Although I work with companies all over the UK, my office is based in Maidenhead, Berkshire and I volunteer with the local Chamber of Commerce. Maidenhead and Windsor are relatively small towns but our location in the Thames Valley and proximity to London and Heathrow means there is a hub of thriving businesses here. When I heard about the Maidenhead and Windsor Business Awards, I was keen to support them.

In this blog, I’m going to share more about the awards, how I supported them, and some tips if you’re looking for inspiration on corporate gift ideas or want to create your own branded merchandise for an event.

Introducing the 2018 Maidenhead and Windsor Business Awards

This year was the second year of the awards, and there were 15 categories ranging from ‘the best marketing campaign’ to ‘best company to work for’. What I love about the awards is that the entries vary from micro businesses to large global corporations like Three who are based here in Maidenhead. It’s such a varied business mix and a lively event on the night of the awards as everyone mingles. Nominations for the 2018 awards opened in April 2018 and in August a selection of businesses were notified that they had made the final cut. The awards ceremony was a red carpet event organised by Lime Blue Solutions and held at The Holiday Inn in Maidenhead on the 21st September.

Affinity Merchandise on every table

The Maidenhead and Windsor Business awards are supported by sponsorship from businesses based in the area. Being involved with the awards is an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of your own business, but also to meet other local businesses too.
Last year I coordinated the production of the winner’s plaques, but this year I felt that I wanted to do a little more. This was a brilliant opportunity to be in front of key people at a really well-organised event. In addition to the plaques, I decided to sponsor the table gifts that the 250 guests would see on their tables when they attended the awards night.
It was a fun experience, particularly as I knew the names of many of the finalists and had to keep things secret while we were working on the designs for the awards!

Winners trophy at Maidenhead and Windsor Business Awards

Choosing gifts for corporate event guests

There are often a variety of guests at corporate events ranging from corporate executives to company employees and your ideal gift should appeal to everyone.  To help the event organisers decide on the branded gifts they wanted to create for the table gifts for their guests, we had a brainstorming session where we shortlisted some ideas that worked within our budget. The events are a black tie event with a sit-down dinner, but guests are encouraged to stay and dance the night away after the awards.
We were keen to select something that was a bit of fun. One idea was to create ‘morning after kits’ as we knew there had been quite a few sore heads after last year’s event night, but they don’t have universal appeal: not all guests drink alcohol.
In the end, we decided on confectionery: a sweet treat that guests could eat themselves or take home for their children. We felt this fitted in well with the fun and enjoyable atmosphere that Lime Blue Solutions were aiming to create on the night.
Creating the awards was fairly straightforward as Lime Blue created a design and I was able to work with my manufacturers to select the right materials. We were keen for these to have a premium, ‘high end’ feel as that would make it more likely that winners would put them in pride of place in their office, but we also had a budget to work within.

Here’s what the event organisers thought about the awards and merchandise that we created:

“Affinity is a long trusted supplier of Lime Blue Solutions – we have successfully used their services for many of our clients’ events. Kate always goes above and beyond to source unique products to fit the brief. Therefore we had no hesitation in asking her to provide the award plaques for the Maidenhead and Windsor Business Awards. Kate has now provided these for the 2nd year in a row and many people have commented on how sleek and stylish they are – certainly something that the winners are proud to display in their workplaces. At this year’s awards dinner Affinity Merchandise sponsored the table favours too, providing retro-style sweets for each table place. They added a lovely touch to the dinner and proved a real hit with the guests as there were very few left at the end of the night! Kate, you never fail to deliver!”

Event Organiser Zoe from Lime Blue Solutions.


It will be all right on the night

When you have been working behind the scenes to help plan an event, it’s incredibly exciting when you get the chance to be there in person too. Especially as this meant I could see guests reactions to the products I had created!
I was on a table with My Workspot, who offer flexible office, desk, meeting and event space for the business community in Maidenhead to co-work and collaborate. Affinity are MyWorkSpot members and part of their co-working community so it was great to share a table with familiar faces on the award night. They were a finalist in the 2017 awards but scooped the winning prize in the ‘Business Start-Up category this year’.


“We were delighted to win Business Startup at this year’s awards, the event itself was brilliantly run and a great chance to meet other Maidenhead businesses, whilst celebrating the success of the previous year. More importantly for us, we managed to celebrate the awards by sharing a table with our members, who without, we would not be here today. The award itself is of great quality and looks fantastic therefore now sits pride of place on the MyWorkSpot reception”

William Balantyne Co-founder of My Work Spot.


I think we had a lucky table as a lady on our table also won the charity ‘heads or tails’ competition, which left her with an envelope of cash that, had been donated by other event guests. The rest went to the Chamber chosen charity.

We had a great evening!

Kate Smart from Affinity Merchandise with the team from My Workspot Maidenhead

How can you create memorable merchandise for your corporate event?

I’ve had a few people comment on the awards and the sweets at the event, so I thought it would help to share a bit more of my expertise to help you create the best promotional gifts for your event or corporate function.

Here are my top tips:

1. Take time to plan

Think hard about the reaction you want to create, what you want to achieve and what the lasting impression should be. The earlier you do this, the better: some items have longer lead times to produce than others.

2. How important is instant gratification?

Are you looking for an instant reaction with a feel-good factor or something that you want the recipient to keep and use?

3. Know your audience

Who is attending the event? Your audience is really important. If you don’t know much about them, then try to find out who attended last year, or who attends similar types of events.
If it was a technical award event we would have brainstormed different ideas, maybe the confectionery would still have been chosen, but it’s good to think about your audience.

4. Be budget savvy

Budget is critical: think about the best in class product you can create for the money you have to spend. Our budget wasn’t big, but the reaction was what we wanted, and they were well received. Often the mistake people make is to do the ‘table gift’ as an afterthought – a bit like wedding favours that you have to scoop off the tables at the end of the night. The devil is in the detail.

5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

It’s easy to think that a quick Google search will give you all of the options that you need, but the reality is that this can be an overwhelming process. Different manufacturers use different materials and have different lead times and production processes. I’ve had quite a few ‘emergency’ phone calls over the year where businesses have come unstuck trying to do it all themselves.
Events can be complicated to organise so this is one thing you can save time and stress by outsourcing, and my experience and contacts mean I can create merchandise at a very competitive price too.

If you’d like help with merchandise for an event or function that you’re organising, please give me a call or send me an email.