So, I was applauding away with my ‘gracious loser’ face at the ready when I suddenly realised my name was being called out… That’s right – mine!

I couldn’t believe it! Antony Chesworth, who founded the UK’s leading ecommerce software company Ekm Systems, was announcing I had won ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ at Lancashire Business View’s Sub36 awards ceremony on Thursday, 18 October.

Cue lots of screaming and my partner in crime, Emily, jumping on me in celebration!

It was unbelievably awesome; I still feel emotional when I think about it now, as it’s one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It’s wonderful to receive not just recognition, but public recognition for something you have done and – in this case – something that I took a risk to do. People have now listened to my story, looked at my business and believed that it is something good.

I left a good job with a great salary, bonus, car package and pension to set up and create Fresh Perspective Resourcing. Some of my family thought I was bonkers (they probably still do!), but I did it anyway.

It started with an idea – a passion and a frustration with the recruitment industry which led to me wanting to do it better and make some changes. Fresh began in the summer of 2016 with just me and my pet pugs working all hours in the dining room of my house until my sister Emily joined me in 2017. Now we have an office, a work home and a team of four fabulous individuals – all of whom were there to celebrate with us at the Sub36 Awards in Blackpool’s Winter Gardens!

It was a really good night, with lots of familiar faces from networking around Lancashire; there was such a vibe of positive energy and anticipation, which was fantastic! We were up for three awards – ‘Innovator of the Year’, ‘New Business of the Year’ and ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ – and were amongst some amazing companies and inspirational individuals in those categories, as well as the rest of the room, which was pretty big! To even just be there as finalists was a huge achievement.

We didn’t win the other two categories, but after hearing about the people and businesses that did, we agreed that they were very worthy winners whom we could learn a lot from. Winning one accolade was enough for us, and to be presented with the award by an entrepreneur that I admire and look up to made it all the more special.

Someone asked me last week what I got out of the awards versus what it cost me to enter and attend etc. and I think I chewed his ear off for a lot longer than he anticipated! There are so many positives to entering awards whether you win or not. The process forces you to reflect on your achievements, successes and the positives, which is something that we generally don’t make enough time for, as we are so focused on the present and future.

It’s easy to focus on challenges, issues and negative situations that you have to deal with, but reflection is vital to any business. Not only does it make you feel proud, it also helps you figure out what you do well and why so that you can carry on doing it and use it to shape your business or career for the better.

Awards raise your profile, as you get to tell people about you and your business; your logo is used; people talk about you; and it can be an extremely valuable networking opportunity. Obviously, winning one has its perks too! The publicity and PR that is generated for you is wonderful and should be utilised to its maximum opportunity.

It’s also a huge learning curve. Whether you win or not, you should always ask for feedback so you can do more of what is good and introduce changes to make it even better; I’ve learnt from the judges, the other category winners and our fellow finalists. I find it fascinating to hear about other people and their businesses, and I also love helping people with my ideas and experience – collaborating with others in a similar position to share advice, expertise and thoughts to help each other succeed.

One thing in particular that I noticed from the Sub36 Awards was that there were no other ladies in the ‘Innovator’ or ‘Entrepreneur’ categories. I know that there are female entrepreneurs in Lancashire – and successful ones at that. Why are they not shouting about their businesses? In the words of Sheryl Sandberg, why aren’t they leaning in to their businesses and careers? The men are! As a feminist who believes in equality, I would love to sponsor the ‘Entrepreneur of the Year’ category in the future, and to inspire and encourage other women in business to enter. Simply put, I want more women at the top to give the men a run for their money!

Love Laura x

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