And the 2017 National Awards Winners are….

UK’s Top Business Women Recognised at Prestigious Forward Ladies Grand Final 2017

The UK’s top business women have been recognised at the prestigious grand final of the Forward Ladies National Awards 2017.

Hosted by acclaimed television presenter, reporter and producer Arti Halai, the awards took place at The Royal Armouries, in Leeds on Friday 1st December, where outstanding, entrepreneurial female business leaders from across the UK competed in 12 categories.

Each finalist triumphed in their regional heat to make it to the national finals and were put through their paces at a live session with an expert judging panel on November 8th, held at the Manchester office of awards headline sponsor HSBC.

Susanna Lawson, director of OneFile, was crowned with the top award of Forward Ladies Outstanding Business Woman of the Year 2017, after leaving the judges “stunned” with her “drive, passion and innovation”. Jennifer Crawley, head of the judging panel and UK deputy director of small businesses for HSBC, said: “Her organisation has pioneered the ed-tech revolution over a decade and has had a significant impact on the sector, so much so that she was the proud winner of the 2017 Queen’s Award for Innovation”.

The Forward Ladies National Awards, now in its eighth year, has become one of the most high profile and respected accolades for women, recognising their enormous contribution to the economy and acknowledges start-ups to multi-million pound companies. This year’s high profile speakers included Ian Stuart, chief executive of HSBC UK; Lady Barbara Judge CBE, the first female Chairman of the Institute of Directors; Inga Beale DBE, CEO of Lloyd’s of London; Fiona Rayment OBE, executive director of NIRO, a division of the UK National Nuclear Laboratory and 2016 Business Woman of the Year, Jan Flawn of PJ Care.

Griselda Togobo, Managing Director at Forward Ladies said: “We were delighted to welcome applications from women from across the UK in this year’s national awards. We are also happy to have been able to reward and celebrate the achievements of women from diverse backgrounds and industries proving that success can be achieved by anyone through hard work and determination.

“As an organisation committed to supporting and developing women, we are delighted to have been able to enlist the support of HSBC.

“Women are setting up their own businesses in unprecedented numbers and the news that women are also making strides in the boardroom signals a welcomed shift. We look forward to supporting more women and working with progressive companies looking to unlock the potential of women in their businesses.”


The full list of winners from the national finals is as follows:

  • Outstanding Business Woman of the Year 2017Susanna Lawson, OneFile. Susanna worked in the health and social care sector and witnessed huge inefficiencies in the training delivery models which drove her to develop OneFile, the leading e-portfolio software in the education sector.
  • Lifetime Achievement Award – Lady Barbara Judge CBE. Lady Barbara Judge CBE is the National Chairman of the UK Institute of Directors. Earlier in her career she was appointed as the youngest ever Commissioner of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Thereafter she was appointed as the first woman Executive Director of Samuel Montagu and News International.
  • Digital Business of the YearSusanna Lawson, OneFile. Susanna worked in the health and social care sector and witnessed huge inefficiencies in the training delivery models which drove her to develop OneFile, the leading e-portfolio software in the education sector.
  • Not for Profit & Social Enterprise of the YearKerryanne Wilde, CERT-UK. Kerryanne is the CEO of CERT-UK; Community Emergency Response Team UK. She joined the Army in 1990 and left in 2002 and moved into the Licensed & Restaurant Trade. She now runs her own training & consulting business as well as a very successful charity.

Highly commendedVeronica Kumeta of Ladies Fighting Breast Cancer

  • STEM Rising Star of the YearJessica Okoro, BeScience STEM. Jessica founded BeScience after struggling with conventional learning due to dyslexia. However, learning science through engaging and practical applications helped her become a graduate in Pharmaceutical and Cosmetic Science. She’s also a Technology Agile Project Manager at The Times newspaper.

Highly commendedIlaria Ambrogio from Proctor and Gamble

  • STEM Leader of the YearSuzanne Smith, Soteria Asbestos. Suzanne founded multi-award winning Soteria Asbestos following redundancy in 2014. She’s also an asbestos consultant, surveyor and trainer. Her entrepreneurial spirit has increased turnover and portfolio of clients and introduced innovative training methods.

Highly commended – Natasha Sayce-Zelem, Sky.

  • Inspiring Leader of the YearLeanne Silverwood, Local Care Force. Leanne is the MD and founded the business 13 years ago. Leanne originally worked in mental health care and has created a caring agency that providing quality, trained and well-supported Nurses, Carers and Support Workers.

Highly commended – Raj Holness, Breaking the Silence.

  • Rising Star of the YearNikki Dixon, ASDA. Nikki’s career started at a marketing agency working with clients such as Asda. 13 years ago she joined the Local Marketing team at Asda and then moved to the Own Brand team, where her current role is Senior Manager, Own Brand Strategy.
  • Corporate Leader of the YearDeborah Steane, Johnson & Johnson. Deborah is Director of Customer Supply Chain Innovation, within Medical Devices at Johnson & Johnson. She’s focused on creating value for Healthcare customers to improve efficiency, reduce costs and improve patient outcomes.
  • International Business of the Year – Christina Lawford-Potter, Diamond Air International. Christina is the CEO and she built her business from the age of 18, and also pioneered a market sector; ‘Airport Concierge’. They now provide services in over 500 airports.

Highly commended – Zillah Doyle, Mechanical Engineering Ventures.

  • Young Entrepreneur of the YearJulianne Ponan, Creative Nature. Julianne is owner and CEO, a mentor for Virgin Startups and a motivational speaker. She took over Creative Nature in 2012, aged 22, with over £56,000 losses and has since launched her products into leading supermarkets, TK Maxx and overseas.
  • Start Up Business of the YearKatie Mallinson, Scriba PR. Katie founded Scriba PR in 2013. Since then, her niche public relations agency has focused on providing comms support to technical B2B companies, who often think their story is too complex to tell.

Highly commended – Rebecca Bidwell, Bidwell Henderson Costs Consultants.

  • SME Emerging Business of the YearAndrea Eli, Ventura Office Supplies. Andrea is director of Ventura, an office products reseller for the Commercial and Education markets. With over 25 years’ experience in a very male dominated industry, Andrea hopes to champion successful women in business in 2017.

Highly commended – Shauna McCarney-Blair, Heavenly Tasty Organics.

  • SME Growth Business of the Year – Sally Fielding, Sally’s Cottages. Sally set up Sally’s, a holiday cottage agency, with only £1,000 to invest in it. The company now looks after an incredible 425 cottages and took £6.5million worth of bookings last year.

Highly commended – Jules Quinn, Popaball

  • Special Recognition – Ruth Logan from Ernst and Young, Anna Keeling from GKN Aerospace and Carmel McKinney of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Service



For further information please contact Gill Bowker, Forward Ladies or call 07949 904 160