Three amazing North-east business women, who have all overcome huge personal hurdles in recent years, have been shortlisted for our prestigious 'Spirit Of Enterprise' Elevator Award.
Gail Reid of Gail Reid Mortgage Services, Gillian Fowler of BackStrong Adventures, and Sheryl Newman of Appetite for Business are finalists in the 2016 Elevator Awards’ Spirit of Enterprise category, which gives special recognition to an individual, group or organisation that has overcome significant personal, economic, physical or business challenges to establish their business.
Mother-of-two Gail Reid, of Gail Reid Mortgage Services, is based at the Elevator Business Centre Thainstone, near Inverurie. She started her business last October after spending almost a year recovering from a brain haemorrhage just days after the birth of her son in 2014.
“I was admitted to Intensive care and spent the first month of my son’s life in Aberdeen Royal infirmary. I lost my speech and was unable to follow basic instructions, but thanks to the expertise of the neurology team, I made significant improvements.
“It has been a long recovery and, with the help of Horizons Rehabilitation Centre, I returned to my previous employment. At first, I was only able to do a few hours a week but I built that up over several months.”
With 17 years’ experience as a mortgage adviser, Gail was well-placed to set up her own business as an independent whole of market mortgage broker, offering a seven-day service, including evenings and weekends, to fit in with clients’ needs.
“Setting up the business has for me been the final stage of my recovery journey – a huge achievement and one that I never thought would be possible. The key focus of my business is on service, ensuring my clients get a mortgage offer efficiently with no hassle to them. I have plans to hire both an administrator and also another mortgage adviser in the coming year due to continued growth.”
BackStrong Adventures founder Gillian Fowler, of Stonehaven broke her back in a horse riding accident in 2008, resulting in short-term paralysis and years of surgery. Following another major operation in early 2014, Gillian realised that there was a small, but crucial change to her ability, one that gave her hope to regain her outdoor life and love of sports.
“I realised that I would finally get back to enjoying the outdoors, so much so that I climbed Ben Nevis just four months later and never looked back.
“It was during this climb that I realised this is how I could help inspire and encourage others never to give up on hopes and dreams, despite perhaps a bleak outlook. My positivity, determination and goal setting was critical in such a long journey to recovery.”
Set up 2015, BackStrong specialises in outdoor adventures and activities in Scotland and abroad, for anyone who loves a challenge, especially those who have experienced trauma, injury, loss, depression, disability, disease and other life-changing events.
“It took a long time to choose key partners, especially a tour operator and guides which understood what we were trying to achieve and why. All adventures have been carefully chosen so they can be adapted if required. I am only too aware of the physical limitations and obstacles of getting back to health, and attitudes surrounding disability, whether visible or invisible, prove an additional hurdle as you learn to adapt to a new way of life.”
Third finalist, Sheryl Newman is Managing Director of Appetite for Business, which works with companies, including oil and gas operators and international service companies, to deliver innovative IT learning and data solutions.
Based in Bridge of Don, the eight-strong team helps organisations to improve operational efficiency - in many cases achieving annual cost savings of up to £600,000 - through a combination of training, automation of paper-based processes or better management of documentation,
Sheryl, who took full control of the business in 2015, has continued to focus on growth and the client base despite facing a number of personal, business and health-related challenges in recent years, including major heart surgery, system lupus and a diagnosis of Chronic Fibromyalgia, which leaves her battling considerable pain on a daily basis. She also helps support her mother daily who is suffering from a life-threatening illness.
“The past few years have been hectic and at times very difficult with the economic pressures on the business, but with diversification into new industry sectors and geographical areas we are ensuring the business has a robust future.
“We have a strong track record of collaborating with customers, helping them to train their teams and handing back the reins, allowing them to increase returns and exceed original investment.”
As a founder of Girl Geek Scotland and an executive committee member of the Association of Scottish Businesswomen, Sheryl has also lent her skills, externally, to mentor and support other female entrepreneurs and champions women working in the IT and oil and gas sectors.
The Elevator Awards 2016, our celebration of success of businesses in Aberdeen City & Shire, is a black tie awards ceremony held at the Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel on Thursday 30th of June 2016.
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