International Women’s Day is celebrated every year on March 8.
The annual event aims to celebrate women’s achievements and underpins a movement campaigning for gender equality.
To mark the occasion, the BusinessLive team have been taking a look at some of the most inspirational business leaders from across the UK – from senior executives, self-made millionaires and those representing business at the highest levels.
It has been 46 years since International Women’s Day was celebrated for the first time by the United Nations, so we have pulled together an alphabetical list of 46 deserving business women from across England, Scotland and Wales.
Left someone out? Why not let us know in the comments section.
Dame Margaret Barbour
The famous waxed jacket company has become a globally renowned brand under the leadership of Dame Margaret.
She was appointed to the board of directors in 1968, giving up a fledgling career in teaching, following the sudden death of her husband John Barbour.
Five years later she became chairman and has led the company through some of the most exciting times in its history.
The company now sells in more than 20 countries with fans including everyone from the Royal Family and James Bond – who wore a jacket in Skyfall – to Sam Fender.
Dame Margaret’s work behind the scenes is making a huge impact within the community, in 1988 she set-up the Barbour Foundation, which to date has made more than £20m in grants, mainly to North East charities and projects.
Recently appointed to lead the estates arm of Hull-based Sewell Group, Jo Barnes has taken a top role in a family firm having joined more than a decade in the business.
She leads on the Yorkshire Energy Park development that promises to deliver major employment prospects in the Humber as well as the firm’s diverse interests in all things property – from construction to the date behind public service provision.
From Lancashire, via Newcastle, she has worked in Hull for 20 years – first in regeneration – a key passion she still serves in the elevated MD position.
One of the most prominent and respected women in sport, Denise Barrett-Baxendale MBE is CEO of Everton Football Club.
She arrived at the Premier League club in January 2010 to develop and lead the club charity Everton in the Community, before progressing through the ranks.
Since 2016, the Everton CEO has also served as a board member for Sport England – the only representative from the world of football appointed to the Board of the national body for grassroots sports.
In 2019, she was named chair of a commission to develop plans for a new railway station in Liverpool, and last year, joined ‘C-19 Business Pledge’ – a national steering group aiming to harness the collective power of business as a force for good in tackling the pandemic.
Most recently, she oversaw the club’s application for its new stadium at Bramley-Moore Dock in a move set to create thousands of jobs for the area and £1.4bn for the local economy.
Louise Bennett has been chief executive of Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber since 2003 and was awarded an OBE for services to enterprise in 2007.
She has a strong interest in youth entrepreneurship and has led the Midlands Young Persons Centre of Expertise for Youth Enterprise.
She began her career in retail before moving into healthcare and is a qualified counsellor and physiotherapist and a qualified Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development practitioner. She is also an approved foster carer and was appointed Deputy Lieutenant of the West Midlands in 2014.
Kirsty Bertarelli is the youngest daughter of a businessman who co-owned Stoke-on-Trent pottery firm Churchill China.
At the age of 17, Kirsty embarked on a modelling career and went on to be crowned Miss UK and second place runner-up for the Miss World pageant.
She then set her sights on the music industry and was signed to Warner Records and began writing music professionally.
In 2000, she married Swiss pharmaceuticals entrepreneur Ernesto Bertarelli and, in the same year, had a number one single with ‘Black Coffee’ – a song she co-wrote with the girl band All Saints.
Kirsty and Ernesto’s family fortune is estimated at around £10 billion – making her the fourth richest woman in the UK.
Anne Boden founded mobile-only bank Starling in 2014 after a 30-year career in the industry working for giants including Lloyds Banking Group, Allied Irish and the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The Swansea-born businesswoman, who is also a trained computer scientist, said she saw the potential for digital technology to revolutionise the way people and small businesses bank earlier than the rest of the industry.
Starling has since raised £363m in backing and has been voted Best British Bank three times.
Anne also sits on the board of UK Finance and is an adviser to the Board of Trade. She was awarded an MBE for services to financial technology in 2018.
