We are delighted to announce that this year's Mentorsme Excellence in Woman's Enterprise Mentoring 2014 took place at BT Tower on the evening of the 18th of November.
This year’s awards focused on the role that mentoring plays in supporting female owned or led businesses. With there being more female owned and led business than ever before, it is time to celebrate their success in business.
Excellence in Start Up Award
Winner - Black Energy Renewables
Black Energy Renewables offer design consultancy and project management in the alternative energy sector, without being committed to particular brands or styles of alternative energy solutions. Based in north Devon, the business’ director Rachel Wilson wants to introduce ethical, environmentally-friendly, and economical energy solutions for her customers, while maintaining independence from equipment suppliers.
Taking on an industry currently dominated by large and multi-disciplined national companies which lack specialisation, Rachel has spotted a gap in the market to fill.
Whilst with a great vision and product specialisation Rachel, as sole director, lacked the administration and financial management expertise needed for running a business. Seeking mentoring support she now has three mentors with banking and management consultancy backgrounds. She leverages each one’s specific knowledge base to help her enhance her business approach.
As a result, in just 12 months Black Renewables Energy has generated more than £150,000 of sales with mentoring enabling Rachel to deploy better cash flow management tools,and improve operational efficiency through time management, work-flow and communications techniques. The sales and marketing approach has also been revamped leading to the business securing higher lead conversions and more opportunities.
As a business owner Rachel feels well supported and no longer alone. Her ideas for business development and improvement are able to be tested and validated with her mentors before she deploys them.
Art from the Heart
Nicola Munduz wanted to encompass her love of art and her faith into a business which would enable her to escape the benefits trap and support her family and give something back to her community. A single parent with three young children, her business needed to fit in with her childcare commitments too.
The mentoring challenge was to maximise Nicola’s talents in providing diverse activities, focusing on costs and ensuring the products and services were priced at an affordable level. Nicola had the added barrier of not experiencing much adult interaction in recent years, given most of her time was taken up with her children.
Nicola’s mentor Teg Bevan, has held senior management positions within the aviation industry. Their mentoring sessions focused on informal meetings with a wide range of ideas and solutions explored, with the opportunity to constantly evaluate the business case for diversity.
Nicola now has a thriving and varied business with a number of exhibitions displaying her unique artwork and associated items including greetings cards and bookmarks. Alongside this she has a successful teaching business of drama and art for vulnerable children run through local primary schools. Her next business venture is the decoration of children’s bedrooms. Nicola is a successful entrepreneur supporting her family and community with huge levels of satisfaction.
The Crafted Coffee Company sells a range of ethically sourced, hand-roasted high quality coffee. The company buys its coffee in small lots that are traceable to specific farms and cooperatives that can demonstrate a commitment to the environment and worker conditions.
It was started by Lorraine Dunk and has been trading for 18 months.
Lorraine joined the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) Mentoring scheme after being unemployed for four months. She wanted to offer top quality coffee sourced environmentally to a B2B and consumer market. She was initially apprehensive about the mentoring support and worried that she would be allocated someone who did not have the relevant experience.
John Hall, whose background is in horticulture, has been a volunteer business mentor under the NEA mentoring scheme since September 2011 .
John had the knowledge and contacts to help steer Lorraine through her concerns and start her business. He was aware that Lorraine’s main challenge was around planning issues, but this was his area of expertise and he allayed her concerns along with providing clear and relevant guidance.
In the 18 months that Crafted Coffee has been trading, Lorraine has established a strong and growing local customer base. “My customers are very loyal and are a great source of feedback. My main challenge has been the online environment which is far more competitive than I envisaged and far more time consuming but at least I have a good website to develop this side of things from.”
With exciting new product ideas in the pipeline, a solid customer base and the opportunity to build online sales, Lorraine looks to be on track to building on her business base and bringing an environmental conscience to the masses in their cup of coffee.
Excellence in Growth Award
Winner - Hadland Care Goup Ltd
Cheryl Hadland is the CEO and founder of Tops Nurseries. The business was founded by Cheryl after she failed to find high quality day care for her children.
At the time of requesting mentoring support, Hadland Care Group was entering a period of rapid growth as Cheryl set a target of opening 10 new nurseries within a five year period.
She was mentored by Sandra Bigland, who has experience of mentoring senior executives in central government and financial services. Sandra acted as a sounding board to Cheryl, as she prepared her three-year corporate plan and sought to get her senior team taking ownership to its vision. Through this process Sandra also encouraged Cheryl to consider her role in the business, including succession planning. Mentoring sessions took place every 2-3 months for a period of a couple of hours. This gave Cheryl the opportunity to take time to reflect on and crystalise her thoughts about her top team and objectives.
