Forward Ladies was founded in 1999 to “unlock potential in professional women” in the Yorkshire region. Its owner and managing director, Griselda Togobo, talks about its work and the HSBC-sponsored Women In Business Awards.
When was Forward Ladies set up?
Griselda Togobo (GT): “In 1999 by the [now abolished] regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, to encourage women to do business with each other. I took over running Forward Ladies in 2014.”
Tell us about your background?
GT: “I’m a chartered accountant and trained at Deloitte, where I provided auditing and management consultancy services to large corporates and SMEs. I also hold an MPhil in industrial systems, manufacture and management from Cambridge University. Before becoming an accountant, I studied engineering in Ghana. I’m also an Enterprise Ambassador at Leeds University and give guest lectures nationwide on
What does Forward Ladies do?
GT: “Forward Ladies is dedicated to the personal development of women in business through networking, training, mentoring, peer support and specialist programmes. We run monthly networking groups in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and London, monthly online webinars and lunches featuring inspirational speeches from female business leaders. We also run special events throughout the year.”
How does membership work?
GT: “Our standard membership is free and open to everyone, but you must pay to attend events. Premium members pay an annual membership fee of £75 plus VAT, but can attend business breakfasts throughout the country and log in to our webinars for free. Premium members also get discounts on special events and receive private invitations to exclusive activities.”
What about your Women In Business Awards?
GT: “They’re are open to everyone and there’s no entrance fee. There are 11 categories: start up; SME emerging; SME growth; rising star; inspirational leader; STEM; international; retail; digital/technology; not-for-profit/social enterprise; and young.”
How does it work?
GT: “There are four regional heats: in London; the Midlands; Yorkshire, North East & Scotland; and North West, Wales, Ireland & Isle of Man. Shortlisted candidates are invited to each and the winners go forward to a judging day in Manchester where they are interviewed by expert judges. The national winners are announced at the national final. The overall Businesswoman of the Year will be chosen from these.”
What types of businesses enter the awards?
GT: “The overall businesswomen in 2016 was Jan Flawn, founder and owner of Milton Keynes-headquartered PJ Care - providers of specialist neurological care and neuro rehabilitation. The previous winner was Alexa Greaves, who runs her own IT-managed support system company. Other winners have included the owners of a spa and beauty salon, a digital agency, accountancy practice, caravan manufacturer, IT consultancy, ballet academy, beauty wholesaler, forensic software company, analytical testing company and a charity. All manner of businesswomen enter.”
What should readers do if they want to enter?
GT: “All the information is on our website, where they can find out more about the judging criteria and categories. You can enter yourself or be nominated by friends and colleagues, but all entrants must complete an online application form.