A Peterborough businesswoman has been given a national award for inspiring others with her entrepreneurial story which began with her maternity leave and has seen her overcome adversity and ill-health.
Joanne Bass of XL Displays from Peterborough has been named the winner of the Athena category at the NatWest Everywoman Awards – awarded to the most inspirational woman running a business which has been trading between 6 and 9 years.
Joanne saw the opportunity that entrepreneurship offered during her maternity leave. Failing to agree flexible working conditions with her employer she grabbed the opportunity to set up alone offering a one stop shop for exhibition banners, stands and design.
In five years Joanne has grown the business to a £4.2m turnover, investing heavily in a 6,000 sq ft premises complete with in-house production facility. She is proud to have recruited and trained all her staff from the local community, including four apprentices, and credits XL Display’s five star online reviews to their commitment to customer service.
Success has not come without its difficulties. Being an employer for the first time brought its own challenges and the meteoric growth of the business meant that Joanne had to learn quickly to ensure the business had the structure it needed.
Following her second born child being diagnosed with a rare congenital condition requiring multiple operations, and facing post-natal depression, Joanne refused to be beaten and immersed herself in her business from hospital waiting rooms. That the business continued to thrive during this time against the odds is testament to Joanne’s attitude and motivation.
The UK is seen as one of the most attractive countries for business, reflected by the surge in entrepreneurship in Britain in recent years. Despite these encouraging signs the numbers of women-led start-ups remain significantly lower than that of men. Both Everywoman and the Women’s Business Council separately undertook research in 2016 with each concluding that role models play a vital part in encouraging and inspiring women to further their professional
Speaking at the ceremony, everywoman co-founder Maxine Benson MBE said, “For 14 years the NatWest everywoman Awards have uncovered and celebrated the extraordinary achievements of Britain’s female entrepreneurs.
“Starting a business from scratch takes courage and self-belief, qualities that our winners have in abundance. We applaud their success and send them out to spread the message to other women that enterprise is a rewarding and fulfilling career upon which the success of the UK economy depends.”
Julie Baker, Head of Enterprise at NatWest, said: “We are very proud to recognise these women, who are not just successful in their own businesses, but are also great role models.
“The importance of women in business cannot be underestimated, so we hope these role models will inspire other women to take their first steps in business. To help these entrepreneurs and would-be business owners, NatWest has a network of over 340 externally accredited Women in Business specialists who understand our customers’ ambitions and provide business support, mentoring and networking opportunities.”
The winners were selected by a judging panel from 15 of some of the UK’s best known and successful business figures including Chrissie Rucker MBE, The White Company; Cath Kidston MBE; Amanda Wakeley OBE; Julia Hands MBE, Handpicked Hotels; Rosaleen Blair, Alexander Mann Solutions; and Wendy Hallett MBE, Hallett Retail.