AN INSPIRATIONAL entrepreneur from Rugby is among the winners at a national awards ceremony celebrating female achievers.
Karen Heap won the Achieves Through Networking Award at the Ladies First Network virtual event.
Karen is the owner of Orchard Business Development and Socially Shared, a business support network for women, which also hosts an annual Women in Business conference.
When she was unable to find the type of network she needed as a micro-business owner, she also created Socially Shared, which started in Kenilworth and is now active in Rugby, Stratford, Coventry, Alcester and Solihull.
And in January 2019, she introduced her SMART Business Programme, a new option for people who needed ongoing support but were unable to stretch to regular one-to-one meetings.
Karen said: “I can honestly say that starting Socially Shared is the best thing I have ever done. After years of networking across the region, I saw a gap in the market for a network that was relaxed and sociable and that offered support and companionship, providing women with a valuable learning opportunity that would add real value to their business.
“Collaboration, not competition, is at the heart of everything that we do and we actively promote and support other networking groups and organisations. Acting with integrity is key, too.”
Reacting to the award, she said: “To win any award is an achievement but winning this award with Ladies First means so much more due to the other high calibre finalists and it being an award for achieving in networking. Collaboration, connecting and supporting others is always at the heart of what I do.
“The reward for me is seeing the benefit of the introductions I make for others, the success from those collaborations and the positive, supportive environment that is created as a consequence.”
The event was held in aid of The Katie Piper Foundation, recognising entrepreneurs from across the country – many with tales of overcoming adversity or tragedy to achieve success.
Hosted by BBC radio presenter Sandra Godley from a studio in Coventry, the ceremony also featured a message from Katie Piper and burns survivor Catrin Pugh. Katie founded her charity in 2008 while in the early stages of her recovery from an acid attack which left her with permanent scars on her face and body and blindness in one eye.
The finalists of the third LFN Business Awards were chosen from more than 200 nominations, and decided by a panel of 12 judges from across the UK.
Organiser Tracey McAtamney said: “What an uplifting night, we had tears and laughter and it was so wonderful to see our finalists have their moment to shine. I have said from the start that all our finalists were winners in my eyes, chosen from over 200 nominations.
“I had worried about a virtual event but down to the true professionalism of the iStead Studio team, the event was interactive and we held the attention of the audience until the very end.
“Ladies First spent Thursday personally delivering Celebration bags to all of the finalists to help them enjoy the event.”
Nominations re-open in September for the LFN 2022 Awards. Contact Tracey at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.