Innovation wins out at last West Oxfordshire Business Awards

WOBA 2020 virtual ceremony

An alternative to polythene made from sugar cane waste, whole leaf tea bags for expectant mums and sustainable soy candles were some of the ideas winning out at this year’s West Oxfordshire Business Awards (WOBA).

Sadly the last WOBA Awards (the organisation is taking a few years’ break from next year), had to be held online in a live virtual ceremony watched by more than 700 people last week – from the comfort of their own sofas. But that didn’t take away from the delight of the winners.

Finalists in 11 categories gathered six months later than originally planned via Zoom and WOBA’s YouTube channel.  The WOBA Gala Dinner, which was due to take place at Heythrop Park Resort, 27 March 2020, might have been scuppered by Covid-19 restrictions, but that didn’t put off the organisers who took it online.

WOBA VoCoVo_Aston & James Business of the Year[2]Shipton-Under-Wychwood based business, VoCoVo, won the Owen Mumford Innovation Award and the Aston & James West Oxfordshire Business of the Year Award.  The company helps retailers connect staff and customers using voice technology to increase the efficiency of customer service while managing the volatile social distancing environment.

WOBA judges recognised VoCoVo’s ability to continuously innovate and develop, supporting more than 8,000 stores and 60,000 staff members across the globe with clients such as Tesco, Co-op, Asda, Primark and many more high street brands.

Rob Gamlin, Founder at VoCoVo, said: “It is so rewarding to receive the awards for Innovation and Business of the Year from WOBA. Our teams in West Oxfordshire and Europe work hard in pursuit of excellence, it is great to see their effort recognised through these awards

WOBA 2020 Winners
VoCoVo – winners of three awards at the 2020 WOBAs
Picture: Ric Mellis

“Our roadmap for development has driven huge advancements since our previous Innovation WOBA win in 2016, and continues to keep VoCoVo on the cutting edge of retail communication technology as we build on our international success.”

WOBA 2020 Winners
Huffkins – winners of the Winner of Winners award at the 2020 WOBAs. Pictured are (l-r) Richard Taee, Jo Sensecall from WOBA, sponsor Alex Wise, Karen Stone, Topsy Taee, Mark Gregory and Joshua Taee
Picture: Ric Mellis

The winner of this year’s Blenheim Palace New Business Award was Carterton based wine and cocktail bar, Grapes & Tomatoes (G&Ts).  Owned by four friends who are serving RAF airmen, they have achieved their dream in addition to helping shape the Carterton community.

James O’Brien, Co-owner and Director, Grapes & Tomatoes, said: “We’re absolutely flattered and over the moon with the award. A really big well done to all of the staff who have made this such a great establishment. It is a testing time for people in this industry and we’d like to remind everyone that we are still a safe place to come and enjoy yourself. We’d like to thank all of our customers for sticking by us and we hope to see you all soon for a cocktail.”

The Wise Investment Winner of Winners Award to celebrate WOBA’s 10th anniversary year, was presented to Huffkins.  The family-run Cotswold bakery and tea rooms can be now be found in John Lewis Oxford Street, Kingston and Cheltenham flagship stores and is representing West Oxfordshire on a global stage selling cream teas and other baked goods in Japan, UAE and Europe.

Joshua Tae, Managing Director, Huffkins, said: “We are delighted to be recognised in the 2020 WOBA Awards ‘Winner of Winners’ category. Thank you to the organisers of this wonderful event that showcases the diverse and dynamic business community of West Oxfordshire and also to the sponsors of this award, Wise Investments.”

Jo Sensecall, WOBA team member, said: “Congratulations to all of our 10th anniversary winners. This year really has demonstrated that West Oxfordshire is home to a wealth of innovative and entrepreneurial businesses with a strong sense of communty – vital during these challenging times. We are extremely proud to reward our home grown talent.”

WOBA 2020 winners are: 

  • Fleet and Commercial Retail Award

Herbal tea retailer Hot Tea Mama. Baby Magazine also voted its teas the UK’s ‘Best Maternity Product’ in 2019.

  • Meech Business & Community Award

Chipping Norton Theatre

  • Owen Mumford Innovation Award


  • The MGroup Employer of the Year Award

The Rooflight Company

  • Blenheim Palace New Business Award

Grapes & Tomatoes

  • Witney Business & Innovation Centre Micro Business Award

WOBA Oxford Welding Supplies_Witney BIC Micro Business of the Year[2]Oxford Welding Supplies

  • Convolo Personnel Small SME Award

Cotswold Fudge Company

  • Sandler Training Large SME Award

Solid Structures

  • Cokethorpe Young Entrepreneur Award

Katherine Wyn-Davies – Elinor Sophia

  • CQR Business Person of the Year Award

James Woollard (Polythene UK)


  • Cally Robson Award

The Burford Recruitment Company

  • Wise Investment Winner of Winners Award


  • Aston & James Business of the Year Award


WOBA’s virtual ceremony was produced by Carterton based, First Sight Media and hosted by the company’s Managing Director, Richard Belcher.

Jo Sensecall added: “After 10 successful years of WOBA, the WOBA organising team – a group of hardworking volunteers from the local business community -–  is taking a short break.  On behalf of the team, we would like to thank everyone who has contributed to our brilliant WOBA community and congratulate all of our finalists and winners.  We look forward to hearing how these fantastic busiensses play a helping hand in connecting West Oxfordshire businesses and promoting growth.”

The official WOBA 2020 charity is Guideposts Trust, winner of the Charity of the Year Award 2019.  Among other projects based in Oxfordshire, Guideposts run Witney’s ‘Dig N Grow’ service to provide new skills to adults with learning difficulties. The WOBA community has raised £1,835 and it is still possible to donate at