The Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award Ceremony 2023

It is hard to believe that my twelfth year as a judge on the panel of the Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Awards has come around again, and so on Thursday, I headed out to this year’s award ceremony at the London Pavilion, Piccadilly Circus and as always, the evening was a buzzy celebration of the women in industry who are disrupting their fields, and making our world a fairer, more innovative, and more sustainable place. 

Much has changed since I first came on board as a judge in 2011. But while there are undoubtedly more women in leadership positions, entrepreneurship is a field still dominated by men. In the first quarter of 2023, women received just 2.1% of all VC investment, according to PitchBook. In dollar terms, that’s a 53% decrease from the corresponding quarter last year.  

One of the most powerful tools we have to encourage equality is role modelling. Indeed, this year the awards coincided with the results of Veuve Clicquot’s International Barometer – which shows that two thirds of women believe that having a role model is an essential part of becoming a successful entrepreneur.   

The Bold Woman awards are a celebration of women in industry who are disrupting their fields, and making our world a fairer, more innovative, and more sustainable place.

Each year, it is such a privilege to showcase game-changing women, and get together with business leaders and decision-makers to celebrate their achievements.  

This year, the Bold Woman Award has gone to Tessa Clarke, founder at Olio. Olio is a clever community sharing app, connecting users with unwanted items – from leftover food to fancy dress – to others who can use them. The app lets people declutter their homes and make connections in their neighbourhood, while encouraging a more sustainable and less wasteful culture.  

Growing up a farmers’ daughter in North Yorkshire, Tessa has always had a deep understanding of how much hard work goes into producing the food we eat. Olio was born as a solution to fighting food waste, and has evolved to include all forms of community sharing. Under Tessa’s stewardship the platform has grown rapidly: last month it reached 7 million users, and has so far been used to share more than 92 million portions of food and over 8 million household items. Olio plays an important role in our consumer sectors: in the past few years, Tessa has established partnerships with major food retailers including Tesco, Iceland and Amazon Fresh, to help redistribute their surplus food.  

The line-up this year was exceptional and made it difficult for us to choose a winner.  Fashion and retail being so close to what we do a lot of at MBS made it a no brainer for me to have Clare Hornby, Founder ME+EM on the list.   

Tessa Clarke, founder at Olio, won the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman award. Image Credit: Sophia Sping/Veuve Clicquot

Clare founded the contemporary women’s clothes retailer in 2009, ME+EM with a focus on quality, providing luxury products at accessible prices. Backed by Highland Ventures with a valuation of £130M, the business has a growing online business and now has 10 stores across London and Manchester and is growing at a rapid rate. 20% of sales are in the USA where they are planning to open 15 stores this year.  

Our third choice this year was Louise Hill, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at GoHenry.  GoHenry is a pre-paid Visa debit card and app with unique parental controls, designed to encourage healthy money habits in young people aged six to eighteen. GoHenry now has more than two million customers in the UK and US. 

The Bold Future Award was launched in 2014, designed to recognise women who have brought a new and innovative offering to the market. This year, Karen Scofield Seal, CEO and founder at Oceanium has won the Bold Future Award. Oceanium develops seaweed-based products to provide sustainable solutions for food products and circular life-cycle packaging material. Founded in the summer of 2018, the business has already raised over $10 million from ocean impact funds including World Wildlife Fund and Builders Vision.  

Alexei Rosin, Tessa Clarke, Karen Scofield-Seal and Carole Bildé at the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award Ceremony.
(L to R) Alexei Rosin, Tessa Clarke, Karen Scofield-Seal and Carole Bildé at the 2023 Veuve Clicquot Bold Woman Award Ceremony.

Karen was driven to start the business by a desire to make an impact. After researching the economic, environmental and social benefits of seaweed, Karen and her co-founder launched Oceanium as a firm which made packaging from seaweed, but also extracted the nutritional value and utilised the whole plant.  

Congratulations to everyone on the shortlist, including Victoria Prew, Founder and CEO at Hurr, an online fashion marketplace whose mission it is to reinvent ownership by providing short-cuts to a sustainable wardrobe through renting, monthly refreshes or purchasing pre-owned clothing. 

Izzy Obeng, is CEO at Foundervine, a startup accelerator which provides mentorship, training and financial support to early-stage companies. By 2022, Foundervine had helped over 5,000 leaders build new skills and supported more than 330 entrepreneurs start and scale new businesses. 

It is already time for me to start thinking of women to nominate for 2024 – what I am always interested in are women entrepreneurs who have had had a great idea, incubated a start-up and grown it into a substantial business. If there are any new CEOs in the corporate world that you would like to suggest, your ideas and recommendations would be most welcome indeed. | @TheMBSGroup