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IDE rem GU n Ce R o U YO s Dev rd a Aw





OUR HANDBAG PICKS FOR THE BOARDROOM LILACH BULLOCK How to use social media to grow your business










20 Ally Case

Why female role models are crucial to business success

46 Alexis Bowater

Devon’s award winning journalist

Five of the best romantic European getaways

56 Lilach Bullock

How to use social media to grow your business

18 Barbara Cox

10 tips for eating at your desk

24 Our handbag picks for the boardroom

VENUS AWARDS DEVON CEREMONY PROGRAM Inspirational Woman in Technology 28

Digital Media and Online Business

Green Business


New Business


Employee of the Year


Inspirational Woman


Employer of the Year

Networker of the Year Marketing and PR Business Mother of the Year


Director of the Year



Customer Service



Entrepreneur of the Year



Company of the Year



Lifetime Achievement



CREDITS & CONTRIBUTORS Editorial (+44) 01202 559039 Designer Sebastian Hall Editor Dr Susan England Features Rachel Hall

08 Fizzing with success Amanda Thomson and Skinny Champagne

52 Understanding the rise of female freelancers


Cover & Feature Photography Clare Booth Photography Writers & Contributors Lilach Bullock Barbara Cox Ally Case Tara Howard Advertising (+44) 01202 559039 Published by Venus Awards Ltd



Phoebe Gormley Kay O’Shaughnessy and making the cut on Saville Row


Founder of the charity Friends and Family of Special Children

Welcome to the first Devon edition of the Venus magazine. This edition features interviews of successful business women, business articles, some top tips and lifestyle features for women in business. Lilach Bullock, our very own UK based social media Consultant was recently listed on Forbes as one of the top 20 women power influencers. She shares her insights into business growth with social media.

Printed by Stephens & George Print Group Distributed by Venus Awards Ltd Follow us @WomensAwards @venus_voice Disclaimer: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form, stored in or re-introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the Venus Awards Ltd.

Barbara Cox, leading nutritionist and co-author of my favourite cookbook Rainbow Recipes, shares her top tips for eating at your desk. The Venus team scoured the online shops for the best business handbags, a favourite accessory of mine! Also please keep an eye out on our social media channels for the launch date of our new website In a nutshell, Venus Voice will be the place where local female entrepreneurs and

business women can find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses. Super importantly, this is our special Awards Ceremony edition and introduces the wonderfully inspirational 2016 Devon Venus Awards Finalists. We hope you enjoy it.












Ma urity M








WHO WE ARE Made with Maturity are a super-friendly team of creatives based in Plymouth. We pay special attention to getting to know you and your business. As web design and marketing specialists, we look at your bigger picture to create beautiful websites and develop effective marketing to get your business seen and heard in all the right places.

Made with Maturity can work with you to design and create high quality web, print and screen resources, and then take those resources and ensure they are marketed effectively to your audience using a variety of appropriate media channels. All with flexibility, personality and maturity.






Fizzing with “The basic bitch drink of summer 2016 - you know you want in, so don’t even try to pretend you’re too cool.”


ouldn’t you just jump with joy if your business idea had a review as fantastic as this one from a leading British broadsheet newspaper: “The basic bitch drink of summer 2016 - you know you want in, so don’t even try to pretend you’re too cool.” I know I would! This is exactly what happened earlier this year to Amanda Thomson, CEO and Founder of Thomson & Scott Skinny Champagne and Skinny Prosecco, marking just how far she has come in creating an entirely new and exciting sector of the drinks business. Her idea to launch a no sugar / low-sugar champagne that was both alcoholic and top quality was seen as slightly bonkers when she first began trailing the idea to exporters and wine merchants. She very much views herself as a “disrupter”, an entrepreneur who has taken on an industry known for its tradition and the technical language it uses, often impenetrable to most people. This year she’s added Skinny Prosecco to her drinks portfolio and plans to make this into a great




Amanda Thomson and Skinny Champagne

export success. As a vegan I’m happy to report that it’s not only low sugar but also vegan and organic. As Amanda says, “Clean food and drink is most definitely the future.” Her background is not one you would normally associate with entrepreneurship. Until 2009 she was working as an Arts Broadcaster for the BBC on a comfortable salary of £50,000. Life changed dramatically when she moved to Paris with her husband Ian and their two children aged seven and two, to study for a Diploma in Wine at the world-famous Le Corden Bleu School. The aspect of Amanda’s success story that struck me as being truly inspirational is the sheer determination and single-mindedness that kept her moving towards her goal. She has learnt above all else in business that you have to stick like glue to your idea and never waver. If your belief in something is so solid that you’re prepared to gamble almost everything then the very least you deserve is a fair shot. You have to have grit and not just passion to take on naysayers and prove them wrong especially in the case of Amanda who’s

operating in a male-dominated sector that places huge value on vast wine knowledge before any other area of expertise. What you also need when starting out in business is bags of confidence; this is something that Amanda has admitted to “faking” at times when negotiating with buyers in the tradition-soaked world of wine. I know from personal experience why confidence is so essential because if you don’t personify and communicate it when asking others to buy in to what you are “selling” then you’re handicapping yourself from the get-go. This doesn’t mean that you have to be on full throttle all the time, besides an astute person will know when you are not being authentic, when something is forced. The one big take away from Amanda’s trailblazing is that you have to stay strong in your belief that you can make it. There will be tough times but these come almost always as learning opportunities in disguise. As someone once said, “Stay the course, light a star, change the world, wherever you are”. ■


Phoebe Gormley and making the cut on

Savile Row


do love hearing about women who take on big challenges in business none more so than those who take on bastions of male tradition. One fabulous and inspirational example of how women can bring the female factor to male dominated workplaces is that of 22-year old Suffolk-born Phoebe Gormley, who has stormed the ramparts of St James’s Savile Row by launching her women’s made-to-measure clothing company Gormley & Gamble at No. 13 on the world-famous London street. Entrepreneurship appears to have


run in her blood from an early age – at 11 she began hosting charity fundraising parties in the garden of her family home that continued for several years raising hundreds of pounds, a lot of money for someone so young. This early experience of taking the initiative seems to have whetted her appetite because on discovering that tailoring was a way of working with clothes without being in the fashion industry she decided to learn from the men who could teach her their craft. As a result every summer from the age of 15 to 19 she worked as an intern “waist-deep” in St

James’ Savile Row and Jermyn Street. Whilst studying for a degree in bespoke tailoring and costume at Nottingham Trent University she began looking into how she could start a business based around women’s made-to-measure and was told women were “too hard to please” and more interested in “fast-fashion polyblend and not investment pieces.” Phoebe thought this view was not on trend with what she knew to be the case that most women struggled with the variation in the high street fit of clothing. Why not offer women great quality, perfect fit and flawless




service for the same money as the top end of high street clothing?


his concept propelled her to write a business plan in her second year of University, and asking her parents to use the money earmarked for paying her final year of tuition fees as an investment in her business instead – hence the “Gamble” in her company’s name. After analysing the plan and seeing that she was not going to give up on her dream her parents relented. She recalls getting their go-ahead on a

Friday and by the following Monday, “I was down in London working in an incubator in the City and bringing Gormley & Gamble to life.” The first few months of setting up her business wasn’t all plain sailing though. Having based her business plan on quotes from a particular supplier who subsequently pulled out at the last minute on the basis that she was too young with not enough business experience, and that they “didn’t really work with female suppliers because they are too unpredictable”, she had to speedily find a replacement

who would step into the breach. In spite of this set-back Gormley & Gamble made history by officially launching in November 2014 as the first tailor for women on Savile Row. On the very same day she made her first sale to the CEO of Virgin Money, Jayne-Anna Gadhia who bought 12 items and also set up a direct debit for a jacket and dress combination each month! One of the common misconceptions about Savile Row that Phoebe is breaking down is that it only makes suits. At Gormley & Gamble much greater variety of custom-made


women’s wear is available, using materials such as tweed from Chanel’s original supplier, Italian wool, machine washable silk, Scottish cashmere and British merino wool. She and her five person team make jackets that fit, trousers the right length and dresses with the sleeves and neckline that her clients want. “There’s power in knowing something has been made specifically for you; your body, your lifestyle and your aspirations. I guess through G&G I’m trying to make that feeling accessible to all women. In short – I want my customers to feel like they can take on the world.” Phoebe believes that because her business delivers to a very specific niche on Savile Row it has enabled her to break through what would otherwise be a very high glass ceiling. In an online interview with vlogger and young female entrepreneur Lauren Riley, she mentions how Savile Row historically forbade women on their premises – these days since her arrival they are tweeting that it’s young, elite tailors like Gormley & Gamble that are going to keep Savile Row alive. In 2015 Phoebe was named “Young Star” at the Women of the Future Awards and describes this moment as “incredibly humbling”. Even with all the accolades that she has been receiving in the media and from her business peers she maintains that her very favourite moment is when the customer tries their new clothing on for the first time. Her persistence, passion and fantastic skills have brought her a long way but she admits that luck has also played its part. Many people have gone out of their way to help her progress the company including Deloitte who shared Gormley & Gamble with their entire Women’s Network and Cad and Dandy, who are Savile Row’s biggest tailor allowing her to shop-share in their store, which she readily admits made the dreams of a once 15-year old girl come true. So what advice does she have for other aspiring female entrepreneurs? Top of the list is not being afraid to ask. “I definitely felt like I was in it alone when I first started out, but as


