THE battle to be named Sussex Businessperson of the Year is about to intensify following the announcement of the Sussex Business Awards shortlist.

It is the 29th year of the awards – the longest-established and most respected in the county.

They will be held at The Grand hotel in Brighton on November 30 with 17 hotly contested awards to be won.

Following a record number of entries, the judging has been extensive with 17 judges visiting nearly 30 towns across the county.

Panel interviews were held for the Sussex Businessperson of the Year, conducted by Chris O’Hare, CEO of Harwe Digital, Andrew Steer, head of business banking at HSBC UK, and George Clayson, senior manager at Mazars LLP. The category was sponsored by Hare Digital.

The finalists are Steve Kerassitis, managing director at Haybury, Duncan Kerr, CEO Wave Leisure Trust, and Mike Turner (managing director) and Krisi Smith (creative director) of The Bluebird Tea Company.

Originally from Australia, Steve Kerassitis graduated from Melbourne University. With over 18 years’ experience he made his name globally as a successful entrepreneur running a number of profitable teams and companies.

With a passion for developing people, Steve has a track record of delivering outstanding profit growth and impressive international business expansion.

His current company Haybury is a global executive Search firm founded in 2007 and acquired in a management buyout by Steve and his business partner Anna Pak Poy in 2016, the same year they won the Queens award for International Trade.

Wave Leisure is a charity and social enterprise with the purpose of “inspiring active lifestyles”.

Formed in 2006, Wave is recognised as an award-winning leisure trust, managing eight leisure facilities and Newhaven Fort on behalf of several councils.

Duncan joined Wave in 2014 and since then has increased customer visits by 20 per cent per year.

He achieved Quest’s Excellent and Best Managed Facility in the UK accreditations and won best employer and best company at the Lewes District Business Awards.

Husband and wife team Mike and Krisi met at university and set up Bluebird Tea Company from a parent’s back bedroom soon after graduating.

Over the last five years they have expanded the business and now have five stores, an international website exporting to 60 countries, and a team of 60 people.

Its main flagship store is in Brighton’s North Laine and it is there the family-run business has built a reputation for “spreading happiness one cup at a time”.

Mike Herd, chairman of the Sussex Business Awards, said: “The standard of entries in this category has been extremely high so being named on the shortlist is a huge achievement for everyone named here.

“Judges have worked tirelessly to analyse all the entries and to come up with a shortlist full of talented and innovative business people, who are all involved in highly successful businesses from across the county.

“It will be fascinating to see who take home the ultimate accolade of Sussex Businessperson of the Year.”

The awards will be attended by some 500 of the county’s leading businesses.

Tickets cost £90 each or £850 for a table of ten. This includes champagne reception, three course meal and two bottles of wine, as well as entertainment and dancing.

The awards sell out each year so make sure to book your tickets online soon at

This year’s sponsors include HSBC, Mazars,, Sussex Innovation Centre, University of Sussex, Coffin Mew, Sussex Chamber of Commerce, Legal and General, Hare Digital, The Goodall Foundation and Vantage Professional Risks.

The Argus, Heart FM, Title Sussex and Platinum Business are media partners.