Our Ambassadors
Meet the Women of the Year Luncheon and Awards Ambassadors

Dr Sharon Redrobe


CEO of Twycross Zoo – East Midland Zoological Society Limited

Sharon has over 25 years’ experience working in academia, the charity sector and business. Sharon has had a life‐long fascination with wildlife and a belief in the role modern zoos must play in conservation, whilst remaining relevant and supported by the public. In a rapidly changing world, Sharon believes science‐led solutions to saving wildlife whilst engaging the public are essential to the success of a ‘One World’ future.

Since appointment as CEO of Twycross Zoo in 2013, Sharon invigorated this traditional business by positioning as a conservation charity that runs a zoo and launching an ambitious 20-year £55m development plan. The first five years have seen visitor numbers increase by 25% to over 600,000 a year, educating over 62,000 school children annually, transforming Twycross Zoo from a loss‐making charity into one investing over £10m in new science-based animal habitats.

Twycross Zoo’s 20-year vision as an International Centre of Excellence for ape conservation and science with an ambition to attract over 1 million annual visitors is well on the way with a further investment programme for 2019-2030. Sharon also serves as Chair of Ape Action Africa rescuing gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa and is Associate Professor at University of Nottingham.

Sharon’s efforts have been recognised through various awards including Business Woman of the Year 2015, Institute of Directors West Midlands Director of the Year 2016, East Midlands Chamber Team of the Year 2016, Inspirational Woman of the Year Enterprising Women Awards and East Midlands Chamber 2017. Sharon was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2017 for her services to Skills, Science and the Economy.

Emma Heathcote-James

Founder – Little Soap Company

Emma conceived Little Soap Company in 2008 with genuine provenance from hand-making on the kitchen table and selling in subzero degrees at local farmers markets to getting it to the supermarket shelf, at an affordable price.

Little Soap Company really has been a rags to riches tale having brought the first organic soap to the supermarket a decade ago and remaining there ever since. With various ranges for differing audiences accounts include Waitrose, Boots, Booths, Sainsbury, Wholefoods, Tesco and Asda stores as well as Garden Centres such as Dobbies and online retailers including Ocado, Fetch and Amazon.

Little Soap Company entered the sector, brightened the shelves, created and drove consumer demand for organic and natural soap and helped turn it around, bringing an entirely new audience to purchase natural bar soap. Now one of the fastest growing companies in the toiletries sector and with copious personal and products awards under her belt including making the 2019 Lloyds Bank/Telegraph “Top 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders” List and shortlisted to the final 5 in the Amazon Small Business Awards (result end of Nov 19). The products follow suit with accolades of their own including awards from Beauty Bible, Free From Skincare Awards, Mama & Baby Beauty Awards, Green Parent, The Grocer and Psychologies Magazine Eco Awards.

Emma is also a Trustee of Stratford upon Avon Academy School and is active in the press and government, as a voice for entrepreneurship and small business.

Fleur Sexton DL

MD and co-founder of PET-Xi Training

Fleur Sexton DL is Deputy Lieutenant, representing Her Majesty’s Lord-Lieutenant of the West Midlands, Businesswoman of the Year, MD and co-founder of multi-award winning PET-Xi Training. Deeply committed to changing lives through education and employment, since 1995 she and her team have delivered impact, inspiration, productivity and value to 175,000 learners in a wide range of communities across the UK. Fleur is dedicated to breaking barriers and improving chances, investing much of her time and 10% of profits into these activities

Also a board member of Coventry and Warwickshire Children’s Charity, The CW LEP Skills Board, The Chamber of Commerce, Historic Coventry Trust & Chair of the Coventry Music Trust and Governor of Lyng Hall School, Fleur is a married mother of 3, tweets as@FleurSexton and can be found at fleursexton.com.

PET-Xi is a successful Prime Contractor to the Education and Skills Funding Agency, the West Midlands Combined Authority and the Department for Work and Pensions as well as delivering within an extensive supply chain of national and local delivery partners including Local Authorities, Schools, Third Sector, FE Colleges, and Prime contract holders engaging some of the most disadvantaged young people and adults in our society through programmes such as Skills Support for the Unemployed and Skills Support for the Workforce working in support of Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs), Unitary Authorities and the communities they serve. They also work with businesses, developing and upskilling their staff and helping them to meet ever-changing skills requirements to best serve the local community and the economy.

Fleur also runs the PET-Xi Foundation which raises money for young people nationwide. She runs free childcare for staff children in order to provide role models for young people and make a family friendly working environment.

Olive Strachan MBE

Founder of Olive Strachan Resources

Award winning, Global businesswoman, Entrepreneur and Founder of Olive Strachan Resources, Olive, who has established and run her own Learning and Development Consultancy since 1998 and has just been awarded the MBE.

Having worked as a Management Development Specialist and an International Learning Development Consultant for over 20 years, Olive is delighted to be recognised and to receive the award for her contribution to Exports and to Professional Business services. 

As a UKTI North West Export Champion Olive has worked in over 25 countries, as a Consultant, Executive Coach and Trainer helping organisations to develop leaders, focusing on diversity and inclusion.

Sally Penni

Barrister and Founder of Women in the Law UK

Sally Penni is a practicing Barrister at law and the founder and CEO of Women in the Law UK. She is a multi-award winning Barrister for her work in Equality. She is one of the best known lawyers in the North West of England.

Outside of her practice she is a Speaker, Author and Broadcaster and is the host of Talking Law podcast. She also sits as a non-executive director on several boards including Royal Exchange, Arawak Walton Housing Association and Camberwell Park Primary School.

Sally is an ambassador for Women on Boards UK and the Pankhurst Centre Manchester along with Sally Lindsey and others.

Kathryn Farmer

Wade Ceramics

Kate was born in Cannock, Staffordshire and moved to Stoke-on-Trent in 1982 where she raised her family of 3 boys. Kate’s career has mainly been based in the ceramics industry. She worked at Josiah Wedgewood and Sons for many years, through sales, marketing and secretarial departments.

Kate moved on to become the Lord Mayors Secretary for the City of Stoke-on-Trent for 10 years, before finally moving back in to the ceramics industry with roles at Spode and Wade Ceramics.

For many years Kate has been very involved with various charities, as she strongly believes we should always give something back. Kates skill set includes organisation and networking, she excels at bringing people together with common goals and objectives to maximise achievements.

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