Entries and nominations are now open for the new look Westpac Tauranga Business Awards, which were launched at a function at Trustpower on Thursday evening.

This year's Awards have been revamped to offer more recognition of the small business sector, with new categories created to encourage businesses with less than 10 full-time-equivalent employees to enter, says Tauranga Chamber of Commerce chief executive Stan Gregec.

"We want to see more small businesses enter and we'd like to see a wider cross-section of the community there on the actual night," he said. "Think of it as 'democratising' the awards."

The new categories are: Small Retail Business of the Year, and Small Manufacturing/Distribution Business of the Year. There are now a total of 12 categories altogether, made up of seven sector awards covering Retail, Tourism/Hospitality, Manufacturing/Distribution, Professional and Trade Services and Social Enterprise. In addition there are four Business Practice categories: Workplace Safety, Business Innovation, Digital Innovation and Customer Service.

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The supreme award is the Westpac Tauranga Business of the Year, for which any winner of any one of the other 12 categories is eligible.

"We have made a real effort to open up the Awards to much wider participation and to make them a community celebration."

This year the entry process has also been streamlined to make it as easy as possible for businesses of all sizes to take part.

"The first stage of putting in an entry won't take more than a couple of hours, and can be done entirely online," said Mr Gregec.

To assist applicants to prepare their entries, the chamber is also running two 90-minute workshops in association with consultancy firm The Firestation on Thursday, 18 August and Thursday, 1 September. These will go over the criteria and offer tips on completing the application process.

Westpac Tauranga Business Awards
• 12 categories
• Two new categories: Small Business of the Year, & Small Manufacturing/Distribution Business of the Year