More than 150 people from across South Devon attended an inaugural event to recognise and celebrate the achievements of local women across business and the wider community.
The Women of Achievement awards, which took place on Friday 6 July at the Grand Hotel, Torquay, was organised by the Herald Express in conjunction with business start-up support organisation Outset Torbay and Enterprising Women.
Bev Hurley, chief executive of YTKO and founder of Enterprising Women and the Outset programme, introduced the evening reception, saying: “Women are still hugely under-represented in business. With only around 15% of VAT registered businesses owned by women, there is a huge amount of social and economic potential to be unlocked, which is vital in today’s economic climate.
“We need more female role models, to inspire and motivate young women. But it’s not just about having more role models, it’s about actively promoting them, and creating more positive stories about the role of business people, especially women, in the media.”
Helen Harman, Programme Director of Outset Torbay, said: “We are very proud to have supported the first Women of Achievement awards in South Devon. It has been a fantastic opportunity to recognise, inspire and celebrate the talents of local women. It’s important that we continue to raise the profile of our successful women, to help inspire our future generations.”
Sally Hurst, founder of The Old Bag Company, was guest speaker at the awards and shared her own journey of starting and growing her successful worldwide, Devon-based business. With no previous experience, she encouraged women in the audience to ‘give it a go’ and to take full advantage of free help from business support organisations.
The awards attracted more 78 entries over eight categories, which were presented on the evening by host John Govier of BBC Radio Devon.
Sarah Wallbank, winner of the Best New Business award for her business, Torbay Hygiene Ltd, said: “Any new business will inevitably face its obstacles and indeed doubts so to actually win the New Business of the Year is the perfect affirmation for us and we are simply over the moon. Having already accumulated over 500 customers to date, we are beyond excited about what our second year of trading will hold.”
Best New Business Award: (Left to right) John Govier of BBC, Claire Landricombe of Outset Torbay, Sarah Wallbank of Torbay Hygiene Ltd (winner) and Herald Express representative. Photo courtesy of Andy Styles.
The awards presentation ended with a special Lifetime Achievement award, which was presented to Mrs Joan Nott for her work in promoting the bay and Devon to so many visitors in the last 35 years.
Women of Achievement awards 2012 winners:
• Business of the Year – Maria Shelton, Darbeys
• Contribution to the Community – Sarah Dumont, Fermoy’s Garden Centre
• Innovation Award – Carolyn Custerson, English Riviera Tourism Company
• Mentor of the Year – Tracey Lane, Fermoy’s Garden Centre
• New Business of the Year – Sarah Wallbank, Torbay Hygiene Ltd
• Rising Star of the Year – Charlie Bradford Gibbs, Torbay Taekwondo-Do
• Woman of the Year – Angela George, IMS Marketing
• Women in the Workplace – Victoria Bosely, Best Western Passage House Hotel
For more photos and coverage on the Women of Achievement Awards 2012, please see this week’s Herald Express (Thursday 12 July).