Recognising exceptional achievement or service
Case Study: Penny Streeter OBE
Penny Streeter OBE
Entrepreneur Penny Streeter was awarded an OBE for services to women's
enterprise and business. In 1996, she set up Ambition 24hours, a temporary
employment agency that now boasts a turnover of £60 million. With just her
mother to help her, Penny, a single mother of four, started the business
without outside investors or bank lenders and worked as a children's
entertainer at weekends. Today the company has 19 branch offices, nearly
200 office staff and 13,500 personnel on its books.
Why do you think you were given an OBE?
'The success of my business - I'm one of a quite rare breed of
entrepreneurial females. The business has seen a dramatic rise from
literally nothing to a large company, nine years later.'
What sort of challenges did you face?
'I had everything against me - I had three children at the time and no
money. What my story says is that it's possible that anyone can be
successful if they set their mind to it. Women aren't particularly
encouraged to go into business - it's still very much a man's
world. My story shows it can be done, and done efficiently.'
What motivated you to try?
'You can make numerous excuses of why you can't do things but there
are opportunities around everything. If you're passionate and
determined to do something, I think enough people - family and friends -
will help you. I had the responsibility of being a mother with three
children initially, then four - they're a large driver in this sort of
thing. My mother started the business with me; one of the key reasons is
that she shared the childcare with me.'
What are you most proud of?
'I'm proud of not only hitting upon a successful business model
that was able to grow, but that I've been able to maintain that growth.
As a business grows, you have all the different pressures and challenges
and it gets more and more cutthroat. We were able to adapt and change with
that kind of environment efficiently.'
Would you have believed anyone who told you back then you'd receive an
'No, I'd have thought they were absolutely stark-raving mad! It is
an enormous honour for me. I consider myself an ordinary person and always
thought of the honours list as nice, ordinary people do - you know it's
there and we all look at it and read about it but you never think
you'll achieve it!'
What does receiving an OBE mean to you?
'Hopefully, it will be helpful to my business - it does command a huge
amount of respect. I had always very much associated an OBE with someone
who's really achieved something special.'
How did you manage raising your children while starting a business?
'It was enormously challenging and what made it worse is that we're
a 24/7 organisation - one of the first agencies to do so. And it was very
small, which effectively meant it was me on the phone! Running a business
that never closed with three small children made a huge impact on them,
too. They'd see me answering the phone all the time - my daughter even
had a plastic toy telephone to copy her mother! It's been difficult but
you have to juggle it. I'm very lucky that I'm in business with my
mother and she's been very supportive.'
How did you find out you were to receive an OBE?
'It was quite interesting! I didn't receive the initial letter they
sent out to me. I was in the midst of an intense board meeting and took a
call on my mobile. It was from Downing Street to say I hadn't returned
the form they'd sent about it! I said I didn't know what they were
talking about - I very nearly lost out!'
How have colleagues responded?
'They have been enormous amount of support from staff, they're
very, very proud of me and I've had loads of emails from left, right
and centre. It really has been incredible.'