Sarah is the businesswoman of the year


Sarah Dunwell is Forward Ladies' first Business Woman of the Year.  She beat off eight other regional business women to take the title at The Met Hotel in Leeds on Friday.

Sarah is chief executive officer of the Create Foundation – a social enterprise which has created 44 new jobs and 20 volunteering opportunities.  It supports 29 vulnerable people with full-time permanent work, 20 within the business and nine within other local companies.

They provide high quality outside catering, learning food hygiene, catering and customer service skills.  They also run Café Create in Leeds and Bradford, staff a “Found by Create” vintage clothes shop and dress agency, and FareShare West Yorkshire which redistributes surplus food from producers and retailers to feed vulnerable people.

Sarah left school at 16 and ran a successful catering business until founding CREATE in 2007 which provides jobs for people with a history of homelessness and rough sleeping.

Many of their staff came to CREATE with backgrounds which made it difficult for them to find jobs, but with the skills they gain at CREATE, it helps them to move into work with other employers.

For every £1 which is invested in the CREATE Foundation, it produces £7.51 worth of social benefits, including savings on welfare benefits, reduced costs to the NHS, criminal justice system, and the health and environmental benefits of FareShare.  They have also redistributed more than 186 tonnes of surplus food, and provided more than 444,000 meals for vulnerable people, while reducing CO2 emissions by more than 1000 tonnes.

Sarah also won the Not-for Profit business woman of the year, sponsored by East Coast. The judges said of her: “Her entrepreneurial mind-set has been key to developing her company and diversifying it. The different arms of the business make enough profit to ensure that the business is sustainable and profits are put directly back into the business - which trains individuals and puts them back into the world of employment and into society. It is a social enterprise that proves profit is not a dirty word, but is in fact essential for the social enterprise to maintain its good work within the community.

The judges also gave a special mention to Claire Morley-Jones of HR180° who was the Home-Based Business Woman of the Year, sponsored by Hobbs, who came in a very close runner up.

Claire was told by a male competitor that her business would fail.  Determined to prove him wrong, she has gone on to establish Yorkshire’s fastest growing HR consultancy from her home in Aberford.

Starting with just £2,000 working capital and three clients, she has built HR180° into a nine-strong team in the space of four years, almost doubling turnover and personnel in the past 12 months, despite the recession.

Her flexible approach to working has allowed her to secure high calibre candidates – all her staff is experienced, choosing to work for the company over competitors and higher salaries due to its innovative working structure.  Many are mothers working from home, allowing them to balance both work and home life while still maintaining a professional career.

Etta Cohen founder of Forward Ladies paid tribute to the thousands of businesswomen in the region, who are playing an active role within businesses, or who are running their own companies, and contributing to the success of the regional economy.

She said: “We are celebrating the success of our worthy winners, but we were overwhelmed by the response to these first awards.  Women play a key role in business and industry, as well as bringing up families and we wanted to celebrate their considerable achievements.  All the entrants deserve to be congratulated.”

Other title winners were:

Innovative Business Woman of the Year sponsored by O2:
Ann Harding is a founding director of the industrial provident society, Settle Hydro, which is one of the first community benefit hydro electricity companies in the country.  Settle Hydro delivers around 185,000KWH of electricity to the national grid from a weir on the River Weir.

Ann’s “day” job is as project manager for the creation and development of the National Dry Stone Walling Exhibition and Training Centre at Craven College.

Manufacturing Business Woman of the Year sponsored by the Yorkshire and Humber Manufacturing Advisory Service:
Sue Taylor, Managing Director of Craftwork Cards based in Leeds, caught the card making bug while working in a stationery shop.  With a background in graphic design and print, she spotted an opportunity in this niche market for supplying ideas and raw material for hobby card-makers to make their own bespoke designs.

Last year, TV shopping channel QVC approached her to supply their viewers with card-making ideas and kits.  The first kits went on air last autumn and sold out within seconds.  TV exposure and increased orders have increased turnover by 40%.

International Business Woman of the Year sponsored by HSBC:
Stephanie Thomson is Global Production Director for Authentix,  based in Dunnington, York, and is a global leader in product authentication, providing world class technology to detect and prevent counterfeiting and smuggling.

The company’s authentication and tracking solutions safeguard consumers from harmful products and prevents corporate and government revenues being lost to illegal activities such as drug trafficking and terrorism.  Clients include Fortune 500 companies and national governments, and they have recovered more than £5million in lost revenues in the oil, gas, pharmaceutical, agrochemical, tobacco, spirits and consumer goods industries.

She is developing standard operating procedures and specifications for third party manufacturers in Brazil, Kenya and Malaysia, to further improve service to clients.

Young Business Woman of the Year sponsored by Business Link:
Ella Gascoigne of Startup PR is the former head of PR for a London publishing company which worked with entrepreneurs including author Rachel Elnaugh.  She was made redundant in 2008, but decided to move back to Harrogate for a better lifestyle.

She contacted all the small business owners she knew to research the market for PR opportunities.  That convinced her to set up Startup PR for small and medium businesses.  She recently set up Business Ladies around Harrogate (BLaH), a support network and social forum for businesswomen to overcome challenges faced by female sole traders.

Start-Up Business Woman of the Year sponsored by the Yorkshire Post:
Jill Thomas established her Sheffield business, Future Life Wealth Management, to provide a bespoke financial planning to individuals, SMEs and inheritors of wealth, after thirty years in the financial service sector – the last 14 as a financial planner.

Her company organises clients’ family affairs from the cradle to grave, creating wealth and mitigating taxation.  She has invested in highly experienced and professional staff and within 12 months will have achieved chartered accreditation – one of only 300 firms with this status in the UK.

Technology Business Woman of the Year sponsored by Science City, York:
Carolyn Pearson from Leeds, took redundancy to set up, a social network aimed at corporate female business travellers.  The free, secure site is used globally by professional women to enable them to connect up and meet for dinner or social engagement whilst away on business. All members are personally contacted to ensure safety and security, while the site provides regularly updated travel safety tips, editorial and female-friendly hotel information.

Corporate Business Woman of the Year sponsored by Bibi’s Italianissimo:
Vicki Davenport is the sales and commercial director of The Pink Link, which in the past five years has achieved consistent and controlled growth. She is a seasoned transport professional, having worked for various parcel distribution companies.

She became sales manager for her father’s company – which he had bought for £1 but with £250K worth of debt.  Their combined skills put them back into the black and the company was renamed The Pink Link in 1998. Together with her brother Richard, who also joined the company, they now employ 22 members of staff and 17 drivers.

For further information relating to this news release, please contact Forward Ladies on 07850 725793.

Forward Ladies:

  • Forward Ladies was founded by Etta Cohen with a handful of women who met to find mutually beneficial ways of working together.  It is now the north’s largest women’s business organisation with a  commitment to encouraging greater levels of female entrepreneurship.
  • The network runs approximately 300 events a year, offers mentoring support to members, and provides opportunities to inspire and encourage women in their professional life.

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