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Talent, inspiration and community contribution

Dorothy Foster heads up the jury at the Riviera Business Club awardsNomination season for the annual Riviera Business Club Business Person and Business Start-Up of the Year awards is in full swing. Riviera Insider caught up with Chair of the Jury Dorothy Foster to learn more about these prestigious awards and how entrepreneurs of the region can get involved. 

"I’ve known the founder of the Riviera Business Club, George Kasiliyake, for about 20 years,” says Dorothy. “Three years ago, he asked me if I’d like to get involved and chair the jury for the annual awards.”

The sophisticated business woman has been living in the French Riviera since 1989 - “I’d say I’m definitely a local now!” - and has worked across a range of sectors, but her career has a steadfast international bias.

“I’ve been a lecturer of economics and, in the 1990s, I was the director of the International School of Nice. I’ve worked on a range of international projects and now in my role at Skema Business School, I’m managing the executive MBA program. But I have also owned businesses, four in fact, which I have sold on - two in the UK and two in France - so I have a great admiration for anyone starting a business down here. You have to be very resilient to survive.

Last year’s Business Person of the Year was Paddy Nolan, who created the MaNolan’s pub chain in Nice and now in Cannes. He’s an absolute inspiration and a smart businessman, but he’s also very humble. I was talking about him recently, saying how well he had handled the pressure from the British press following the football matches in Nice,” she says.

“We’ll be accepting nominations for this year’s awards until roughly the end of September and then we’ll be moving on to the interviewing stage. Our jury panel is made up of some very busy people so it takes a lot of planning. Last year, we had around 20 nominees!”

The 2016 jury brings together business personalities from across a broad range of industries: Riviera Insider editor-in-chief Petra Hall, CCI Director of Ports Franck Dosne, marketing and publicity aficionado Sylvan Rouget, and hotelier extraordinaire Barbara Kimmig.

“Together, we have such a huge amount of business knowledge,” says Dorothy, “whether that’s experience in the hospitality industry, a background in economics and the financial markets or advertising and press. We are all consummate professionals and try to make the awards as fair and transparent as possible. My role as chair is non-voting. Instead, I welcome the applicant and oversee the judging and scoring. None of the jury members know the votes of the others - I’m handed their scores privately - not even George is aware of the winner until he opens the envelope and makes the announcement!”

Almost all nominations come from clients and people who have worked with the companies they put forward and, year-after-year, the Riviera Business Club awards demonstrate themselves to be totally international, totally gender neutral.

“We have a very strict criteria that we use to appraise each applicant,” explains Dorothy. “It’s not about money and how much the business owner is making (although we do request to see their accounts and financial performance). We like to see people who have had to struggle to achieve their goals, people who have had to overcome their difficulties and obstacles, and people who refuse to be defeated - that shows true test of character. We also consider how well they have analysed their market, how many employees they have and how they motivate their staff, their personal and corporate impact in the local community, and how environmentally aware they are. Of course, the winner receives their award and the attached accolades, but all of our nominees have a short biography/report created and Petra Hall writes a profile, which is included in the programme. We have so many great entrants and nominees that it is often very difficult to pick a winner - some years, we could have two or three - so I like that we are able to give those that miss out some extra publicity. It’s a kind of ‘scaffolding’ that takes place at the events. We have some very high profile business personalities in attendance so the awards are a wonderful place for networking. It’s not a sales pitch, but it’s a good opportunity to introduce yourself and your business!”

You can place your nominations for an entrepreneur in the French Riviera directly with the Riviera Business Club and the awards ceremony will be taking place in early December (final date as yet to be announced). 