Awards celebrate women in business

KAREN Hester, operations director at Southwold brewer Adnams, has picked up the coveted title of East of England Businesswoman of the Year 2007.

KAREN Hester, operations director at Southwold brewer Adnams, has picked up the coveted title of East of England Businesswoman of the Year 2007.

And Erika Maude, founder of the Scoliosis SOS Clinic in Martlesham, near Ipswich, has been named Young Businesswoman of the Year.

The Suffolk duo were presented with their awards at a gala dinner ceremony held at the Hilton Hotel at Stansted Airport last night.

Karen Hester began her career at Adnams as an office cleaner. Nearly 20 years later, she is operations director, managing 100 employees and responsible for maintaining beer quality from production through to delivery. She also played a key role in recent years over-seeing the development of the award-winning £6 million new distribution centre in Reydon, which involved the relocation of infrastructure, stock and staff.

Judges were impressed by the way Karen pulled off the move without any disruption to day-to-day procedures and no detrimental effect on customer service. She will now be put forward for the National Veuve Cliquot Businesswoman of the Year award.

Erika Maude, meanwhile, took the decision to set up the private Scoliosis SOS Clinic in May 2006 after discovering that valuable physiotherapy-based treatment available in Europe was not available in the UK.

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Diagnosed with scoliosis herself at the age of 11, Erika was offered two types of treatment to correct the curvature of her spine - major surgery or wearing a full body brace. After two years, when the brace had proved ineffective and keen to avoid surgery, she investigated alternative treatments and discovered the Rigo-Schroth method of physiotherapy.

Inspired by her own progress, Erika resolved to establish a clinic to provide the treatment in the UK. Just 18 months on, her clinic in Martlesham employs 11 skilled professionals and has helped hundreds of scoliosis sufferers.

Suffolk scooped all three nominations for Businesswoman of the Year category, with the runners-up being Jane Vincent, founder and managing director of WS Training which runs training centres in Bury St Edmunds, Ipswich and Haverhill, and Bridget Keevil, founder and managing director of Travel Stop, a high quality travel agency based in Claydon.

Runners-up in the Young Businesswoman of the Year category were Natalie Sullivan, founder of The BizNiz, based at Great Braxted near Witham, which provides PA services to the SME business market, and Claire Gardner, who set up Spotlight Security in Bedford and now provides security services across the UK.

The Enterprise Award this year went to Vandy Massey, managing director of MSA Interactive, an HR and training consultancy in Whittlesford, near Cambridge. Other finalists in the category were Karheena Woodroffe, who developed Happy Bags, an online retail outlet for baby changing bags based near Norwich, and Sally Aspinall, managing director of The Cerebral Palsy Physiotherapy Centre in Bedfordshire.

An additional award, the Beatrice Wilkinson Memorial Ward, presented by the Suffolk Business Network in memory of its founder, was given to Christine Beedle, who has been an active member of the region's business community for many years.

A former president of the Suffolk Chamber and herself an early winner of the East of England Businesswoman of the Year title, Christine is currently an ambassador for Young Enterprise.

The awards were presented by Steve Elsom, area director for commercial banking at Lloyds TSB, principal sponsor of the awards, and the guest speaker was Lynette Allen, an entrepreneur and one of the UK's leading life coaches for women.

The East of England Businesswomen Awards were launched in 1989 and have been organised since 1997 by the Suffolk branch of the Institute of Directors.

On the judges panel this year were Steve Elsom of Lloyds TSB, Jane Cox from Akenham Partnership, Pat Perry of Perry Scott Ash, Juliet Price of Park City Consulting, Simon Delf from Common Purpose, Colleen Gostick of Buckles Solicitors and Dawn Carman-Jones from Mercatus Marketing.