Many extraordinary enterprises are too young, small or different to meet the criteria for mainstream business awards. They miss out on the recognition, profile and credibility they deserve simply because these entries and judging criteria tend to favour larger, more stereotypical businesses.
Long-time small business owner and champion, Heather Douglas, was working closely with the sector. She knew how many micro, home and solo businesses were doing utterly amazing things - but they weren’t winning business awards.
Having judged several other business awards she realised the issue wasn’t with the businesses themselves. “When you’re running on the smell of an oily rag or achieving the impossible through sheer grit and determination, triple bottom lines and Baldrige frameworks are the last things on your mind,” she says. “Even putting together an entry can take you away from your day-to-day activities for too long.”
In 2005, Heather was awarded a Vero Excellence in Business Support Award for her advocacy of and support for businesses at the smaller end of the business scale. In 2008 she launched The David Awards, ensuring they embraced few barriers to entry, minimally-exclusive criteria and a tailored but rigorous judging process. It was time for these smaller, newer or funkier businesses to not only enter, but to shine!
For ten years, Heather ran the awards under the umbrella of her Bizbuzz website with enormous support from a hand-picked, exceptional group of judges. In fact, some of the current judging panel (Pam Martin, Glenn Baker and Glenn Smith) have been on board more-or-less since inception!
With a change in focus in her own professional life in 2018, Heather all but decided it was time to pull the plug. The David Awards didn’t take place that year and their future was dubious - until she got a call from 2013 Supreme Winner Richard Conway (Pure SEO).
Richard was adamant The David Awards had played no small part in his own company’s success, and wasn’t going to let them disappear so readily.
It might sometimes have been a little hairy behind the scenes, but this core group of experienced, dedicated small business champions pulled off a miracle, because 2019 saw the unfunded but successful rebirth of The David Awards - with record numbers of diverse, high-quality entries and another crop of exceptional and worthy winners.
At the start of 2020, Heather gifted The David Awards to the small business community of New Zealand. She remains involved as patron but management and administration of the Awards is now in the hands of a highly-committed, multi-talented team of judges and administrators. Glenn Smith is currently at the helm, with a mandate for measures to be in place by the end of 2021 to ensure the event is not-for-profit, autonomous and self-sustaining.
“Big isn’t necessarily better,” says Heather. “Yay for the little guys - the underdogs - who stand their own against the rest in a continually-evolving business landscape. These entrepreneurial men and women are smart, savvy, nimble, creative, hard-working, focussed and determined. The future of New Zealand’s economy is in great hands when we’ve got them at grassroots.”
Our hope - and plan - is for The David Awards to recognise and celebrate New Zealand’s “Davids” for a long time yet.