The UK’s most exceptional franchisees have been recognised by the British Franchise Association (bfa) at the bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year Awards, supported by Express Newspapers.


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Lee Eaton, owner of Signs Express Manchester, collects his accolade.

Lee Eaton, owner of Signs Express in Manchester, was named the bfa HSBC Franchisee of the Year after growing his business 25% year-on-year and playing a key part in local community projects. His dedication to creating a close-knit team that shares his ethos of exceptional service has led to high-profile clients such as Team Sky and Great British Cycling becoming repeat customers.

Lee, who also won the B2B award on the night, said, “This is a wonderful tribute to the efforts of my team. Together we’ve worked tirelessly to deliver the best service we can to every single one of our clients and to be recognised for that is a great feeling. I’m so proud and passionate about my business, I started it with my Dad and he’s going to be really chuffed about this too!”

Andy Brattesani, UK head of franchising at HSBC, said, “Lee’s empowerment of his staff and his dedication to quality of service shone through. After a record number of entries this year he had to evidence the highest standards to win this award and we congratulate him on his success.”

Winners were announced at a gala dinner at Birmingham Town Hall, hosted by Steph McGovern, on 1 October. Six category winners received £1,000 with Lee also taking home the top prize of £10,000, courtesy of HSBC.

The winners on the night were:

Young Franchisee of the Year: Richard Swayne, Snap-on Dartford

Customer Service Franchisee of the Year: Noel Gallacher, Dyno Scotland

Female Franchisee of the Year: Carolyn Sharpe, Puddle Ducks Newcastle

B2B Franchisee of the Year: Lee Eaton, Signs Express Manchester

Olderpreneur Franchisee of the Year: Mike Guerin, McDonald’s Bristol & Wiltshire

Microbusiness Franchisee of the Year: Paul Stokes, Little Kickers Hitchin & Bedford

Cathryn Hayes, bfa head of business support and chair of the judging panel, commented, “The six winners are great ambassadors for the sector and an inspiration for anybody considering running their own business. Franchising has been life-changing for each of them and we’re proud to recognise their achievements.”

Sean Hammond of Express Newspapers added, “Though they operate in very different business sectors, our winners share in common an impressive drive to maximise their business performance. Their diversity is typical of the franchise sector and is something to be celebrated.”