The 2019 leading ladies of Sussex


- Credit: Archant

Sussex women mean business! Here, we turn the spotlight on some of our county’s most successful - and discover what it is that makes them tick

Claudine Sinnett - Eastbourne College

What does your average day look like?

I have a busy working week! I get up at 5.30am every day to get myself ready before waking the children up and getting them off to school. I arrive at my desk at approximately 8.10am and spend the first half an hour catching up on paperwork and emails before lessons begin at 8.40am. I spend the day juggling classes, tutoring, discussing set-design for shows and attending meetings which can sometimes be off site. My day ends at different times but I try to pick up my children at the end of their day. After cooking dinner, I return to work for rehearsals again between 6.00pm and 10.00pm before I’m finally home. I then catch up on any urgent work before going to bed. When I finally get to bed I always wonder why I didn’t get to bed earlier!

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by others who push forward in the face of adversity. People who have the confidence to fight against the system and continue to develop the creative arts. I am truly inspired when I see kids on stage. Helping a pupil to perform confidently and seeing them on stage on their own is a hugely satisfying part of my job.

What’s your motto in life?

My favourite Star Wars quote from Yoda: “Do or do not, there is no try” (said in Yoda voice of course).

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Old Wish Road, Eastbourne BN21 4JY | 01323 452300

Lisa Harrison - Lisa Harrison Interiors

Why Sussex? What makes the area so right for you?

I find myself constantly inspired by the incredible landscapes of West Sussex and keep a photo journal of its ever changing colour palette on my office wall. My desk is full of swatches, samples, jars, and trays depicting gorgeous weathered colours and textures from natural “treasures” that I have picked up from blustery walks along the Witterings, from Kingly Vales wonderfully Burton-esque woodland and my own wild waterside garden. These colours are then transformed into my mood boards.

What have you learnt?

Most clients have an idea of what they like but don’t know how to pull it together. My role is satisfying as I offer a helping hand, making their ideas a reality. In a way, creating a beautiful interior is the result of leading the client on their own journey, through colour, texture and pattern choices that ultimately define who they are.

What are your goals for the future?

I started The Sussex Craft collective as certain clients were after unique artwork but didn’t know where to look online. It’s difficult to find handcrafted furniture, unusual lighting and handmade ceramics that are not mass produced and can be tailored to a specific colour scheme or interior. I remain passionate about discovering new craftsmen in this highly creative region and am always on the look out to commission new artwork for my projects.

30 Southgate, Chichester P019 1DP | 01243 767366

Zoë Lagadec Solicitor - Mulberry’s Employment Law Solicitors

Top tips for a successful working relationship?

My top tip would be communication. In my work I see many examples of working relationships that have broken down. The common thread between most of them is poor communication. Discussing things, promptly, in an open and supportive environment would, in my opinion resolve the majority of issues.

What’s your motto in life?

My motto in life is one simple word: Trust. I trust that my instinct is usually right, I trust that the right thing will happen, not necessarily immediately or even in the way I think it should, but as Martin Luther King said: “The curve of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.”

I have seen this to be true enough times to know that he was right.

How has constant and rapid change in the world of work affected your role and your job?

Enormously. Not a day seems to go by when employment rights aren’t in the news as new ways of working are examined in the tribunals. With the exponential growth of the internet workers have had to adapt considerably to insecure and ad hoc working arrangements, which requires up to date advice on such arrangements. My role has changed with this as I provide ever more advice on-line as my clients work and live all over the world.

96 Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UJ | 01273 839488


Maeva Imber - Park House Hotel & Spa

Tell us about your business?

I am the spa manager at Park House, which is an independent luxury boutique hotel situated in Bepton, a beautiful village just outside Midhurst. The spa has two gorgeous indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a gym and four treatment rooms. We offer a range of beauty and relaxation treatments using clean and natural skincare brands and have just launched four Wellness Therapies, which are bespoke treatments designed for guests who are or have been affected by cancer.

Any top tips for a successful working relationship?

I believe that relationships flourish with honesty, respect and empathy. Every day, whether I am communicating with a member of my team or a client, I make an effort to engage in conversation in a kind and positive way. Even though I am assertive in challenging what I feel is not right, I always try to see the world through the other person’s eyes, rather than just through my own. I think that conflicts and disagreements are part of working with people and that through honest conversations they help to build meaningful relationships.

