'Award is icing on cake after securing big deal'
It was certainly a memorable day for Richard Freeman.
Hours after securing a major contract, he was named the Leicester Mercury's Business Executive of the Year at a glittering awards ceremony.
Mr Freeman, managing director of hi-tech firm Zeeko, received the prestigious award, sponsored by the University of Leicester, in front of his new customers, who were his guests for the evening, at Leicester City's King Power Stadium.
Mr Freeman said: "This is just a wonderful bit of icing on the cake.
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"It was great to have so much of the Zeeko team here to celebrate with us.
"Success is built on team work and your relationship with your customers."
Mr Freeman clinched the award at Thursday's ceremony after going head-to-head with Niki McMorrough, of Made by Niki, and Justin Stead, of Aurum Holdings, winners of the small and large firm categories.
He had already picked up the executive award for a medium-sized company earlier in the evening.
The awards event was attended by around 300 business leaders, including directors of some of Leicestershire's biggest and best-performing companies.
Coalville-based Zeeko has seen turnover double every two years since Mr Freeman, a mechanical engineer, set up the business in partnership with Professor David Walker, an academic at University College London.
The pair founded the business in 2000 after coming up with machines which made precision lenses for space and land-based telescopes.
Zeeko now employs about 50 people on Hermitage Industrial Estate, Coalville and ships the machines all over the world.
They are used by Nasa, space programmes in Japan and emerging markets such as India and China, to name but a few.
Last year, the company won a Queen's Award for Innovation after it developed a fabrication centre which allows lenses to be made more accurately and quickly. The company has a turnover of around £9 million.
Zeeko has been keen to relocate to a purpose-built factory in Leicester Science Park, off Abbey Lane. However, the development has been delayed.
The relocation would create more skilled jobs and allow the firm to build more of its large machines.
After receiving the award, Mr Freeman paid tribute to two staff members currently battling serious ill health.