“There’s power in knowing something has been made specifically for you; your body, your lifestyle and your aspirations. In short - I want my customers to feel like they can take on the world.” soon as I reached out for support and advice I was amazed by how many people were there and wanted to support. However, I would also say if you do go to someone for help –

a parent, friend or mentor – don’t waste their time. Go with proper questions, and potential solutions for them to help you work through. And always say thank you!” ■

Business growth and strategy for 2017 Most of us spend more time planning our holiday than our business

How can your reach your business destination? Call to find out how 0844 848 9594 Supporting Women in Business as a Venus Awards Sponsor



Why female role models are crucial to business success


SBC’s latest report to mark International Wo m e n’s D ay 2016 surveyed 501 entrepreneurs from the UK showing female entrepreneurs are building businesses with a higher turnover than their male counterparts, with an average turnover of £4.1m in 2015 compared to £4m for their male counterparts. This is tremendously uplifting because it’s testament to the resourcefulness and ingenuity of female entrepreneurs – yet it doesn’t quite show the whole story, which is that female entrepreneurs also fail in greater numbers than their male counterparts. One of the reasons given for women not being able to realise their full potential as entrepreneurs and professional working women is the lack of female role models and mentors. It’s fair to say that unlike men, women still do not have easy access to a contacts network, something invaluable when starting up your own business or climbing the corporate ladder. In other words the “Old Boy Network” is not matched, yet, with an “Old Girl Network”. There is a generational ballast of successful role models that men can emulate or approach for mentoring. For every Richard Branson, Bill Gates or Martin Sorrell there’s likely been a whole regiment of successful business men in their lives who have helped them along the way, perhaps by encouraging a change of direction,


offering fresh insights or perspectives, helping with the development of new products or services, or even investing. It’s not really surprising that a whole publishing industry sprang into life in the twentieth century and continues to prosper from the wisdom distilled by successful business men in each generation. Think of Dale Carnegie whose best-selling book How to Win Friends and Influence People, continues to sell in big numbers, and was first published in 1936. Because the simple truth is that no woman (or man) is an island. It’s not just that women are up against gender bias in the workplace, nor that women are lacking in energy or determination to succeed. It’s also partly because women are not so at ease about shaking off the natural inhibition to ask for referrals and new business opportunities. I think this inhibition can sometimes extend to reaching out to other women who can give them good ideas, encouragement, and new contacts; and to networking actively and aspiring to build an ecosystem of connections in their industry sector and way beyond. Not having a tangible reference point for successful female entrepreneurship and corporate advancement does have an effect on aspiration; the chance to make your dreams and ambitions a reality. I truly believe that this can be transformed by women who have spending power either in their own businesses or as managers of corporate budgets, say in marketing, PR or CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Through these channels they can support female entrepreneurship and professional development with a variety of initiatives such as sponsorship, female networking events, business lunches, professional coaching, charitable and social enterprise collaborations, PR campaigns, and online mentoring and business coaching. Successful women in STEM and STEMM are doing more by the day to reach out to young women who are at the beginning of their

VENUS careers; and professional women in the media can be brilliantly inspirational. The changing face of Women’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 now challenges many of the social norms about the lives of women, with a growing audience of male listeners. Musicians, artists, writers, the list goes on. The world of politics is also a key driver in creating female role models. Theresa May now occupies No. 10 Downing Street, the second woman to do so; Hillary Clinton is the first woman ever to be a U.S. Presidential candidate and the race for the White House is on; Angela Merkel is the most influential political leader in the European Union.

balance with other women. Just by relating their stories of success, how they prioritise, manage expectations, delegate, plan their time, juggle family life, is hugely helpful and inspirational. Women need to know that they can turn to women who have been there, done it, and got the tee-shirt! Yet, and even with the steadily growing numbers of visible female role models, there is a lot of work to be done if the findings of the latest report from the Female FTSE Board Report are accurate. For instance, a quarter of FTSE 100 boardroom recruits in the six months to March 2016 were women,


their lives, sometimes against incredible odds. Our ambition is to make the Venus brand and family one that will not just touch thousands but hundreds of thousands of women. Venus Awards is doing their bit to showcase what women achieve. With the vast female “hood” we can show that success for all women whether in business, work, education, politics and leadership is entirely do-able. But we mustn’t forget how important reaching out, establishing connections, nurturing relationships, and supporting each other’s dreams, is a potent way to change the conversation about women and success. ■

There are now 24 women who are either Heads of State such as our Queen, Elizabeth II or Premiers of their countries, from Myanmar to Austria, and Chile to Croatia. There are now 24 women who are either Heads of State such as our Queen, Elizabeth II or Premiers of their countries, from Myanmar to Austria, and Chile to Croatia. Being able to see women in positions of political power and international influence can only reinforce the idea that women are fully able to reach the pinnacle of their chosen career. The 2012 research study “Leading by Example” undertaken by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) showed that the increased presence of local female political leaders helped to raise the career aspirations and educational performance of young women, the result being to decrease the gender gap. The other benefit to come from the greater presence and involvement of female role models is by sharing their personal experience of the work-life

the lowest level since 2011. A positive in the report reveals that Diageo, the owner of Guinness, had the largest proportion of women on its board with five of 11 Boardroom seats at the drinks company occupied by women. However, fewer than 10% of the top three executives at any one UK company are women, with three companies, Shell, Babcock and Provident Financial having no women in executive jobs at all. This shows that there are still more people called John chairing Boards than there are women. I believe the Venus Awards are a good example of how women, when they come together, provide the very role models we need. We have a Venus family that every year brings more and more women into the fold across our operational regions. I am so proud of what our Venusians achieve in


10 tips for eating at your


Chew slooowwwly Many people eat as if they’re in a race to get the food in their stomach as fast as they can. They shovel the food into their mouth, chew for a few seconds and then swallow. What they’re not realising is that the process of chewing is actually a vitally important first stage in digestion due to the effects of an enzyme in our saliva. Slow down and chew for longer and you should see an improvement in your digestion.


Don’t eat on autopilot Commonly, when we eat at our desks, we’re not focusing on our food but on our work instead. This habit can lead to poor portion control, weight gain and digestive problems.


4 18

Don’t overeat Picking on food all day in addition to having main meals at regular intervals can lead to weight gain, digestive problems and lethargy.

Avoid feeding bacteria Keep your desk, keyboard and phone clean so you’re not creating a feeding ground for bacteria! Wash your hands or use hand wipes to cut the risk of germs spreading. Bring food from home in an insulated cool bag with an ice pack and store them properly in a fridge. Finally, if you’re going to heat something, do so thoroughly so that you kill any bacteria. Half-hearted warming won’t kill bacteria but will actually give them the nice cosy conditions they need to multiply.


Keep hydrated Your brain is at least 85% water so keep it hydrated by drinking water throughout the day. Offices with commercial air handling systems can be quite dry so make sure you’ve got a plentiful supply of water.



desk with Barbara Cox


Watch out – while you’re sitting at your desk expanding the boss’s profits, you may be expanding your own waist line! If you’re in the habit of eating at your desk, you’ll be well advised to bear in mind the following top ten tips.

Beware of caffeine overload Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea, energy drinks and some soft drinks are relatively harmless in small quantity. However, too many can cause dehydration and caffeine overload, leading to sleepless nights and underperformance the next day.