Emma Bridgewater set-up Stoke-on-Trent pottery company, Emma Bridgewater Ltd, in 1985 – and has played a massive part in reviving the fortunes of the city’s ceramic industry.
Emma – who now lives in Norfolk – launched the business after struggling to find the right gift for her mother’s birthday and has become well-known for her striking, colourful designs.
Today the £20m company – which employs more than 350 people in Stoke-on-Trent and London – produces more than 44,000 pieces of handmade, hand-decorated pottery from a renovated 19th century factory in Hanley.
Emma Bridgewater’s products are sold online and via its own stores as well as through its wholesale network of more than 500 independent stockists and larger retailers including John Lewis and Liberty London.
Along with husband Andrew, Christina Brownsword is among the richest people in the South West – the couple being worth an eye-popping £295m.
The pair own Devon’s five-star manor Gidleigh Park alongside other premium hotels in their impressive portfolio.
Their 13 hotels includes The Bath Priory; 900 year-old Amberley Castle in West Sussex; five Cotswold properties including, The Slaughters Manor House, The Slaughters Country Inn, Buckland Manor, Minster Mill and the Old Swan; plus stylish London pied à terre, Sydney House Chelsea.
The couple’s wealth stems from the sale of a greetings card business to US giant Hallmark for £165m in 1994 and then the off-loading of sports retailer Snow and Rock for £50m in 2010.
PR agency McCann Manchester announced the hiring of Karen Buchanan as its new chief executive in 2018, replacing long-standing boss, Sue Little.
She took on the role in the following year, working closely with Little, who now chairs the agency.
The agency, under her leadership, has won a number of industry gongs, including two PRCA DARE Awards, for its work with Warner Leisure Hotels and Aber Falls Distillery, and eight at The Drum’s annual Roses Creative Awards.
It was also recognised by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) with a Gold Standard accreditation for the fifth time.
McCann Manchester was also selected in 2020 by Matalan as its strategic and creative brand agency.
Marti Burgess is a Bristol-based lawyer and entrepreneur, who has been advising SMEs on corporate and commercial law for more than 20 years.
She is currently a partner at national law firm Bevan Brittan and also co-owns Bristol nightclub and music venue Lakota, which she bought with her brother in 1994 – although she no longer has any day-to-day responsibilities.
Marti also sits on the board of Bristol Cultural Development Partnership and the Bristol City Council’s Economy Board where she represents ‘Bristol @ Night’ – an advisory panel set up to bring together people working in the city’s night time economy.
She is also the chair of St Pauls Carnival CIC and the Black South West Network – a black-led infrastructure organisation that has worked extensively with black and minority ethnic communities across the South West.
In 2020, she was appointed first black member of Bristol’s Society of Merchant Venturers – an organisation which has been at the heart of Bristol’s life, business and education for centuries.
Ex-banker turned entrepreneur Jenny Campbell describes herself as an ‘ordinary girl from Manchester who happened to achieve some extraordinary things.’
The mother-of-two spent most of her life in the banking industry working for RBS, before becoming an entrepreneur and buying its ATM division YourCash in 2010.
After selling the business for £50m, the mother-of-two secured a seat as an investor on BBC show Dragons Den.
The 59-year-old’s investments include energy switching service Look After My Bills and drinks brand Didsbury Gin.
Today she is a formidable businesswoman, a self-confessed angel investor and reportedly has an estimated net worth of around £24m.
Denise Coates CBE
Denise Coates risked everything when she took out a £15m loan from RBS to launch bet365 from a portable cabin in a car park in 2001.
Four years later, the new venture was so successful that she sold that chain of high street shops to Coral for £40m and shifted her focus to the online betting business.
Now bet365, based in Stoke-on-Trent, is a multi-billion pound business which employs more than 5,000 people in the UK.
And Denise – along with her brother John and father Peter – are estimated to be worth a massive £7.1 billion.
Today she is one of the wealthiest women in the UK, with an annual pay packet of around £330m.
With vast experience overseeing major projects in leisure and finance and 15 years as managing director of the award-winning Eden Project in Cornwall, Gaynor Coley was appointed to chair the board of surf sports complex The Wave near Bristol in 2018.
