With just a week to go until Cumbria’s most prestigious business awards, we turn the spotlight back to some of the candidates for the 11 prizes on offer.

Today we look at three awards including a new one for this year, the Against All Odds Special Award - sponsored by BAE Systems, which will celebrate businesses which have battled against the odds to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a tough shortlist featuring numerous companies across the county, the three finalists which were judged by in-Cumbria’s experts are Workington-based Learning Land Nursery, the St George’s Residential Home in Millom and county-wide DFS Caskets Ltd.

The award will be a special one this year and is a timely prize to focus on as the government brings the country back under a second lockdown to help curb the growing number of coronavirus cases.

Learning Land Nursery owner Hilary McCarron nominated her childcare practitioners for the award following their efforts during the pandemic.

“These staff members supported me in returning to work during the height of Covid-19 as we were open as the Early Years Hub,” said Hilary.

“They put themselves and their families at risk to support key workers by looking after their children so they could continue working. They are all very precious, dedicated individuals, whom I am very grateful for and happy to call my staff members.”

St George’s Residential Home, which has 40 beds for the frail and poorly, kept Covid-19 out of their home and not one staff member has tested positive.

Business administrator Kelly Sharman said: “As a home housing the most vulnerable members of society we knew this was going to be the biggest challenge we would all face.

“We are extremely proud of our achievement and this is a testament to the incredible staff and all of their hard work and dedication. Whilst ensuring our home was as safe as possible, other priorities arose, such as communication for all of our residents with loved ones.”

Martin Smith, managing director of DFS Caskets Ltd, had to re-mortgage his own home at one point to make sure the business survived. The firm – the UK’s leading quality coffin manufacturer - is based at Stapleton Road, Annan, Dumfriesshire, where it employs 20 people.

Nominator Deborah Nelson said: “Martin went over and above to ensure his customers were supplied, as well as keeping his workforce as safe as possible. Well in advance of lockdown and in anticipation of what was coming, Martin obtained PPE and sanitising products for all his staff and he quickly introduced safer working practices. To date there hasn’t been a single confirmed case of Covid in the workforce.”

The second award we’re highlighting is the SME of the Year - sponsored by Cartmell Shepherd, with the three finalists being West Cumbrian-based conference and training centre Energus, PR company Intro which is headed up in its Carlisle office by co-founders Nick Turner and Helen Statham, and engineering and manufacturing specialist firm Delkia which is headed up by Kurt Canfield in Egremont.

Last but not least we turn our attention to the Large Business of the Year category – defined by those with around 51 or more employees. The finalists are the Cumberland Building Society, Kendal Nutricare and Sapphire Utility Solutions.

Each company is a regional and national leader in their industry and in-Cumbria’s Business Audience & Content Editor Luke Jarmyn stated it will be “fascinating” to see who has been crowned by the judges on awards night.

Taking place via a live stream, the 2020 in-Cumbria Business Awards event will start at 7pm on Thursday 12th November.

You can help recognise the best Cumbrian businesses by signing up to watch the event here: https://icba.sparq.me.uk/