Eat at regular intervals Skipping meals can cause a drop in your blood sugar levels that lead to dizzy spells and lack of concentration. Make sure you go to work after having a good breakfast – cereals with dairy-free milk are best. Don’t skip lunch and don’t eat dinner too late or you won’t enjoy a good night’s rest.

Healthy snacks If you feel the need to snack between meals, first have a glass of water – people often mistake thirst for hunger. If you do need a bite to eat, go for something like fruit or a cereal bar that’s free from additives. Beware that junk food doesn’t give you the prolonged energy flow you need to get through a busy day. After an initial energy rush, sugary food often leads to a drop in blood sugar levels causing the jitters, sugar cravings, a lack of concentration and lethargy.

9 10

Don’t drink and eat If you’re having a meal or a snack, avoid the temptation to drink anything with it. Your digestive juices are trying their hardest to break down your food, so the last thing they need is for you to start diluting them, even if it’s with a glass of pure spring water.

Barbara Cox is an expert nutritionist who owns and runs BC Nutrition Ltd

Healthy office parties Christmas and birthday parties don’t have to be unhealthy. Organize fruit and vegetable platters and a healthy snack hamper. As for the booze, you can’t find anything better than an organic Cabernet Sauvignon, which contains cancer-fighting antioxidants.


Five of the best

romantic European getaways Europe boasts a wealth of beautiful, charming and picturesque cities, perfect for a romantic European getaway. With so much choice on offer, Ally Case from Travel Counsellors Ltd has compiled a list of her top recommended romantic cities to give you a bit of inspiration. From Paris, the city of love to breath-taking Venice there’s a city to suit everyone’s tastes, guaranteed to deliver a romantic getaway to remember.

PARIS Where better to spend a romantic weekend away than The City of Love? As one of the most visited cities in the world you may have already been to Paris. However, aside from the conventional tourist spots, the French capital has a lot more to offer, like cute Parisian cafés and boutique bars and restaurants perfect for a small, candlelit table for two. The Eiffel Tower, Champs-Elysée and Notre Dame are added bonuses to a city that always has something new to discover. With regular flights from Southampton and with new flights from Bournemouth this makes Paris an ideal weekend getaway.

VENICE Venice, The City of Water, is one of Europe’s most romantic cities. From the moment you arrive in the city by water taxi, love is in the air. There are some lovely, chic Venetian apartments available, which are often more intimate than the bustling hotels. Italian cuisine is one of the most desirable on the planet and Venice is famous for its fresh seafood, particularly in the brilliant food market near Rialto Bridge. Spend a romantic evening at the opera at La Fenice, Venice’s famous opera house, where you are guaranteed to turn into Romeo and Juliet. 20



FLORENCE Florence oozes romance, whether you are watching the sun set over the River Arno or going for a gentle stroll in Boboli Gardens you are helpless to the effects of this Italian city. There are intimate dining opportunities in Santa Croce square and sublime walks at dusk through rustic Italian avenues, like Via dei Calzaiuoli, or through Piazza Santissima Annunziata. For many, Italy is synonymous with romance and Florence encapsulates that. The only drama you’ll have in Florence is trying not to cheat on your partner and fall in love with the city itself !

BUDAPEST Budapest remains to be of Europe’s most underrated cities but awaiting you is a calm and relaxing location for a romantic break. Budapest is a beautiful city with historical attractions, whether it is a picnic at Margaret Island, a soak in the warm, clear waters of Széchenyi Thermal Bath or a stroll through the wine, beer or chocolate markets you are sure to find some romantic activity in this Hungarian city. The River Danube and its embankments provide the perfect backdrop for an affectionate evening in a city that has not been ruined by mass tourism and maintains its traditional identity.

PALMA The capital of Mallorca (Majorca) is the perfect blend of bustling city life, history and relaxation, and a wonderful choice for a couple’s weekend getaway. With regular flights from our local Bournemouth airport you can be enjoying traditional Spanish cuisine on the veranda of a restaurant within a few hours of leaving the UK. After your meal why not sample some of the local vino in Palma’s authentic wine cellars. During the day there are some beautiful sights to be seen, such as Catedral de Palma de Mallorca, alongside magnificent artwork, winding streets and open-air markets. The warmth of the sun on this Spanish island sets the perfect ambience for a romantic trip. 21

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Our handbag picks Sure handbags are sassy, stylish, and they can add a little flair to your outfit, but boardroom handbags have to be more than that. They should have a roomy interior, sturdy yet stylish leather finish, and strong straps so you can carry around your work essentials without any hassle. Have a look at five of our favourite work-ready handbags from both designer and high-street brands.

The Business Expert Jennifer Hamley Model KT

Right from the outset this bag is gorgeous; it’s vibrant and organized. This two-time winner at the prestigious Independent Handbag Designer Awards is more than a handbag, it’s a stylish all-in-one briefcase, the ultimate work bag for women. Even better the company itself specializes in business appropriate handbags which means that every detail is aimed towards making this bag practical and stylish.

Over 17 organizational compartments:

£395 The Eco-Warrior Mat & Nat Tacoma-Chili

This bag is just beautiful and vegan certified, making it a top pick for those of you who are eco-conscious. Structured, stylish and minimalist this handbag will go with any work outfit. It also comes with a detachable shoulder strap making it very good for commuting.

Environmentally Friendly:

Mat & Nat are committed to not using leather or any other animal-based products in their designs. Even better since 2007 they have only used linings that are made out of 100% recycled plastic bottles!


That’s right - Model KT feature all those pockets, slots, and pouches to help you become more productive, more organized, and have all the important bits-and-bobs to hand whenever you need them.




for the boardroom

Lightweight Traveller £149 The KNOMO Curzon Shoulder Tote 15” We particularly love the light grey colour of this bag that will carry you stylishly through all seasons, so a great buy. KNOMO themselves are excellent for laptop bags and offer a wide range of bags to suit any style. Ultra Lightweight: Made from high quality linen-cotton blend with leather trim this bag is super lightweight, which is great when on the move. It’s also expandable with two handy poppers which will add extra capacity if needed.

The Label Lover

Burberry Large Banner in Leather and House Check Although not everyone will be interested in spending so much money on a bag, we wanted to highlight that you get what you pay for! With beautiful detailing and gorgeous quality this bag is a must for designer lovers.


Although this bag is our most expensive bag choice we do think that buying a designer bag is somewhat of an investment. Not only is there a re-sale factor but also designer bags are notoriously more hard-wearing and last for years.



The Bargain Hunter Zara Convertible Crossbody Bag

Don’t let the minimalist look and appeal fool you; the handbag has a colossal interior large enough to house a 15-inch laptop or tablet. This bag also converts into a backpack to offer great support for when you have a heavier load to carry.

Low-Price High Quality:

We love this handbag and it’s a great buy for someone not looking to spend a fortune on a work handbag, and our least expensive option. Zara are a well-known brand that offer great quality products despite their affordable prices.




Introducing the Devon 2016



The Venus Awards are special. They discover the unsung heroines working in local businesses and organisations. Venus calls attention to the vital contribution women make to their local economies and communities, their commitment and dedication. Staged in 10 regions across the UK, we are very excited to say the Devon 2016 event marks the 26th Awards Ceremony. Tara Howard Founder of the Venus Awards




Inspirational Woman in Technology Dr Lorna Dallas Babcock International

Lorna is passionate about ensuring women and girls have equal opportunities in STEM careers, both today and in the future. Babcock International Group is the UK’s leading engineering support services company, delivering complex and critical support both in the UK and overseas, managing vital assets within a number of industry sectors including energy, defence, emergency services, transport and education.

Covering Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics disciplines

Kate Doodson Cosmic

Kate Doodson is a true Girl Geek, she is passionate about technology and how it can change lives and improve businesses. Kate loves to share her knowledge and presents on digital subjects with passion and integrity. Cosmic is a social enterprise IT consultancy and digital agency. We offer a wide range of services; websites, training, tech support and consultancy to business, schools, individuals and charities.

Sponsored by


PR Works is the only specialist health and science PR consultancy in the South West and it celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. The team at PR Works are enthusiastic about the good communication of health and science.


Katie Goode Triangular Pixels

Katie is the force behind the award winning Triangular Pixels. She is one of the key members of the UK VR community, and is at the forefront of virtual reality game design according to The Guardian. She’s a VR pioneer! Triangular Pixels is an independent, award winning VR games studio. We develop and publish our own IP to international acclaim and financial success. We’re now known for pushing what is possible in Virtual Reality.



