixon, founder of the dedicated out-of-hours emergency veterinary service Vets Now, was named Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year.

Budge and Dixon were presented with their awards during The Entrepreneurial Exchange 11th Annual Dinner at the Glasgow Hilton on Thursday 24 November 2005.

Newell & Budge, which was sold to European giant Sopra earlier this year, was founded in 1985 by Budge and Alison Newell. Budge (left) has piloted the company – which counts Standard Life and Royal Bank of Scotland among its clients – on a solo basis since she led a management buy-out when her business partner retired four years ago.

The period since then has been a time of continued success for the firm, a fact clearly not lost on the host of potential suitors registering their interest in Newell & Budge. This soon became a serious distraction for Budge and she decided that any prospective buyer would be required to meet her terms, namely a fair price, an ongoing commitment to continued growth in the UK, and the retention of Budge and her senior management team.

French information technology services group Sopra proved more than willing to agree to these conditions and a deal was reached this summer with Budge heading up Sopra Newell & Budge’s UK operation, a marriage of convenience between Sopra’s considerable southern presence and Newell & Budge’s unrivalled strength in the north.

Budge plans to double the size of the £50m UK business within the next three years, focusing on its principal customer bases in central government, health, and finance, and recognises that acquisition will be key to achieving that goal. The company recently embarked on a three-year investment programme which has included expanding its Belfast operation, creating 30 jobs in the process, and acquiring an Indian company in Delhi.

Budge was selected from a final shortlist of three that included Tom Cross of Dana Petroleum and Enterprise Food Group founder David Beattie.

In the emerging entrepreneur category, which recognises an individual the judging panel believes is growing a business of outstanding potential, Richard Dixon saw off the challenges of David Carrick, managing director of intelligence software firm Memex, and Michael Welch, of the internet tyre sales company Black Circles.

Discovering the perfect gap in their chosen market is every entrepreneur’s dream, but for Richard Dixon (left) it is a multi-million pound reality. Vets Now, the company he founded in 2001, is now the largest global employer of dedicated out-of-hours emergency veterinary professionals.

It was while working as a veterinary locum to supplement his income as he studied for a Ph.D that Dixon noted how hard-pressed practices could benefit from an evening and weekend service to cover emergencies. In December 2001 he sold his flat, providing the funds to support his business plan, and working initially with a small team of hand-picked staff, arranged to use the PDSA animal charity’s facility in Cowcaddens to provide Glasgow’s vets with the out-of-hours cover they and pet owners craved.

Four years later, Vets Now is a national operation employing around 200 vets, nurses and support staff and providing cover to practices across Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 23 dedicated clinics. Vets Now has also opened a new headquarters in Dunfermline and is looking to export its unique offering to other countries within the next year. The future holds further expansion into additional pet-emergency related services which complement the services currently offered by Vets Now and traditional daytime veterinary practices.

Chris Gorman OBE, vice chairman of the Entrepreneurial Exchange and chair of the judging panel, said: “Yet again, it was extremely difficult to separate the finalists in both categories, but I am delighted to declare Ann Budge our Entrepreneur of the Year 2005. Ann’s enduring enthusiasm for her business has driven her tremendous success and the manner in which she managed the sale of the business earlier this year greatly impressed the judging panel.

“The panel was also struck by Richard Dixon’s keen eye for a business opportunity and inspired by the way he poured all his effort and resources into ensuring his fledgling business was a success. Like many entrepreneurs, Richard risked everything he had to set up his business, and it’s great to see that gamble paying off.”

Two other awards were made at the annual dinner. David Sibbald of Sumerian Networks received the inaugural Entrepreneurial Exchange Award for Philanthropy, and Cairn Energy chief executive Bill Gammell was inducted into the Entrepreneurial Exchange Hall of Fame.

Sir Tom Hunter, who presented Sibbald with his award, commented: “The Hunter Foundation is proud to support this new award for philanthropy. I believe Scotland is on the cusp of a major resurgence in philanthropy, a century after Andrew Carnegie’s vision led the way. Tonight we honour an outstanding modern day philanthropist in David Sibbald, who continues to make a difference for the common good.”

Exchange chairman Jim McColl OBE said: “Over the years we have encountered a number of extremely successful entrepreneurs who have not necessarily made a significant move in the year under review and as such did not qualify for entrepreneur of the year. Nevertheless, these individuals are role models for all aspiring entrepreneurs in Scotland and we created the Entrepreneurial Exchange Hall of Fame to honour them. Bill Gammell certainly falls into this category and is a very worthy inductee this evening.” 

Review of the Year 2005
Please select the link below to view the 2005 review of the year. Please note that if you wish to download the file that the file size is in excess of 5mb and downloading this may be problematic on a less reliable internet connection.
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