Business awards bring many benefits

Katie and David Finlay from Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens on their farm.

Katie and Hugh Finlay from Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens won Business of the Year in 2015.

Putting your business forward for a Mount Alexander Business Award can bring many benefits beyond the title.

Entering an award can help you step out of the day-to-day running to look at the big picture and your business achievements.

The award entry process also provides the chance to drill down on your strengths and weaknesses, assess how you are going against your competitors and can help shape your strategic direction.

Katie and Hugh Finlay from Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens won Business of the Year award and the Sustainability and Environment category in the 2015 Mount Alexander Business Awards.

Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens is a certified organic orchard on the foothills of Mt Alexander in Harcourt, with a focus on biological farming, improving the soil, energy efficiency and sustainable practice.

The organic fruit growers encourage other businesses to enter the awards and explain how winning has helped to build their reputation and improve their business.

“We had been working really hard on improving our sustainability practices for many years,” said Katie.

“Our sustainability plan was integral in setting the direction of our business, improving our farming and business practices and telling our sustainability story.

“Winning the award was personally satisfying and proof for our customers that we walk the talk.

“We were really proud to be acknowledged as an important part of the economic and social fabric of the shire, despite being such a small business.

“We received lots of publicity, and the award continues to be noteworthy when we hear ourselves described in the media or by people we know,” she said.

Winning the awards has also opened up many new opportunities for Katie and Hugh, helping them to tap into funding opportunities, and increase their involvement in industry networks.

“Winning the award has really helped open up some new doors for us,” said Katie.

“After hearing our story, Regional Development Victoria came to visit and encouraged us to apply for funding to develop a collaborative farming model based on sustainability principles.

“We’ve also been invited to get involved in expert committees, industry networks and teaching initiatives like the new organic farming courses at Bendigo Kangan Institute.

“The prize money helped us build a small rustic farm shop and garden to sell our fruit to the public from the farm door while providing a really pleasant experience for visitors.”

Katie and Hugh now have a policy of applying for an award or grant every year.

“Filling out the application form is a good chance to re-assess where your business is at and your achievements to date, as well as refocus on your future plans,” said Katie.

“So many small business owners fall into the trap of being too busy working ‘in’ the business to take the time to work ‘on’ the business.

“We honestly believe that going through the award entry process is almost as valuable as winning. Of course it’s fantastic if you’re lucky enough to win!

“Business of the Year is a pretty amazing label to wear, and we wear it with great pride,” she said.

The Mount Alexander Business Awards are designed to showcase and encourage business excellence in the shire.

More than 130 businesses were recently nominated for the awards and now have the chance to enter. The categories are:

• Manufacturing, construction and trade
• Agribusiness
• Retail, hospitality and tourism
• Micro business
• Professional services
• Creative and cultural

To enter, visit and complete the entry form by 5pm on Tuesday 16 May.

The Mount Alexander Business Awards are run in partnership with Maldon & District Community Bank® and The Midland Express/Castlemaine Mail.

They are supported by Business Mount Alexander, Maldon Inc., Workspace Australia and Regional Development Victoria.

Read the full story about Mt Alexander Fruit Gardens.

For queries regarding award entries phone Eva Parkin, Economy and Culture, on 5471 1805.

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