Green Business Kim Stead Twool

Four years ago Kim set out to design a range of twine, rope, string and cloth as an eco-friendly British wool brand made from the wool of rarebreed Whiteface Dartmoor sheep, and with British design and manufacturing at its heart.

Sponsored by

Employing initiatives that consider the environment

Bond Dickinson is the law firm that focuses on what matters most to its clients and its people, delivering comprehensive legal services across numerous sectors including Real Estate, Manufacturing, Energy and Banking from seven cities including Plymouth, London, Bristol and Newcastle.

Tess Stuber Beach Schools South West

Tess Stuber is logical, helpful and a ‘do-er’. Tess makes things happen, she is friendly, approachable and energetic. She is passionate about her work, loves to work collaboratively on projects with others for mutual benefit & maximum effect. Beach Schools South West is a CIC passionate about & dedicated to providing outdoor learning opportunities for children on the shoreline. We Teach on the Beach! Outdoor learning has profound positive effects to children’s education, health & the environment.

Bond Dickinson LLP

Sarah Bryan SB Holistic

Sarah Bryan is hard-working and determined, giving her all to everything she does. She is kind, intelligent, resourceful and fun, despite the challenges which she faces. She has relocated her life and business, despite being blind and deserves a medal. SB Holistic offers massage made to measure, integrating holistic and sports massage techniques with clinical aromatherapy. We are about to launch a new range of aromatherapy products, to help other therapists to do the same for their clients and patients.




Networker of the Year

Sam Cross has a smile that lights the room. She puts people in touch with other people and gets things done. The work she does makes a positive difference to other’s lives.

Sam Cross

The Independant Living Advisor

The Independent Living Advisor provides support and information to help people stay independent, able, healthy and well-promoting positive lifestyle change in the community, in the workplace and as they age in the home of their choice.

Consistently refers contacts with her business community

Jacqui Cornish

Age UK Exeter

Jacqui Cornish is hardworking, dedicated and committed to the development of true and meaningful partnerships that not only raise vital funds for work with older people but also meets the needs of the businesses and their staff. Age UK Exeter is a local charity that aims to enable older people living in Exeter to love later life.

Carol McGeary

Talem Recruitment Group

Sponsored by

Plymouth City Bus Ltd

Plymouth Citybus carry over 18 million passengers a year in and around the Plymouth and East Cornwall Area. They employ over 500 staff, are Investors in People Gold and have seen a 30% increase in female employees since 2012.


A passionate professional who strives to assist individuals reach their goals and personal aspirations. Someone who truly believes everyone has talent and determination given the correct environment. Dedicated and ethical with a huge sense of fun. A nurturing fun people-centric culture that helps individuals thrive and develop. Talem Recruitment Group is committed to providing clients with excellent customer service by building a strong rapport and trust.


Marketing and PR


A business that stands out Claire Doyle Doggy Devon

Claire proudly supports a wide range of businesses to attract and engage with dog owners. She really is on a mission to promote dog friendly Devon, one paw print at a time. Doggy Devon is the county’s only dedicated resource for all dog friendly places to eat, drink, stay and play. Doggy Devon provides dog friendly recommendations, ideas and inspiration for the whole family to enjoy.

Lynette Dare

Sally Bell Effervescent

She loves get to know people, hear their stories then join them up for mutual benefit personally and professionally. She’s dedicated to using her professional comms skills to increase collaboration and partnership in Plymouth. Effervescent is a charity that makes the world a happier place through design thinking, arts and creative practice with children and young people.

Julie Sum

Kensa Boudoir Julie is an energetic and enthusiastic entrepreneur who goes out of her way to ensure that the best experience is delivered to her team and her customers. A domestic violence survivor she is an ambassador for female confidence. Kensa Boudoir was founded three years ago and is an all-female team based in the heart of Devon. We are committed to making women feel great with a well-deserved boost of confidence because a boudoir photo-shoot experience really can be for everyone no matter what shape, size or age.

Flossy and Jim Ltd Lynette is an illustrator armed with a fierce determination, a vivid imagination and a 2B pencil, which has helped her to build and develop her worldwide illustration business‚ “Flossy and Jim Ltd”. Flossy and Jim is an illustration business offering a service and own brand range of product. We are now a global business working with major retailers. We also have a Hollywood deal publishing children’s books worldwide in twenty-two languages.

Jayne Hardy

The Blurt Foundation Jayne Hardy is the CEO and Founder of The Blurt Foundation. Having lost most of her twenties to depression, Jayne is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the illness via innovative use of the Internet. Blurt exists to make a difference to anyone affected by depression. We’ll help you understand depression and what it means for you. We’ll support you, listen to you and introduce you to people who’ve been where you are.




Business Mother of the Year Lisa Budd

Create Me Books

Lisa Budd is doggedly tenacious. She never gives in and bounces over hurdles or runs round them. She has a warm caring spirit and friendly personality. Devoted to her family and foster children. A total live wire. Lisa Budd wrote a bedtime story for her daughter and turned it into a business. Fully personalized children’s books that make your child the star of their very own story.

A woman who successfully juggles business and family life

Soo Brizell-Hogg Shekinah

Soo is passionate about her roots, her family and her role at Shekinah. She works hard (always with a sense of humour) to create opportunities for people who have experienced less than positive experiences in life. Shekinah is a small charity in Devon with a huge passion for helping people in recovery from homelessness, addiction, criminal behaviour and mental health. Shekinah has a brilliant staff team and has some excellent external partnerships....all working together for change!

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Rowan Bradford

Water Babies Devon & Somerset Rowan Bradford owns and runs Water Babies Devon & Somerset, the South West’s leading baby and toddler swim school, teaching 1000 children to swim each week. She is ably assisted by a hand-picked, wonderful team of teachers and admin staff. Water Babies Devon & Somerset aims to provide an exceptional swimming experience for babies, toddlers and their carers. Our structured programme is taught by the world’s most highly trained teachers and gives our swimmers water confidence and life-saving skills.



Digital Media and Online Business Jayne Hardy

The Blurt Foundation

Jayne Hardy is the CEO and Founder of The Blurt Foundation. Having lost most of her twenties to depression, Jayne is dedicated to raising awareness and understanding of the illness via innovative use of the Internet. Blurt exists to make a difference to anyone affected by depression. We’ll help you understand depression and what it means for you. We’ll support you, listen to you and introduce you to people who’ve been where you are.

Sally Cope

Koru Connections Sally is very approachable and her purpose in life is to help people get the best out of their business or life whether nine or 90. Her businesses help people to achieve, through knowing themselves, what they offer and how to excel. Koru Connections focus is helping people to achieve: through understanding themselves and their role in the workplace, and by helping businesses and individuals generate connections which are going to grow their businesses via LinkedIn. This takes place in the form of coaching and mentoring.

Rebecca Garrett Rebecca Garrett Media Ltd Innovative, memorable, energetic, inspirational, intelligent, tough, impatient, motivated, focused, hard working, clever, funny, amazing, loving and dedicated single mother. A survivor who never gives up and succeeds against all odds. Persistent, consistent, social, charitable game changer who makes things happen. Niche Media agency that promotes National brands through competitions and promotions online, in print, on air and across all digital platforms. Working with the biggest brand names and media owners,we deliver exceptional quantifiable ROI through data capture and consumer engagement.

50%+ online or develops/supports online technology

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Plymouth Science Park Plymouth Science Park is a world-class office, research and laboratory environment that provides the space, flexibility and support for technology, digital and science businesses to accelerate their growth and success. Its community of 70 businesses employing upwards of 800 people.


Awards Night Sponsor

Aquamarine Media are a specialist search and social agency, offering paid search marketing (PPC), social media management and copywriting services. They have over 13 year’s industry experience and work with clients of varying industries all over the country.

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Seabrease is a well-established salon, which has been been situated on Sidmouth�s seafront for over 10 years. Our friendly and highly-experienced team of therapists are committed to meeting individual needs andwe are proud to have such a loyal and regular clientele. Our philosophy is to treat your mind as well as your body and we have designed a range of treatments to help you relax, rebalance and revive.

The Venus supported Devon Charity of 2016

Jeremiah’s Journey is a local, self funded charity that offers support and information to children and their families who have experienced or are anticipating the death of someone special.

