EXPO 2017

Celebrating The Success Of Businesswomen In The East Midlands

From marketing to web design, and healthcare to law, Forward Ladies is celebrating the success of successful female talent in the local finals of the national Women in Business Awards for 2016, sponsored by HSBC.

Gemma Orton, MD of Mocha Marketing with Griselda Togobo, MD and owner of Forward Ladies

The Midlands Awards took place on the 28th September at a celebration lunch at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Birmingham, before an audience of senior and influential business leaders.

Griselda Togobo, MD and owner of Forward Ladies, which runs the Women in Business Awards said:

“Our National Women in Business Awards Programme is in its 7th year and we are once again delighted to be working in partnership with HSBC to showcase the best women-led businesses in the UK. There is a huge amount of female talent across the UK and it’s an honour to be able to showcase and celebrate their achievements.

 “This year has been the biggest celebration yet and we are incredibly impressed by the calibre and quality of the applications. It has been truly outstanding.”

Debra White Regional Director of Small Businesses for HSBC and Awards judge, and who presented the trophies said: “There was an impressive number of high-calibre entries this year, highlighting the quality of talented businesswomen we have in the UK. These entrants are the future entrepreneurs of our country, with the Forward Ladies event showcasing the best Britain has to offer.  HSBC will be providing support to help these businesses prosper and thrive in the long term.”

The eight category winners will now take part in a judging day in Manchester in November before a distinguished panel of business specialists, where they will join the finalists from events in London and the south of England, Yorkshire and the North East, and the North West and Isle of Man.  The national winner will be announced at a grand finale to be held in Leeds in December.

Speakers at today’s event included Claire Brunning, HSBC’s deputy area director of the HSBC Birmingham corporate team. She has spent her entire career in banking, undertaking a range of roles – most recently as the deputy regional director of business banking in the Midlands after moving from NatWest, where she was head of business banking invoice finance for the Midlands.

Keynote Speaker at the event was Dale Murray CBE. A New Zealander by birth, she began her career at PwC as a teenager. She is the co-founder of Omega Logic, a British mobile pioneer launching pre-pay mobile top-ups for networks including Orange and Vodafone.

Dale is a non-executive director at the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

(BIS) and has been named by Debretts as one of the 500 most influential people in Britain.

Bespoke glass trophies were presented to the winners by HSBC’s Debra White. The winners in each category are:

Digital and Online:

Susan Hallam is the MD and founder of Hallam Internet a digital marketing agency in Nottingham. Hallam is a Google accredited partner delivering search, content, and social media marketing campaigns. Previously, Susan was a senior lecturer in computing at Nottingham Trent University, and held senior market roles at BT and Capital One.

Not for Profit:

Emma Hallam is the founder and director of Alex’s Wish, a Leicestershire charity with the aim of conquering Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Emma set up Alex’s Wish after her son (after whom the charity is named) was diagnosed with DMD at the age of four. Emma is determined to help find treatments and, ultimately, a cure for this life limiting disease. To date Alex’s Wish has raised more than £400,000 which has supported 11 clinical trials and 2 clinical positions.

Highly commended was Alison Thomas, the CEO of Equation, based in Nottingham, a charity promoting equal, healthy relationships free from domestic abuse and working on prevention with schools.


Gemma Orton is MD of Mocha Marketing, Leicester, a full service marketing and communications agency. The idea for launching the agency came from her struggle to find the right marketing and PR agency to work with her team when working for nine years in the sports industry.

Highly commended was Karen Williams who is the founder of the Buddy Bag Foundation charity in Swadlincote, supplying buddy bags of essential items to children in emergency care after a traumatic incident.

Rising Star:

Lisa Bacon is a director and office manager of SHB Solicitors in Leicester.  She joined the company as an office junior but after completing a secretarial courses, a legal cashier course and finally a legal executive course, she qualified and became a partner, helping to integrate two firms into what is now SHB Solicitors.

Highly commended was Henrietta Brealey, the director of policy & strategic relationships at Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce. She is responsible for policy related research & campaigns and management of the GBCC Patronage scheme.

Highly commended in the SME (Emerging) category were Mary Maguire and Sarah Stevenson who are joint owners of Astute Recruitment, an accountancy recruitment specialist across Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.

Inspiring Leader:

Jillian Thomas survived the Boxing Day tsunami which changed her perspective on life. Recognising the importance of living life to its fullest, she left her job, and spent months researching before setting up her financial planning company. She wanted to bring back the ethics into the financial industry by providing a bespoke service based on trust and transparency. With more than 35 years’ experience in the financial sector she founded Future Life Wealth Management (FLWM) working in Derby and Sheffield.

Other winners includes:

Young (under 30):

Kim Leary is MD of Squibble Ltd, a brand and web design specialist. Her business works with start-ups as well as multinationals, including McDonalds, Marks and Spencer and Auto Trader. They focus on developing strategies that involve monitoring the marketplace to identify profitable opportunities and technological trends related to graphic design, web development and marketing. She is also a Director for Commonwealth Businesswomen.

SME (Emerging):

Tracey Hudson is MD of HR Dept (South Warwickshire) Kenilworth, which she set up 10 years ago. The HR Dept offers outsourced HR support to small and medium sized businesses in Coventry and Warwickshire. Following clients’ concerns about the high costs of recruitment agencies being a barrier to their growth, they launched a recruitment service which now contributes 25% to the business’ turnover.

SME (Growth):

Jan Flawn CBE is the founder PJ Care Ltd, of Milton Keynes, a provider of specialist neurological care and neuro-rehabilitation for people with progressive or acquired neurological conditions. She launched PJ Care after seeing young people with neurological conditions living inappropriately in homes for the elderly. PJ Care now runs seven neurological care units, employing over 500 staff. She was also highly commended in the Inspiring Leader category.