A "TREECHANGE" led Andrew Mason from Sydney to Morpeth a decade ago.
He traded in his life as the CEO of a multinational company and, together with his wife and business partner Suzanne, founded Uaine Candles in 2015.
So why candles?
The business originally began as a gallery of Mason's photographic work with a gift shop attached but when they began sourcing candles to stock in the store, they discovered a gap in the market for clean, safe and healthy candles.
"That started the process where we are now," Mr Mason explains.
"We found some but everywhere we went, we were disappointed with the quality of the candles.
"Ultimately we decided that the best thing to do would be to make our own."
Uaine (which translates to "green and verdant" in Gaelic) Candles are manufactured on Swan Street in Morpeth, which is also the location of their cellar door experience.
Customers are encouraged to explore the fragrant range of candles, reed diffusers and melts, and discover the difference between Uaine Candles (made with 100% soy wax) and most other candles which are, typically, a soy blend with paraffin wax.
Uaine Candles contain no chemicals or additives and are made with all-natural fragrances.
"Our candles are cleaner, safer and healthier than other candles," he said.
"Most candles out there are far from safe and healthy, and they certainly burn with a lot of soot and such that is unsightly and harmful.
"We decided we would make clean-burning candles which would not have all the toxins that are normally pushed out by standard candles."
It is this point of difference that has allowed the business to grow since its inception seven years ago.
In 2016, Uaine Candles expanded with an online store that ships Australia-wide and internationally.
Uaine Candles was named winner in the General Business category at the 2021 Hunter Region Business Excellence Awards in Maitland earlier this month, an accolade which Mr Mason described as a win for the Morpeth community.
"Overall, for us, it is recognition of the hard work of ourselves and our wonderful team,' he said.
"Secondly, it helps us increase our awareness about ourselves, particularly in the Hunter Valley.
"We are a tourist drawcard and, increasingly, we are becoming a destination location, so an award like this not only helps us but will also help Morpeth.
"Like many, Morpeth has done it hard through Covid so we hope this can help the other businesses get people to Morpeth because the more people that come, the more Morpeth will grow and prosper."
MOBILE gymnastics club Gymnastics 21 has taken out the top award for Business of the Year at the 27th Hunter Region Business Excellence Awards.
In addition to walking away with the event's major award, Gymnastics 21 owner Samantha Nichols and her team took out the Health Services category during the gala event held at Club Maitland City on March 11.
"To win the Business Awards is like getting the spotlight to shine on us," Ms Nichols said.
"We work hard every day, we are a passionate team of people who care about every single child who walks through our doors so to be celebrated is like a big pat on the back and a moment of pride for us.
"The recognition then flows into other things like building trust and inspiration for future customers and staff members."
Ms Nichols was 21 years old when she took the plunge into business ownership five years ago to establish Gymnastics 21.
The gymnasium started with 20 students attending classes two days a week in Thornton and now has 280 students enrolled in classes held across locations in Rutherford, Salt Ash and Thornton.
"I found after managing other gymnastics centres in the region that my ideas kept getting dismissed and I was told 'It's best if we just keep things the way they are'," she said.
"I thought 'Forget this, I can do this on my own', so I did.
"All I wanted was more kids in the community to experience the emotional benefits of gymnastics as I know from my own experience, those lessons can save your life."
The business is fully equipped as a mobile gymnastics club with programs that are tailor-made to suit every child's ability.
Gymnastics 21 is built from Nichols' life-long passion for gymnastics which she shares with the other coaches who are each dedicated to helping develop children's fundamentals for life.
"We offer a safe space for children to come and challenge their inner beliefs and learn more about developing a growth mindset through our recreational gymnastics programs," Ms Nichols said.
"Our business is all about nurturing the emotional growth of each individual, not just the gymnastics skills.
"We have seen a high rate of students who have been with us for years gain leadership roles at school and are actively contributing in the community.
"This is more than just gymnastics, this is life skills."
Watching her students develop and grow is the biggest reward.
"There's nothing more I love than seeing the transformation in children who may of been shy or anxious when starting and blossomed into confident and vibrant individuals," she said.
BUSINESS owners across the region are celebrating after the 27th Hunter Region Business Excellence Awards 2021 were held in Maitland earlier this month.
Hosted by the Hunter Region Business Hub, the event honoured excellence in business in the Hunter region across 12 general business categories along with major awards including Business of the Year, Business Leader of the Year, Business Woman of the Year and Young Entrepreneur of the Year.
A total of 61 finalists were nominated for awards at the event which made a long-awaited return to Club Maitland City on March 11 with 160 people in attendance.
The awards were last held in 2019 after the 2020 event was cancelled and last year's was postponed twice due to COVID-19.
Established in 1992, The Hunter Region Business Hub is a leading not-for-profit business service organisation that provides professional services and support to local businesses both big and small.
The winners of the 2021 Hunter Region Business Excellence Awards were: