Doubling output, creating new product ranges, announcing new deals and expanding staff numbers are all New Year's resolutions for this month's winner of The Birmingham Post Business Award.

Stirchley Burger Company, a manufacturer and distributor of frozen burgers to the foodservice industry, is in talks which could lead to a £250,000 supply deal in the New Year.

The firm has already announced plans to up production to 350,000 burgers a week in 2007, after investing in a new blast freezer.

It is also launching a new burger made purely from vegetables.

This will take the number of burger varieties that the company makes to 99.

"There are two ways for us to expand our business – by increasing production and by expanding our product range into premium markets," said co-founder Mark Austin.

"We have been delighted with our progress so far, we have exceeded our five-year turnover target in just three years.

"The plan now is just to keep on growing."

It was the rapid expansion of the business that caught the eye of the independent Post award judges.

Starting from zero three years ago, Stirchley Burger Company has built up a £1.5 million turnover and seen its payroll rise from two to ten. Mr Austin and fellow founder Carl Bishop now hope to employ three more staff within the next 12 months.

The company supplies to the wholesale trade across the UK, with burgers eventually being sold by fast-food outlets and mobile caterers.

Mr Bishop, who is from Hall Green, and Mr Austin, from Walsall, had already worked together in the frozen burger manufacturing industry before deciding to set up in business.

Mr Bishop: "One of the things that we were taught working for our previous company was that it was important to give your customers what they want, not what you want to produce.

"I think that's something that we have been able to achieve – customer focus is very important to us." Mr Bishop added that he was surprised and delighted to have won The Birmingham Post Business Award.

He said: "Shocked is an understatement. This is the first award the company has won and I would like to thank all our staff who have worked hard to make the business a success."

Mr Austin and Mr Bishop were presented with the award at an event held at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

It was handed over by development manager Caroline Pugh.

Chairman of judges, David Smith, managing director of scheme sponsor Churchill Vintners of Birmingham, said of Stirchley Burger Company: "To go from zero to £1.5 million and to produce 20,000 burgers a week is a tremendous achievement and I hope the company will be able to continue capitalising on its success into the future."

The main sponsors of The Birmingham Post Business Awards are Intercity Mobile Communications and Churchill Vintners in association with Champagne Taittinger.

British Airways and Aston Business School provide further support, along with Biz-tv, part of Aston Media at Aston University, which produces a business video of each monthly winner worth £2,500.

And Warwickshire County Cricket Club is providing a private box for one of their day/night games next season.

This month also welcomes Yorkshire Bank as new joint sponsors of the award's annual luncheon.


AWM to lure Scandinavian investors to city Alan Roden, Advantage West Midlands inward investment; David Rowe, Warwick Science Park chief executive; Ulf Strom AWM Sweden; Jukka Mansikka AWM Finland

A campaign to lure more companies from Finland and Sweden to set up in the West Midlands has seen 26 representatives from 17 Nordic companies visiting the region this week.

Advantage West Midlands has been working alongside Warwick Science Park, EBS, UK Trade and Investment, Handelsbanken, SAS Radisson, Martineau Johnson, Tenon, Rowan and British embassies in Sweden and Finland to create the Bridge to Opportunity project.

The project has worked to promote the region to more than 4,000 firms in Finland and Sweden over the past four months and offers free access to tax, banking and legal advice, market analysis, sales development and office accommodation.

AWM is involved in an ongoing campaign of inward investment with companies across the world and has a network of offices in the US (Chicago, Boston, Washington DC and San Jose), Japan, India, Australia, Germany, France, Sweden and Belgium.

The West Midlands is home to around 2,300 foreign-owned firms employing more than 250,000 people – around one in ten of the region's workforce.

In total there are 21 Finnish companies in the West Midlands, employing around 900 staff, and 63 Swedish companies employing more than 5,000 workers.

Bridge to Opportunity, it is claimed, is the first time in the UK that partners have worked together to target inward investment from a specific region.

During the tour, the 17 companies were shown the facilities at Warwick Science Park by chief executive David Rowe and also visited the Birmingham offices of law firm Martineau Johnson where meetings were held with all Bridge to Opportunity partners.

Richard Butler, AWM head of inward investment, said: "While the West Midlands is home to more than 80 companies from Finland and Sweden, we believe there is strong potential for even more investment from that part of the world.

"Our team in Sweden and Finland have targeted more than 4,000 companies and then held relocation seminars at the UK embassies for each country.

"The more companies that expand into the West Midlands, the more the region benefits in terms of jobs created.

"We are very confident that, as a result of the Bridge to Opportunity project, we will successfully increase the number of Nordic SMEs in the West Midlands and they, in turn, will promote the region as a world-class place to invest.

"The West Midlands has enjoyed two highly successful years in terms of the inward investment we have been able to attract and we are confident projects such as Bridge to Opportunity will enable us to continue this run of success."

In August, Advantage West Midlands announced that for the financial year 2005-2006, a total of 4,418 jobs were created as a result of inward investment and a further 8,365 safeguarded in the region.

Advantage West Midlands was involved in projects which saw 2,534 jobs created and 3,634 safeguarded.