Business bosses have spoken of their joy at winning our competition with payments provider Square - and told how the prizes will take their companies to the next level.
We invited businesses to pitch to us to win one of three prize packages of £5k worth of advertising space in our newspapers - plus £500 of Square hardware.
And today we can announce the lucky companies chosen are York Gins, Outdoor Fire Pits and Recovered by Ollie.
Entries were judged on a number of key criteria, including their business offering, how they've gone the extra mile for customers and how they've used innovative POS ideas and/or creative sales techniques.
Square helps millions of retailers of all shapes and sizes run their businesses – from secure card processing to point of sale solutions to setting up free online stores.
Our winners will now each get to advertise what they do in our titles and install £500 worth of Square hardware in their businesses. Below each of them reveals how the win will help transform their businesses...
'We’re used to winning gin-tasting competitions - but this was out of the blue!' - York Gins, York
The team at York Gin can't wait to get to grips with their new Square hardware and say it will help them maximise their sales at outdoor events.
York Gins is owned and run by Emma Godivala, 50, Pete McNichol, 49, Paul Crossman, 53, and 38-year-old Harry Cooke.
Speaking to us following the good news, they said: "We’re absolutely delighted to win the prize. As a small business in these very strange and uncertain times, any help we can get is very welcome. We couldn’t quite believe we’d won when we were contacted! We’re pretty used to winning gin-tasting competitions - but this was out of the blue.
"We think our business is special because we put people, the planet and fun at the very heart of everything we do. We pay the Living Wage and make sure everyone is fully trained and gets any outside training they may need. (Our distillery team recently completed the WSET - Wine & Spirits Education Trust - Level 2 course in Spirits, so we officially know what we’re talking about. Some of us are going to try Level 3, which will involve tasting even more fantastic spirits. Poor us!"
York Gin only launched in 2018 but has also grown rapidly. The team added: "When we started, two of us were working in a cold former chicken shed, making the gin and bottling, labelling and packing everything by hand. We had a good hunch that the local market would provide some demand for a locally-made gin - in fact one of our directors, Paul, is a pub landlord, so we thought at least we’ll have one customer!"
The team are looking forward to using the new Square Stand Kit, adding: "We are always interested in trying new solutions to tricky problems like payments. The loyalty programme Square offers looks particularly interesting.
"We have plans to grow - but in a controlled and sustainable manner. We have plans to open a second shop in York. We already have a shop in the historic centre right opposite the famous Shambles and now plan a new shop in the city’s train station. We have ambitions to grow our online store too which Square could help us with.
"Square's POS technology in particular is very flexible for our outdoor events - which are key now we are all doing things outdoors even more!"
"It will make such a difference having technology with the ability to grow with us" - Clueit Webb Interiors, Margate
Ollie Clueit, 40, has been surrounded by collectables and antiques as long as he can remember, whether in his family home or at the boot sales and antique fairs his parents (often literally!) dragged him to.
But over the years his parent's passion developed into his own love of all things antique and vintage, and three years ago, Ollie left his career in the music industry, retrained as an upholsterer and moved to Margate, where he operated Recovered by Ollie from a 20 foot shipping container.
The business has come a long way since then, claiming a 1000 square foot workshop and a shop space, but it’s during the next exciting phase that the Square technology will be invaluable.
Last year, Corinne Webb, 42, came on board to help Ollie with his workload, brining with her a wealth of experience in textiles and interior design, and the pair quickly realised they made a fantastic team, and decided to go into partnership together to expand and rebrand as Clueit Webb Interiors.
“We are going to be adding extra products to the website and physical shop,” said the duo. “The Square kit will really help us keep track of stock and give us a real understanding of what is selling and what isn't, and help us decide what we should be restocking.
“Plus, the fact that it links up to our accounting software and keeps track of sales on social media will be beyond helpful.”
Having combined their years of experience in upholstery, vintage furniture sourcing, textiles and interior design, Ollie and Corinne are able to offer unique and exciting services and products to clients nationally, as well as in the south east.
“We have a hands-on approach, working really closely with clients,” they explain. “We have a passion for restoring people's furniture and helping them craft homes that are a true reflection of our client’s tastes.”
With that in mind, Ollie and Corinne are looking to open a larger shop space, take on additional staff and significantly expand their online presence. And the ability to upgrade the Square software and expand the Square services will make the management of these additional areas so much easier.
“We are delighted to win this prize,” they told us. “Our previous POS was very basic and offered no integration with our online store and accounting software, so it will make such a difference having technology with the ability to grow with us.”
'We're over the moon - Square’s architecture is easily scalable' - Outdoor Fire Pits, Nottinghamshire
Husband and wife duo Tony and Kate Cox set up their business in 2016 on the eve of Tony's 50th and say winning our Square bundle will help them continue to grow.
The business manufactures beautiful, sturdy, steel outdoor fire pits and other steel items for the home and garden.
Reacting to winning our prize, Tony said: "We're over the moon to have won.
"We're on the brink of taking on some staff to run our retail shop, which would mean investing in some permanent payment taking hardware, as to date, we’ve each had a card reader paired with our phone.
"The Square Register will give us that permanent asset which anyone who runs the shop can use without needing an app on their phone. Secondly, we’ve seen an increase in the number of people who ask to order and pay by phone, which is something missing from our current offering, which will be resolved by Square."
Tony and Kate's business is booming and has come a long way in a short amount of time. Tony added: "Five years ago, we started manufacturing in a tiny 300 square foot rented barn building, with a lot of time spent on design and selling a couple units per month. We then doubled the size of our space. During the 2020 lockdown to keep up with growth, we successfully partnered with some local welding schools and have now negotiated new partnerships which have given us the capacity to supply a number of garden centres in addition to our own direct sales.
"We do plan to grow and it’s satisfying to know Square’s architecture is easily scalable, no matter where we go and no matter how fast we get there."