With the Wave forced to temporarily close during three national lockdowns, its chief executive Craig Stoddart said in February that the completion of a refinance deal in October 2020 that secured the future of the facility “would not have been possible” without Ms Coley’s insight and support.
The Welsh businesswoman’s efforts were recently recognised with a nomination in the private/private equity backed category at the prestigious Non-Executive Director Awards.
The founder of Crafter’s Companion was still at York University when she launched her successful business with a product called The Enveloper – a simple tool that could create bespoke envelopes for handmade cards.
Jump forward to 2021 and the firm sells all manner of paper craft products and has a base in the US, several UK retail stores, its own TV studios and TV channel, a hugely successful online business and customers in more than 40 countries.
Since 2019, she has been on the panel of hugely successful BBC series Dragons’ Den, the youngest entrepreneur on the panel too.
She is also a fierce advocate of women in business, helping them with support and guidance as part of her mentoring role with the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. She was appointed MBE in the 2016 New Year Honours for services to the economy and has won numerous awards over the years.
Susan took the top role at Pennon Group in 2020 after a 13-year tenure as Chief Finance Officer where she oversaw the sale of Pennon’s waste management arm Viridor to Planets UK Bidco in a £4.2billion deal.
She is one of just seven women who leads a FTSE 100 company and one of just four in the FTSE350 who also has the role of chairman.
Chairman of CBI South West council, she is an advocate for business growth in the region.
She said that for women in business It’s not just about mentoring – it’s about actively promoting. Support within organisations is key to female representation at the top.
Jacqueline de Rojas CBE
Jacqueline has been described as the UK’s most influential woman in IT.
She is president of techUK and chair of the board of digital leaders.
The former CEO of software giant Sage, Folkestone-born Jacqueline has worked for a number of blue chip tech firms and also serves as non-executive director on the boards of Rightmove, Costain Group and FDM, and was formally on the board of AO World.
She also supports the Government of the United Kingdom in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and is a campaigner for increased cultural diversity in technology.
Nagma is commercial director at family firm Prima Cheese, which grates hundreds of tons of cheddar and mozzarella cheese a week for sale to wholesalers that supply restaurants and takeaway chains.
She joined the business with a mission to focus on exports in 2005, after running and selling her own restaurant.
The County Durham firm now turns over more than £69m, with exports accounting for 21%.
Nagma is also chair of a North East England Chamber of Commerce commission launched to investigate racial inequalities in the region’s business community. She also recently featured in the first list of 101 influential people from the North’s Asian communities.
The registered nurse who oversaw the setting up of London’s Nightingale hospital was appointed to oversee construction of 11 new hospitals in the South West in early 2021.
Natalie Forrest did this alongside her role as chief executive of Chase Farm Hospital, in North London, where she successfully led operational and clinical teams to design an innovative and ground-breaking new hospital, delivered to time, on budget and without interrupting services.
She will oversee the construction of three hospitals in Devon, one in Cornwall, two in Somerset and five in Dorset, as part of a national 40-hospital package worth £3.7billion.
Liv Garfield has been chief executive of Coventry-based Severn Trent Water since 2014. She joined BT Group in 2002 and held a number of senior roles including group director of strategy and regulation, managing director of commercial and brands and chief executive of BT’s Openreach business.
While there, she oversaw the £2.5 billion rollout of fibre broadband to two-thirds of the UK.
At 38, she was the youngest female chief executive of a FTSE company and listed at number ten in Fortune Magazine’s hottest rising business stars. A Cambridge graduate, she resigned from the board of Tesco in 2015 to concentrate on her Severn Trent role.
Lindsey Hall is co-founder and chief executive officer of the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO) group.
RIO was formed by Ms Hall and Matt Little and “went live” in September 2007 primarily as an educational organisation, working with schools nationally and internationally.
But a few months later the prospect of taking on Plymouth’s historic Devonport Guildhall came into view. RIO took over the Victorian building and its neighbouring column, on a 25-year lease via a community asset transfer from Plymouth City Council, in 2011 and set about masterminding a £1.75m renovation.