Sandra was able to help Cheryl clarify ideas and challenges within a safe environment.
The results speak for themselves: today Hadland Care Group is Dorset’s most successful nursery business with 15 nurseries and 9 play clubs. In addition, Cheryl has now diversified the business into care homes with 2 currently forming part of the overall group and group income has risen to almost £9 million.
Diamond Faces is a professional face painting and extreme make up company, and is in demand for parties, community events, corporate events and bespoke work. The business was set up by Ronnie Murray in 1993, after she bought a set of face paints from a toy store and a book from a fancy dress shop.
Ronnie began by volunteering at her sons’ school play and fetes, and after developing some experience she joined an ITEC Theatrical and Media Make Up course at her local college. She says she thrives on coming up with fresh and novel ideas and developing new projects and working partnerships. Ronnie was mentored by Jo Dale, a leadership consultant with ten years’ experience of successfully running her own business. Jo also spent 17 years in a variety of senior corporate marketing and leadership roles. Jo’s inside knowledge of how a business works enables her to ask the right questions, and she has strengths in creating very successful working relationships.
When Ronnie and Jo first began working together the business was small with just Ronnie and one face painter - essentially a solo operation. Since the mentoring relationship began, the revenue increased by 40 per cent. The team has expanded from two face painters to 18, and Diamond Faces now works with six holiday parks, as well as numerous residences at family attractions and student forums. In addition to this the business now offers formal training and workshops on how to do face painting. The work is no longer seasonal and the support team now includes experts in marketing and finance.
The next step is to explore the opportunity to franchise the business.
Jo has given Ronnie the confidence to take the next step whilst being a sounding board when challenges have arisen.
Pauline Cook founded Fraser Media in 2007 after a successful career in broadcast journalism. Fraser Media delivers media response training, crisis management training and presentation skills training, as well as corporate DVD production, editorial, copywriting and voiceovers. Pauline has experience in newspapers, television and radio, and was a news anchor for STV North.
She was mentored by Norton Bertram-Smith, who has extensive knowledge of launching and running a business and has mentored 24 businesses since 2002.
Norton spent time each month finding out about the business, understanding the challenges, getting up-to-date with new developments and learning about Pauline’s management style.
Norton is a keen listener and helped Pauline refocus her energy to enable her to work more on growing her business rather than just ‘being a business’ and making that parradigm growth shift. Pauline also needed to gain a deeper understanding of how her business worked economically. As a result of working with Norton, Pauline’s confidence in herself and her staff has increased allowing her to let go of making all decisions and spreading the workload appropriately with a focus on key metrics to drive financial success.
This has led to tremendous growth in her business in terms of local and national expansion with a 112 per cent increase in turnover; 208 per cent increase in gross profit and 254 per cent increase in net profit. It has also allowed Pauline the ability to acquire at the end of 2013 a PR business based in Inverness, funded by business profits. Employees overall in Fraser Media have grown from just two to nine and the firm also now has a graduate training programme with its client base tripling.
Excellence in Export & Innovation Award
Winner - Dunnet Bay Distillery
Dunnet Bay Distillers create handcrafted Scottish gin using carefully selected local and traditional botanicals. Run by Claire Murray with her partner’s support, the distillery is in Caithness and its first batch of Rock Rose gin sold out in just 48 hours.
Dunnet Bay Distillers is mentored by James Knowles who has more than 40 years’ experience in business. James has experience of leading economic development for Aberdeenshire Council and headed up Grampian Initiatives.
Despite the fact Jim lives far away from the Distillery that has never been an issue. James always makes himself available for Claire to share ideas and business issues and honest feedback.
When the mentoring relationship began Claire used Jim’s guidance and help on design and branding considerations, networking and finance and international sales.
Jim’s input had direct effect in certain areas such as marketing, guiding Claire to focus the effort on Facebook to create a buzz around the product and the concept, leading to 6,000 views and terrific sales contacts.
As a result Rock Rose Gin has clients in over 20 countries selling its entire first run without advertising and is ahead of its business plan on employment and sales, with targets set to double
Claire says: “I cannot express in words how good this has been for me and the business. Jim has been full of ideas which he has shared with us, asking fundamental questions on things that seem obvious now but that we didn’t notice or think about in the same way, as we are so close to the day to day business. Mentoring has been absolutely invaluable, its been the best thing that I’ve done.”
Beauxoxo sell handmade hair accessories, including flower crowns, glitter bows, knitted headbands, dolly bows and wire headbands. Founded in Georgina Foster’s home in 2010, the accessories are now created in her dedicated studio in Dorset and blend “both whimsical and playful charm.”
