We’ve said it before: we love SMEs! Big or small; tech or transport; retail or repair – you’re our kind of people, and we like to help you go online and do even more business!

That’s why we sponsored the inaugural Blacknight SME Awards last year. It was such a success, we’ve joined up again with organiser Damien Mulley and MC Rick O’Shea, to do it all over again for 2016.

Left to right Michele Neylon (Blacknight), Damien Mulley & Rick O'Shea launching the 2016 Blacknight SME Awards

Left to right Michele Neylon (Blacknight), Damien Mulley & Rick O’Shea launching the 2016 Blacknight SME Awards


Here’s what you need to know:

The Blacknight SME Awards will be held at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Cork on April 16. It’s completely free to enter.

There are 18 categories, ranging from ‘Family Run’ to ‘Community Minded’, covering Food and Drink, Retail and all kinds of B2B business. We have awards for exporters and online businesses and Environmentally Minded companies and the Under 30s.

We’ve got a special category called ‘Company Transformation’ for an old SME that has learned new tricks, and an award for ‘Customer Focus and Engagement’. SMEs can be nominated in up to three categories and it’s free to enter.

Somewhat controversially perhaps, we’ve dropped our ‘Startup’ category, and added three new categories for ‘New Companies’. Damien Mulley thinks the word ‘startup’ has become tarnished by companies that exist only on ‘Powerpoint’.

He explains why, in this podcast I recorded with him – and outlines his belief that real SMEs, with products and customers, are the lifeblood of the economy. Click below to play the podcast, or download it here: 20:51; 12MB; MP3.


Really, we don’t care what words a company uses to describe itself as long as it’s doing good business, looking after its customers and staff, rewarding its owners and obeying the law. We love SMEs, you see.

Nominations for the Blacknight SME Awards close on January 29th. Did we mention that it’s free to enter?

Below is our latest press release for the event.

Blacknight SME Awards Welcomes Businesses Old and New – But No ‘Startups’

Nominations have opened for The Blacknight SME Awards on April 16, but ‘startups’ need not apply.

That’s not to say that the organisers aren’t interested in entrepreneurs; in fact there are a total of 3 categories devoted to ‘new companies’, as the organiser Damien Mulley prefers to call them.

’Startup’ is becoming a dirty word,” he explains. “Last year judges encountered many businesses for which it appeared that the sole goal was running a startup and they were spending their time talking about the fact they were a startup. Companies that focused on keeping their business alive, while gaining new customers to sell a product or service, did much better in the competition. The latter are the companies we want applying to this category and ‘New Company’ describes them better than ‘Startup’ where the main product seems to be a Powerpoint presentation about what they will do someday.”

This the second year of the Blacknight SME Awards, an event conceived by Mulley and Blacknight founder Michele Neylon, to cater for the vast swathe of Irish companies in the middle: neither headline-grabbing multinationals, nor techie startups without products or customers.

“SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy”, says Mulley. “They employ way more than the Googles and the Facebooks, don’t get the press and pay a lot more tax.”

A recent study done by Vision Net, confirms that 17,300 new businesses were set up in the first 11 months of 2015, with 147 new businesses being created every day in 2015.

“We are extraordinarily committed to Ireland’s SME community”, says Blacknight’s Michele Neylon. “As an SME ourselves, we understand the importance of being recognized for your hard work. Often, the difference between continued success and early burn-out is simply that your community acknowledges your struggle and contribution. A lot of great things come from smaller Irish companies, and we want to do everything we can to continue to foster local innovation.”

This is the second year of the Blacknight SME Awards, and once again the event will be held at Cork’s Radisson Blu Hotel. Awards will be made in 18 categories, ranging from Family Run Business to Environmentally Minded and everything in between. Unlike many business awards, nominations are free, saving smaller businesses hundreds of euros and allowing a broader range of entries. Each business is judged in two rounds before they make the final. The judging panel is comprised of business people and members of the public.

Nominations for the Blacknight SME Awards are now open and can be entered online at smeawards.ie. Nominations close January 29th 2016. Late nominations are €150 per category in the first day and €300 per category if 48 hours late.

The final takes place on April 16th. Attendees, nominees and anyone following the event may tweet at and follow the hashtag #LoveSMEs.

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