RIO is now progressing with ambitious plans to create a world-class digital technology hub and 3D immersive video dome in the disused Devonport Market Hall after landing a £1m windfall from the Government.
Lindsey is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a trustee of many organisations including Kernow Education Arts Partnership and Plymouth Culture Board and a governor of Devonport High School for Boys.
Irene Lucas-Hays is chair of Sunderland-based travel company Hays Travel, which she ran with her husband John, until his death at the end of last year.
She had a long career in local government and has acted as chief executive of two large local authorities, with her final position in local government being in Whitehall, where she was responsible for advising ministers and secretaries of state and was directly accountable to Parliament.
She was awarded a CBE in 2008 and in the New Year Honours she added to that award with one of just 11 damehoods announced.
Having long been a staunch advocate of apprentices, she dedicated her damehood to the apprentices and training staff at Hays Travel.
Kirsty heads the Harrogate-based eponymous free-food food company, having first set it in motion 10 years ago, after discovering her son was allergic to nuts and intolerant to gluten and dairy.
She appeared on Dragons Den in 2010 and wowed Peter Jones and Duncan Bannatyne, and rebranded as Kirsty’s in 2012, selling her first range of naturally healthy, free-from chilled ready meals launched into supermarkets.
She bought out the dragons last year and the business, which sells chilled and frozen foods in UK supermarkets, is now worth £11m.
The managing director of J & B Recycling in Hartlepool – winner of the Teesside Company of the Year at the North East Business Awards 2020 – always wanted to be a nursery teacher. However, she became hooked on logistics while helping out on the weighbridge at her father’s business while awaiting exam results in the school holidays.
A transport manager qualification followed and when she was 27 she took full control of the firm, transforming it into J & B Recycling.
The company, which operates two recycling sites in Hartlepool, one in Middlesbrough and one in Washington, was the first in the Tees Valley to set up a plastic bottle bank scheme and one of the first to offer co-mingled recyclable collections for commercial customers, and has seen huge growth despite the challenges of the pandemic.
Stephnie Judge became the new managing director of bathroom retailer Victorian Plumbing, which is headquartered in Liverpool, at the start of March 2020.
The move came after she first joined the company as a personal assistant in 2013. She took over the role from Mark Radcliffe, the founder and owner of the business.
Speaking at the time, Stephnie said: “I’m grateful for the faith that the company has shown in promoting from within and the new role feels like a natural progression after years of becoming increasingly involved with the strategy of the business.”
The company added that her rise through its ranks demonstrated the brand’s “commitment to nurtured talent, opting to promote from within and reward those who have come to share and grow the brand’s values and vision”.
Seven years ago, Nisha Katona launched her restaurant Mowgli in Liverpool, a business that would soon become one of the UK’s most successful Indian food concepts.
A former child protection barrister from Ormskirk, Lancashire, her successful firm now runs 11 branches the length and breadth of the UK.
Awarded both an MBE and honorary doctorate by Edge Hill University in 2019, she is now regularly seen on various TV shows including Sunday brunch, and appeared in recent Channel 4 series A Taste of Italy.
Kanya King MBE
Kanya is the chief executive and founder of the MOBO Awards (Music of Black Origin).
She was inspired to launch the MOBOs after realising there was a “glaring gap” in the market for a mainstream British ceremony celebrating music influenced and inspired by black artists.
The MOBOs launched in 1996, with Kanya re-mortgaging her house after being unable to find a financial backer. She also struck a deal with Carlton TV (the London television franchise) to broadcast the event.
Today, the MOBOs is a year-round, agenda-setting brand, with the annual awards broadcast on mainstream television. In 2020, the ceremony, which was presented by Maya Jama and Chunkz, was shown on the BBC.
The MOBOs has provided an early platform for British artists including Stormzy, Goldie, Dizzee Rascal, and Emile Sandé.
Fashion retail expert Fiona Lambert has just joined Marks & Spencer as managing director of its Jaeger clothes brand.
