National WIBA 2015 Grand Final: And The Winners Are …

WIBA Winners Final 2015

UK’s top business women recognised at prestigious national finals 

The UK’s top business women have been recognised at the prestigious national finals of the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards (WIBA).

Hosted by ITV newsreader Charlene White, the glittering awards took place at The Queens Hotel in Leeds on Friday 20 November, where outstanding, entrepreneurial female business leaders from across the UK competed in 11 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 4, held at headline sponsor of the awards HSBC’s offices in Leeds.

The WIBAs, now in its sixth 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 Sahar Hashemi, founder of Coffee Republic and James Cliffe, HSBC Head of UK Business Banking.

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 Women in Business 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 and Microsoft who have committed to providing business support and an ICT review to all our finalists.

“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:

  • Business Woman of the Year & SME Business of the Year (Growth – 10 or more employees) – Alexa Greaves, AAG Systems, Killamarsh. Alexa’s career began in the City, landing one of the largest deals of the 90s at £1bn. She acquired a failing company, turned it around and drove AAG to a £9M turnover, employing 40 people.
  • Digital/Online Business of the Year – Sophie Taylor, Taylor Made Media, London. Sophie launched Taylor Made Media in 2010 which produces branded film content that adds real value to businesses by reaching the right people with the right message. Sophie’s career began in television where she spent twelve years producing and directing prime-time programmes for the BBC, ITV and Channel 4.
  • Inspiring Leader of the Year – Deborah Leary, Forensic Pathways, Birmingham. Deborah Leary OBE, D.Univ, FRSA, CCMI and founder of Forensic Pathways has responsibility for the strategic management of the company, focusing on the global exploitation of its products and services and the company’s commitment to corporates.
  • International Business of the Year – Leanne Bonner-Cooke, Ratby. Leanne is CEO of Evolve-IT Consulting Ltd, which helps businesses to take a fresh perspective and look at how they can change their processes and technology to be more effective and efficient.
  • Not for Profit/Social Enterprise of the Year – Toni Esberger, Click Nottingham, Nottingham. Toni is CEO of Click Nottingham which connects and empowers people, creating a kinder and more caring society.
  • Retail Business of the Year – Claire O’Connor, babyballet, Halifax. Claire set up the UK’S leading pre-school dance academy, babyballet, in 2005. Her company is a leading player in the franchise market and a recognised children’s brand.
  • Rising Star of the Year – Amy Archer, Swift Leisure, Cottingham. Amy is deputy managing director of the UK’s number one manufacturer of caravans, motor homes and holiday homes. The company’s turnover is £200m and it employs 900 people across the region. Amy is the only woman on the board of directors.
  • SME Business of the Year (Emerging – less than 10 employees) – Sam Pearce, The Potting Shed Spa Batley & Eastthorpe Hall, Mirfield. Award-winning ambassador for the beauty industry Sam Pearce created her two multi-award winning businesses, The Potting Shed Spa and Eastthorpe Hall.
  • Start-up Business of the Year – Claire Turner, TLC Accountants, Wetherby. Claire is director and founder of Turner Lister & Co. She is passionate about helping businesses grow, by giving great advice and using her network to connect people.
  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Business of the Year – Kate Krachai, Quality Context, Sheffield. Kate is the director of Quality Context which provides analytical testing and consultancy services to pharmaceutical and healthcare companies to protect the safety and wellbeing of patients. The business has clients in over 35 countries and a turnover of more than £1m.
  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year & special award for ‘One to Watch’– Rebecca McCann, Pro Blo Group, Birkenhead. Rebecca launched Pro Blo Group in November 2014 with plans to sell on eBay, but instead launched into Selfridges and has since expanded to Europe and launched a franchise in the United Arab Emirates. Rebecca supplies over 180 salons and has signed to Salon Services, the number one beauty wholesaler worldwide.
  • Special Lifetime Achievement award – Lady Michelle Mone OBE, founder of Ultimo.

This year, for the first time, award finalists and winners were offered support from two of the most influential names in business – HSBC, who are the headline sponsor of the Forward Ladies Women in Business Awards, and Microsoft, the awards technology partner.

James Cliffe, HSBC Head of UK Business Banking in the UK, said: “HSBC is proud to support the Forward Ladies National Women in Business Awards and to recognise the many influential women who in 2015 demonstrated exceptional leadership in shaping the business landscape across the UK. The event attracted an outstanding group of business leaders across a range of industry sectors, and we wish to congratulate all those who participated in the regional heats and final.

“HSBC also welcomed the opportunity to provide additional help and guidance to this year’s finalists on how they can best achieve their growth ambitions for the future.”

