The Independent Awards 2021


Who can apply?


Each award has its own specific criteria, so please do check the relevant category page for details. In general though, entrants should be the founder of any small independent business that:

  • Is based in the UK 
  • Is founder-owned (i.e. the founder is the sole trader, in a partnership or where they own at least 51% of the limited company)
  • Has no more than 30 full-time employees (or the equivalent) over the course of a year

Alternatively, anyone can enter on the founder’s behalf, as long as the business fulfils the above.

Can I apply on behalf of someone else?


Absolutely! We want to uncover the very best small businesses the UK has to offer so if you know one, encourage them to apply OR fill in the entry form for them. Our entry form will ask you at the start if you’re applying for your own business or one you admire.

Each small business will be judged on how well they meet the category criteria, there is no benefit to multiple entries so if you enter you don’t need to encourage someone else to enter for you as well.

Is there an entry fee?


No! Thanks to our fantastic small business supporters Dell Technologies, NatWest and Royal Mail there is no entry fee. All you have to do is complete our short application form on behalf of yourself or a small business you admire and you’re done.

Is it worth me entering?


Absolutely! You (or the small business you put forward) have got as good a chance of winning as anyone else, and these awards literally changed lives last year. It’s free to enter, takes next to no time and the benefits are HUGE. Very often imposter syndrome gets in the way but don’t let it. These awards aren’t just for the ‘known’ small businesses. There are categories you can enter where we’re just as interested in the one (wo)man bands out there, working hard to create excellence (even if that’s a simple but brilliant product or service, made or shared with love). So go for it!

I was a Nominee/Finalist last year, can I still enter?


Yes! Last year’s Nominees and Finalists are very welcome to enter so you get another chance to win. We can’t wait to see how you’ve developed over this last year.

I was a Runner-Up/Winner last year, can I still enter?


Sadly not. We feel it’s important that The Independent Awards change as many lives as possible and so last year’s Runners-Up and Winners cannot enter (though we very much hope you encourage others to enter, pass on any learnings and support them by voting if they get nominated!). 

How do I know which category/s to enter?


We encourage you to read all of the category descriptions and criteria to see which one/s you think best describe either your business or the business you are entering for. You might fit in a few categories but we suggest you focus on the ones which describe you best (you can enter in up to two).

How many categories can I enter?


You can enter a business into no more than two categories and you will need to fill in a separate form for each entry. Additional entries will be discounted.

What happens if someone else has entered my business and I want to as well?


Congratulations, someone else is passionately supporting your small business! If you think you might have something more to say and would like to enter yourself, then you can complete your own entry form (for up to two categories). If we receive multiple entry forms for the same business from different people, we will always use the founder’s entries and discount the others.

How do I know that my entry has been successfully submitted?


You will receive a message on screen as soon as your entry has been submitted, and you will receive a confirmation email within 24 hours, too. If you don’t see either of these messages, it’s likely your entry hasn’t been submitted successfully for some reason so please do try again.

When is the deadline?


It’s midday on Thursday 21st October 2021 so be quick! Sadly, any entry forms submitted after the closing date will not be accepted. Please note that HCO Ltd. does reserve the right to close entries early (though if this is the case we’ll give the public 48 hours notice before doing so). Good luck!

What does “full-time equivalent” employee mean?


This refers to team members who typically work eight hours a day, five days a week, over the course of a full year. So if you have part-time staff who typically work less than this, or seasonal staff who only work for the business at certain times of year like Christmas for example, they won’t count as full-time equivalent (FTE). 

What does “founder-owned” mean?


It means that either the founder is the sole trader, in a partnership or where they own at least 51% of the limited company. So you might have accepted funding but as long as the investors don’t own more than 49% of your business, you’re considered to be founder-owned. 

What are The Independent Award prizes?


The total prize fund is £100,000 which will be split between the winners as follows:

  • Five categories have two winners (the first will receive £10,000, the second will receive £5,000).
  • The Young Entrepreneur Award has two winners who will each receive £2,500 along with a mentoring session from Holly and the team on how best to spend this award.
  • The People’s Choice Award has one winner of £10,000.
  • Holly’s Fairy Godmother Award has one winner of £10,000 and mentoring from Holly and the team.

When will I hear if my entry has been successful and if my business has made it through to the next stage?


Founders will hear by Tuesday 9th November 2021 so keep an eye on your emails at the start of November. We are crossing everything for you.

Can I edit my entry once it’s been submitted?


No, sadly not. Once the entry has been submitted you cannot edit your entry form. That’s why it’s a good idea to draft your answers somewhere else first to make sure you’re happy before adding them into your entry form and submitting. It’s not possible to save answers that are part-finished and come back to them later either so make sure you allow enough time. 

Can I see any entries made on my behalf?


Due to GDPR regulations we are unable to share any entries made on your behalf. If more than one entry is submitted on behalf of a business, we will review the entry made by the small business owner.

What are the criteria for the awards categories?


Each award has its own specific criteria, so please do check the relevant category page in the site for details.

What’s the People’s Choice Award?


Once public voting opens, this award will be chosen by the people so it means the world. It can’t be entered directly but any Nominee who gets the most public votes wins, so it’s time to remind everyone you rock. Whether it’s for your brand, products or impeccable service, the people’s favourite will be awarded £10,000.  

What's Holly's Fairy Godmother Award?


Brand new this year, this award is for that special business that has true star potential but needs a little helping hand. Holly knows magic when she sees it, so this is the one award chosen by the small business fairy godmother herself (Holly Tucker MBE). The lucky winner will get £10,000 and mentorship from Holly and the team (and again, this isn’t an award you can enter directly).


If you can’t find the answer to your question above, please email us at [email protected]