Celebrating 2014’s female achievers with Veuve Clicquot

As you can probably guess, I like winning searches. When someone finds a disruptive way to land a prize job in a FTSE 250 company, however, I’m always very impressed! One of the highlights of my year is being a judge on the UK panel of the Veuve Clicquot Business Woman Awards. This time it was a no-brainer to choose Harriet Green – who demanded the top job at Thomas Cook with a cold call to the chairman – as Business Woman of the Year, despite the competition being steeper than ever. The winners of the main prizes, Harriet and Rubies in the Rubble founder Jenny Dawson, are at different stages of their careers but share the same kind of entrepreneurial spirit.

Harriet has done an incredible job in turning around Thomas Cook, whose share price has risen by an astonishing 950% since she took over in 2012. She has led schemes like the creation of a Digital Advisory Board, which have put Thomas Cook at the forefront of tech within its sector, with losses being slashed along the way. Speaking to Forbes recently, Harriet said: “any CEO who isn’t connected to their customers has a problem.” Over the last year she has certainly been proving that she understands the customer intimately, and I see lots more success for Thomas Cook in the coming months and years.

Rubies and the Rubble, selection of products

Meanwhile, Veuve’s New Generation award went to Jenny Dawson, founder of Rubies in the Rubble, a business that turns waste produce into delicious chutneys. Jenny’s products are now stocked in Waitrose, Selfridges and other delis and stores all around the country. Rubies in the Rubble is a great example of the kind of initiative needed to make change happen. As well as operating a green, sustainable business model, Jenny provides work for unemployed members of the community, making Rubies in the Rubble an enterprise that everyone can look up to. Having moved on from a hedge fund background to found her business, Jenny is putting her entrepreneurial zeal to good use, and I look forward to seeing how Rubies in the Rubble develops.

Having been established in 1972, the Veuve Clicquot Awards have been running for some time now, and are renowned as a great confirmation of the leading female talents in 27 different countries each year. A glance at women who have been honoured with the award tells its own story. One of my business heroes, Dame Anita Roddick, was the victor in 1985, whilst the last two years have seen Anya Hindmarch and Zaha Hadid take the winner’s prize. The highly-coveted accolade recognises Harriet’s place as an important women in the history of British business, and who knows, maybe Jenny will take home the main award one day!