BeyondNI is a business programme targeted towards supporting existing businesses of all sizes within the Down district area. The Beyond programme facilitated 'Business Week', a week of events in May culminating in the Beyond NI Business Awards, held at the Slieve Donard Hotel in Newcastle. The Awards were largely funded by Invest NI and supported and hosted by Down Council.
We were delighted to hear in early May that Sign2Music was leading the way as a finalist in 3 categories:
- Best Use of Social Media and Online Technologies
- Training and Development
- Chairpersons Special Recognition Award
I was so excited about the Awards. It mean a lot to me being selected as a finalist because the Beyond Awards are local business Awards and the winners picked by council officials and business experts. I was also excited because it was a proper formal Award Ceremony in an amazing 5 star hotel, the works!
I couldn't wait to tell my family, the Sign2Music teachers and of course the parents, carers and others who take part in Sign2Music programmes that we had reached the final. Everyone was over the moon and it was time to get to the preparations in earnest! Who would look after the kids? Long dress or short? What colour? What shoes? Tie or dickie bow for the men? The list goes on.....
We eventually got all the preparations sorted. Our family are a bit like the Griswalds, so of course there were a few dramas, like last minute alterations needing done to the dress and Cara deciding tonight was the night to cry after mummy and daddy! And of course a 15 minute drive took half an hour as everyone and their granny had decided to go to Newcastle that night.
We drove into the grounds of the Slieve Donard and were taken aback at how beautiful it was on such a sunny evening, even though we had been there so many times before. Before going in for the event we spent some time enjoying the view and soaking up the beauty of the setting. The Slieve Donard is a beautiful 5 star hotel in Newcastle, Co Down, at the foot of the Mourne Mountains.
We were soon joined by one of our Sign2Music teachers, Steph Hanna, and her husband Colin who had joined us to represent Sign2Music. Steph, who is due her 3rd child in August, was looking gorgeous in purple! The room was looking fantastic and it was clear it was all set to be a brilliant night! Everyone was looking fabulous and we took our seats.
We had a fantastic meal and the event was hosted by Dermot Curran, Chairperson of Down Council and Sarah Travers from BBC Newsline. We also had entertainment by a local comedian. When the time came for the Awards presentations we were all well fed and entertained, but getting more nervous by the minute!
The Awards were announced one by one.
1. The Dundrum Inn won the Customer Service Excellence Award.
2. Wildflower Boutique won Best Kept Business Premises Award
3. Crossgar Foodservice won Training and People Development, one of the categories Sign2Music was a finalist in. Crossgar Foodservice was a very well deserved winner. Well done!
4. Alternative Heat Ltd Best won Export Business
5. Best Use of Social Media and Online Technologies Export Business.
When this Award was being announced we were sitting on the edge of our seats. I will never forget how amazing it felt to hear the words SIGN 2 MUSIC echo through the hall. The walk to the stage and collecting the Award was a blur. It was great to see so many familiar faces sharing the applause as we returned to our seats including Jim Masson from Down News the 2011 winner of this Award.
6. Ballymote Community Project Ltd won Best Community / Social Enterprise.
7. NI Bootcamp won Best New Business.
8. Platinum Recruitment won Best Marketing Campaign.
9. Laura McGreevy, Mange Tout won Employee of the Year
10. Boatcovers Ireland won Best Small Business
11. Stephen Mayne, Mayne Communications won Dermot Curran Young Achiever
12. Charlene Molloy, Henderson’s Spar, Ardglass won Chairman’s Special Recognition another of the categories Sign2Music was a finalist in. Charlene was a very well deserved winner. Well done!
After the Awards were announced the offical photographs were taken. Anyone who knows me will know I never miss an opporuntity to promote Sign2Music so made sure I got a chance to tell the lovely Sarah Travers about what we do and how wonderful it is. She was genuinely interested in Sign2Music and how we find Social Media useful. She did confess to not being too savvy with the intricacies of Facebook and Twitter!
We left shortly after the photos were taken but the party had only started with all the guests, including local businesses, council officials and political representatives boogying the night away! I did not want to let the children and parents in Ballynahinch down by turning up in a mess the next morning so made an early exit!
And of course the following week we appeared in the local newspapers both online and in print:
|Down Recorder 30 May 2012|
|Mourne Observer 30 May 2012|
It truly was a magical night and one that I will never forget. I am so grateful that our hard work was recognised in relation to making social media an intergral part of what we do. However, it is important to say that social media is not something that the Sign2Music teachers and I do in isolation. The term social media says it all, it can only work through interaction with others. The parents and other businesses who support us and interact with us using social media deserve this Award every bit as much as us so CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU ALL and thanks for helping this happen for us!