Who or what inspires you?

I think life inspires me in general, it is an incredible gift and it can be as good as you make it. It does not matter what gets thrown at you, sometimes good, sometimes not so good. What matters is how you deal with it and how you can turn things around.

1 Bepton Road, Midhurst GU29 OJB | 01731 819000

Alexia Bolton - Pennthorpe School

What does your average day look like?

The best thing about being a head is there is no such thing as an average day as every day is different. There are some standard and pleasurable elements to every day for example, I enjoy teaching every morning. The rest of my time is ideally spent outside of the office in the heart of the school working among our community.

What’s your motto in life?

My father taught me early on that if you jump, the net definitely appears. I have always been comfortable in taking risks and I feel many people are hampered by spending unnecessary time contemplating the potential consequences of their actions rather than enjoying the experience and taking a chance. Life is meant to be exciting and it is there to be lived.

Tell us about your business?

Pennthorpe is an exceptional school that really is the hidden diamond of West Sussex. The 25-acre campus is crammed with excellent facilities designed to offer every child the opportunity to discover their strengths and passions. We are a school which prioritises a child’s happiness and aims to bestow unlimited opportunity to enable all children, regardless of ability, to explore, discover and experience success.

Rudgwick, Horsham West Sussex | 01403 822391

Sue Knight - Coole Bevis LLP

Tell us about your business?

I am head of our family law department with more than 30 years’ legal experience and listed in The Legal 500. I specialise in divorce, finance, children’s arrangements and pre-nups. I work alongside other highly qualified lawyers sharing a commitment to excellent client care. Our firm also offers private client, business and property services.

Any top tips for a successful working relationship?

Listening to and recognising what matters the most to my clients is at the very heart of my work. At our initial fixed fee interview, we take time to discuss all the options. I am proud of the strong relationship I build with my clients, my role is to support them through tough times so we can focus on the legal issues and achieving the best result.

What is your motto in life?

Give it your all I have never finished a case and wondered what would have happened if we had worked harder to achieve my client’s desired outcome. Conquering the detail in complicated financial and family negotiations is a challenge, but I really enjoy my work knowing that my clients are in the best place they can be for the future.

Brighton, Horsham, Hove and Worthing | 01273 716623 |


Louise Salmond Smith - The Prebendal School

Tell us about your business?

The Prebendal School is the oldest school in Sussex - we’ve been here for almost 900 years. We’re proudly non-selective, and cater for the needs of the ablest of academic scholars to those who need extra support, and we make sure that all those in the middle don’t get forgotten either.

Tell us about your families?

There is often a preconception that parents with children at an independent school must live in a huge house, drive fast cars and go on lots of holidays - it simply isn’t the case these days with families coming in all shapes and sizes. Because we are a boarding school, we are able to offer busy families excellent wraparound care during the school day and flexi-boarding for those who need overnight care for their child on the odd occasion.

What is the secret of your success?

Successful people always seem to be those who are willing to take risks, make mistakes, and accept that sometimes things do not always go to plan. I’ve always been very determined and I try not to take setbacks to heart.

55 West Street, Chichester P019 1RT | 01243 772220

Lalita Russell-Smith - Me & Maya

Tell me about your business?

Me & Maya is a ladies boutique for cocktail and event dressing. I design all the clothes myself and all garments are made in London. Attention to detail is of the utmost importance, therefore fabrics are sourced carefully and often pieces of fabric are used to create one-off dresses. I also use saris to create my resort wear collections.

Why Sussex? What makes the area so right for your line of work?

I have a home in West Sussex which is a beautiful county and I have known the area for a long time. It is the perfect location for my business with all the social events going on in the area such as polo at Cowdray and racing at Goodwood. During the summer months there are a lot of weddings and social events in the area.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by the past! Women in the Fifties with their ladylike dressing. I would love to bring this back and my designs reflect this in every way. The late Coco Chanel is such an inspiration and her style is still current today.

1 Knockhundred Row, Midhurst GU29 9DQ | 01730 814476

Rachel Davies - Mayfield School

Tell us about you and your families?

I live in beautiful rural Sussex close to Bedgebury where my husband, daughter and I enjoy walking and cycling. I am looking forward to Lauren joining Mayfield School next year because of the fantastic opportunity to study and enjoy a wide range of subjects and extra-curricular activities. Mayfield makes every girl feel special by encouraging them to find their niche and develop their talents and I know she will really thrive here. She is very excited about making new friends.

