2015 NatWest everywoman Awards winners announced

Revealing the often extraordinary stories of individuals whose determination and tenacity have driven their success, the awards shine a spotlight on Britain as a hotbed of enterprise talent.

These exceptional women have been singled out from hundreds of nominations, judged by a panel of esteemed businesswomen including Cath Kidston MBE, Amanda Wakeley OBE and Higgidy founder Camilla Stephens amongst others. The event, held in the regal surrounds of The Dorchester Hotel, was presented by Sky News’ Jayne Secker and attended by leading figures in business and politics including Specsavers founder Dame Mary Perkins, Caroline Dinage MP, Baroness Goudie and Baroness Verma.

While there are more women running businesses than ever in the UK, research from the University of Cambridge earlier this year found that female entrepreneurs were less inclined to highlight their achievements, despite generating higher profits than their male counterparts.*  With the combined annual turnover of the entrepreneur guests at the Awards estimated to be in excess of £3 billion, it has never been more important to champion successful enterprise and create role models for future generations.

The 2015 NatWest everywoman Award was presented to Ayesha Vardag, founder of London based law firm VARDAGS

The legal world has long been a male dominated domain, yet Ayesha changed the legal landscape for women, winning a seminal case at the Supreme Court in 2010 that made prenuptial agreements enforceable in England and Wales.  The mother of three is a pioneer of flexible working and generous maternity benefits which has led to a high proportion of talented female lawyers to her 60-strong family and private client firm.

The other 2015 NatWest everywoman Awards winners were:

  • The Artemis Award – sponsored by Crystal Clear Skincare – for an inspirational woman who has been trading for between 18 months and three years: Suzanne Brock, from Guildford, Surrey– Nutriment: One of the UK’s leading suppliers of premium quality raw pet food, Suzanne has grown Nutriment to a team of 30 full time staff with plans to expand further following the acquisition of a second premises.
  • The Demeter Award – sponsored by Worldpay – for an inspirational woman who has been trading for between three and six years: Poppy Mardall, from London – Poppy’s Funerals: Poppy is turning the funeral industry on its head, offering simple, affordable, meaningful services, developed on a bespoke basis by her all-female team.
  • The Athena Award – for the most inspirational woman who has been trading for between seven and eleven years: Clare Johnston, from London – The Up Group: Clare established her successful executive search firm aged just 26 and now has global clients including Google, Facebook and Airbnb, and runs regular events for women in the digital sector. 
  • The Hera Award – for the most inspirational woman who has been trading for 12 years or more: Gillian Pearson, from Cheltenham – Newberry International Produce & Smootheelicious: Gillian climbed the ranks from office junior at a local fruit and veg import/export company, before spotting a gap in the market for a frozen fruit brand. She bought out the company and has led it to an annual turnover of over £10 million, at the age of just 32.
  • The Iris Award – sponsored by IBM – for the most inspirational and successful female entrepreneur who uses technology in an innovative and disruptive way: Jen Hyatt, from London – Big White Wall: Utilising her experience in setting up social impact organisations, Jen set up Big White Wall, a digital mental health and wellbeing service offering safe, anonymous support 24 hours a day, which operates in the UK, US and New Zealand working closely with the Department of Health, Help for Heroes and the Ministry of Defence to support 7 million personnel, veterans and their families.
  • The Aphrodite/ Mumpreneur Award – sponsored by the Daily Mail – for a woman who founded her business whilst raising a child or children aged 12 or under. Sarah Pittendrigh, from HexhamNorthumberland – Simply Bows and Chair Covers: When she was threatened with losing her house, Sarah was forced to launch what turned out to be her dream business, sourcing and manufacturing luxury table linen and chair décor for the wedding and event sector. Battling cancer, and not being able to pay herself a salary for the first two years, Sarah has continued to grow the company, whilst putting back into the local community.
  • New for 2015: The Brand of the Future Award – sponsored by The White Company – presented by Chrissie Rucker MBE to a woman whose early stage business is seen to demonstrate huge potential for growth: Tamara Arbib, from London – Rebel Kitchen: Tamara’s goal is to be the world’s number one health food brand, and she is on her way there with the hugely successful Coconut Mylks range – available in 21 countries and with UK listings including Waitrose, Wholefoods, Planet Organic and Tesco.

Two further awards were presented to prominent advocates whose support for women in business and whose professional success has encouraged others. The Spirit of everywoman Award, which honours a woman whose determination, commitment and dedication has changed the landscape for women in business in the UK was given to Heather Rabbatts CBE, whose illustrious career spans law, public service, business, media and sport. Mo Constantine OBE, co-founder of global beauty brand, Lush Cosmetics, accepted the Ambassador Award for a woman whose achievements and high profile are inspiring more young women to excel.

Speaking about the finalists, everywoman co-founder Maxine Benson MBE comments, “Every year we applaud the achievements of the UK’s leading female entrepreneurs and this year’s winners do not disappoint with their extraordinary stories of tenacity, determination and drive.  Nobody should underestimate the guts it takes to start and grow a successful business.  Our winners this year share a common goal to succeed and in doing so to inspire future generations.  Today we celebrate the best of British businesses and the women behind them.”

Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise at NatWest, said: “Competition this year was very tough, so we would like to congratulate all of the outstanding entrepreneurs who have been recognised.  The women honoured today are amazing role models, and I hope more of the female business owners we work with will be inspired by their stories. At NatWest we are passionate about supporting women, which is why we have over 250 externally accredited Women in Business specialists, trained to understand the specific needs and the unique challenges faced by women in business.”

Minister for Women and Equalities and Family Justice Caroline Dinenage, who spoke at the Awards ceremony commented: “I’m immensely proud to be part of these awards for outstanding achievement. Every woman nominated and those who have won an award are truly inspirational. It is only right that we celebrate their amazing achievements – we have more female entrepreneurs than ever before and over 1 million majority women-led small and medium businesses in the UK. However, we want every woman to have the freedom to start their own business which is why we launched the Meet a Mentor scheme and have given further £1.1 million funding for the women and broadband initiative helping to remove barriers to their success.”