Successful entrepreneurs from south Warwickshire are among the inspirational stories that form a new book set to raise funds for a national charity close to their hearts.
Inspirational Women, Inspirational Lives, which launched today (Monday, March 1st), celebrates female achievers from across the country, many with tales of overcoming adversity and even tragedy.
Compiled over nine months by Tracey McAtamney, from Balsall Common, the book features the 58 finalists in the 2020 Ladies First Network Awards which takes place this month in aid of The Katie Piper Foundation.
Among those who contributed are Nicola Smyth from Southam; Kate Findlay from Barford and Julie McGarrigle and Minnie Von Mallinckrodt-Grant, both from Leamington and Rachel Willmott, Sarah McCormack and Karen Heap, from Rugby.
Despite starting out as a financial analyst, Sarah McCormack decided to follow her new dream of becoming a qualified florist leading to the launch of Stemsations in Frankton. Year-on-year sales increased and the business expanded to offer a full floristry service for weddings, celebration bouquets, funeral tributes and seasonal workshops. Her achievements have been recognised in industry awards as well as featured in glossy magazines.
At just 36, and with a hairdressing career already spanning 20 years, Nicola Smyth owns salons in Warwick, Kenilworth, Southam and Knowle and is a multi-award-winning international colourist. She also runs a Midlands training academy and mentors with her brand across the world.
Kate Findlay, from Barford, has seen her online boutique gift shop Peach Perfect go on to great success after launching the business in her early sixties and whilst also nursing her late husband through the latter years of dementia.
Karen Heap runs Orchard Business Development and established Socially Shared when she was unable to find the type of support network she needed as a micro-business owner. The network, which is now active in Rugby, Stratford, Coventry, Alcester and Solihull, also hosts an annual Women in Business conference, which includes inspirational and motivational speakers.
Although a microbiology graduate, Minnie Von Mallinckrodt-Grant today offers marketing and communications expertise and is a TEDx curator and coach.
Rachel Willmott grew a successful and award-winning Virtual Assistant business she started from home whilst on maternity leave in 2013 called RHVA.
The parent of a child with Down syndrome, she is also an active member of The Ups of Downs charity based in Leamington, supporting it with administration, training, events and mentoring new parents.
Julie McGarrigle is a director at Alsters Kelley Solicitors, which has offices in Southam, Leamington, Stratford, Coventry and Nuneaton. She is proud to be one of only a handful of female non-lawyer director/owners of a law firm.
The practice has supported a number of local charities, including: Zoe’s Place Hospice in Coventry, Coventry Cyrenians, Safeline, STARS and Save the Children, and it also takes part in a number of the Free Wills initiatives for charities, such as Myton Hospices, Mary Ann Evans Hospice and Warwickshire and Northamptonshire Air Ambulance.
Inspirational Women, Inspirational Lives follows on from the success of Tracey’s first book Hidden Strength in 2019, which tells her own story of resilience, after being widowed at a young age.
Proceeds from this book go back into her charity Surviving Bereavement, which offers practical, financial, legal and emotional support in the form of seminars and new Memory Boxes, launched last year.
The finalists to the third LFN Business Awards were chosen from more than 200 nominations, and the winners will this year, for the first time, receive their engraved glass awards virtually, due to COVID restrictions.
An esteemed panel of 12 judges from across the UK, includes the awards keynote speaker, global success coach and author Sharron Lowe, from Tanworth-in-Arden.
Organiser Tracey said: “The judging event at The Mallory Court Hotel in Leamington last February was such an uplifting day. People had traveled from all over the country. But we didn’t know what was about to hit us.
“Having moved the event three times I didn’t want to move it again. For a while, I couldn’t see it happening. But we decided to put it online. I realised that this year things were going to have to change.
“I didn’t want these ladies to miss out on their year and their recognition after such an awful year. That was why I decided to start the book. I wanted to keep the excitement alive as well as find an alternative way of raising the funds for our nominated charity.”
Inspirational Women, Inspirational Lives costs £12.99 and is available from Amazon (also on Kindle) or through Tracey at: firstname.lastname@example.org with all the proceeds benefitting The Katie Piper Foundation.
Tracey added: “Compiling this book has been both very humbling and uplifting. I thought it was important to get it out there. At the moment there are more women than ever who need support and inspiration.
“It’s also based on a year on hold. It’s about what happened to these people over the past year and what impact the pandemic has had on their lives – positive and negative. It looks at how so many women have had to reinvent themselves on the kitchen table. It’s all about celebrating being positive.
“I hope that what people take away from this book is a belief in themselves, that they will see that, no matter how bad things become in your life, you can come out of it the other side.”
Hosted by BBC radio presenter Sandra Godley, the awards ceremony, on March 18th, will also feature a message from Katie Piper. The author and TV presenter founded her charity in 2008 while in the early stages of her recovery from an acid attack which left her with permanent scars on her face and body and blindness in one eye.
Katie said: “I’m so honoured that my charity has been chosen to benefit from the awards, auction and book inspired by these incredible women. Their stories of determination through the pandemic and resilience are to be celebrated.
“The switch from ‘in real life’ awards to a digital ceremony mirrors how we adapted from delivering in-person care to video-call-based rehabilitation with outstanding results for survivors. As women, we are no one thing, we evolve, change and grow and the positive impact is felt far and wide.”
Tracey McAtamney added: “When I was deciding on which charity should benefit from our event this year, I thought, who is one of the most inspirational and courageous women I know? Katie Piper represents someone who has been through awful challenges and within a month of her recovery set up her own charity to try and help others. It sat well with what we are trying to achieve with the book and the awards.”
Proceeds from an online silent auction will also be donated to the Foundation. More than 20 lots, available to bid on from today, (Monday) include an Amplify Events VIP package to see Strictly Come Dancing Live worth £400; a private dining meal for two courtesy of Bramble Dining; a diamond ring, speech coaching workshop, Napton Cidery Discovery Bundle; pet portrait and beauty vouchers. Bids can be made via: www.jumblebee.co.uk/Charityauction2021
Tickets to the awards night are £15 and available at www.ladiesfirstnetwork.co.uk via Eventbrite.