Microsoft will offer finalists a full review of their ICT set up. The review will explore how their organisation can utilise technology across a range of business functions to drive business results.

Sharon Jandu, Strategic Partnerships, Small and Medium Business, at Microsoft, said: “Our mission and values are all about helping businesses unlock their full potential and we are excited about the prospect of working with the UK’s leading women in business in their companies to support them to achieve this aim.”

The shortlisted finalists in each category at the national awards were as follows:

  • Digital/Online Business of the Year –

Yorkshire – Lucy Scott-Paul, Bah Humbugs, Masham

Midlands – Susan Hallam, Hallam Internet, Nottingham

North West & Isle of Man – Lisa Duddington, Keep it Usable, Salford

  • Inspiring Leader of the Year –

Yorkshire – Kate Hardcastle, Insight with Passion, Huddersfield

North West & Isle of Man – Leanne Goodwin, Jobwise, Bolton

London & the South – Stephanie Asplin, The Crewing Company, London

  • International Business of the Year –

Yorkshire – Julia Gash, Bag it don’t bin it, Sheffield

  • Not for Profit/Social Enterprise of the Year –

Yorkshire – Claire Young, School Speakers, Wakefield

North West & Isle of Man – Helen O’Donnell, Cheshire Community Foundation

London & the South – Jobeda Ali, Rahena Begum & Jaida Begum, Three Sisters Care, London

  • Retail Business of the Year –

MidlandsAmita Sawhney, Memsaab, Nottingham

North West & Isle of Man – Sarah Gallacher, Cocoa Cabana Chocolatiers, Manchester

London & the South – Rachel Lovett, Lovett & Co, Brighton

  • Rising Star of the Year –

Midlands – Laura Grant, Maggie’s Centres, Nottingham

North West & Isle of Man – Sally Penni, Barrister at Law & Codethink Ltd, Salford

London & the South – Tessy Ojo, The Diana Award, London

  • SME Business of the Year (Emerging – less than 10 employees) –

Midlands – Becky Valentine & Victoria Green, Spenbeck Ltd, Nottingham

North West & Isle of Man – Suzan Thompson, Elegant Address, Chester

London & the South – Linda Greenwall, Hampstead Health Care, London

  • SME Business of the Year (Growth – 10 or more employees) –

Midlands – Jyoti Jaspal, Little Folks, Birmingham

North West & Isle of Man – Rifiat Jadwat, Ultrasound NW Ltd, Manchester

London & the South – Shelley Hoppe, Southerly, London

  • Start-up Business of the Year –

Midlands – Jennifer Cross, Cross Productions, Leicester

North West & Isle of Man – Shazda Ahmed, Monarch Solicitors, Manchester

London & the South – Christianne Wolff, Body Rescue, Chartridge

  • Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Business of the Year –

Midlands – Deborah Leary, Forensic Pathways, Birmingham

  • Young Entrepreneur of the Year –

Yorkshire – Erene Hadjiioannou & Abra Wynn, Pastille Beauty Bar, Leeds

Midlands – Lizzie Leary, Kindred Sole, Coalville

  • One to Watch

North West & Isle of Man – Halyma Begum, The Co-operative Insurance, Manchester.

  • Lifetime Achievement Award

Yorkshire – Sara Davies, founder of Crafters Companion

Midlands – Hilary Devey, CBE former dragon and CEO and Chairman of The Pall-Ex Group

London – Karen Boswell, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe


Other regional sponsors of the awards were:

ASDA, Yorkshire Water, Qhotels, LCF, Faith PR, Elland Road Financial Services, Yorkshire Post, Yorkshire Life, Finance Yorkshire, WGN, Saville AV, Sorted PR, Ramside Spa, Oakridge Consulting and George F White.

More information on the Women in Business Awards can be found at:


Issued by Faith PR on behalf of Forward Ladies. For further information and interviews with Griselda Togobo or the category winners, please contact Charlotte Goldthorpe on 01484 599886 or email

About Forward Ladies

Forward Ladies, the voice for women in business, creates opportunities for career women and entrepreneurs to build their networks and develop new skills. Founded in 1999, Forward Ladies has a diverse membership of thousands of businesswomen from global corporates to SME’S and start-ups.

The benefits of joining Forward Ladies include expert advice from recognised peers, webinars, blogs, mentoring, workshops, inspirational speaker events and training days.

The organisation’s signature International Women’s Day has attracted world class speakers like Cherie Blair, Germaine Greer and this year, former government Cabinet Minister Lady Warsi.