2015 Inspiring Women Awards at Manchester’s Midland Hotel

Inspiring Women Awards 2015

Inspiring Women Awards 2015 - Credit: Archant

The 23rd Inspiring Women Awards was an afternoon of laughter and tears as Cheshire Life heard stories from some of the region’s most remarkable ladies, writes Rebekka O’Grady

Michele Steel, Louise Taylor, Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy and Deborah McLaughlin

Michele Steel, Louise Taylor, Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy and Deborah McLaughlin - Credit: Archant

Once again, the Inspiring Women Awards have revealed what exceptional women live and work in the North West and North Wales. Held at The Midland Hotel, Manchester, a celebratory lunch brought with it laughter and tears as these extraordinary women’s stories were shared with an audience of over 300 people.


Founded and organised by Manchester businesswoman Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, the awards, which are now in their 23rd year, raise funds for the Inspiring Young Woman Foundation to support and encourage the next generation of inspiring women. Cheshire Life and Lancashire Life magazines were proud sponsor the event again this year.


Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, awards founder and organiser

Jacqueline Hughes-Lundy, awards founder and organiser - Credit: Archant

Celebrities from the world of TV, sport and music, including CEO at Warrington Wolves Roger Draper, MCFC Women’s footballer Isobel Christiansen, The Apprentice star Felipe Baquero and music and broadcasting legend, Mike Sweeney, were on hand to present the awards to the deserving winners at the sell-out lunch hosted by radio and TV presenter, Andy Crane.


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The first recipient of an award was Rachel Clacher from Shropshire, for her Wrexham-based business, Moneypenny. Scooping the Nurturing Female Talent award, and later on in the afternoon the Business award, Rachel looked utterly bowled-over as she was twice announced a winner for her foundation and her personalised telephone answering service.


Speaking to Andy before the Nurturing Female Talent award was announced; Rachel told the audience how the Moneypenny Foundation, which was launched in 2014, can help transform the lives of young women in Wrexham who perhaps haven’t had the best start with its six month traineeship.

Master of Ceremonies, Andy Crane

Master of Ceremonies, Andy Crane - Credit: Archant


The audience were blown away by the courage and humble nature of Natasha Coates, who was awarded the Inspiring Young Women Award. Presented her award by Cheshire Life editor, Louise Allen-Taylor, Natasha suffers with a condition which means she is allergic to exercise.


However, in a film which made many laugh and cry, the 20-year-old from Warrington shows us how she hasn’t let her life-threatening condition define her. Spectacularly, she has carried on as an award-winning gymnast. Two years since her diagnosis, Natasha has won a number of awards including at the 2015 British Disability Gymnastic Championships seven gold, silver and bronze medals and the cup for Overall Highest Scoring female Gymnast of the Competition.


Beatrice Tetteh and Rebekka O'Grady

Beatrice Tetteh and Rebekka O'Grady - Credit: Archant

A highlight in the summer calendar for Manchester, The Manchester International Festival, wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for Blackburn’s Christine Cort. The managing director of MIF was presented with The Inspirational Leadership in Arts and Culture award for her role in helping to set up what is considered one of the most successful festivals in the world.


Girls around the UK will be thanking Rebecca McCann for their perfectly blown hair. The 27-year-old from Heswall invented Pro Blo, a set that achieves a curly blow dry without a trip to the hairdressers. She told the audience how humbling it was to receive the Entrepreneur award, and how she comes from a background where there was never an expectation for her to do something like this.


Since launching just over 24 weeks ago, Rebecca sells on average 90 sets a day, has launched in Selfridges and has celebrity backers such as ex-Coronation Street star Michelle Keegan and Coleen Rooney.

Business Award winner, Rachel Clacher

Business Award winner, Rachel Clacher - Credit: Archant


The final award of the afternoon, Community, recognises women whose contributions to society make a substantial difference to others. Victoria Armstrong was announced the winner for her work in the community of Gorton.


Set up in 2001, The Oasis project provides a lifeline for those in need. Victoria, who looked in total shock when she accepted her award, spoke of how she felt blessed to see lives change on a daily basis in such a remarkable community.