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Supporting business owners and leaders to turn Vision into strategic plans, improve leadership skills, increase performance and productivity and work/ life balance; using a unique, evidence-based blend of coaching, therapy, science and soul to empower you to succeed, whatever the challenges.

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thebestofexeter is a family run marketing company, working with over 150 businesses marketing their products and services to over 72,000 people each week, via word of mouth, social media, e-newsletters, events and our website - we make your business famous!

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If your business has the ability to take on more business without increasing costs, in other words spare capacity, then a complimentary currency could work for you as has been demonstrated by BBX UK.



New Business

A business less than 2 years old Julie Corcutt Veg in a box

Veg in a Box started by accident when making a gift veg box for a friend. Veg in a Box make custom made veg boxes and deliver to customer’s homes. We take pride in having a one-to-one relationship with our customers, keeping the service as personal and tailor-made as possible.

Clare Stirling

Made with Maturity

Maria Bailey

Maria Bailey Planning Limited

Maria Bailey Planning Limited provides professional plain English advice in an jargon filled legislative minefield. All employees are a valuable part in growing the company so that it will become the best planning and development consultancy in the South West

Made with Maturity are web design and marketing specialists. We create meaningful websites and form communication strategies that effectively impact audiences. We work direct with businesses, alongside agencies and with web development companies.

Helen Plumridge King Recruit

King Recruit is a Management and Executive recruitment agency based in Exeter, covering the Southwest region. We aim for excellence in executing recruitment delivery and securing top level appointments. Our passion is working with strategic, career minded professionals and businesses.


Amber Haigh

Ambers Angel Trust Ambers Angels Trust is a not for profit organisation which supports survivors of childhood sexual abuse. We run a drop in centre for survivors to get help and support. The organisation is run by volunteers who have experienced abuse first hand.

Employee of the Year



A lady who goes beyond the call of duty Clare Geraghty Barclays

Clare is a Premier Relationship manager and is passionate about people, Plymouth and life. She moved to the South West in 1997 from Hong Kong and wouldn’t live anywhere else. Clare is married to Joe and has two amazing and challenging children, 14 year old Katie and Jamie, who is 10.

Kirsty Miragliotta Katy McKenna GA Solicitors

Katy has transformed the brand, image and profile of GA Solicitors in the marketplace, delivering excellence in marketing and improving the firm’s communications both internally and externally.

Rebecca Garrett Media A determined, motivational and a natural born leader. She leads by example. A key member in the growth and success of RGM she has generated in excess of £1 million in sales in the last five years.

Leila Nottage

The Duke of Cornwall Hotel Leila is funny, passionate, impulsive, blonde, challenging, decisive, capable, organised, talkative, busy, sensitive, adventurous, ambitious, connected, tenacious, happy, generous, kind, fair, emotional, excitable, enthusiastic, approachable, inclusive, caring, fearless, creative, intuitive, motivated, smiley, energetic, direct, tactful, friendly and almost always hungry.

Katy Joy

South Devon College Katy Joy is an enthusiastic, motivated and dedicated person who will work tirelessly to support others. She always makes time to support others and strives to achieve the best for herself and those she works with, both staff and students.




Inspirational Woman

Julie is an energetic and enthusiastic entrepreneur who goes out of her way to ensure that the best experience is delivered to her team and her customers. A domestic violence survivor she is an ambassador for female confidence.

Julie Sum

Kensa Boudoir

Kensa Boudoir was founded three years ago and is an all-female team based in the heart of Devon. We are committed to making women feel great with a well-deserved boost of confidence because a boudoir photo-shoot experience really can be for everyone.

A woman that goes out of her way to help others

Hayley Dann

St Luke’s Hospice, Plymouth Committed to raising money for the third sector. Enthusiastic, passionate, driven and a leader in her field of income generation and digital marketing, Hayley has successfully made a significant impact to both the health care and animal welfare sectors. St Luke’s Hospice has been caring for thousands of terminally ill patients for 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for over 30 years and our passion and dedication to offer dignity and choice has never dwindled. Their vision is one of a community where no person has to die alone, in pain or in distress; caring for local people, no matter where – at home, in hospital or at their specialist unit in Turnchapel.

Supported by

University of Exeter

Our vision builds on BU’s current success to create a distinctive offer based on academic excellence underpinned by service excellence. At the heart is the powerful fusion of research, education and professional practice, creating a unique academic experience.


Kay O’Shaughnessy

Friends and Families of Special Children Kay O’Shaughnessy is a woman on a mission. Since having her daughter Amy who has Cerebral Palsy 18 years ago, she has worked tirelessly both locally and nationally to enhance services and the lives of families who have disabled children. Friends and Families of Special Children is a charity that supports and provides a variety of services, including social, leisure, befriending, educational and benefit advice to families who have children that experience all forms of disabilities, additional needs and difficulties.

Employer of the Year Alison Lynch Chamings Ltd



Alison Lynch is a vivacious, loyal and determined individual who prides herself in putting the customer and her employees first. She is determined to provide the local community with a high standard of service whilst meeting their individual needs. Chamings Ltd is a family run business with nine employees who provide all aspects of plumbing and heating within the local and extended area. From servicing, breakdowns, dripping taps, full heating and bathroom installations; professional workmanship guarenteed.

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A great female friendly boss - up to 50 employees We’re passionate about helping ambitious businesses to succeed and achieve their next breakthrough. We approach every business as an individual relationship and strive to make banking straightforward, so you can focus on what is important to your business.

Nadine Stroud

The Training Partnership Ltd A consumate professional, walks her talk, loves life and utterly dedicated to her students and staff. She has a level of care and enthusiasm that is rare and won’t think twice about sacrificing her own time and energy for others. For 20 years we have provided work experience programmes to thousands of International students. We encourage personal growth and cultural awareness whilst maximising individuals employability opportunities. We focus on offering unique and individual life-changing cultural and professional experiences.

Julie Hawker

Cosmic Julie is a strong and successful leader in the business world in Devon mainly through her work at Cosmic, but also as a Board Member with various local organisations. She is able to dedicate her skills and commitment in equal measure to top quality, profitable business as well as achievement of lasting social impact. Cosmic is a social enterprise IT consultancy and digital agency. We offer a wide range of services; websites, training, tech support and consultancy to business, schools, individuals and charities.




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Director of the Year Karen is a committed hard working mother juggling the needs of her two children with the demands of a busy bakery business. She is kind and caring but consistently firm, not shying away from difficult decisions where necessary.

Bishop Fleming LLP

Bishop Fleming is one of the most vibrant firms of Top 40 accountants and business advisers in the UK. Specialising in advising independently owned and managed businesses of all sizes, their ethos of building longstanding relationships with their clients ensures they provide the highest standards of pro-active advice, service and support on a personal and local level.

Friary Mill Bakery

A thriving local bakery which employs 120 people using local suppliers and businesses wherever possible, constantly striving to produce top quality products to supply our customers on a daily basis and proud to be successful- “Home of the Devon Pasty”.

An outstanding director or board member

Catherine Morris The Gro Company

Marie Cleave

Educated Recruitment Ltd Marie Cleave is a humble, down to earth individual who would do anything to help. She is focused, determined and extremely positive minded, even when things seem a bit tricky and will use sense of humour to help lift situations. We are a supply teaching agency based in Newton Abbot. We supply quality, fully vetted teaching staff to a number of nurseries, primary and secondary schools across Devon. We started back in August 2013 from a spare bedroom and now operate from offices with a team of five.


Karen Milner

A commercially focused marketer and hands-on Director, Catherine Morris is passionate about building brands and always puts what’s best for business first. A background in FMCG made her well placed to join the board of leading consumer brand Gro. With international presence, The Gro Company is one of the most exciting and successful brands within the dynamic nursery industry. Known for innovative and multi- award winning products that parents love, Gro makes parenting easier.

Customer Service Sarah Bryan SB Holistic



Sarah Bryan is hard-working and determined, giving her all to everything she does. She is kind, intelligent, resourceful and fun, despite the challenges which she faces. She has relocated her life and business, despite being blind and deserves a medal. SB Holistic offers massage made to measure, integrating holistic and sports massage techniques with clinical aromatherapy. We are about to launch a new range of aromatherapy products, to help other therapists to do the same for their clients and patients.

Lynette Dare

Flossy and Jim Ltd Lynette is an illustrator armed with a fierce determination, a vivid imagination and a 2B pencil, which has helped her to build and develop her worldwide illustration business “Flossy and Jim Ltd”.