Who or what inspires you?

I have always admired women who rise to challenges no matter what the odds are. One of my heroes is Lilian Bland, born in Maidstone, who despite being told her endeavours were unladylike, was the first woman to design and build her own aeroplane, ‘The Mayfly’.

What’s your motto in life?

The theme for International Women’s Day is “Better the Balance, Better the World” and this really resonates with me. I want to see more girls taking up leading positions in STEM careers, which are still male-dominated. We have a high uptake of girls taking Maths and Science A Levels (indeed Maths is the most popular A Level subject at Mayfield) who choose to pursue a wide range of professions in these disciplines. It is wonderful to see them return to school each year to inspire the girls by sharing their experiences of university and careers.

The Old Palace, High Street, Mayfield TN20 6PH | 01435 874600

Maria Davey - Marias Homecare Companions Ltd

Tell me about your business?

Maria’s Homecare Companions specialises in companionship. I believe that the key to health and wellbeing is happiness. We aim to combat loneliness, encourage independence & promote a healthier lifestyle. Our friendly carers often take clients out for walks and to cafes. I am also the founder of a not-for- profit organisation The Deans Senior Tea Club. Providing weekly dances, fun and games. We are a lifeline for the attendees and respite for families. Our wonderful volunteers work tirelessly. Without their dedication the clubs couldn’t support the 200 attendees.

What does my average day look like?

My human alarm clocks, Florence & Harriet start my day by singing and baby Eleanor-Rose is normally demanding a feed. Whilst we ready the children for school, I check my phone for overnight updates. I reach the office by 9am to meet with the team to discuss client’s health concerns before I visit clients. I may book an entertainer or follow up with possible grants or funders for the Tea Club. After a busy day, school pick up and after school clubs I look forward to curling up with my family! We have been honoured with High Sheriff awards, various unsung hero and Mayor awards. I was also recognised as the Carer of the Year by the Evening Argus.

What are your goals for the future?

Be happy! Keep providing an outstanding level of service across Sussex.

143 South Coast Road, Peacehaven BN10 8NN | 01273 582333

Emma Chatwell - Green Wright Chalton Annis

Tell me about your business?

Green Wright Chalton Annis have 6 offices across Sussex and are a long established High Street legal firm, having been in existence for over 100 years. We pride ourselves on our high service standards as recently recognised by the Law Society, we were awarded their Legal Practice Quality Mark by way of the Lexcel accreditation in 2018 an achievement of which we are very proud.

What does your average day look like?

There is no such thing as an average day! I have been based in Steyning since we established our office here nearly 15 years ago and no day is the same, clients call in with various questions and queries which is easy for them to do as we are located in the High Street. We have a busy conveyancing and wills and probate team and are able to arrange for our litigation colleagues to be available when necessary. We have strong links with the community and other local professionals, these have been invaluable in ensuring that our clients receive the best possible advice and guidance.

What is the secret of your success?

We are a hard working, determined, well respected and successful local firm who look forward to meeting head on any challenges that may come our way especially in the current political climate, I am confident that we are well equipped to continue to flourish and to cement our excellent reputation.

60 High Street, Steyning BN44 3RD | 01903 814190 |

Kirsty Keep - Lancing Prep Hove

What does your average day look like?

My day starts at the front door, greeting families and hearing the children’s news. We encourage pupils to think for themselves, so assemblies are often interactive. Recently, we queried gender equality with the Pre-Prep (finding many boys go to Dance and many girls go to Football). More complex themes, such as discrimination and prejudice, are explored with the older children. Starting with a warm welcome and a key message, our minds are ready for the day ahead.

Who or what inspires you?

The children, undoubtedly. Whether 3 year olds in Pre-School, or 13 year olds who tackle circle theorem far more confidently than me, they are the very essence of curiosity and enthusiasm. There is nothing more inspiring for me than walking around the school to take a peek at their learning.

What is the secret of your success?

Our pupils are impressive academically and we have entry waiting lists, but these aren’t, for me, the same as being successful. If our children are curious to learn, capable of independent thought and collaborative work, caring of each other and aware of the world beyond their own environment, then I consider the school successful.

The Droveway, Hove BN15 ORW | 01273 503452