Fiona, who is from Leicestershire, has decades of experience in the sector, working alongside George at Asda founder George Davies to launch George as the first fashion supermarket brand in 1990.
Following that, she was womenswear product director at Next and returned to George in 2007 as brand director where she ran the design, buying and quality control teams, producing more than 237 million garments for almost 400 Asda stories and online.
Her other previous roles include leading the George Home launch, product director at Dunelm’s Leicestershire HQ and managing director of business development at River Island.
Alison Lea-Wilson MBE
Alison Lea-Wilson is the co-founder of Halen Mon.
Along with her husband David, started and ran Anglesey Sea Zoo for 23 years, but the seasonality of the business meant they started looking for something to make them money in the winter months and came up with making sea salt. They sold the zoo in 2007 to concentrate on the sea salt business.
The sea salt is now used around the world by chefs, food lovers and even former U.S. President Barack Obama. It was served at the London 2012 Olympics, as well as at political summits and royal weddings. It is also a vital ingredient in Green & Blacks chocolate and Piper’s Crisps.
Along with more than 100 delicatessens across the UK, the company supplies Marks and Spencer, Waitrose and Harvey Nichols. The sea salt can be found in more than 22 countries across the globe as well as on the tables of some of the world’s top restaurants like The Fat Duck.
Deborah Meaden is a highly successful entrepreneur and Dragons Den investor.
She knew she wanted her own business from an early age and, at 19, launched her own glass and ceramics import company supplying high-end stores like Harvey Nichols. She eventually walked away from the business and embarked on a number of other ventures including a franchise for Italian clothing company Stefanel and a prize bingo concession at Butlins.
She went on to work at the family amusement arcade business and eventually became managing director of Weststar Holidays before taking over the business in 1999. She sold the business in 2005 in a deal worth £33m.
Deborah joined the panel of investors for series three Dragons Den, her portfolio of investments ranges from Good Bubble to Grip It, the worlds strongest plasterboard fixings.
As chief executive of Northumbrian Water, Heidi Mottram won the North East Business Executive of the Year in 2017.
The Leeds-born executive first began her career with British Rail in the mid-1980s and held a number of leadership positions with rail companies, latterly as managing director of Northern Rail.
Under her leadership, Northumbrian Water has become one of the UK’s leading water companies and was named as one of the world’s most ethical companies for nine years in a row.
In the New Year Honours 2010 she gained an OBE for services to the rail Industry and eight years later was appointed CBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours. She is also vice chair and board member at the North East LEP and Prince of Wales’ North East business ambassador.
Hayley Parsons OBE
Hayley Parsons was the founder and former CEO of financial services comparison website GoCompare, which she started from her kitchen table and sold just eight years later for £190m.
Hayley grew up in Cwmbran and left school at 16 to start work at a small, family-run insurance company near her home. In 1992 she moved to Cardiff to work at Admiral. Here she set up the car insurance comparison site, Confused.com. In 2006 Hayley left Admiral to set up GoCompare.
Hayley has stayed committed to businesses in Wales, having worked with the Welsh Government entrepreneurship panel, and is a key member of the Be The Spark, which promotes entrepreneurship. She has also invested in a number of start-ups in the country.
Having had Fortis Therapy and Training – the company she founded – recognised as the Best Small Business in Britain at The Small Awards, the psychotherapist is now championing men’s mental health as part of a much-welcomed campaign.
Named as one of the top 100 female entrepreneurs in the UK, she drew on her own personal trauma of a near-fatal car crash – and the treatment received for post traumatic stress disorder – changing career direction from high street retail management to mental health and emotional wellbeing provider.
More than 25 are now employed at centres across the region, from a base in her home town of Grimsby, where her parents ran a fish and chip shop in neighbouring Cleethorpes.
Brie first had the idea for Livingston-based tights maker Snag in 2015 when she was walking along George Street in Edinburgh and her tights kept falling down.
With a a strong track record in marketing working for Sainsbury and People’s Postcode Lottery, she is a former chief marketing officer and CEO of Diet Chef.
