Kigu – the animal onesie costume company – has been crowned Britain’s brightest, savviest and most disruptive small business by and 02 at an exclusive awards ceremony last night at Inc Club at the O2 Arena in Greenwich.

As the 2012 Smarta 100 Business of the Year, Kigu was awarded the overall cash prize of £10,000 courtesy of 02. The winner fought off stiff competition with over 30,000 individuals voting for their favourite small business.

Kigu was launched in 2009 by best friends Thomas Cohn and Nicholas Harriman after they spotted the kigurami  (Japanese animal onesie) wearing craze taking off in Tokyo. Kigu became the first company to sell these quirky outfits in the western world and have won an army of celebrity fans including Lily Allen, Florence Welch and Arctic Monkey’s singer Alex Turner. The onesie phenomenon has seen Kigu defy the recession and double its turnover in the last twelvemonths. More success is expected next year as Kigu continues its remarkablegrowth with the launch of Kigu Australia.

The Smarta 100 is the ultimate list of Britain’s best small businesses, chosen last month by an all-star panel of judges including Theo Paphitis, star of Dragons’ Den and founder of Ryman; Rowan Gormley, founder of Naked Wines and previous winner of the Smarta 100; and Thea Green MBE, founder of Nails Inc.

The awards ceremony, which took place on Thursday 8 November, also saw six special awards presented for the Smarta 100 companies deemed by the judges to be the best, in the categories of:

  • Innovation – Ecoegg
  • Technology – Funding Circle
  • Social Impact – Belu
  • Resources – Mask-arade
  • Marketing – MediaDevil
  • People – Livity

Tom Cohn, Founder and Director of Kigu, said: “We’re stunned and overjoyed at winning the Smarta 100. It’s the cherry on the cake of a fantastic year for Kigu and we can’t wait to bring out more new products and throw loads more parties in 2013! I’d like to thank everyone who voted for us and Smarta for getting together so many inspiring business owners under one roof. What a great night!”

Theo Paphitis, TV Dragon and Chairman of Ryman Stationery, Robert Dyas and the Boux Avenue lingerie brand, said: “This is the year of the Onesie, which makes Nick and Tom at Kigu very well deserved winners! They’ve got a simple, good quality product that’s caught the mood of the moment, appealing to the kid in all of us. The business owners have used social media and celebrity endorsement to shift impressive units resulting in record financials that many wouldn’t have thought possible. It’s great that Kigu are the Smarta 100 Business of the Year and I hear that their dragon costumes are one of their best sellers!”

Shàà Wasmund, Smarta Founder, said: “I am overjoyed that this year saw more entries and votes than ever before andKigu is truly deserving of the prize. I would also like to congratulate thewinners of the six special awards, who demonstrate the variety of entrants we had this year. I know with so many exciting, dynamic entries it was an extremely tough decision for the judges and it is fantastic that so many people have been voting for their favourite firm. This competition has really showcased how small businesses and entrepreneurs can thrive in the UK.”

Ben Dowd, Business Director at O2, said: “We at O2 believe that small businesses are the backbone of our economy. The Smarta 100 initiative recognises those small business owners that are working hard to make their venture a success, and helping them along the way. It has been a fantastic experience to partner with Smarta, be part of the judging process and see some of the most innovative small businesses in the UK today.

“Kigu really stood out as a business that is pioneering new ideas and really making a difference despite the difficult economy. They are very worthy winners of agreat prize, and I look forward to seeing how they progress in the future.”

The judges

Theo Paphitis (Ryman and Dragons’ Den), Sháá Wasmund (Smarta), Ben Dowd (O2 UK), Rowan Gormley (Naked Wines), Mike Soutar (ShortList Media), Thea Green (Nails  inc) and Alastair Lukies (Monitise)

About Smarta

Smarta is the UK’s largest leading news, tools and advice resource for small business owners. Smarta recently launched Smarta Business Builder, an online toolkit offering accounts, website, email, legal docs and business planning software from a single webpage from £20 a month.

Smarta was founded by Shaa Wasmund and is backed by some of the UK’s top entrepreneurs, including Deborah Meaden, Theo Paphitis, Michael Birch and Sir Richard Needham. At the heart of everything we do is a commitment to encourage more people to start and grow successful businesses.

Smarta is supported by RBS, Intuit, NatWest, Viking and Mishcon de Reya.

Discover more business stories and view the full 100 here:

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