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Getting nominated, celebrating excellence, mingling with the ‘movers and the shakers’ and those fabulous women making it all happen! By Suzanne Borrell

On October 4 2017 NatWest hosted the fabulous ‘What’s On 4 Kids Awards’ in association with Strider Bike and very special guest Sam Quek MBE, Olympic Gold Medallist, GB Hockey and 2016 ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here’ contestant.

These awards recognise the UK’s very best children’s activity providers as voted for by parents with categories from ‘Best Pre and Post-Natal’ to the celebrated ‘Industry Champion of the Year’. Children’s activities play a vital role in the lives of parents and children – teaching little ones important life skills (like swimming) and developing talents in dance, music, sport and more. Parents often credit clubs and classes for saving their sanity too in the early years, relishing the opportunity to get out of the house, to talk to another grown-up and sometimes even forging life-long friendships.

The children’s activities sector also offers a very family-friendly working model too – appealing to a wealth of female talent keen to avoid the 9-5 but still enjoy a lucrative and rewarding career around their kids – so there’s an awful lot to celebrate!

Sam Quek says ‘I was very fortunate at a young age to be encouraged to play sport and particularly hockey. Now as an Olympic Gold Medalist, I am living proof of the importance of kids’ clubs and classes and how teachers, class leaders and coaches inspire and empower children. That’s why I am so delighted to be the Ambassador and VIP Speaker for this event and I can’t wait to meet the finalists on the day!’

Visit www.whatson4littleones.co.uk to check out the winners, VIP guests and all the action from the What’s On 4 Kids Awards and, if you are looking for a class or club for your ‘little winners’, don’t miss the wealth of listings online too! If working within the children’s activities sector appeals visit www.mumandworking.co.uk for opportunities, advice and information.

October also sees the launch of the National Mumandworking Awards 2018! These awards which launched in 2010 celebrate the shining stars of flexible working – the individuals, start-ups, SMEs and big businesses showcasing how family-friendly working policy is a win-win for employers and team members alike! Categories are judged by a panel of amazing, inspiring women – all experts in their field and passionate about ensuring parents can achieve their potential, enjoying flexible careers around their children and families.

Helen Pattinson Co-Founder and Director, Montezuma’s Chocolates

Helen qualified as a solicitor with City law firm, Lawrence Graham specialising in corporate law. After working on several AIM flotations and seeing plenty of SMEs prosper, Helen was convinced that she wanted to set up her own business. After meeting and marrying fellow lawyer Simon, they gave up the law and took a year out to ‘find themselves’ and travelled to South America. Whilst there, Helen and Simon developed a passion for all things chocolate and the idea for Montezuma’s was born.

Montezuma’s Chocolates is now arguably the UK’s most innovative chocolate manufacturer with multiple sales channels including Waitrose, John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and Liberty of London as well as six of its own stores and website. Montezuma’s also exports to more than 30 countries worldwide. Award-winning in its first year, Montezuma’s continues to win awards for its premium chocolate bars and truffles and produces all of its chocolate on the Sussex coast. Helen and Simon still run the business and are focussing on establishing a family business with a long future. With three daughters, Helen is passionate about inspiring the young women in the business that ‘you can have it all’.  See www.montezumas.co.uk for more.

Karen Wood Director, Strider Bike

Karen Wood started selling Strider bikes from her house in 2010 as a stay at home mum with a toddler in one hand, a website coding book in the other and a £120 start-up fund. Having spotted the bikes whilst on holiday in the USA she quit her unfulfilling corporate business development role and launched herself as a home-based dealer. Despite stiff competition, she grew the business to become the UK’s largest dealer and in 2014 was offered exclusive distribution by the American manufacturers. Strider are now the industry leader and largest manufacturer of children’s balance bikes, with over 1.7 million sold worldwide.

Karen had dodged university by going on a gap year backpacking. “I simply knew I wanted to travel and had no idea what to study. I had a ball and landed jobs from scuba instructor on the Great Barrier Reef to cleaning a Tibetan monastery.” As an expedition leader driving trucks full of people on their epic world tours through South America and Africa, Karen was more at home fixing engines in jungles, out running tribal outlaws on horses and even getting shot at, than the world of retail. 

