Apprentices, entrepreneurs and STEM ambassadors were among those recognised at East Midlands Chamber’s Enterprising Women Awards.
Eight women in business took home honours at the gala dinner on Friday (8 October), which was held at Nottingham Belfry in partnership with headline sponsor Futures Housing Group.
The evening was topped off by the Business Woman of the Year title, which was awarded to Colleague Box managing director Natalie Bamford.
She founded the Derby-based personalised gift box service alongside husband Adam during the first Covid-19 lockdown in April 2020. At the time, she was on furlough as a technology company’s expedite services assistant and came up with the idea of posting the boxes to home-based colleagues in order to “spread a bit of happiness and positivity” while the country was engulfed by “doom and gloom”.
The couple have already grown it into a £1m turnover business as corporations have identified the benefits of being able to send low-cost, high-quality gift boxes – which can be personalised or themed to feature everything from prosecco and coffee to chocolate and candles – that can be sent to staff en masse.
Asked what she liked best about the business after picking up the award, Natalie said: “We get to spread positivity and happiness, so that initial aim of when we first started Colleague Box is what still excites us today.”
Enterprising Women Awards gala dinner returns after 18 months
This was the first time the Enterprising Women Awards had been held since early March 2020, just before lockdown.
It is the biggest event in the calendar for East Midlands Chamber’s Enterprising Women network, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.
Chamber president Eileen Richards MBE, who co-chairs the network with Jean Mountain, said: “It was wonderful to be able to celebrate the Enterprising Women Awards in person and welcome back all our members and supporters. You could physically feel the enthusiasm and emotion within the room, which demonstrates just how much these awards mean to individuals.
“We have so many unbelievable women working at all levels of businesses across the East Midlands – from CEOs to managers to apprentices – and it is incredible to see them recognised.”
Jean, a past president of the Chamber, added: “Our Enterprising Women network has gone from strength to strength, and this evening is always the crowning event in our calendar so it was brilliant to see everyone again.
“Congratulations to all our winners and finalists, who thoroughly deserve the opportunity to have their stories told to the region. We can’t wait to be back next year and have some exciting plans to mark our 25th anniversary.”
The 300 guests collectively donated £1,270 to the Chamber’s three chosen charities this year – Chesterfield Samaritans, Help the Homeless Leicester and Nottinghamshire Hospice.
ITV weather presenter Emma Jesson hosted the black-tie event, with entertainment provided by Michael Bublé tribute act Mike All Bublé.
Enterprising Women Awards 2021 winners
Business Woman of the Year (sponsored by Futures Housing Group)
Natalie Bamford, Colleague Box (Derby)
Rowan Bradley, Children’s Therapy Solutions
Sandra Wiggins, DPI UK
Jillian Thomas, Future Life Wealth Management
Claire Twells, Smith Partnership
Helen Wathall, Wathall’s Funeral Directors
Female Entrepreneur of the Year (sponsored by Midlands Engine Investment Fund)
Rachel Hayward, Ask the Chameleon (Derby)
Janice Holmes, Janice Rose Lingerie
Iwona Lebiedowicz, PAB Languages
Nicky Botham, Shed Grounds Maintenance
Jaz Kaur, Fraser Stretton Estate Agents
Social Commitment Award (sponsored by PPL PRS)
CR Civil Engineering (Loughborough)
Bodie Hodges Foundation
Hot House Music
Small Business of the Year (sponsored by Unique Window Systems)
Shed Grounds Maintenance (Chesterfield)
We Love Surveys
Female Employee of the Year (sponsored by Smallman & Son)
Matilda Swanson, Loates HR Consultancy (Derby)
Vicky Evans, Air Ambulance Service
Ana-Andreea Covaliu, Design Studio Architects
Hollie Newton, EMA Training
Rosie McLaughlin, Embark Federation
Team of the Year (sponsored by She Inspires Global)
Futures Housing Group
Outstanding Contribution to Work in STEM (sponsored by Pick Everard)
Apprentice of the Year (sponsored by EMA Training)
Evie Smith, Reckitt Benckiser (UK) (Derbyshire)
Brooke Dennis, Recruit 2 You
Courtney Bower, Recruit 2 You
Hannah Ward, Wytech
Bethany Less, Xbite