Gemma Saunders and Christine Cort (Inspirational Leadership in Arts and Culture award winner)

Gemma Saunders and Christine Cort (Inspirational Leadership in Arts and Culture award winner) - Credit: Archant

Business Award sponsored by Deloitte

Moneypenny and Rachel Clacher

Moneypenny was established in 2000 by brother and sister; Ed Reeves and Rachel Clacher, who following a poor experience with a telephone answering service wondered if they could do it better. They started with £10,000 and over the last 15 years the company has grown significantly, currently answers 9 million calls per annum for 7,000 businesses. Featured in The Sunday Times’ list of best companies to work for four times, Moneypenny is now one of the largest employers in Wrexham and has opened offices in New Zealand and South Carolina.

Working with a pre-dominantly female workforce, Moneypenny has developed a culture supportive of them. In March 2014, Rachel established The Moneypenny Foundation to extend this unique approach to the development of young women in Wrexham who had not had the best start in life. The foundation helps the girls into employment but not necessarily with the company through a six month traineeship.


The Inspiring Young Woman award 2015 winner, Natasha Coates

The Inspiring Young Woman award 2015 winner, Natasha Coates - Credit: Archant

Inspirational Leadership in Arts & Culture sponsored by BBC Radio Manchester

Christine Cort

Christine is the managing director of Manchester International Festival. She joined the team after being persuaded by Alex Poots to return to the North West following a career break.

MIF is the only festival presenting entirely new work and previous shows have included Damon Albarn’s Chinese Opera: Monkey: Journey to the West, Victoria Wood’s musical: That Day We Sang and a unique staging of Macbeth with Kenneth Branagh. Christine had started her career at Riverside Studios where she worked with many great artists including Kenneth Branagh, Vanessa Redgrave, Gore Vidal and Max Wall, before joining the Design Museum.


Rebecca McCann, Entrepreneur award 2015 winner

Rebecca McCann, Entrepreneur award 2015 winner - Credit: Archant

Inspiring Young Woman Award sponsored by Cheshire Life & Lancashire Life

Natasha Coates

Two years ago, at the age of 18 Natasha left the house as she usually would. However, on this day she went into a life threatening allergic reaction known as anaphylactic shock where her lips went blue, her airway swelled, she couldn’t breathe and she lost consciousness. She recovered, only for it to happen again two days later.

In April 2014 Natasha experienced a reaction so severe she suffered a respiratory arrest. She was allergic to exercise. Despite this life-threatening condition, Natasha doesn’t let it affect her life and most of all her passion for gymnastics. She has been a gymnast since the age of eight, and said that she wants to carry on doing what is normal for her regardless of the fact it may kill her.

With no feeling below her knees and elbows, Natasha only knows she has caught the bars when the drag of her body weight tells her and she cannot feel the beam beneath her feet. Her determination has paid off and the 20-year-old has won various medals including at the British Disability Gymnastic National games and the British Disability Gymnastic Championships.

Victoria Armstrong (Community award winner)

Victoria Armstrong (Community award winner) - Credit: Archant


Entrepreneur sponsored by Oakridge Centre

Rachel McCann

An ex-bank employee, Rebecca discovered a gap in the market when looking for easier ways to get a curly blow without going to the hairdressers. After a brush she had broke, Rebecca set about carving out her own brushes and attaching rollers to them so she could give herself a curly blow dry. The proto types worked well and after encouragement from a friend, Rebecca decided to invest some money into creating a real product, Pro Blo, with a website to sell them.

Since launching in November 2014, per day she averages selling 90 sets, has recently launched in Selfridges and has celebrity backers such as Michelle Keegan and Colleen Rooney. Her product is also used by stylists and the hair team on popular programmes such as Take Me Out, Emmerdale and Strictly Come Dancing.


Community sponsored by New Charter Group

Victoria Armstrong

Arriving in Manchester as a student in the early 1990s, Victoria settled to live in Gorton as it was the cheapest place she could afford. The young lady was shocked by the levels of poverty and deprivation around her, and was also scared by the amount of abuse and aggression she experienced as an outsider. However, rather than pack her bags and leave, Victoria’s response was to stay and help turn around the community, starting by providing a hot meal one day a week for local people.

In 2001, she established The Oasis project which provides a lifeline for families on benefits, the long term unemployed, asylum seekers and refugees, homeless people, ex-offenders and those struggling with addiction or mental illness. Since then, over 1,500 individuals and families have benefitted from her help and she is now fundraising to build a purpose built day centre.