Innovation, originality top winners at EE2011 awards

After a stern examination, three young companies have emerged as the top winners in this year’s Emerging Enterprise Awards.

Launched in 2008, the Emerging Enterprise Awards recognise local businesses that are up to 10 years old and have annual revenue of less than $10 million. The awards are jointly presented by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, and supported by Spring Singapore, NUS Extension, Acorn Marketing and Research, SingTel, and RSM Chio Lim.

The top three winners of Emerging Enterprise Awards 2011 (EE 2011) are heat transfer equipment maker Heat Exchangers Specialist, fashion retailer MDS Retail, and metal recycling service provider World Metal Recovery. The winners received their awards from Minister of State for Trade and Industry and National Development Lee Yi Shyan at Shangri-La Hotel last Thursday. 

For winning the top prize, the three companies each received prizes worth $390,000 – from an interest-free loan, educational and development grants, business consulting services, and brand and product development research services.

As a testament to their business innovations, awards were also given to environmental solutions provider Hydroemission Corporation and plastic recycling firm Winrigo. The two companies each walked away with a business infocomm technology solutions package worth $30,000 from SingTel and a $100,000 interest-free loan from OCBC Bank. 

Compared to last year, this year saw a doubling in the number of applications for EE 2011. There were also more applications from younger entrepreneurs and women. 

Amid the stiff competition, the three top firms stood out with their commitment to using innovative technologies and for their ability to deliver. Head of group investment banking in OCBC Bank, George Lee, who was on the judging panel, said: “This year’s winners have demonstrated unique ability in leveraging on originality and innovation to overcome the challenges they had faced. Besides the strategic thinking behind their plans to prepare their businesses for new markets and customer segments, their ability to deliver a stronger performance going forward is also impressive.”

OCBC Bank chief executive David Conner said that it was not just the winners but all finalists who could take some learning experience from the competition. They had the opportunity, for example, to attend networking sessions while the prizes went beyond funding to hands-on help.

“As some past winners have mentioned, winning the Emerging Enterprise Awards attracts attention from investors, financiers, buyers and suppliers. . . It thus helps (the winners) to generate a leap to another level,” noted judge Tan Chor Sen, head of emerging business in the enterprise banking division at OCBC Bank.

All three winners of EE 2011 acknowledged that competing in EE 2011 had generated a lot of publicity for their companies. 

“As a fashion retailer, we are not a high-profile company although the industry we are in is a high-profile one. Competing in EE 2011 has made us recognise the importance of positive publicity,” said Georgiana Yeo, creative director of MDS Retail. 

“Winning the award has put us on the map. It has served as a performance benchmark for us and we are confident of taking our business to the next level,” she added.

What’s next for the winners? For some of them, channelling the prize money to scale up their businesses is on the cards. At Heat Exchangers Specialist, for example, the prize money will be utilised to offset some of the construction costs of its new factory at Jalan Besut.

“When the new factory is completed, our company will be able to increase the automation of our operations. As such, we are targeting a three-fold increase in production capacity at the new facility compared to the current one. This will hopefully open up new doors for the company as the increase in production capacity will mean that we are in a better position to take on bigger projects,” said Lai Choi Zyong, managing director at Heat Exchangers Specialist. 

Said Darius Loke, managing director of World Metal Recovery: “We are always looking into improving our facilities. As we are in the business of recovering precious metals from electronic waste, we have plans to use the prize money to improve the security technologies in our yard, so as to better serve our clients.”