Inspirational North-East mums shortlisted for top business awards

I would love to share this press piece, written by Lucy Richardson from Express North magazine, about the finalists in the North East for the Mumpreneur UK, Conference and Awards 2015.

A CHOCOLATIER, a fancy dress retailer, a website designer and an accommodation provider for foreign students are amongst the inspirational women from across the North-East named as finalists in the 2015 Mumpreneur Awards.

Alison Stephenson has been shortlisted in the Reach category for her business, AAA Host Families Ltd, which finds ‘homes from home’ for teenagers studying in the UK from abroad.

It is just one of six successful companies run by the 32-year-old mother-of-two from Darlington who is profoundly deaf.

“As well as working, my sons Lewis, five and William, three, both have health issues so I also have to spend a lot of time with them. To make the final of the Mumpreneur awards is a virtual pat on the back, it’s a stranger saying “well done” for all my hard work.”

Alison has also made the final 10 of The Stelios Award 2015, organised by easyjet founder Sir Stelios Haji—Ioannou, which supports disabled entrepreneurs and raises awareness of the skills and inventiveness of those with disabilities.

“At school I wanted to become a doctor but I was told I would never achieve anything so I set out to prove them wrong – I played musical instruments, I went travelling and I kept on building businesses,” she explained.

There were more than 3,000 entries for this year’s Mumpreneur Awards, the biggest accolade for mum-run businesses in the UK – who were whittled down to 100 finalists, of which 10 per cent are from the North-East.

A finalist in the Spark category, Amy Granger’s entrepreneurial flair was ignited by a desire to still be able to give her three daughters sweet treats as they all have multiple allergies including milk, soya and gluten.

Now her mouth-watering range of handmade dairy-free, gluten-free and vegan Essy & Bella chocolate is sold online, at festivals across the country, selected local stockists and she has recently secured a retailer in France.

“It tastes just as good, if not better than real chocolate and the response has been fantastic,” said Amy, 33, from Gateshead, who is mum to Isobel, six, Esme, three and Cicely, 15 months, who was born prematurely at 32 weeks.

“When Esme was five weeks old she contracted pneumococcal meningitis and septicaemia and we did not know if we would survive the day. Afterwards she had so many follow-up appointments it would have been impossible to have a full-time job, but I wanted to do something positive, which is how Essy & Bella Chocolate was born.”

Experienced at managing large-scale projects, web developer Caroline Hagan launched Blueocto Ltd earlier this year to focus her skills on helping start-up, small and medium business get online and improve their digital presence.

“I love helping people one-to-one, I specialise in branding, web design, e-commerce and social media – I would love to think that down the line I could have my own team,” said the 31-year-old who is mum to 14-month-old daughter, Callie, and is Wired category contender.

“It’s fabulous to be recognised and be part of the Mumpreneur awards. I think you have to be a certain type of person to work for yourself which involved lots of skills such as being organised and planning ahead,” added Caroline from Wallsend whose passion for order has led her to launch a second business, Tamed Spaces, providing a home decluttering service.

Winners of the seventh annual Mumpreneur Awards which will be announced on Saturday, November 14, at the Heart of England Conference Centre in Warwickshire.

As a former teacher, Lyndsey Johnson, was inspired by children’s ability to learn and express themselves through creativity. She started LJ Retail Group which includes Fancy Dress Party, a website and 3,000 sq ft superstore in Meadowfield, Durham, offering a vast range of costumes for all ages, including the recent addition of adult outfits.

Her rapidly growing business was 500 per cent up for the month of October on the same time last year and is now an official partner and retailer of the major fancy dress outfit brand, Smiffys.

Lyndsey, 29, mum to Jasmine, eight, is nominated in the Mumpreneur ‘Courage’ category as she has battled health problems since her daughter was one-year-old, which prompted her to become self employed.

“Being shortlisted in a prestigious competition is recognition at a national level,” added Lyndsey, from Spennymoor who has also reach the final of the 2015 North-East Women of the Year WIN Awards.

“As someone who has had no business training, I use it as a way to chart myself and measure how far I have come. Mums work just as hard as anyone else in business – we need to stick together and stick up for one another.”

Mumpreneur Awards 2015 finalists from the North-East

  • Amy Granger, Gateshead – Essy & Bella (Spark category)
  • Alison Stephenson, Darlington -AAA Host Families Ltd (Reach category)
  • Caroline Hagan, Wallsend – Blueocto (Wired category)
  • Lyndsey Johnson, Spennymoor – LJ Retail Group (Courage category)
  • Angela Sterling, Consett – Lingotot (Reach category)
  • Rebecca Vose, Cramlington – Animal Art by Rebecca Vose (Engage Category)
  • Michelle Jones, Durham City – Freya Lillie (Wired category)
  • Sara Davies, Bishop Auckland – Crafter’s Companion (Boost category)
  • Kristy Giblin, Hexham- The Pudding Parlour (Spark category)

Mumpreneur award finalists pictured below (l-r) Lyndsey Johnson, Caroline Hagan, Amy Granger and Alison Stephenson:

And, a big thank you to Michelle Rose of Custard and Bear Marketing for organising this lovely day!


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