This year Snag’s turnover is expected to reach £40m and it employs 40 people in manufacturing the tights in Italy and 33 in its ‘virtual’ head office. Ultimately, Brie wants to make Snag a £1bn company.
Alison Rose was appointed chief executive of NatWest in 2019 having joined the bank as a graduate in 1992.
She is the first woman to lead one of the UK’s big four banks after holding a number of senior leadership roles, including deputy chief executive of NatWest Holdings, chief executive of commercial and private banking, and head of Europe, Middle East and Africa, markets and international banking.
Alison was commissioned by the government to report on the barriers to women starting businesses – and in March 2019 the Rose Review was published.
In response, the government has announced an ambition to increase the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030 – equivalent to nearly 600,000 extra female entrepreneurs.
Eileen Richards MBE is the founder and managing director of ER Recruitment in Leicester and was recently inducted as the new president of East Midlands Chamber.
She is the co-founder of its Enterprising Women network, which will mark its 25th year in 2022, and has been a board member for more than three years.
In her first speech as president, she set out three priorities for the year ahead – to encourage inter-membership relations and trading, support the region’s future business leaders and lobby hard in Government for investment to aid the East Midlands’ post-covid economic recovery.
Carol Shanahan OBE
Carol Shanahan is the chair of Synectics Solutions, the co-owner of Port Vale Football Club and the founder of the Hubb Foundation.
The mother-of-four set-up fintech solutions provider Synectics with her husband Kevin in 1992, a company which employs more than 350 people in Stoke-on-Trent.
In May 2019, the couple finally sealed a deal to buy League Two club Port Vale – which is located next door to Synectics’ headquarters – after numerous attempts. Also in 2019, Carol founded the Hubb Foundation dedicated to supporting vulnerable families and communities during the school holidays.
Last year, Carol was awarded an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday honours in recognition of her work in the community.
Fiona Stewart is the owner of Green Man, Wales’s largest music, science and arts festival, attracting thousands of people from around the world to the Brecon Beacons every August.
It contributes £10 million to the Welsh economy every year and uses its 1.8 billion media reach to put Wales on the map.
Previously working at the Big Chill festival, Fiona joined the Green Man team and developed it into the multi-national event it is today, and now sits as its director amd owner.
She also founded the Green Man Trust charity in 2013 which has supported more than 3,000 artists, trained 2,000 people, 200 science engagement projects and 27 Welsh community projects.
Fiona is also chair of the Economic Strategy Group of Mid Wales Growth Deal.
Trained by Princess Diana’s tailor, Alicya Sinclair launched Sinclair London in 2013 as a luxury women’s wear fashion house designing and manufacturing fine tailoring and smart casual to fortune 500 women.
Hailed as the next Giorgio Armani by former Burberry and former Harvey Nichols CEO Stacey Cartwright, she is the only female Savile Row trained tailor in a very male-dominated scene.
Her award-winning designs often appear on the red carpet and most recently the firm’s creations featured in the Netflix film The Dig, starring Carey Mulligan and Ralph Fiennes.
Brought up by her mother on a Herefordshire commune and eschewing a career as an opera singer to become a waiter, Singh-Watson opened Britain’s very first organic pub -The Duke of Cambridge in Islington – more than 23 years ago.
Since then, she has opened four organic pubs and was awarded an MBE for ‘Services to the Organic Pub Trade’ in 2009.
Her latest venture in Totnes, The Bull, opened in November 2019 and has been named Eco Hotel of the Year by The Times and The Sunday Times.
An active campaigner and environmentalist, Her company name is Tpot Ltd, which stands for ‘The Principles of Trade’. She is a strong advocate of organic, ethical and sustainable principles in business.
Giselle Stewart originally started her career in the National Health Service before studying an MBA at Durham University.
She later joined Newcastle games studio Reflections to help the business grow.
Reflections has since been acquired by French publishing giant Ubisoft where Giselle now works as director of UK corporate affairs.
She has been heavily involved in the development of Newcastle’s North East Futures UTC and she is passionate about improving tech talent and diversity in the gaming sector.
In 2016 she was awarded an OBE for services to the games industry in the North East.
