By CHEN HUIFEN AND VICTOR KATHEYAS
Etiquette and poise were thrown out the window as elegantly dressed staff of Allalloy Dynaweld hugged one another and jumped for joy. One man was seen removing his glasses, seemingly to wipe a tear of joy away.
They had just heard their company's name being announced at the Emerging Enterprise Awards held at the Shangri-la Hotel last Friday evening. Allalloy had turned out to be one of the three winning firms.
Commenting on the camaraderie spirit that was on display among his staff, Allalloy general manager Victor Khaw said: 'It's a brotherhood and sisterhood thing. The guys have been working together for a long, long time. I think, in essence, that's what makes us so good: it's because of this teamwork.'
A welding solutions provider, Allalloy was among the nine finalists of the Emerging Enterprise Awards 2009. The other two winning firms were search engine marketing company PurpleClick Media and LED technology firm Screentech Display.
While each of the winning firms has a unique personality and story to tell, one quality common to all - and present in good measure at that - is determination.
A visibly elated Leonard Tan, managing director of PurpleClick Media, gave a broad smile and conceded that entrepreneurship was not a cakewalk.
'There will really be a lot of challenges in doing a business, especially running a start-up,' he said.
'But the important thing is to stay focused, keep doing what you're doing and solve the problem. Don't give up easily.'
Into its second year, the Emerging Enterprise Award is the only entrepreneurial accolade that reaches out to small businesses with annual sales turnover of less than $10 million, and which have been in operation for up to 10 years.
Apart from a trophy, each winning firm also walked away with $360,000 worth of prizes, including an interest-free loan from OCBC Bank, a government grant, and educational and consulting packages.
'We had difficulty choosing the final three,' said OCBC emerging business, enterprise banking head Tan Chor Sen. 'One of the trends we saw this year was that all the finalists recognise that they are small - and they use the advantage of being small to go after niche businesses. They've reached a stage where they are going to take off - or have already taken off for their next stage - to challenge bigger companies and to go out into the world in search of new markets.'
This year, the quality of the applicants was so good that organisers introduced a Special Award for Product Innovation, which was given to portable multimedia player firm XMI. The company's signature capsule speakers, each about the size of a tennis ball, had already garnered six awards earlier, including the Red Dot Award for product design last year.
Despite the challenging times, the finalists have shown that being small can be beautiful. As OCBC's Mr Tan noted, the finalists are nimble and, being more accessible to their clients, are able to respond to their needs and demands better.
In the case of Screentech, for instance, the company introduced an instalment payment plan that amounts to a proportion of the savings on electricity bills after installing its energy-saving lighting systems. That made their LED lighting systems more attractive and gave customers greater flexibility in managing finances.
'Vision, determination, lateral thinking and a can-do attitude are the characteristics we were looking for, and they were there in all of this year's contestants - and perhaps even more,' said RSM Chio Lim senior partner Lim Lee Meng.
'The impressive ones are creative in solving problems and conscious in establishing their brand names. They have the discipline to control their finance and take calculated risks.'
The other five finalists honoured last Friday evening were print management services provider Adventus Singapore; computer software distributor Cylon Interactive; engineering firm Jenmon International; healthcare equipment distributor Medquest Marketing; and digital assets manager Tecbiz Frisman.
Organised by The Business Times and OCBC Bank, the Emerging Enterprise Awards are supported by SPRING Singapore, NUS Extension and RSM Chio Lim.
This article was first published in The Business Times.