The EVAs - an awards scheme highlighting the achievements of female entrepreneurs

Isla Wilson of Ruby Star Associates, Sarah Southworth of Specialised Cleaning Services and Heather W

Isla Wilson of Ruby Star Associates, Sarah Southworth of Specialised Cleaning Services and Heather Waters, enterprise manager at NatWest - Credit: Archant

Lancashire Life and NatWest are supporting an awards scheme highlighting the achievements of female entrepreneurs

Jane Halpin and Denise Armer of Unique Kidz and Co

Jane Halpin and Denise Armer of Unique Kidz and Co - Credit: Archant

The Enterprise Vision Awards - known by all as the EVAs - are back and promising to be bigger and better than ever with headline sponsor NatWest and this year’s media partner, Lancashire Life. Since their conception back in 2011, the awards have unearthed some great stories and we caught up with past winners to find out how winning had changed their business lives.

This is set to be an exciting year for Denise Armer and Jane Halpin who founded the charity, Unique Kidz and Co, when they were faced with the challenge of finding childcare for their disabled children. They won the 2012 New Business of the Year and the 2013 Inspirational Woman of the Year awards as well as being finalists in the 2013 Small Business category.

This year will see the charity, which offers after-school and holiday clubs for children with special needs, celebrate its fifth anniversary. Its ‘Kit It Out For the Kidz’ campaign is also well underway with the charity moving to its own premises at Lancaster Leisure Park.

Until now, Unique Kidz and Co has run its service from the Loyne School in Lancaster as well as having an office in Carnforth. The move means everything is under one roof, allowing them to increase the service by including young adults. More space and greater flexibility means they can rent out space to other groups.

Denise said: ‘Winning the EVAs has had a huge impact. People naturally want to be associated with successful businesses and winning the awards has certainly made it easier to connect with potential sponsors and new customers.

‘When we first set out, we had no experience in childcare or even running a business and we were told it wouldn’t work. So winning the award has certainly been an affirmation of all we have achieved.’

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Being named the 2012 ‘Business Woman of the Year’ certainly came as a surprise to the managing director of Specialised Cleaning Services, Sarah Southworth.

‘When I heard my name read out, I was absolutely dumbfounded,’ she said. ‘I was thrilled.’

Sarah built her company from an ironing round nine years ago. The company now offers trauma, void and crime scene cleaning services as well as pest control, rubbish removals and ground care to a variety of businesses and organisations including housing associations and councils across the North West.

Specialised Cleaning Services employs 25 people including Sarah’s sons, Nathan and Luke. It has recently relocated to Ribbleton to accommodate its growing team.

Sarah’s success has caught the attention of TV production companies and Specialised Cleaning Services could hitt our screens soon.

Sarah added: ‘The increased awareness that winning the award gave my business was phenomenal. I can confidently say we have won contracts based on the boost to our profile.’

Sarah is returning to the awards as category sponsor of Business Woman of the Year to support her fellow female entrepreneurs.

She said: ‘My industry is very male-orientated and it is often the assumption that, as a woman, I am not in charge. I often feel I have to prove myself. For that reason, the EVAs are incredibly important.’

Heather Waters, enterprise manager at NatWest, which is sponsoring the Inspirational Woman of the Year category, said: ‘It’s crucial to shine a spotlight on the achievements of women in business as they often come in the face of a unique set of challenges.’

Categories are now open for nominations and entries, but will close on Monday 16th June. The winners will be announced at a glittering ceremony held at the Winter Gardens in Blackpool on September 26 . For more information, please visit

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