5 women who have changed UK business

10 March 2020

The Lloyds Bank National Business Awards has always celebrated some of the UK’s most successful and influential female business leaders.

To celebrate International Women’s Day 2020, let’s take a look at some of the prominent female winners of the last few years.


1.    Hayley Smith, Craft Yourself Silly   
    QBE Business Insurance New Exporter of The Year Award, 2016

Craft Yourself Silly is rooted in the culture of the North East of England. North Shields-based Hayley Smith started selling craft kits in 2013 to teach the traditional “proggy” mat making technique, in which scraps of old sacking and fabric are threaded through holes in a hessian backing. She won £25,000 of funding from a regional investment fund, and has since expanded her business to sell sewing and needlecraft equipment, fabrics, various tools and guides.

The core of the business, however, remains proggy, with a variety of colourful and creative animal templates for budding craftspeople to use. It reflects her—and the Lloyds Bank National Business Awards—commitment to regional business across the UK. But her award in 2016 came from her ambitious project to build a distribution network in the United States, which successfully brought proggy across the Pond.


2.    Maria and Sara Trechman, Well & Truly
    New Entrepreneur(s) of the Year, 2017

Sisters-in-law Maria and Sara Trechman saw a gap in the market for truly healthy snacks that didn’t sacrifice flavour, and had a big idea to fill it. They launched Well & Truly’s range of tasty baked corn snacks and tortilla chips in 2016, and it was rapidly identified as one of the most promising start-ups to emerge in the UK. With an all-female team, Maria and Sara are blazing a trail for female entrepreneurs in the food industry—something they say has often been an attractive proposition for investors.

By 2018, they were supplying snacks to 1,500 stockists nationwide, including Tesco, Ocado and AMT Coffee, and even has a corporate arm to provide products for major firms such as HSBC and Google. Give Well & Truly a try next time you visit your local shop!


3.    Jayne-Anne Gadhia
    Leader of the Year, 2018

Dame Jayne-Anne Gadhia is a UK financial services legend, so much show that she was—until the appointment of Andrew Bailey—considered as a potential Governor of the Bank of England. She rose to national prominence in 2011 as with the acquisition of Northern Rock from the government, overseeing its rebranding as Virgin Money and subsequent stock market flotation. For her work as a leader with the UK financial services profession and a major advocate for women in business, she was awarded a Damehood in 2019. It was these same achievements that made her the perfect choice for Leader of the Year in 2018.

Since leaving Virgin Money, Jayne-Anne has been appointed CEO of Salesforce UK and Ireland—a big statement of intent from the company, which was preparing to invest $2.5 billion in its UK operations at the time of her appointment.


4.    Margot Cooper, Limbs & Things
    Inflexion Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2018

When she founded Limbs & Things in 1990, it was a natural extension of Margot Cooper’s background in medical drawing. Margot wanted to set a new gold standard for clinical training and help raise the bar for medical care at the same time. That’s why she set about creating and marketing repeatable, anatomically accurate and cost-effective medical models designed to help doctors and medical professionals test equipment and train themselves for procedures. That means everything from anatomically correct organs to models of infants.

Today, Limbs & Things has expanded around the globe, with offices in US, Australia and Europe, in addition to its original base in Bristol. Ambitious and widely respected by medical professionals, Margot has transformed Limbs & Things into one of the most dynamic and important firms in its field.


5.    Jordan McCabe, Aztec Diamond Equestrian UK Ltd
    iNews New Entrepreneur of the Year Award, 2019

Jordan McCabe founded Aztec Diamond Equestrian at just 18, when she identified a gap in the market for an accessible, high-street version of equestrian wear. Appropriately, she named her new company after Aztec Diamond, her own horse. Six years later, it has become an internationally recognised brand designing and supplying some of the best equestrian fashion around, from technical sporting apparel to leisurewear, all aimed at female riders—and their horses!

The rapid growth of her business made her the obvious choice for iNews New Entrepreneur of the Year in 2019. Her success also reflects her love of the sport—Jordan showjumped competitively throughout her teens—and her roots in County Durham, where Aztec Diamond Equestrian is still based.


Are you a female entrepreneur or the manager of a female-led organisation? Do you do your bit to promote equality and equity in the workplace? Why not sign up to this year’s Lloyds Bank National Business Awards, and tell your story of female empowerment whether you’re a budding start-up or a major corporation.