Flossy and Jim is an illustration business offering a service and own brand range of product. We are now a global business working with major retailers. We also have a Hollywood deal publishing children’s books worldwide in twenty-two languages.

Nadine Stroud

The individual or business that goes that extra mile

The Training Partnership Ltd A consumate professional, walks her talk, loves life and utterly dedicated to her students and staff. She has a level of care and enthusiasm that is rare and wont think twice about sacrificing her own time and energy for others. For 20 years we have provided work experience programmes to thousands of International students. We encourage personal growth and cultural awareness whilst maximising individuals employability opportunities. We focus on offering unique and individual life changing cultural and professional experiences.

Sponsored by

Brend Hotels

Our guests often tell us that it is the quality of our service that makes their stay at a Brend Hotel really stand out. We think personality and a positive attitude make all the difference.




Entrepreneur of the Year

A woman who dares to take risks in business that pay off Donna Barnes

The Talem Recruitment Group incorporates four different brands; Astra, Mitrem, Next Generation Care and recently The Talem Recruitment Group launched Next Generation Education. All the brands under the Talem Group are designed to offer a specialist service that can add great value and understanding.

Roz Woodward

Julie Corcutt

Veg in a box

Veg in a Box started by accident when making a gift veg box for a friend. Veg in a Box make custom made veg boxes and deliver to customer’s homes. We take pride in having a one-to-one relationship with our customers, keeping the service as personal and tailor-made as possible.

Securious Securious, is a specialist cyber-security consultancy based in Devon. They are a Payment Card Industry QSA company and Cyber Essentials Certification body providing end to end cyber-security consultancy solutions, including gap analysis for PCI DSS and ISO 27001.

Susie Chapman Stolen from Susie

We sell beautiful clothes to fit all shapes and sizes with prices that make you smile. Add great service, fantastic staff, handbags, scarves, our beautiful new pieces designed by Susie, and you have a brand our ladies love.


Rebecca Marks

Scarlett Entertainment Scarlett Entertainment is a top global destination entertainment specialist providing entertainment solutions for countless globalbrands and VIPs with events taking place world-wide. We supply world-class entertainment handling every aspect of the event that delivers clients a quality service

Company of the Year Andrew Jackson Mole Valley Farmers



Mole Valley Farmers is the UK’s largest rural retailer of goods and services to farmers and the general public. Owned by 8,000 Farmer Shareholders, it is a significant employer, particularly in South West England, turning over in excess of £420 million

Sponsored by

Samson Hall For a great female company with 50 employees or more Experts in leadership, strategy, team development, organisational change and culture. Working with entrepreneurial startups to SME’s and corporates delivering sustainable business growth by developing lasting relationships built on our stated values of honesty, professional, trustworthy, trusting, exemplary and caring.

Nicci Gratwicke PenCarrie PenCarrie is a Devon born and bred family business and one of the leading B2B unbranded apparel distributors in the UK. Celebrating its 25th year, PenCarrie is dedicated to making its staff, suppliers and customers, feel like part of the family!

Zoe House Ladram Bay

As one of the largest family owned holiday parks in the UK, we have been making memories for over 70 years. We offer the opportunity for visitors to join us for the day, a holiday or enjoy holiday home ownership.




Lifetime Achievement

Ros Debenham is not afraid to take on challenges others think untenable. Her vision & determination mean that she will always find a way. Motivating & empowering others mean skills she needs come from her loyal team.

Ros Debenham Radiance MediSpa

Radiance MediSpa offers the very latest in aesthetic, hair and beauty treatments. It has 11 treatment rooms, a nail boutique, an award winning salon, private gym, exercise studio and private underground parking.

A lady over 35 who achieved over many years

Roz Woodward Securious Ltd

Roz is a co-founder of Securious and is passionate about raising awareness and standards of cyber security in the region through her work with Securious and the SWCSC. She is FCCA qualified with extensive experience at senior and board level. Securious, is a specialist cyber-security consultancy based in Devon. They are a Payment Card Industry QSA company and Cyber Essentials Certification body providing end to end cyber-security consultancy solutions, including gap analysis for PCI DSS and ISO 27001.

Sponsored by

Atkins Ferrie Wealth Management

We undertake to provide completely impartial advice unique to each of our clients. We will consider all options available to each individual and ensure that every recommendation is absolutely the best solution for the client concerned.


Leanne Elliott

Certitude Services and Charles Derby Group Leanne is able to wear many hats; under each one is determination. She cares about things, loves learning and works tirelessly on her own businesses whilst helping others in theirs. She encourages laughter and tries to inspire and motivate. From standard window cleaning to gutter clearing, moving in to moving out cleans or specialist traumatic cleaning;working 1:1 with hoarders, cleaning up after an undiscovered deaths or RTA’s or sanitising sites. We make it safe, we make it clean.

VENUS Spotlight

Kathy Murdoch

Last year Kathy and her business group, won the Business of the Year Venus Award in Devon, and we wanted to know more about what she has done since then. Kathy Murdoch is the definition of a multi-tasker, mum to three boys, wife and owner of a stud farm, holiday cottages, a restaurant, a property development company and Ocean Kave, an exclusive wedding venue. Ocean Kave launched in 2013 alongside Kathy’s luxury holiday cottages, Westward Living. Originally part of the old quarry, the Kave’s natural interior has been crafted by local masons and beautifully finished to give a totally secluded setting for a wedding. Amongst all of these things Kathy also finds time to be a trustee of the Children’s Holiday Foundation. In 2016, Kathy has been concentrating a lot more on her charity work with her group of businesses raising an amazing £70,000 for several charities. Despite all she has achieved Kathy proclaims her proudest moment this

year was the launch of her new apprenticeship programme to create opportunities and empower young people in the hospitality industry. The apprenticeship, designed by Ocean Kave and the Bideford Sea Cadets, enables the cadets to gain exposure in the kitchen and front of house, learning new skills and gaining invaluable experience for future employment. The first course simulation was completed at a celebratory dinner held in October. In attendance was Vivienne Foster,

President of the Merchant Navy Association and a woman Kathy has always admired. Vivienne and the many attending senior naval officers from the UK and Holland agreed its tremendous success was such that it has now become an official accredited course within the Navy. The future has even more in store for Kathy and her businesses with the recent expansion of the Westward Living cottages, the rebranding of her websites and the fact that Ocean Kave is now fully booked for 2017.■





Bowater We meet Alexis Bowater, regional partner for Devon, journalist, former Venus Finalist, entrepreneur, charity campaigner, passionate supporter of Women in Business, well-known west country face, mother of two and sometime dancer, mountain climber and stand up paddle-boarder.


he’s a familiar face to thousands of viewers here in Devon from her days as an award-winning journalist and news anchor for ITV Westcountry and now she’s the face of the Devon Venus Awards, bringing passion and commitment to the role and raising the profile of women in business across the county. “Three years ago I first encountered the Venus Awards because I was nominated and found myself completely swept up in it, in the journey from nomination to final. It was utterly invigorating and galvanising for me and indisputably inspirational,” she explains. “Never in a million years would I have thought back then that I would be given the incredible opportunity to actually be regional partner for Devon and help so many women in business be recognised, inspired and celebrated by these incredible awards.”