Britain’s biggest bus, coach and tram operator appointed its first woman managing director in 2020 when Carla Stockton-Jones took the wheel at Stagecoach.
In doing so she became the first female to head a major private sector multi-modal public transport operation in the UK.
She will be responsible for a business with 24,000 employees, more than 8,000 buses, coaches and trams and an annual turnover of about £1.3billion.
Stagecoach connects communities in hundreds of locations across the UK, from Orkney in the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, to Devon in the South West of England, where Stagecoach Devon Ltd is headquartered in Exeter.
Carla joined Stagecoach in February 2020 as regional director South of England after holding senior positions with Sky since 2012 as director of home service and previously director of retail.
Recruited as Moneypenny’s first sales person in 2005 – today, Joanna is Group CEO of an international business that has grown to employ more than 1000 people across the UK and the US, turning over £50m in 2020.
Joanna has led Moneypenny through the good times and the challenging. The company has more than doubled its revenues in the last four years and blossomed in a crisis thanks to her leadership, agility and passion for nurturing people.
Under Joanna’s watchful eye, Moneypenny has grown to become the leading outsourced communications provider in both the UK and US.
Joanna’s passion and vast experience means that she is a valued member of The CBI, Be the Business and the Northern Powerhouse.
Laura Tenison MBE
In the early 1990s Laura Tenison was in a bad car accident in France that left her hospitalised for weeks. She was 26 years old and had just sold a small property business and was keen to get back into fashion. Air-ambulanced back to the UK, Laura found herself sharing a ward with a young mum of two who would spend her days looking at mail order catalogues.
Laura though about starting a child’s wear company and put together her love of the outdoors with what she knew about French childrens’ fashion – and made JoJo Maman Bebe.
Her father’s business had a disused carpenter’s warehouse that she was able to use. It’s head offices is now in Newport, with a design studio in London, but many of its key operations including accounts, customer service, retail operations, warehousing, distribution and more controlled from its South Wales headquarters. The business has around 90 stores nationwide.
Jane Tranter is the co-founder of the production company Bad Wolf, which is based at Wolf Studios Wales in Cardiff Bay.
She founded the company with fellow former BBC executive Julie Gardner in 2015 and it has produced some of the UK’s biggest TV productions, such as A Discovery of Witches and His Dark Materials and the contemporary series Industry and I Hate Suzie.
In 2019 Bad Wolf was named as the fastest growing company in Wales, and in the latest Fast Growth 50 list the production company ranked fifth.
At the end of last year it was announced His Dark Materials had been commissioned for a third series. It meant that – along with a third season A Discovery of Witches and a second series of Industry – more than 400 people will be working at Wolf Studio Wales in Cardiff Bay from now until the end of 2021.
Businesswoman and Dragon’s Den star Sarah Willingham was fascinated by business and food from an early age.
The restaurant bug never left her and she ultimately managed to combine her passions to create a multi-million pound business empire.
In 2003, Stoke-on-Trent-born Sarah raised her own finance to buy The Bombay Bicycle Club and turned it into the largest and most successful Indian restaurant chain in the UK, before selling it in 2008.
In 2015, Sarah was asked to join the team of Dragons on the popular BBC 2 show where she remained for two seasons.
The entrepreneur now invests in businesses like The Craft Gin Club and London Cocktail Club, helping independent businesses to grow and thrive. In 2021, Sarah launched listed Nightcap PLC alongside her entrepreneur husband Michael Toxvaerd.
Dame Sharon White
Dame Sharon was appointed as the sixth chair of the John Lewis Partnership in 2019, taking over from Sir Charlie Mayfield.
She was previously chief executive of UK media regulator Ofcom and has also held a number of roles within the civil service, including second permanent secretary of the Treasury from 2013 to 2015.
A trained economist, Dame Sharon has worked at board level within the Ministry of Justice and the Department for International Development. She was also an adviser to the Prime Minister’s policy unit during the Tony Blair years and has worked at the World Bank in Washington DC.
She was appointed a Dame in the 2020 New Year’s Honours List.