It’s International Women’s Day.
While there is still much to be done to close the gender gap, as highlighted by the launch of Future Female Founders, a collaboration between Chwarae Teg, NatWest and Simply Do Ideas, last week, there is are still many women leading the way in Wales.
Here we take the opportunity to profile 30 women who have made their mark in the Business community.
We have not included people from the public or third sector, although a couple on the list are in positions that have an important role in boosting the private sector, such as the city growth deals.
This is by no means a definitive list and there many women working in numerous businesses across Wales who have made it to the top, despite the continuing issues around the glass ceiling, but we couldn’t feature them all. If you, or someone you know, should have been included please do hesitate in sharing their story with us.
1,2 & 3. Jane Tranter, Julie Gardner, and Nathasha Hale – Bad Wolf
It’s great to see three women behind the fastest growing business in Wales. Bad Wolf achieved a staggering growth rate of 2668% from 2016-18, with revenues rising from £1.8m to £50.3m.
The Cardiff-based production company was established in 2015 by former BBC executives Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner, with Natasha Hale joining as chief operating officer. The firm is continuing to sustain exceptional revenue growth, with its critically-acclaimed production of the fantasy drama His Dark Materials airing at the end of 2019 and the second series due to hit our screens later this year. This followed the success of a Discovery of Witches for Sky, for which two additional series was commissioned, and the second series is also set for later this year.
4. Fiona Stewart – Green Man
Green Man, Wales’s largest music, science and arts festival, attracts thousands of people from around the world to the Brecon Beacons every August, contributing £10 million to the Welsh economy every year. Fiona Stewart is currently the only woman with controlling ownership of a large UK festival. Previously working at the Big Chill festival, Fiona joined the Green Man team and developed it into the multi-national event it is today, and now sits as its director and owner. She also founded the Green Man Trust charity in 2013 which has supported more than 3,000 artists, trained 2,000 people, 200 science engagement projects and 27 Welsh community projects.
5. Alison Vickers – Bevan and Buckland
(Image: Jonathan Myers)
Alison Vickers is the managing partner of the chartered accountants firm Bevan and Buckland, which has its head office in Swansea. Ms Vickers is a qualified chartered accountant and provides financial, accounting, tax advice and support to a range of owner-managed businesses throughout south west Wales Her areas of expertise include the not-for-profit sector and she regularly runs training courses for charities. She looks after a broad range of the company’s SME clients, from smaller lifestyle businesses to £100 million turnover trading groups.
6. Kathryn Roberts – Eversheds Sutherland
Kathryn Roberts has been Senior Office Partner of Eversheds Sutherland’s Cardiff office since 2014. The Cardiff office has 470 people and is the third largest of the 67 global Eversheds Sutherland offices, after London and Atlanta, servicing local, national and international clients. Ms Roberts has 24 years’ experience of specialising in delivering legal services, including conveyancing and insolvency services, for some of the UK’s leading Financial Institutions.
Ms Roberts leads the Gender Network in the Cardiff office and also sits on the national Mental Health and Employer Leadership Council set up by the Prime Minister. She also sits on the CBI Wales Council and is a Board member for Maggie’s Cancer Centre in Cardiff.
7. Hayley Parsons – Investor
(Image: Gareth Everett/Huw Evans Picture Agency)
In 2006 Hayley Parsons left a well-paid, secure job with Admiral Insurance to go it alone. GoCompare began life as a team of six people sitting around Hayley’s kitchen table but quickly grew to become a dominant player in the price comparison industry. After selling her shares in the company in 2015 Hayley has remained a staunch supporter of entrepreneurship in Wales. She is a member of Inspire Wales, an investment consortium and has personally invested in a number of start-up businesses including Paperclip, an online and app-based marketplace, and Solar Buddies, a roll-on, mess-free sunscreen applicator for children. Last year Hayley became a non-executive director at Cardiff Blues – the first female board member at the club.