Georgie is mentored by Angela Rowley, a successful entrepreneur and investor. Angela’s successes include a vehicle data business, which she co-founded and sold after merging with a larger organisation. She mentors the founders she invests in as well as provides voluntary mentoring to businesses that are not yet at a stage or in a position to require funding but do benefit from mentoring.
The challenge when the mentoring relationship began in 2012 was to take the concept from back bedroom to a profitable and sustainable global business whilst maintaining Georgie’s principles and achieving her goals.
The journey has meant discussions ranging from supply chains, production capabilities, customer relations, retail versus wholesale, price points marketing and new product development.
And the results speak for themselves with 112 per cent increase in sales, new premises and Beauxoxo selling products into 35 countries enabling Georgie to now employ fellow students to help with her administration and other market research to expand into new countries.
Georgie and Angela sum up their mentoring relationship using a sat-nav analogy: “set your destination then decide how you want to get there, anticipating diversions along the way, potential roadworks, or a clear drive and always reviewing if the final destination is still the same location or has the journey expanded.”
Fanatic House is a design studio dedicated to creating everyday objects with a strong, distinctive character. The products are designed with a strong focus on their innovative forms which means that conventional construction techniques are impractical. The business was founded by Design and Applied Arts Graduate Dorota Grabkowska.
For the past 18 months the challenge has been for the business to develop a number of these innovative designs from idea into functioning products ready for the 2014 London Design Festival in September.
With new products in development Carl’s support is still welcomed by Dorota who says: “Carl’s support and level of understanding has been exceptional, which was the key in identifying and overcoming issues as they arose. With his experience I have become self sufficient working through the challenges my business faces and to identify new business partners who have exporting experience.”
Meanwhile Carl has also benefited from working with a young design business for the first time. Reflecting, he says “The two key skills I take from this experience is firstly true active listening and secondly, I have applied those skills at home and at work and I am finding the results are having a lasting impact.”
Excellence in Digital Enterprise Award
Winner - REALsafe® Technologies Ltd
Launched in February 2013, REALRIDER® is an industry-first online platform with a route recording and safety-based app for motorcyclists; the first of its kind to detect if a rider has had a crash and notify the NHS, who can send an ambulance to the rider’s last known GPS location. Co-founder Zoe Farrington is the key driver and CEO of the business.
REALsafe® is a premium app subscription service and the product of unique relationships and technology not easily replicable but hugely scalable into other niche but significant sectors - such as horse riding, cycling and rambling – as well as overseas markets.
The mentoring received by REALRIDER® has had a huge impact on the growth of this start-up business. Natalia Blagburn has played a critical role in nurturing Zoe from inception, right through the investment process and to launch of the business. With Natalia’s knowledge and specific interest in Internet technologies and enterprise software, she was able to provide useful insights that helped to shape the business plan and get Zoe investment-ready.
Natalia also made the introduction to a Business Angel - Pride Valley Foods founder Hossain Rezaei. Hossain spotted an opportunity in REALRIDER® and real CEO potential in Zoe. He quickly became business mentor as well as an investor/chairman and he provides the perfect balance between providing a guiding hand and giving Zoe the scope and freedom to refine her skills and leadership qualities.
The REALRIDER® app offers safety but is also social - letting riders record and share routes, add points of interest and hazards, plus find the best rides in their area recorded by other riders. So REALRIDER® is also about data. Collecting information about users, including how often, where and on what types of roads they ride; the company is in a unique position to access “live” data of huge potential value that will be readily commercialised.
As a result of the mentoring support leading to investment Zoe has led the business in securing deals with thebikeinsurer.com, BMW Motorrad, Honda UK , RAC, Group Lloyd, and the Motorcycle Industry Association.
This is just the beginning, with much more to come.
Babes in the Woods
Hetti Dysch, the owner of Babes in the Wood, was particularly keen to work with a female mentor due to the nature of her business – she also wanted a strong empathy with the products and her motivations.
Her business is not only female-led but the products are solely geared to women providing high end hen weekends in challenging locations.
Business issues that Hetti tackled with her mentors ranged across the whole spectrum but specifically focused on how to take her part time business from the pilot stage to be a business capable of sustaining Hetti full time and employ permanent staff.
There have been two bank mentors involved in the business - Denise Coleman and Katie Ryan.
Denise has gained broad commercial experience in her banking career including sales and marketing, HR and business development. Katie has gained a similar range of skills in her role as relationship manager. Denise also has experience of setting up, developing and selling on her own business in Latin dance. This experience has been particularly relevant to Babes in the Wood given both enterprises are involved in the leisure and events industry and both with exclusively and predominantly female client and customer groups.