A long and prestigious career as a journalist was all Alexis wanted as a child and one which she fought hard for - particularly after being told as a teenager by her careers advisor that she couldn’t be a reporter in a newspaper newsroom because it was a “boy’s job.” Unsurprisingly that comment just made her fight harder and after two degrees and a couple of trips backpacking around the world she landed a job in her early twenties as a trainee with Northcliffe Newspapers. “I absolutely struck gold with the team who trained me up, they were a fantastic newsdesk who helped me cut my journalistic teeth in record time. I loved being in newspapers but when I got the call from telly my curiosity got the better of me and I jumped ship for what I thought would be a little while, but ended up being 15 years.” That decade and a half saw Alexis fronting the six-o-clock news programme for most of


it and becoming one of the best-known media faces in the west country. Most of the time viewers were friendly and kind but not so one man who decided to terrorise her by stalking her through both of her pregnancies. “People ask “what was the scariest thing’?” says Alexis “and I say: ‘take your pick’. Was it when I thought I would be blown up on air with all my colleagues? When I thought I was being followed home from work? When the police recommended I had a “panic room” installed like in the movies? Or when I would lie in bed at night looking at a ceiling illuminated by the soft green light of a Home Office approved alarm and pray that I would live long enough to see the face of the baby I could feel kicking inside me? I thought we were in a race against time


between the police catching him and him catching me.” Sterling detective work led to an arrest and a conviction – more than four years in jail – and one of the longest sentences handed out for cyberstalking at the time in this country. That, in turn, led to Alexis being asked to become Chief Executive of national charity Network for Surviving Stalking. It was a natural fit for a campaigning journalist to become a campaigning charity CEO with a remit to raise awareness about stalking and help to change the law. “I really loved campaigning for positive change,” says Alexis. “It was challenging and extremely hard work, but I never gave up and the result was worth it. I gave all my skills as a journalist and broadcaster, throwing myself headlong into it both in this county and

internationally. I turned the tables on my stalker and helped to change the lives of thousands of victims of this horrendous crime. In November 2012 the new stalking laws came in to law in this country and the Istanbul Convention now states that there should be specific anti-stalking legislation and support services for victims across all 47 member states of the Council of Europe.”


t was the dedicated campaigning work that Alexis carried out in London and Strasbourg and the impact it had on victims of crime that first brought her to the attention of the Venus Awards. Nominated in 2013 and getting to the finals in the Inspirational Woman and Lifetime Achievement categories,

Alexis saw first-hand the benefits of the Venus Awards. “It was at a time when I was feeling lost and quite scared really. I had just launched my own business, I felt as if I hadn’t a clue what I was doing even though deep down I figured I probably did after nearly 20 years in the media, but I was working on my own and missing a big newsroom team like crazy and I felt really isolated and alone. “At the time I had just been scooped up out of a very black hole by two unbelievable and inspirational women called Rachel Jones and Heather Forster who had hauled me out of there, dusted me down, propped me up and asked me to get involved with Women in Business Networking groups that they were running. “It was the first time that I had experienced that kind




of peer-to-peer support, informal networking, and access to inspiring life stories, business acumen and free unadulterated, agenda-free help. “So that, coupled with the astonishing support and networking that the Venus Awards were providing and the unashamed ‘go get it girl!’ message that Tara was putting out there, was nothing short of miraculous for me and my business. It really helped me to believe that I could do it. And so I did.” Within months Alexis had agreed to help with the 2014 Venus Awards Devon, helped to co-organise the 2015 Venus Awards Devon with Celia Delaney and this year has been Regional Partner for Devon and is launching the Awards in Cornwall. Her business continues to go from strength-to-strength, helping other businesses with their messaging, their PR, videos, networking, media training and copy writing. She also has the dream job of writing the celebrity interview every month for county magazine Devon Life. “So much of Bowater Communications’ success comes from the help, advice, support and inspiration I received from the Venus Awards and Leading Women UK. They are incredible supporters of Women in Business and have given me a strength that I really needed. “Having benefitted so much from this kind of support I just want to share that with other businesses and celebrate the successes of women in business. I know from my own experience how hard it is and that is why I set up the free Plymouth Women in Business Networking group with Clare Geraghty from Barclays and why I am such a passionate supporter of the Venus Awards and proud to be the face of them here in the west country.” ■ Alexis Bowater is an award-winning journalist and presenter who has worked in the media, on both sides of the camera, for nearly twenty years.


Understanding the rise of

female freelancers I don’t know if you’ve noticed over the last few years the growing numbers of women who are becoming freelancers? I have for sure, and it would seem that the latest figures from various sources bear this trend out. What’s the difference between business owners and those who freelance? Not a lot it seems..


have a hunch that independence is vital to understanding why more women are going freelance. After all, the clue is in the name “free”. So am I right? And what else apart from wanting to work independently can be driving this change? The beauty of self-employment is the flexibility to create your own working day. For the woman wanting or needing to combine motherhood with working this is a real blessing. When you have a family it’s absolutely priceless to be able to plan your work more flexibly around the year-in-year-out commitments such as the long summer holidays,


children’s sporting and recreational pursuits, parent’s evenings, Christmas, Ramadan, Easter, Hanukkah, Diwali (have I covered all of the bases?), school trips, the list is long. I’m not saying that everything on the home front will transform miraculously overnight to a new shiny version but just by having the autonomy to organise your priorities to best fit whatever situation arises, even the unexpected, is very empowering. Another plus for women is how our ability to multi-task really does take on new meaning when you are working independently. Our skills of anticipation, planning, prioritising and switching between unrelated tasks are invaluable to freelancing.

As a female freelancer the multitasking cliché is now reimagined as an asset to female creativity. Creating yet another perfect opportunity for women to move into freelancing is the technological landscape that enables remote working from home – or if you fancy the local coffee shop, in fact wherever you can find wifi. Mobile technology means you can take phone calls wherever and whenever, and reply to emails and send text messages while on the move. We use mobile apps to find tremendous dollops of information via our phones, tablets and laptops all the while happily keeping connected to clients, family, friends, suppliers, and the big wide world. This represents a

VENUS huge sea-change in working practice, none more so than for the female freelancer. The digital revolution has made us all part of a global economy where business communication crosses national frontiers at lightning speed just by clicking “send”. Working “independently” also means you have the choice to work with people you want to work with, who feed off the same stimuli, who understand the mindset, who are inspired by the same things. You don’t have to work to the same restraints as those employed in more traditional work places where the 9-5 ethos rules and women, like it or not usually have to jump more hurdles. Here’s a thought – does freelancing have real benefits for women precisely because it sits outside of a system that was not made for them? I would venture yes.


hese changes have spurred many people to think positively about creating a working life that is flexible and fluid, to be the new type of worker, a “slasher” e.g. teacher/photographer/writer/ blogger, who is building a “portfolio career” or a “co-career”. This blend of employment over a period of time may include part-time employment, temporary work, freelance assignments or a business. For some it may be a full-time job, while pursuing other money-making interests. It’s no longer enough to be good at one thing especially if you want to beat the competition. For example, if you’re a photographer you may also need to be good at social media, or film editing, or whatever you judge to be a good fit. A freelance writer might need to know about publishing or crowd-funding.

Or you could be selling home-made cakes and chutneys whilst blogging your recipes, and coming up with ideas for new culinary products and equipment. Differentiation in your market niche is very important. At the same time we mustn’t forget that the banking crisis in 2008 created a fundamental shift in employment practices, the result being that the workplace can no longer guarantee the long-term security that it once


others. You are more likely to thrive on variety, you don’t want to do the same thing day in day out, you want to work on diverse projects, you’re self-directed, well-organised, like making decisions, who doesn’t mind dealing with the unexpected, has bags of energy and more in reserve, and who sees the new not as something to be feared but as a spur to action. There’s something else that you need in spades and that is self-belief.

“I have a hunch that independence is vital to understanding why more women are going freelance. After all, the clue is in the name – free.” did. What jobs are available are increasingly fragile, sometimes lowpaid, and both, as often as not. The move towards internship as the entry point to employment has also had an impact on the traditional career ladder. The once solid belief that you could be in a job or industry for life has fractured and even if you take this route it will almost certainly mean moving from one company to the next; sometimes requiring relocation that may entail the uprooting of family if you are a parent. Women are responding to the opportunities for freelancing and selfemployment in today’s economies in big numbers, especially in the creative industries. The UK’s Office of National Statistics found that out of the 88,000 people who began working for themselves between October and December 2014, 77,000 of them were female, a staggering statistic of 80%. One of the key findings was that women were spotting emerging lifestyle trends and setting up businesses to monetise them. So what sort of qualities do you need as a freelancer? I am not an expert on this subject but based on my own experience of being selfemployed and a business owner it probably works better for some than

There will be times when people question what you are doing, are sceptical or perhaps even less than supportive, and when this happens, you have to be tough and stick to what you believe in. We all have doubts, it’s natural. What is it that Taylor Swift says? “Shake it off”! Of course it’s not all plain sailing as a female freelancer and only right for the sake of balance to mention the downside. So here goes: the flow of work is unpredictable; you have to chase money (in and out but especially in!); long work hours perhaps more than you’ve worked before; working alone; the creeping blight of procrastination; keeping your focus and not being deterred; not knowing if you are going in the right direction; missing the funny moments when working alongside others, and the loss of financial security such as paid sick leave, maternity leave and pension provision. But you know – and I can say this hand on heart – once you have tasted what it’s like to be your own boss it’s difficult to imagine anything else, let alone go back. So I say to all those women who are making a go of it as freelancers, keep the faith because creating the working life you desire is worth every little bit you put into it! ■


the way we do business every day

Grow your business

with social media by Lilach Bullock digital marketing consultant and social media expert


First things first: make a plan

One of the things I’ve often noticed with businesses using social media is that there is no planning or strategy behind their updates. You can just tell that they’re posting the requisite few updates a day, a few blog posts, a few shares and they’re done. But if you truly want to get results from social media, this is simply not enough. The best way to make sure you get everything right is to create a strategy before you start posting anything. Start by setting your goals: what do you want to achieve from social media? Want more traffic to your blog? Want to improve your brand awareness and get more engagement with your target audience? Whatever your goal is, it makes it easier to create a strategy once you’re clear on your objectives. Afterwards, start creating your strategy: which social networks should you join? Who will manage each one of them? What types of updates should you post and how often? What hashtags should you be using in your updates?


