Demonstrating ongoing commitment to the South West, Sponge is crowned Medium Business of the Year at the Plymouth Business Awards 2019 in a ceremony held at Plymouth Pavilions on 17 May. The company was also named ‘finalist’ in the Best Tech Business category.
Described as ‘one of the biggest events in the business calendar in Plymouth’, the awards honour ‘those driving Britain’s Ocean City forward’, celebrating ‘businesses who contribute economically, culturally and socially as Plymouth strives to become Europe’s premier waterfront destination’. Sponsored by the University of Plymouth, the awards showcase local enterprises over a broad, and growing number of sectors, lauding many of the city’s prime success stories.
In the Medium Business of the Year category, the penultimate award of the night, Sponge was recognised as being ‘a profitable, growing business, 26 to 149 employees, which has a positive impact on the Plymouth economy. The size and age of the business was considered against its financial performance.’
Founded 15 years ago by entrepreneur Louise Pasterfield, Sponge has grown to be Europe’s largest independently-owned custom digital learning provider. Expanding from Plymouth headquarters to Bristol, London, Sheffield and, most recently, moving into Dublin’s Silicon Docks, we plan to continue to increase our footprint in the UK, Europe and the US.
Sponge currently employs around 130 people and expects to hire more than 70 people this year. And, earlier this month, we launched our Design and Animation Academies to meet increasing demand within the business and help tackle a UK-wide digital skills shortage.
To be shortlisted as Medium Business of the Year, we needed to demonstrate profitability and strong year-on-year financial growth. In fact, with sales more than doubling from 2016 to 2018, Sponge is one of the most successful creative businesses in Plymouth’s digital economy and this growth trajectory is expected to continue.
The judges, which included local business and Higher Education leaders, as well as media, were also keen to hear about our ‘innovative products, services and processes, as well as expansion into new markets and different areas of business activity’.
Working with some of the world’s biggest brands – including Coca-Cola, Toyota, Specsavers, Tesco, AstraZeneca, AXA, the NHS, Royal Mail and the United Nations – Sponge harnesses the latest technology to deliver seriously creative workplace learning. Our win highlights how we’ve ‘pushed the boundaries of learning technology to deliver learning games, motion graphics, simulations, interactive video and immersive experiences such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR)’.
With regards to market expansion, by exploring overseas, Sponge expects to further boost the local economy in terms of job opportunities and inbound revenue. Today, around 35 to 40 per cent of our business comes from Europe, and approximately 4 per cent from the US.
Enthusing about the win, Sponge's Founder and Managing Director, Louise Pasterfield, said, “It really means a lot to be recognised as Medium Business of the Year in the region, particularly when up against such impressive local businesses. Over the past 15 years, we’ve received a number of regional accolades and awards which recognise our successes in the tech and creative markets. Winning this category is testament to the contribution we’ve made and continue to make to the local economy, which goes beyond the digital sector into the mainstream.
"We’re particularly proud of the employment opportunities we’ve created in our Plymouth office and beyond. And we’re really excited to launch our Design and Animation Academies as a means to cultivate and nurture young talent in the South West.”
This view was supported by Ian McFadzen, Chief Executive Officer at Plymouth Science Park (home to Sponge’s headquarters). In a statement supporting our application, he said, “Sponge is the largest business on the park and a significant employer in the region. The company has helped us achieve our business objectives of supporting the university, boosting the Plymouth economy, promoting innovation and adding to the city’s growing reputation as a digital hub.”
A multi-award winning business, Sponge is also ‘finalist’ in the Insider South West Global Growth Awards 2019. The ceremony will be held 19 June. Last year, we won Best Technological or Creative Business at the Western Morning News Business Awards. And, nationally, Sponge was named Learning Provider of the Year at the 2019 Learning Awards and won silver for Company of the Year at the 2018 Learning Technologies Awards.
You can view photos from the 2019 Plymouth Business Awards, read about all the winners and their ‘big plans for 2020’. Follow conversation about the awards at #PlymouthBusinessAwards and #PlymouthBusinessAwards2019.