As you may now be aware, the winners event for the 2014 National Fenestration Awards is now just under two weeks away. I don’t normally speak about the NFAs too much on here, mainly to keep the brands separate and make sure there is no confusion between the two. But as the big day creeps up, I want to take a moment with you all to look at just how far these awards have come in a little over two years.

A standing start

As you may or may not know, the idea for the NFAs was developed and brought to fruition by myself and Nick. The NFAs had their full outing at the start of 2013. We had no idea if it would work. The theory was behind it, and some initial support on social media suggested that if we got past the first few months of the year, then perhaps this thing might actually work.

But we faced a challenge. We didn’t have a media group or another company to fund this. We didn’t have a lump sum of money to throw at it and make it work. Everything was done on a shoestring and out of our own pockets. This was at a time when the UK was still in recession and business in general was poor. I guess looking back it was a bit of a risk putting so much time and effort into something that could have ultimately failed. But we’d already created the rod for our own backs, so we had to follow this through to see what the outcome would be.

Thankfully people seemed to be warming to the idea. We weren’t without our critics though, and there were plenty of them. Even the spoof DGB Twitter account @glazingblagger weighed in with his/her sarcastic comments. We faced trying to break through a very thick and long established status quo and loyalties. But that had never been something we had been worried about before. So on we worked, trying to prove to the industry that there was another way to award our best and brightest.

Growing pains

As you would come to expect from a new venture, the learning curve was steep and the growing pains painful. We were both learning a new craft and some things we were getting right and some things we were getting wrong. You may remember a quite major debate/argument involving a nominee and whether they should have been allowed to be part of the NFAs in 2013. In the end I think we handled that badly. Worse, we lost contact with people we previously saw as friends, at least on social media. Regrettably for a few involved in that debate things were never the same again, and I haven’t spoken with them since.

We managed to move on from there and put that behind us. As the year progressed we gradually built up the support. The registrations were starting to flow in and so were the nominations. We were actually starting to believe that this thing could work!

Parting of ways and a new partnership

Sadly during 2013, Nick and I parted ways. He left to pursue a new direction in his career. He felt he couldn’t carry on dedicating time to the awards. Since he left I’m sad to say that we’re no longer on speaking terms. A situation that I did not want.

Still, can’t wallow. It was at this point that Lee Clarke and MyTradeTV came on board. I had known Lee for a couple of years already and had seen him do a great job of building up MyTradeTV from scratch, just as we had done. He brought to the NFAs a level of experience I didn’t have. As well as a wealth of extra tools to help boost the NFAs from scrappy start-up to a more polished and organised outfit.

After the first year’s winners were announced, to a very positive fanfare I might add, we got our heads together and planned a way to make 2014 the year that the industry saw the NFAs as a genuine awards scheme and that the industry simply had to sit up and take notice.

This meant a brand new, much better website. Plenty of late nights, frustration and bags under the eyes. But it was worth it, the current NFA site was so much better than our first attempt! Easier to navigate, easier to nominate, easier to vote. A million times better. We even started to get some big sponsors on board. GQA Qualifications were the first major name to put some serious funding behind the awards. We also had a range of smaller packages that other companies took which were just as vital. The NFAs had to start making enough money to grow properly, fund some marketing and put on an event for the 2014 winners. If the industry was going to take us seriously, we had to put forward something tangible for potential sponsors to get excited about.

A booming second year

Our plans seemed to be working. Our now regular monthly videos featured interviews with myself (reluctantly!), Lee, we had our brilliant presenter Michelle do a few too. Registered users to the NFA website were flooding in at rates we could hardly believe. Nominations were well up on 2013 levels. We had also secure the sponsorship required to be able to put on the 2014 winners event about to be held in just under a fortnight. The VEKA UK Group came on board as a second main event sponsor, and Liniar got on board with us with the Cool Wall all the way up until the end of 2016. If we wanted a sign the industry believed in the NFAs, this was it!

Before we knew it, we were approaching the end of our second year. We had more categories to award winners to than our first year. Nominations were well up on 2013, and the number of votes cast were up a staggering 300%. The engagement from the industry had been immense. This was helped by the major role that Windowbase had played. They joined the awards halfway through the year, and it was our partnership with them that helped the NFAs gain exposure to the whole industry. Something we’d always have to achieve if the awards were really going to work.

I look back on 2014 as the year the industry looked at the NFAs seriously, accepted they were here to stay. We had managed to break down those barriers. The people who said it wouldn’t work. The people who looked at the awards as a bit of a joke.

Year three

Here we are, sailing through the first part of nominations in year three. From starting from absolute zero. No cash. No backing. No confidence from the industry. We have managed to create from scratch an awards scheme that the industry has genuinely got on board with. We even have Window Ware as an early main event sponsor for this year’s winners!

We have managed to prove everyone wrong. We have managed to prove to all those who said it wouldn’t work that it has, and that not only does it work, but continues to grow at a fast pace. We have an awards that people and companies are excited to be about. An event to crown the winners of the 2014 competition. As we draw nearer to that event, it is only just starting to dawn on myself and the rest of the team quite what we have achieved. When very few gave us a chance, we pulled it off, and have managed to build something myself and the whole NFA team are immensely proud of.

I want to thank every single company and person that has given support to the National Fenestration Awards, be it financial, social media or physical participation. Your support has made this work, and for that I am immeasurably grateful. I hope that we can all continue to work long into the future.

To all those who said it wouldn’t work or tried quietly to scupper it, you failed. The NFAs are doing great things for a great industry. It’s time you got on board!

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