Female entrepreneurs in the South East are on the rise, with more and more women taking on male-dominated business roles.
Survey results by the UENI show that out of 22,257 businesses, 32% of those were launched by female entrepreneurs; that is a 15% increase from what it was four years ago.
Here are 12 of the top female entrepreneurs in the South East you need to stay on the lookout for…
The Bicester entrepreneur is a successful businesswoman who runs six limited companies in the UK and aims to inspire other women to start up their own business ventures. Niziol is one of the top mortgage brokers in the UK, and has won several awards, one of which was Top UK Broker from Barclays Bank. Michelle also appeared in British reality show The Apprentice, and was mentored by Sir Alan Sugar.
Wantage businesswoman Alison Hargreaves is in the wedding business; her business, Guides For Brides, is an online wedding platform that establishes a connection between couples planning weddings with people who run venues, suppliers, and other related events across the UK. Hargreaves was selected as a finalist for the Great British Entrepreneur Awards in July, for her track and trace software designed for weddings.
Founder of Winterbrook Garden Nurseries and head of artwork and design, Hannah transformed an abandoned nursery into a garden centre loved by the local community. She was formerly an art teacher at a secondary school; she gave up teaching and moved to her home area where she set about refurbishing the abandoned greenhouse. In 2020, the Winterbrook Garden Nurseries was selected in the Small Business 100 and was considered one of the top 5 garden centres in the area because of the business’ sustainable ethos.
The Oxford-based entrepreneur Sarah Jordan is the founder of the sustainable fashion brand Y.O.U Underwear. She created the business after visiting Uganda in 2016; Sarah was helping a local business sell sanitary products and realised along the way that the demand for these products was low due to a lack of access to underwear. Her solution to this was creating her online underwear brand; any time someone buys a pair, two are donated to a charity that gives underwear to adults and children in Africa and the UK.
Finance Coach & Founder of MoneyHeave, entrepreneur Roneish Myers launched her financial coaching service in 2020 to help families across the UK manage their money and finances. With ten years of experience in the field, Roneish is a money enthusiast and an advocate for economic empowerment. Her business, MoneyHeave, provides her clients with a service that gives them the knowledge to be financially responsible and helps fulfill their goals.
Co-founder and CEO of iWarranty, Dr Ruby Pillai has come a long way in her career as an entrepreneur. Dr Pillai was originally a banking and finance lawyer working with international law firms including Ropes & Gray International and Baker & McKenzie; she has 13 years of experience representing corporations and equity funds. This year, the entrepreneur won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Awards; she also received £50,000 for her business iWarranty, an application that helps organisations achieve net-zero goals.
In 2018, Hampshire-based entrepreneur Becky Stevens founded the handcrafted jewellery music and fudge business Silver Beats and Treats. Becky always had a love of music since her high school years and had a passion for the trombone. After taking a silversmithing course with her friend, she also decided that this would be another passion of hers. And finally, her love of fudge comes from her mother who made ‘the most amazing tablet fudge’ for Becky’s school bake sales. She put all these ideas together and formed her business soon after that. She is also a published author of a book that encourages women to join the business world.
Director of Sharp Minds Communications based in Tunbridge Wells, Siobhan Stirling has an extensive list of qualifications and achievements that have helped her become a well-known entrepreneur in the South East. Her previous roles have entailed marketing strategy, research, brand development, strategic communications, public relations and many others. In this year's Best Business Women Awards, Stirling won the Best Woman in PR and Marketing for her exemplary client services and creating opportunities for young people.
Founder and managing director of ForrestHR services, Sophie Forrest is considered a highly qualified HR professional. She has 20 years of experience in the HR industry and has taken on generalist and strategic roles in the financial, construction, law, hospitality and sports industries. Forrest founded the company in 2018, and won the Best Business Service silver award at the Best Business Women Awards 2021.
Dr Valarie Jerome is the founder of Newbury independent practice, Valarie Jerome Optometrists. Shortly after launching her practice in 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic meant she had to resort to delivering a remote eye care service and even offered local Berkshire residents free spectacle repairs; she now does in-person appointments. Dr Jerome was recently recognised in a list of 100 top female entrepreneurs by Small Business Britain for her work.
Walton-on-Thames entrepreneur Lottie Whyte is an accomplished hockey player, and avid runner and gym goer. Lottie, along with Joe Gray, is the co-founder of Myomaster, a massage gun designed for professional athletes. Lottie suffered from a hockey-related injury and wanted to make the recovery process easier for others like her; she then went on to create an accessible and affordable muscle and joint care machine. Lottie was shortlisted for this year’s Natwest Everywoman Awards and has been dubbed a role model for black businesswomen.
Digikind, like many other start-up businesses, was founded during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic last year. Dorking resident Kathy Kyle Bonomini is the co-founder of the communications consultancy business; she has over 20 years of experience and is a multi award-winning branding, PR, and marketing expert. She founded Digikind in order to help organisations use technology to create a sense of community to achieve their goals.