Stockton e-Commerce firm Visualsoft has been crowned Company of the Year at the Teesside heat of the North East Business Awards 2015.

The best of Teesside business gathered for a glittering awards ceremony, held last night at Teesside University’s Olympia Building.

The 12 winners will now go head-to-head with companies from the two previous heats – Tyneside and Northumberland and Durham and Wearside – at the regional final due to be held at Hardwick Hall in Sedgefield, County Durham, on April 23.

Guest speaker on the night at the awards was British Army veteran Simon Weston OBE, who has become well known throughout the UK for his charity work and recovery after suffering severe burns during the Falklands War.

The awards also heard from Bob Cuffe, managing director of Gazette Media Company, publishers of The Journal’s sister publication on Teesside The Gazette.

Mr Cuffe outlined the “Teesside Manifesto” for the next Government, calling for improvements to transport and skills, plus targeted inward investment.

He also paid tribute to outgoing Teesside University vice chancellor Professor Graham Henderson, who he described as “Teesside’s outstanding leader of the last decade”.

Mr Cuffe said: “I’m a Teessider, but I’m optimistic – this area has more reasons to be confident about its future than for many a year. Look around tonight – a record attendance – representing a business community that’s confident, varied and led by talented, creative and resourceful leaders.”

Visualsoft, which employs more than 180 staff and has a yearly turnover of £6.7m, has seen rapid growth. It provides website design and tailored online marketing services to more than 850 clients. The company has developed a series of e-commerce platforms with a growing army of online retailer users.

The company also gives staff unlimited holidays, free breakfasts and protein shakes among other benefits, an approach that has lifted productivity according to bosses.

Other winners last night included ElringKlinger, Gus Robinson Developments and Hart Biologicals.

Now in their fourth decade, the North East Business Awards are organised by The Journal and the Gazette in association with the North East Chamber of Commerce.