8. Debra Rees-Bowen – Cardiff Airport
Debra Rees-Bowen was promoted to the role of the chief executive officer at Cardiff Airport in 2017. She joined the team at the Rhoose-based airport in 2012 as operations director, after 28-years in the Royal Air Force, leaving as Group Captain. At the start os 2020 Debra joined the board of Glas Cymru as a non-executive director. Debra is also a trustee and board member of the Hijinx Theatre Company in Cardiff, a theatre group for people with learning difficulties. She also serves as a board member for the Airport Operators Association, is vice-chair of the Regional and Business Airports Group, and is a Council Member of CBI Cymru
9. Caroline Thompson – Alacrity
(Image: HUW JOHN, CARDIFF)
As head of partnerships for the Alacrity Foundation Caroline is responsible for developing strategic relationships with key stakeholders and forging new cross-sector partnerships that enhance the Alacrity profile and programme offering. Before taking up her position with the Alacrity Foundation, Caroline was CEO of Be The Spark, a movement in Wales designed to bring together innovation and entrepreneurship in a more visible, simple, connected way.
10. Louise O’Shea – confused.com
Louise O’Shea is the CEO of the UK’s first and longest-running insurance marketplace confused.com. Originally from Yorkshire, she was previously with Confused’s parent company, FTSE 100 insurance giant Admiral, for a decade in senior roles including international business development director and head of investor relations. Louise is also a board director at FinTech Wales, which aims to provide an independent voice for the FinTech industry, both within Wales and beyond.
11. Kellie Beirne – Cardiff Capital Region City Deal
Kellie Beirne is director of the Cardiff Capital Region City Deal. which, over the next two decades, aims to leverage a further £4 billion of private sector funding and create 25,000 new jobs – including 10,000 planned apprenticeship roles. Kellie is responsible for making a senior level contribution towards developing and ensuring the delivery of the programme. Kellie is also a co-chair for the Innovation Advisory Council for Wales, which advise the Welsh Government on a broad range of innovation matters to help grow and sustain Wales’ economy and improve the wealth and wellbeing of the people of Wales.
12 & 13. Hannah & Sophie Pycroft – Spectrum Brushes
(Image: Andrew Jeffery)
Sisters Hannah and Sophie founded make-up brush company Spectrum Collections, which has gone from a start-up in Barry garage to collaborate with Hollywood studios in producing some of the most coveted make-up brushes in the world. The pair have released collections featuring Mickey, Minnie and The Little Mermaid following a deal with Disney, but it was a collaboration with Paramount to produce a Mean Girls inspired collection that catapulted them into the spotlight.
14. Anne Boden – Starling Bank
(Image: Paul Grover)
After a career that included roles at Lloyds Bank, Standard Chartered, UBS, RBS, and ABN AMRO Anne Boden decided to start a new bank from the ground up. Anne, who grew up in and went to university in Swansea, was frustrated by the restrictions she saw being imposed by outdated technologies and decided to do something about it. In 2014 the idea became a reality and just last week Anne announced Starling would be bringing 400 jobs to Cardiff.
15. Karen Hewitt – character.com
(Image: © Dimitris Legakis)
Character.com is the UK’s largest independent online retailer of licensed clothing and accessories for children and adults. Karen Hewitt, along with her husband Stephen, set up the Swansea-based business in 2009 and over the past decade has grown to become a global success shipping 2.5 million products to customers worldwide. In 2019 character.com made its fifth consecutive appearance on the Wales Fast Growth 50 list, with a growth of 194.5%, between 2016 and 2018, and a turnover of £19.09m in 2018.
16. Clare Hieatt – Hieatt jeans and DO lecture
For almost 40 years Cardigan had been home to a factory that made 35,000 pairs of jeans each week, but production was moved to Morocco and many people lost their jobs. Seeing an opportunity to hire experienced worked Claire and her husband David started their company – the Hi from their surname and Ut from utility. Hiut jeans hit the headlines in 2018 when Meghan Markle sported their black skinny jeans in Cardiff while on a tour of the country. Clare has also written a book chronicling the couple’s other venture; the Do Lectures. The Do Lectures Wales have been running for more than 10 years now, and bring together entrepreneurs and other enthusiasts from around the world to swap ideas in the Hieatt’s old cow barn in Cardigan.
