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Women in Business: It’s never too late to be who you might have been…


NatWest everywoman AwardsThe above quote by English novelist George Eliot captures the kind of spirit that really epitomises the strength and determination of winners of the NatWest everywoman Awards that we see year after year. What stands out at these Awards is the sense that focus and passion really can lead to success, and that with a little self belief, amazing things can happen. 

Nowadays, perceived barriers such as age no longer hold women back – the landscape is changing, and more and more women are achieving great things as entrepreneurs who have started out at a later age. 

describe the imageOne fabulous example of this is Sylvia Hopwood, a 79 year old entrepreneur, who runs the successful recycling business ‘The Recycle Works’. Being widowed at the age of 62, Sylvia was facing financial hardship and her decision to start her business was a direct result of this, and, of her determination:  ‘I had a choice of staying at home with a stick and a shawl or making an effort to improve my lot’.

The Recycle Works was launched from the study of her home in Chatburn, East Lancashire in 1995 and the first product was a compost bin which sold for £42. Her resolve and strength really stand out and her business is still going strong now with an international client base and a website in five languages. Of winning her Award (The everywoman Iris Award) in 2008, Sylvia said ‘It was wonderful to feel that hard work and determination really does get recognised’. I couldn’t agree more. 

The perception of the ‘dynamic entrepreneur’ is often one that we associate with younger people, often exclusively. It seems this is changing; with the threat and reality of redundancy playing a large part (indeed many older women are starting their businesses through necessity). What is interesting is how many women turn this around into something positive, with personal benefits as well as benefits to the UK economy. 

With the wide reaching implications of the economic downturn, it’s important we recognise positive news. In terms of female entrepreneurs overall – recent research from XLN Business Services states that the number of small businesses that are run by women in the UK has risen sharply from 20.13 percent to 30.22 percent since 2008. 

We celebrate stories like Sylvia’s and many more besides at the NatWest everywoman Awards. Female entrepreneurs of all ages and with an incredibly diverse range of businesses are celebrated – to recognise their achievements and to inspire other women to take the plunge and follow in their footsteps. As Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers puts it: ‘it takes energy, grit, enthusiasm and lots of self-belief. No-one says it’s easy but it can be done..’.

Be inspired by a decade of success stories in our supplement featuring ten years of NatWest everywoman Awards’ winners. In this, our decade year of the Awards, we want to hear more of these amazing stories. So, if this sounds like you, or someone you know – now is the time to tell us – you have until 20 July – nominate at

Download the NatWest everywoman Awards supplement here:

Download NatWest everywoman Awards supplement