Hands up anyone who can’t by now, after several series of The Apprentice, recite exactly, Karen Brady’s business career almost as well as Alan Sugar’s? Who doesn’t know about the nerve and willpower of Margaret Thatcher as she took on the Old Boys’ Network and won?
Or the quick-thinking ingenuity of Tamara Mellon in spotting a lucrative gap in the market for designer ready-to-wear shoes?
These are fascinating, inspirational stories of the British female entrepreneurial spirit in all its glory, but, they do somewhat tend to steal the limelight. Here are some other fantastic success stories that deserve attention:
1. Nicola Elliott, Neom
Ironic really, that a woman whose stellar success was built on developing a range of luxury pampering products has so little time available to relax herself. With two lovely children under 4, and an iconic brand popularised by influential celebrities such as Kate Moss and Gwyneth Paltrow, you won’t hear Nicola Elliott complaining.
Previously a journalist working for the glossies, Nicola noticed whilst shopping for present for her eco-conscious sister that many of the luxury brands she wrote about and used herself didn’t seem to give much attention to organic products. Partnering up with Oliver Mennell, whose initials make up the second half of Neom’s name, the company’s range of affordable, stylish and organic aromatherapy products have been a massive success.
2. Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta, Olive Blue
Having come up with the concept for her coaching and consultancy business whilst still doing her A-levels, Yvonne Ruke Akpoveta clearly believes in getting started early. She was inspired by her mother’s business career, and decided that her future lay in helping the owners of SMEs to grow their companies successfully and avoid the pitfalls along the way.
Now a popular motivational speaker, as well as an author, Yvonne was lucky in that she was already a very well-organised and entrepreneurial person whilst still at school. Her start-up can be run from home or clients’ offices, meaning initial costs have been minimal, and she has made good use of government and bank support too. There are many SMEs out there now that can also be grateful she’s got everything so together!
3. Gillian Nissam, Working Mums
Getting mums back into employment has been a political talking-point for years. Gillian Nissam, who this year was chosen to be a Mumspanel judge, sifting through the best products and services dreamed up by working mums, founded her company back in 2006. At the time, she was looking to re-enter the labour market after having her second child, but found that finding flexible, challenging work was difficult. So she set about changing the situation.
Matching prospective candidates with vacancies at businesses that range in size from large corporates to SMEs, Working Mums now employs 14 people. It’s more than just a job-search site as well – mums can find stacks of advice, blogs and news to help them advance their careers.
4. Julie Deane, Cambridge Satchel Company
Looking back over her shoulder didn’t hinder Julie Deane in her business prospects. In fact, the past is where she found her inspiration, in the leather satchels she wore throughout her schooldays. Having become fed-up with nylon bags that never seemed to last, and needing a source of income that would allow her to move her daughter into a different school, Julie set about finding a manufacturer who could recreate the satchels of her youth.
In fact, finding a company that could create them turned out to be the hardest part, and now from just a £600 initial investment, Julie’s business turns over an incredible £1 million in sales a month.
5. Emma Sinclair, Target Parking
Emma took an unusual path, from mergers and acquisitions at one of the world’s leading financial firms, to running her own car-parking business. Yet it actually makes good sense when you realise that what she excels at is spotting opportunities and acting on them.
Having seen that car parks were a neglected form of real estate, she began convincing owners of the potential they had on their hands not only to generate significant revenue, but give their customers’ an excellent first impression. Target Parking now provide a wide range of services to the industry that have seen them earn considerable respect.