Go where your audience is

Do you know where your audience is? Ideally, you should try and keep up profiles on several social networks so as to reach as many people as possible and to help you figure out which social network brings in the best results. That said, if you don’t have the resources to manage multiple social media profiles or you aren’t getting results because you’re stretched too thin, it’s better to focus on fewer networks and hopefully get more results. If you’re unsure which social platform is best for you, create profiles on multiple networks and use analytics to compare your results and figure out where you should be focusing your attention and resources.


Here are seven ways that you can grow your business using social media.


Your brand voice

As a business, it’s very important to stay true to your brand voice while on social media. Set guidelines as to what types of updates you should post and what your tone of voice should be and make sure your team is made aware of them. It’s important that your social media profiles reflect your brand as sincerely as possible, including its brand voice.


Build a strong following

When working on building your social media following, it’s important to remember that quality trumps quantity. While having lots and lots of followers looks good and makes you feel good about yourself, what good does it do if that audience isn’t interested in your business or your social updates and aren’t taking action? Instead of focusing on getting as many followers as possible, try to find followers that share your interests and are active on the respective platform – this way, they are much more likely to engage with you, share your posts and click on your links; meaning, this is the way to get results. For Twitter, use a tool like Followerwonk to browse through bios and find perfect users to follow.


The key to social media success is to engage as much as possible, with as many people as possible. Engaging is not just about sharing and retweeting posts, but rather starting and joining conversations actively with other users. Use a social media management tool like Agorapulse to monitor conversations and perform keyword searches and find conversations that you can join in real time. This way, you will not only improve your engagement levels, but you will also improve your following, get more traffic and improve your brand exposure.


Social media influencers

Building relationships with social media influencers can really help you boost your success on social platforms. Influencers have a strong following on social media and their audience care about their opinions and views. Use a tool like BuzzSumo to research and identify influencers in your niche and start building a relationship with them by following and engaging with them as much as possible. Once you’ve solidified these relationships and you start getting mentions and shares from them, it can help you reach more people, get more engagement, get more traffic and improve your brand awareness. The results can be amazing; but you will need to keep at it as it can take time to build strong relationships. You might already have some influencers already following you on social media. Use a tool – the aforementioned Agorapulse can help you with this – to identify any influencers that might be following you and start building a relationship with them. The fact that they’re already following you will make it much easier!

7 5 Engage!


Promote your content on social media

Social media is a perfect platform for sharing and promoting your content. If you have a blog, use your social profiles to promote your posts. Twitter is a particularly great platform for sharing blog posts, compared to Facebook for example. Mostly, because Twitter users are always on the lookout for great new content, there aren’t any algorithms keeping them from seeing your posts, and you can re-post your links several times.


How Amber's Angels Trust  support victims of child abuse.

What we do A project where gift boxes are given to our survivors simply to let them know that we care

Sponsoring a victim to build a trusting relationship with both child and parent/carer 

Used as a safe welcoming place for survivors and their families to support each other.

Distributed around the world in order to raise awareness of child abuse.

"I've had to go through a difficult childhood to get to where I am and now I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life – helping other people."

Amber Haigh Founder of Amber's Angels Trust

Find out more here... @SupportingSurvivors ofChildAbuse


Offering our services to both Adults and Children whilst they have to attend court.

The charity's permanent base with a charity shop to help raise funds.

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Rebecca Garrett Media is a multi-award winning media agency. Want to take your next big step in media? Contact us now. |

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Kay O’Shaughnessy Owner and Founder of the charity Friends and Families of Special Children Before the Devon Awards Ceremony we were able to catch up with one of our nominees for the Inspirational Woman of the Year Award and learn more about her inspirational journey. Tell us more about Friends and Families of Special Children? We are a non-profit organisation unique to Plymouth, providing information, support and services for families with disabled children, currently over 600 families. We offer individual family support, give advice on relevant issues and we run social and leisure events allowing ‘’time out to have fun’’ away from the stresses and regime of caring. This allows a vital “recharge of batteries”, relieving isolation and time for young carers to have fun. Integrated activities enable children with disabilities opportunities to experience a huge diversity of sports, arts, crafts and music not elsewhere available to them or their families.

exact children I feel I was handed a baby, told how lucky I was that she had survived albeit with profound disabilities, and was sent packing. That is not good enough. There has to be some kind of commitment to help these children throughout their lives. Because of the battles we had to fight as a family and the total lack of services available to families like mine I decided in 2002 something needed to be set up that would provide families with information, advice, support friendship and opportunities to participate in fun social and leisure opportunities. I set up Friends and Families of Special Children to do just this and in 2006 the organisation became a registered charity.

Wow, that sounds very rewarding, what inspired you to start the charity? In 1997 I gave birth to my daughter Amy, who after a very traumatic labour was born with Cerebral Palsy and is profoundly disabled. She is now a very beautiful 19 year old young woman. Very soon after having Amy I realised families with disabled children are not looking for sympathy but are looking for some commitment to help us care for our wonderful children and enable us all to have some quality of life. There seems to have been a lot of investment made into medical technology and staff training to ensure babies born with profound disabilities survive but little if any commitment into making sure there is help available to look after these children during their precious lives. As a parent of one of these


What was the best part of starting the charity? Meeting lots of really lovely people who I would not have met if I hadn’t set the charity up. I have learnt such a lot over the years and have been very empowered by its success. We have been instrumental in getting some services changed or started for families like mine. It’s amazing when you hear you have made a difference to people’s lives.


What have you found to be the most rewarding moment in your career?

How can people support you and get involved in your charity?

I was very proud at the launch of the charity when we held an event in Plymouth so we could promote what we did. I was a bit nervous that there may not be anyone attending but there were in fact over 100 people there. This gave me enormous satisfaction and made me feel the charity was recognised as being needed by the City. I also feel very proud when our families describe our services as a life saver. This is the very reason I set the organisation up so it gives me immense satisfaction to hear these comments.

Fundraising, regular giving, volunteer work, word of mouth, product and services donations and Corporate supporters – we are always looking to work directly with business who want to support a local charity. We work directly with the business to meet the needs of the corporate social resonsilibility strategy and grow awareness through media publicity.

How do you manage to balance work and home? As a mother it is always hard to balance work with family life. I have a great team who understand sometimes work has to take second place if Amy is unwell or I have appointments to attend with her. My husband and sons have always been very supportive and encouraged me with my work and will always step in if they can. To be honest I would not have been able to do any of this without my husband Michael. I also have some really supportive friends who help when Amy is very poorly and in hospital for long periods or I am just in need of a chat or glass of Prosecco!


What does the future hold for Friends and Families of Special Children? I would love to see the charity continuing to provide invaluable services in another 13 years and for it to become one of the well-known charities in Plymouth. We always seem too busy delivering services to our families to have any spare time to go out and promote what we do and get further support. As a small charity we rely heavily on the funding we receive for the project and the fundraising activity we carry out as on a daily basis we receive new enquiries and referals for people who need our support.

Thank you so much Kay for telling us your story, one last thing, what are your top three pieces of advice for anyone who is inspired to start their own charity or not for profit business? Do your homework – Research the guidelines around legistation and governance is key. Talk to other similar services and governing bodies to ensure you meet the guidelines. Networking and connections – Attending networking events, talking to the local media and sharing as much information to the community will help to grow awareness for free! Support – Collect as much support from friends and families around you as you will need them along the journey. If you would like to know more about the wonderful work Kay and her team do, or you would like to help please visit or contact them directly on 01752 204369.



Web: Tel: 01237 421985



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Venus Devon Issue #1  
Venus Devon Issue #1