Do you know an award-winning businesswoman?

Calling all wannabe Karren Bradys or Elle MacPhersons. Entries are about to close for the Natwest Everywoman Awards

Know someone who has recently started a business? Think they deserve recognition?

Every year Everywoman holds national awards to recognise women who have achieved in business. The point of the event, says Karen Gill, the co-founder of Everywoman, is to encourage women ‘to realise that the possibilities are endless’. This is important, she explains, because, in her experience, the number one thing holding most budding female entrepreneurs back isn’t a lack of ideas, but a lack of confidence.

Here, we talk to a recent winner of the Artemis award (for young businesswomen) about how she launched their business, and profile previous winners. Entries close at the end of this week. This year marie claire is sponsoring an award. To find out more go here.
 
‘I’d always loved music – then I turned it into a business’
Samantha Coe, 25, lives in Norwich and opened The Wharf music academy in November 2009.

‘I could play the piano, the clarinet, the saxophone and even the mandolin – but somehow at 21, I found myself working in an administration job where I spent most of my time doodling or watching the clock.

I’d always wanted to work in music, and after finishing school I’d even played guitar in a support band for Take That. I loved it, and it offered me a glimpse into the glamorous side of the music industry. But the band broke up during the recession and I had to take a job in admin.

It was during one particularly boring Friday afternoon that I came up with the idea of opening a music school. I liked the idea of making music accessible to everyone, and envisioned myself teaching toddlers through to pensioners.

Research confirmed that no one else in Norwich was offering the mixture of modern and classical training that I wanted to provide. It seemed like the perfect solution. I’d even passed my teaching diploma at 16.

Within three months, I had a business plan and used £5000 of savings – which I always planned to spend on something “sensible” – to pay a deposit on a rented hall. I bought instruments, a computer and books on vocal technique. I even found myself re-reading my A-level business studies notes (something I never thought I’d do!)

As the launch date approached, I began to feel increasingly nervous. What if it didn’t work? But Norwich is a small city and word quickly spread. Within three months we were booked out, and by the end of the first year, I’d had to recruit six other part-time tutors. Now, we have 70 students. I also offer lessons in local schools.

Of course, there were challenges. In November 2010 the academy was vandalised and flooded. We lost all the electrical equipment, all the books, everything. But we’d nearly reached capacity anyway, and the experience forced me to search for newer, bigger premises. Now, we’re moving into an old church, which is beautiful and ten times bigger. I sang one note as I walked in and the acoustics were perfect. I was sold.

It’s strange, but until I won this award I’d never fully taken stock of how much I’ve achieved. I suppose I’ve been too busy. Those afternoons of feeling bored and unfulfilled seem like a long time ago.’

And here are more past winners…..
 
2010 – Nikki Hesford, Miss Fit UK
Nikki set up the Miss Fit UK group of brands for big-busted women in 2008. Since then the company has grown from a small e-commerce site selling blouses and dresses to consumers online, to alarge wholesale corporation supplying well known retail names with her brands, as well as manufacturing own-label lingerie and women’s fashions for High Street stores.
 
She says: ‘Winning this award has given me great confidence in my own ability. More than anything, it has validated my place in the business world.’
 
2009 – Francesca Cragg, Revitalize Hair and Beauty Spa
Francesca was always destined for success, being one of the youngest people in the country to gain NVQ levels 1 and 2 in hairdressing aged just 16. She launched Revitalize hair and beauty spa in 2007.

Now 25, Francesca employs 12 staff and is developing the revitalize Academy offering NVQs in hair and beauty. Her salon is the first in Britain that runs on renewable and solar energy.
 
‘Winning this award is a great honour and has brought lots of amazing opportunities that have given me the confidence to expand my business,’ says Francesca, who is being mentored by everywoman judge Sharon Hilditch MBE, the co-founder of the skincare brand, Crystal Clear.
 
‘Working with Sharon and her right-hand woman, Gill Shaw, has proved invaluable, especially their advice on staff, budgets and future development opportunities.
 
‘Sharon also put me forward as one to watch within the everywoman Modern Muse which is afantastic experience I will remember always.”
 
2008 – Becky Benfield, Utterly Horses
Youth was not a barrier to success for Becky, who set up her company at the age of 15. Becky, 28, and her team sell models of horses in all shapes and sizes from her home county of Essex.
 
Her models are all on sale at prices ranging from a modest few pounds up to £1,500 andthey are marketed via the internet, catalogues and trade shows.
 
Becky is now organising the first European three-day model horse convention, which is attracting visitors from countries including America and Germany.
 
‘Entering the everywoman awards was the best thing I have done so far in my career,’ she says.

‘It has brought many opportunities for my business, ones that cannot be bought, and I have met so many wonderful, inspiration business women along the way.’
 
2006 – Katy Geddes, Belgravia Florist
Winning the Artemis award proved a life-changing experience for Katy Geddes, of Belgravia Florist, who entered on a whim.
 
After picking up her trophy, Katy was invited to the palace to meet the Queen. She now creates floral decorations for the everywoman awards ceremonies.
 
Katy, 31, from South Benfleet, Essex, bought the business in 2003, expanding the business and introducing a range of gifts. Today she employs seven staff.
 
‘Winning this award has raised my business to another level’, she says, ‘Customers were pleased to shop at and have a nationally recognised business in their midst.
 
‘When I was invited to the palace, along with other award winners, I took the Queen some flowers. I was one of ten people invited to meet her and other women from the Royal family, including Princess Anne, privately.

 ‘I stood there in between Cath Kidston and Sharon Osbourne wondering how a florist from Benfleet ended up here.’

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