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Saluting Sheffield’s Leading Ladies - Benchmark Recruit, Sheffield

Saluting Sheffield’s Leading Ladies

With Mother’s Day just gone and International Women’s Day today (8th March), it’s a week of saluting women across the globe, and as part of this we wanted to give a nod to female business leaders and entrepreneurs of our own fair city.

With so many female faces at the helms of Sheffield companies, from leaders of worldwide organisations and brands, to entrepreneurs who have made a name for themselves, these figures are great real models to future generations.  It seemed fitting that for International Women’s Day we should showcase some of the best of Sheffield – there really are too many to mention but these are the business figures that caught our eye…..

Take inspiration….

Julie Kenny CBE DL


Position:  Chair & Chief Executive of Pyronix Limited

Background: As Founder and Chair of Pyronix, Julie Kenny has developed this leading manufacturer of products and technologies in the security industry into a global name, recognised in over 70 countries.  As new technologies emerge, the award winning company is now pioneering innovations in PyronixCloud and Home Control+ App.

Inspiration: Julie is a prominent figure in the local business community and was the first female president of Rotherham Chamber of Commerce.  With such a successful career Julie works to inspire the next generation to consider working in manufacturing, and mentors young people to help them achieve business success.

In addition, she is also currently a Founding Investor in the Dot Forge Accelerator programme that works as a 13 week mentor programme for fast tracking high growth start ups.

Lisa Pogson

LpogsonPosition: Resource Director Airmaster & Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber of Commerce board member

Background: Director of mechanical services company Airmaster – the company is focused on delivering energy efficient heating and cooling systems.  Alongside this Lisa takes the role as President Elect and Board Member of Barnsley and Rotherham Chamber to work to deliver a leading and proactive Chamber.

Inspiration: Lisa takes an inspirational role with youngsters in the local community, and is particularly involved with Rotherham initiative Grimm & Co  Grimm and Co is a literary arts based charity striving to empower young people and their ability to articulate.  Alongside this Lisa has worked on various youth schemes including WorkWise and projects with SHU.

Jillian Thomas

Jillian ThomasPosition: Managing Director of Future Life Wealth Management and President of Sheffield Chamber

Background: Jillian is at the helm of leading financial practice Future Life Wealth Management and has successfully positioned the company as one of Britain’s leading financial services firms.  The company offers a bespoke planning service to generators of wealth – whether this be business owners/professionals or receivers such as inheritors.

Inspiration: As such a highly respected figure in the financial services industry and renowned in Sheffield for her business acumen, it seems fitting that Jillian holds the position of President of Sheffield Chamber of Commerce.  Jillian has been in this role since October 2015 and is only the second woman to hold this title in 154 years.

Julia Gash

JGPosition: Founder of Bag It Don’t Bin It (BIDBI) and accessory label Talented

Background: Julia’s success in the 1990’s with fashion brand ‘Gash’ undoubtedly contributed to her success as the clothing was stocked in prestigious stores worldwide and was a great springboard for her future businesses.  With a passion for print, and more specifically sustainable print, Julia founded fair trade branded tote bag company BIDBI in 2007.  The company has since gone on to make bags for some of the world’s top fashion brands and art establishments.  Building on BIDBI success Julia launched accessory BIDBI sister brand, accessory label Talented – the most famous pieces are Cityscapes from travel round the world.

Inspiration: Julia’s talent started early as she learnt her craft at an early age from her father who had a print and sign writing business in Nottingham – she went on to do a BA in Visual Communications and a post graduate in Printmaking.  From there she has gone on to be an inspiring entrepreneur taking brave calculated risks to develop brands and inspire others with her work.  In 2015 Julia was elected as a Member of the Institute of Directors and as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (RSA).

Marie Cooper

McooperPosition: Plant Manager at Parker PEGL

Background: Now part of global Manufacturing giant Parker Hannifin Marie Cooper is working as part of the team at Parker PEGL to drive the business forward and further invest in its manufacturing base in Sheffield.  The company was last year recognised by the Sheffield Business Awards for their outstanding contribution in bringing manufacturing operations back to the city, expanding and its design and engineering teams.

Marie is instrumental in the company’s development and won Business Person of the year at the Sheffield Business Awards – as well as seeing the company receive The Queens’ Award for International Trade and the Manufacturer of the Year Award.

Inspiration: Marie operates as a Business Champion for Made in Sheffield working to provide young people an insight into developing their skill set to ensure they are ready for the work place.  Working with children age 13-16 Marie is able to use her extensive expertise to advise young people and help them widen their skill set.

Emma Killilea – Founder Delicious Alchemy

DALPosition: Founder Delicious Alchemy

Background: After being diagnosed as coeliac in 2002 Emma realised there was a gap in the market for healthy and fresh gluten free food, and thus Delicious Alchemy was born.

Inspiration: Emma was so passionate about her business idea that she packed in her role as a computer games programmer and became fully focused on studying food science and marketing at University.  The result was creating a quality brand and award winning products making gluten free options common place.  Emma is an example of pursing what you believe in and should be an inspiration to any budding entrepreneurs out there.

South Yorkshire Successes

For further inspiration, here’s a snapshot of some more South Yorkshire success stories….

Bridie Adsetts Warner

bridiePosition: Chief Operations Officer at Naylor Industries and Adsetts Consultancy

Success: AS COO of leading manufacturer of building and construction products, Naylor, Bridie is instrumental in the company’s success.  The Barnsley business is a great investor of people with 2nd and 3rd generation employees bringing their craftsmanship to the company.  Bridie is also active in assisting other businesses through her consultancy business Adsetts – focusing on delivering expert advice on organisational change, strategy and people development.

Julie Gill

GILLPosition: Executive Director – Operations & Company Secretary at Westfield Health

Success: Julie has been with Westfield for over 20 years, rising to the top to manage the operational side of the healthcare business.  Julie leads a team of over 100 customer service professionals to ensure excellence in service, managing the teams, facilities management, plus the HR, Training and Development Department.  All this is done to an award winning standard – in 2013 Westfield won the Sheffield Business Awards Excellence in Customer Service Award and Investors in People Gold accreditation.

Hannah Duraid

hannahPosition: Founder and Director of The Great Escape Game

Success: At 24 Hannah is a real entrepreneur running her own business, The Great Escape Game with Peter Lecole.  This real life escape game experience has built a fantastic reputation in Sheffield and has even been voted number 1 on Trip Advisor.  The Great Escape Game has created a real buzz in the city and is a fantastic experience whether it’s for team building or friendship groups.

Emma Marshall

EMPosition: Operations Director 3Squared Limited

Success: Emma has over 20 years experience that spans across manufacturing and digital businesses.  Most recently Emma has taken the role as Operations Director at 3Squared, an award winning technology consultancy in Sheffield. Emma’s passion and vision has helped her deliver strategic thinking and processes to create successful businesses.

Deborah Lockwood

DlockwoodPosition: Partner at Graywoods and Non Executive Director at South Yorkshire Housing Association Enterprises Limited

Success:  Graywoods was founded by Deborah and Adrian Graham – the company is a boutique insolvency and recovery practice in Sheffield. With over 20 years experience, Deborah offers an unrivalled service and knowledge offering personal solutions to businesses and individuals facing financial issues.


Credited featured image: Sheffield Metal Print featuring the painting Sheffield Skyline In Watercolor Background by Pablo Romero

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