17. Sally Owens – Oil4Wales
Oil 4 Wales recently celebrated its 10th year of trading with a turnover of £121m. In 2019, the Carmarthenshire-headquartered company has seen its customer numbers grow from 70,000 to 90,000, headcount increase from 98 to 111, and its volume of fuel surge to 160 million litres per annum. Sally Owens is a director at the family-run business, which was founded by her father Colin, the company’s managing director.
18. Rachael Flanagan – Mrs Bucket
Mrs Buckét Commercial is aiming to see revenues hit £8m by 2025, not bad for a business that was started with just one mop and one bucket. Rachael Flanagan, 32, began the business in Pontarddulais, by cleaning her parents’ home before moving on to her gran’s. With the help of £20 spent on promotional flyers her clients started to grow and she has never looked back. Now the business has commercial clients across South Wales and the South West of England, and it is looking to create more than 130 new jobs this year, to add to its existing workforce of 250. Last year the business sold its domestic arm to focus solely on commercial clients. It also acquired new HQ premises in Swansea, installed a new management board and increased head office roles by 27%.
19. Laura Tenison – JoJo Maman Bébé
(Image: Yasmin Balai)
JoJo Maman Bébé began life as a catalogue business almost three decades ago. In 1992 Laura Tenison had a near-fatal head-on collision and while in hospital a person in her ward complained about the lack of good catalogue fashion for her children. The next year JoJo Maman Bébé was launched from a tiny shared office in London with the stock stored in a disused carpenter’s workshop at her parents’ place in Pontypool. Ahead of the curve Jojo Maman had a website three years before the millennium and just before the turn of the century, she bought a 20,000sq ft warehouse in Newport. In the 21st century, the business has continued to grow, and Laura started to work directly with charities across the world. Competitors Mothercare and Mamas & Papas both went into administration last year, with the former disappearing completely, but JoJo Maman Bébé managed to see a 24% growth or the four weeks to 12 January compared to the previous year.
20. Alwen Williams – North Wales Growth Deal
Former BT chief Alwen Williams is leading the North Wales Economic Ambition Board Programme Office that is spearheading the development of the seven programmes forming the £1bn North Wales Growth Deal. Based at Conwy Business Centre in Llandudno Junction, Alwen and her team will aim to leverage commercial investment and build business cases for priority projects in 2020, before laying foundations for delivery from the following year onwards.
21. Elin Pinnell – Capital Law
Elin Pinnel is the managing partner of Capital Law. Along with senior partners Chris Nott and Duncan Macintosh, she founded Capital and is now responsible for formulating and implementing the firm’s day-to-day operations while overseeing the growth of the business and the delivery of the firm’s 2020 plan.
22. Amanda Blanc, Professional Rugby Board
Amanda Blanc, the former chief executive of Zurich Insurance Group for Europe, Middle East and Africa, was appointed as the independent chair of the Professional Rugby Board (PRB). The PRB , which features representatives from both the WRU and the regions, runs the professional game in Wales and decides the distribution of funding to the four regional teams. Amanda, originally from Treherbert in the Rhondda, automatically joined the WRU board by virtue of her position as the chair of the PRB. She has had a distinguished 30 year career in business, having also been group chief executive of AXA UK, PPP & Ireland and twice being voted the UK Insurer CEO’s CEO of the Year.
23. Victoria Mann – NearMeNow
Victoria ‘Vicky’ Mann was a senior risk analyst for three major financial institutions in South Wales, before having a career change to become a secondary maths and IT teacher. It was while teaching business studies A-Levels that Vicky first voiced her idea when a pupil asked her if she had a business idea. NearMeNow was born and was recently recognised by Retail Insider as a Top 60 Global Retail Innovation. NearMeNow allows businesses that share the same geographical space to combine their digital efforts into one consumer-facing app, that creates a truly interactive, searchable, community experience. Forthcoming releases aim to use geo-fencing technology to link the high street to consumers using the local transport infrastructure and create a truly interactive digital experience once on the high street through Interactive Shop Front Windows.
