Caroline Dinenage MP today welcomed Jacqueline Gold CBE and a cohort of successful local businesswomen to Bridgemary School in Gosport to help host an Enterprising Women event.
The event was designed to encourage Year 9 school girls from Bridgemary and Brune Park schools to explore all career opportunities available to them and overcome any barriers of self-doubt they may have to become the next generation of Enterprising Women.
After an introduction from the Head Teacher of Bridgemary School, Vicki White, and Caroline Dinenage MP, who herself was a business woman before entering politics, the girls heard from seven inspirational mentors about their journeys to become successful business and career women. The guest of honour, Jacqueline Gold CBE, chief executive of Ann Summers, gave a motivational speech in which she encouraged the girls to ‘think about your passion and what you’re really interested in’ and ‘help drive that change’ to see more women in business.
During the event, the girls worked on an entrepreneurial challenge to design a business plan for a vacant commercial property in Gosport. The mentors circulated, providing the girls with tips and advice.
The girls then pitched their ideas in a ‘Dragons Den meets The Apprentice’ format. Despite only having an hour-and-a-half to come up with their plans, the teams’ ideas were extremely well thought-out, creative and varied. One team planned to launch a careers advisory business called ‘Opening Doors’ to help local people build the confidence to enter work, building on mentors comments that when they were younger there had been an lack of high quality careers advice for young women. Another team came up with the idea of a Performing Arts Academy putting on shows, providing drama lessons, and hosting lucrative children’s parties to provide a year-round income.
The winning team, however, was SeaFix, a boat repair and engineering company that set itself apart from competitors by its willingness to travel any distance to repair your boat. The company planned to employ semi-retired marine engineers from Gosport, as well as new apprentices, so the experienced boat repair-men and women could train up the youngsters on the job. The judging panel prided the girls on intertwining the skills of the older and younger generations to ensure the continuation of Gosport as a national hub for maritime excellence and training. Commenting on the event, Caroline said:“The girls’ projects were really inventive and they all clearly identified businesses that Gosport needs. I hope today was an opportunity for them to gain some experience in the business world and be inspired by our fabulous team of businesswomen. I hope that they leave today believing in themselves with the goal of moving forwards to be the very best that they can be, in whatever career path they choose.” Commenting on the pitches, Jacqueline said: “I could see so much talent in the room today. It’s about time that girls started realising how fantastic they really are and what they have to offer.” When Jacqueline Gold joined Ann Summers, the annual turnover was £83,000 but it now stands at £140 million: a clear testament to her brilliant business acumen.
13 year old Mia from Brune Park School said:
“The women here today have been very inspiring, especially to me as I was quite sure of what I wanted to do for a career and I am not sure now, the women here have inspired me that much. I’ve got some ideas now, I think I can go further in life, considering some of them were quite shy and have gone really far.”
The mentors were: Freya Derrick, owner of Hopscotch Nurseries, which employs over 160 local staff; Melanie Lawson, founder of the Brighton-based Omega3 specialist company, Bare Biology; Lulu Whitmore, founder of Southsea’s premier events management company, Love Southsea; Dee Farwell from the forward-looking accountancy firm, Business Bar; Commander Sophie Shaughnessy, Executive Officer at HMS Sultan and the most senior female engineer in the Royal Navy to date; Christine Biddle, who is Gosport born and bred and now Operations Manager at Maritime Services International; and Abby Thomson, director and co-founder of Gosport Marine Scene.