[SINGAPORE] Snagging one of the top honours at Friday's Emerging Enterprise (EE) Award Gala Dinner was particularly sweet for Dr Michelle Goh; when she started her laser clinic business three years ago, she encountered her fair share of resistance from naysayers.
"It was challenging to recruit talent at first because everyone was a bit sceptical of the concept of a chain of clinics only focusing on one service," Dr Goh said.
Today, Aesthetic Medical Holdings runs a chain of laser medical facial clinics and was named one of three winners of the EE award for 2014.
The EE award honours promising smaller enterprises, less than 10 years old, with an annual sales turnover of not more than S$15 million.
The award, which had its start in 2008, is the only annual entrepreneurial award in Singapore to honour such businesses.
"This award recognises our company as innovative and interesting . . . it gives our employees assurance that they are part of an exciting journey," Dr Goh said.
Solar services firm Sunseap Leasing, and Five Aluminium Boat & Engineering, which designs and manufactures aluminium boats, were also named Emerging Enterprises of the year at the dinner at the Ritz-Carlton.
The three winners will each receive S$440,000 worth of prizes comprising professional and consultancy services, executive educational programmes and support in capability development.
Speaking of the win, Edmund Long, managing director of Five Aluminium Boat & Engineering, said: "We think the award holds a bright future for us."
The award is jointly presented by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, and supported by Acorn Marketing and Research Consultants, Insead, MasterCard, SingTel, Spring Singapore and RSM Chio Lim.
Aside from the three top honours, Numoni and Austrianova were given the SingTel Best Innovation award - which will give them each S$45,000 worth of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) prizes from SingTel.
Dr John Dangerfield, chief operating officer of Austrianova - a biomedical firm specialising in cell-encapsulation technology - said: "Our founders and researchers took over 20 years to develop our technology, so the recognition of the award is particularly important to us as it has been a very long and arduous journey before we came to financial fruition."
Meanwhile, ACM Biolabs became the first winner of the inaugural Most Promising Startup Award which recognises the achievements of businesses less than three years old and with a turnover of less than S$1 million per annum.
Dr Madhavan Nallani, founder of the firm, said the award will be a good boost to his employees' morale.
Another notable aspect of the awards this year was the number of women nominated, compared to previous years. Four of the 16 businesses nominated this year were represented by women.
Eric Ong, head of Emerging Business at OCBC Bank said: "A clear trend this year is that there are more women finalists. Previous years, it was really quite male-dominated."
Of the six winners this year, two were women-owned enterprises (Aesthetic Medical Holdings and Numoni).
Norma Sit, CEO of Numoni, said: "As a woman entrepreneur and a woman leader, I feel that more women should come forward because they bring a lot to business development . . . (and because) that can encourage other women to step up and participate in economic development of any nature."