24. Aimee Bateman – Careercake
Careercake is a video career platform that supports people to take on the challenges they’ll face in the first decade of their career. In 2010 Aimee Bateman was disillusioned by her job in corporate recruitment, so she handed in her notice, went online and bought a camera for just £20. She then started making career advice videos, posting them for free on YouTube. Aimee went through NatWest Bank’s Entrepreneurial Spark programme, and Careercake has grown, with its content now viewed in more than 40 countries. Aimee has been awarded Talent and Innovation Winner (IOD) and Marketer of the Year (CIM) as well an Honorary Fellowship from Cardiff Metropolitan University, for her contribution to careers and the community at large.
25. Alison Lea-Wilson – Halen Mon
(Image: David Williamson)
Alison Lea-Wilson, along with her husband David, had been running a Sea Zoo, but the seasonality of the business meant they start looking for something to make them money in the winter months and came up with making sea salt. Anglesey Sea Salt comes from salt flakes harvested from the Menai Strait in Anglesey, with a mineral content that makes it different in appearance, texture, and taste. The sea salt is now used around the world by chefs, food lovers, and even former U.S. President Barack Obama. It was served at the London 2012 Olympics, as well as at political summits and royal weddings. It is also a vital ingredient in Green & Blacks chocolate and Piper’s Crisps.
26. Heather Myers – South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce
Heather Myers, the former chief executive of the Abergavenny Food Festival, was appointed to head the South and Mid Wales Chambers of Commerce in 2016. Heather had spent four years with the famous food festival and has three decades of business experience. In her career, she has spent a number of years in an advisory and mentoring role developing a strong understanding of businesses in several different sectors. The Chamber seeks to be a voice of SMEs in Wales.
27. Shavanah Taj – TUC Wales
(Image: WalesOnline/Rob Browne)
Shavanah Taj was appointed acting general secretary for TUC Wales last month. Shavanah joined the TUC from the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), where she has been the Welsh Secretary since 2013. As she started her new role she vowed to stand up for workers in Wales under threat from the impact of Brexit, climate change and automation. Cardiff born and raised, Shavanah grew up steeped in the trade union movement. Her father was a Health and Safety representative in the steel works.
28. Gemma Hallett – Mifuture
Using technology to mobilise a generation towards employability and prosperity, miFuture was founded by former teacher Gemma Hallett who self-funded the tech development following a successful pilot.
Employing a swiping mechanic favoured by younger generations, the app connects young people with employers offering career opportunities. At the moment Gemma, who was formerly a Welsh rugby international, is holding off the temptation of accessing private and public finance to grow her business.
29. Milena Mondini de Focatiis – Admiral
At the same time as Admiral announced record profits they also revealed David Stevens had notified the board of his intention to retire from his position in 12 months’ time. Milena Mondini de Focatiis, the current head of UK and European Insurance, has been promoted to Group CEO-Designate and will join the board as an executive director. Ms Mondini de Focatiis will assume the CEO role after the transition period. Milena had previously been the CEO of ConTe.it, Admiral’s Italian insurance business which she founded in 2008.
30. Sarah Bolt – Forth
Founded in 2016 by Sarah Bolt, the Chepstow-based Forth helps create personal biomarker profiles for its users by using at-home blood testing kits. With over 10,000 users, Forth’s customers are provided with an understanding of their body’s key internal biomarkers for good health using a simple pinprick blood test. The scientific blood testing is undertaken at accredited labs then uploaded to their customer’s personalised results dashboard accessible through the web portal or the Forth app. The business won Welsh Innovation of the Year Award at the Welsh SME Business Awards 2019, and on target to achieve a £1m turnover following a £250,000 equity investment from the Development Bank of Wales.
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