Since mentoring has commenced Hetti has managed a significant investment in IT and introduced at an efficient back end management and logistics system, to set up and manage events. This has included:
• deploying two interactive main online databases with full team access to manage events remotely. Staff can see the overall information about when and where the bookings are, what the group numbers are, any specific info such as dietary or medical information.
• the database also enables the woodland owners to post notes and there is also a content management system for the hosts alone that list each weekend as a project with its relevant information.
• the hosts are also requested to post social media tweets and facebook posts about each weekend with photos and a story line of the weekend. This feeds into a low budget marketing plan.
With the help of the mentors reinforcing her own thinking, Hetti has now managed to transform a part time start up business managing bookings at home with no infrastructure into a sustainable full time business employing many others with state of the art technology at its core. The business regularly manages the scale of two music festivals simultaneously.
What’s in My Handbag
Run by Emma Flannery, What’s in My Handbag (WIMH) is at the forefront of ‘BeautyTech’ connecting big beauty brands with consumers the intelligent way. WIMH champions Intelligent Beauty and has created a unique, engaged online beauty community which enables it to deliver powerful, previously unavailable, market research data insight and effective digital campaigns to beauty brands. Current clients include Chanel, Net A Porter, NARS, Bobbi Brown, Lancome, Clinique, YSL, Benefit and many more.
WIMH has been mentored by a series of female investors from the Angel Academe syndicate with one investor acting as the lead mentor. She meets with Emma every couple of months for an update on milestones and focus, encouraging her to work on the long-term focus for the business as opposed to getting caught in the day-to-day running that she can now delegate to her team.
The investors’ combined expertise includes finance, marketing, PR, publishing, fashion, sales, big data, technology and much more. This gives Emma access to a wide range of mentoring help and support.
This recent investment and mentoring has enabled WIMH to hire two full time staff to focus on content and member acquisition so that Emma can focus on the strategic direction of the business and work on getting more big brands engaged as clients.
In 2015 WIMH is forecasting to turnover £2.6million, which is based on 120 brands spending between £20-50k per annum. This is an extremely conservative forecast given the current average marketing spend by beauty brands in the UK.
Best Mentor Award
Winner - Chelsey Baker
Chelsey Baker has more than 20 years’ business experience and has a background in marketing, media, PR and the financial markets. She has been mentoring for more than three years and says supporting other entrepreneurs is her “true passion”.
Chelsey has previously mentored Brainbook Ltd, an entrepreneurial start-up company specialising in health and educational software which won the ‘Excellence in Start Ups’ award at the Mentorsme 2013 awards.
As a consequence Michelle now has a thriving Spa with a 50 per cent increase in sales, a bespoke deal with Wowcher to target 400,000 people across four counties, partnerships with high end brands, a range of new spa offers and even a number of celebrity endorsements.
Chelsey is recognised as an incredible communicator and great listener creating a space of trust which encourages issues and concerns to be freely expressed.
Her mentee business owners have said:
“Chelsey has real concern and passion; she is so clever and genuine. She gave me the confidence I needed, there are not many people like that out there, she is priceless.”
“Chelsey is passionate about mentoring; she goes above and beyond, genuinely cares and is willing to help.”
And as for Michelle, her view is:
‘’Anyone who works with Chelsey and takes her guidance on board will have a 100 percent better chance of success.”
Winner - Jeanette Forbes
Jeanette Forbes is CEO of PCL Group, an IT service company to the offshore, marine, commercial, industrial and renewables sector. She founded PCL Group from her dining room in March 2000.
Alongside the one-to-one mentoring support that Jeanette offers through the Scottish Chamber of Commerce, she has also founded a forum for senior women from the private and public sectors to assist with a new form of collaboration to try to understand and collectively overcome some of the business issues surrounding both sectors.
Part of its remit is to mentor young people from deprived areas wishing to enter the private or public sector, and get the first step onto the career ladder.
Whilst having had terrific results with all her business owners, Jeanette is specifically shortlisted in these awards for her mentoring work with Wendy Marr, MD of Genesis Personnel. The mentoring relationship first began in 2012 and is still going to this day. Genesis was in a period of significant change when Jeanette came in to mentor Wendy who was an employee who had been asked to consider becoming a director or undertaking an management buyout offer.
The conclusion after many months of mentoring was that two of the three directors wanted to be bought out of the business. This then opened the door for Wendy to obtain her directorship.
Since taking that step Wendy, helped by the mentor’s guidance from Jeanette, has increased Genesis’ turnover by 61% from £3.3 million to £5.3 million with a further increase of 10% forecast for this year as well as encouraging Wendy to acquire a small recruitment business.
Wendy values Jeanette’s commitment and ability to listen, always feeling she comes away from the informal mentoring sessions feeling optimistic and with a little more knowledge than when she went in.