She relished designing a calendar of high profile events for Strider Riders from 18 months, inspiring them to love the great outdoors and bike riding and chose to take the bold stance to retail through small independent retailers, instructors and venues. Strider Bikes are sold via passionate experts, which also means Karen has the opportunity to support other family-run and smaller businesses. “If our trade customers can encourage children to ride a bike then they benefit from good margins, parents benefit from great customer service and it’s a win for all involved”.

From sharing podiums at the UK’s top sporting events to setting up adventure obstacle courses, Karen’s aim is to encourage children to participate in a safe, fun environment whilst riding, racing and pushing boundaries. A mum of two, Karen is married and in 2015 employed her husband.

See striderbike.co.uk for more.

Julie Baker Head of Financial Inclusion and Enterprise, NatWest

Julie is responsible for leading the ongoing delivery of new and better ways to provide enterprise support across NatWest’s business banking customer base, to help customers achieve their ambitions. Julie supports the Women in Business Accreditation Programme, endorsed by Chartered Banker and certified by everywoman, now held by over 400 Women in Business Specialist Relationship Managers.

She acts as an Enterprise ambassador, enhancing the profile of NatWest as the “Go To” Bank for diverse business segments through high visibility across external influencing forums, the media and Government. Julie also Chairs the Enterprise Board, acts as the NatWest representative at the British Bankers Association on the enterprise agenda, and is an Associate Member of the Institute of Bankers.

Julie has been with NatWest for over 30 years and has a strong background in business and commercial roles, with extensive people leadership skills and a track record of building strong and effective teams. She is passionate about helping people fulfil their potential, and acts as mentor to a number of people to support their development and help them achieve their dreams and goals.

See natwest.com/womeninbusiness for more.
@baker_jules

Sam Willoughby Managing Director, What’s On 4, Mumandworking.co.uk and Managing Trustee of the Children’s Activities Association CIC

Multi-award winner Sam Willoughby launched the children’s activities online directory ‘What’s On 4 Little Ones’ over a decade ago from her kitchen table. Knowing there had to be a way to enjoy a challenging, lucrative career but still work flexibly around her new baby daughter she walked away from her senior role in project management at a major financial services institution and has never looked back.

Now Sam oversees a portfolio of websites attracting over a million parents a year, live awards events and a huge social media reach with operations both in the UK and Australia. Along with her dynamic, growing team she still enjoys flexible, family-friendly working and is proud to have been in a position to roll this opportunity out to others.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, 2 years ago Sam also launched the not-for-profit Children’s Activities Association. With a founding team of children’s activities providers and experts, they at last offered the solution parents and professionals in this fast expanding sector had long been waiting for. Now parents just have to ask one question ‘Are you a member of the CAA?’ to make informed choices regarding their children’s clubs and classes and to get reassurance about a range of issues including H&S, insurance, training, qualifications and criminal record checks.

The CAA offers a membership organisation with a robust, independent accreditation and a host of member benefits along with objectives which include commissioning research, raising standards and awarding grants. Activity providers now have a simple way to demonstrate their excellence as well as an industry body to represent their interests. More than 1,000 children’s activities are members with 200,000 children every week attending a CAA member activity.

The second National Children’s Activities Conference will take place on November 29 2017 and tickets are now available – see childrensactivitiesassociation.org for more.

So as well as meeting a wealth of wonderful women to network and engage with – including the intrepid, inspiring, empowering, chocolate-loving innovators above… what else will the day hold?

Thanks to hosts NatWest, alongside the awards will be the 2nd mumandworking academy. The academy will feature workshops, conference sessions, speed networking – with the Mumpreneurs Networking Club – and a wealth of advice, support and information on taking your career that next step – whether you are already running a business, about to launch, keen to embrace flexible working or just at a career crossroads. Previous mumandworking award winner

Sarah-Jane Honeywell, actress, presenter, artist, blogger and writer will be back too – talking about babies and blogging and her career path since becoming a mum!

If you are interested in joining KWIB’s very own Susannah Schofield, speaking at the academy or being part of the mumandworking awards just visit www.mumandworking.co.uk for more information.

There’s a variety of fantastic categories and finalists will be invited to the Official Awards Ceremony on March 6 2018 with NatWest, followed by the VIP celebratory reception! 

So be part of the action and join us for Celebration Season!

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