Women of inspiration: 100 social enterprise leaders showing Covid who's boss

Meet our Women of Inspiration, 100 women in UK social enterprise and impact investing, nominated by you for recognition in this year's WISE 2020,  in partnership with NatWest.

Exceptional times call for exceptional leadership: in place of our annual WISE (Women in Social Enterprise) 100 Awards, this year we asked readers to nominate women leading social enterprise and impact investing across the UK who have been showing Covid-19 who's boss.

In the midst of pandemic pivoting and reorganisation, we expected to get perhaps 30 or 40 names.

Within the space of 10 days, however, we had received almost 100 nominations, between them containing a total of more than 100,000 words – that's about the length of a standard book.

There are no award winners in this year's WISE programme. Instead, we've decided to list every person who was nominated, to acknowledge their achievements in this exceptional year. The WISE Inspiration List can be found below (in alphabetical order).

The stories of these leaders who have shown agility, resilience and adaptability over the last few months will inspire many on their path towards rebuild and recovery



We can't share all of them in detail, so we've taken some of the most inspirational stories about the commitment, inventiveness, leadership and sheer grit that we found in the nominations, and highlighted a range of these under a different themes that stood out, including:

  • Providing food and care
  • Dealing with loneliness and mental health issues
  • Creating opportunity from adversity
  • Starting a social enterprise during a pandemic
  • Supporting other entrepreneurs

During this week – which we've designated WISE Week 2020 – we'll be sharing these stories in a different feature each day, plus a special WISE Webinar this Thursday, including an exclusive live interview with Baroness Barran, the UK government minister for civil society. 

While battling to keep their own social enterprises from the jaws of the pandemic, their first thoughts have always been for the people and communities they were set up to serve

Megan Peat, CEO of NatWest Social & Community Capital, said: "Today sees the beginning of our 2020 WISE celebrations and we are delighted to partner with Pioneers Post to highlight the inspiring women who are continuing on their mission to deliver a positive impact despite the exceptional and challenging circumstances. 

"The stories of these leaders who have shown agility, resilience and adaptability over the last few months will inspire many on their path towards rebuild and recovery."

Tim West, founding editor of Pioneers Post, said: "Social entrepreneurs are by no means the only people who have had to face big pressures and make hard decisions during these unprecedented times – but what stands out in so many of these stories from our WISE network is that while battling to keep their own social enterprises from the jaws of the pandemic, their focus has remained on the mission, and their first thoughts have always been for the people and communities they were set up to serve.

"This year's WISE Women are clearly showing Covid who's boss. We're so pleased that our partners at NatWest Social & Community Capital were keen to highlight these stories through our WISE programme this year, and are overwhelmed by the number of exceptional women who have been nominated."

Progress on female entrepreneurship in the UK

"In the UK, only one in three entrepreneurs is female – and they receive less than 1% of venture capital. Why, and what can be done?" Watch this special video from NatWest CEO Alison Rose (below), updating us on recommendations and progress from the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship:  



Announcing the ‘WISE 2020 Inspiration List’


Abigail Morris, Co-Founder & CEO, Compare Ethics


Alessandra Alonso, MD, Women in Travel CIC


Alex Phillips, Social Entrepreneur Support Manager, UnLtd


Alice Cracknell, Founder, Origin Africa


Alice Moxley, Founder, Make Pivot


Andrea Gamson, CEO & Head of Learning, Social Starters Ltd


Angie Madara, CEO, Growd Global Ltd


Anna Day, MD, Centre for Social Change


Anna MacDonald, Co-Founder & Head of Relationships, Play for Progress


Anna Richards, Founder & Director, Maymessy CIC


Annie Warburton, Chief Executive, Cockpit Arms


Aoise Keogan Nooshabadi, Co-Founder, Supply Change


Ayeshah Khan, Director, The Health & Wellness Hub


Bayo Adelaja, CEO, Do It Now Now


Beth Nunn, CEO, PIE: Pursuing Individual Excellence 


Brigitte Squire, Director, Family Psychology Mutual


Carolyn Sims, Director of Lending, Charity Bank


Cecilia Crossley, Founding Director, From Babies with Love


Ceri Gillett, CEO, Mubo


Charlie Ann Blair, Founder, The Blair Academy


Charlotte Miller, Director, Intergenerational Music Making


Claudia Sykes, CEO, Social Enterprise Kent CIC


Darshita Gillies, Founder & CEO, Maanch Limited


Denice Gregory, Founding Director, Trade Right International CIC & Redeem Exchange


Diane Burridge, CEO, Moneyline


Dominique Unsworth MBE, Founder & CEO, Resource Productions CIC


Elaine Brown, Chief Executive, Edinburgh Remakery


Emma Baines, Chief Executive, Find Your Voice CIC


Emma Lower, CEO, Lendology CIC


Emma Worley, Co-CEO & Co-Founder, The Philosophy Foundation


Evie Keough, Founder & CEO, Boromi


Fiona Small, Founder, Young Mums Support Network


Fran Boorman, Founder, Goal 17 Ltd


Gabriela Matouskova, CEO, Hope 4 The Community CIC


Gill Coupland, Director, Social Business Brokers (Zero Waste Leeds)


Haleh Moravej, Senior Lecturer in Nutritional Sciences, Manchester Metropolitan University


Hannah Broughton, Chief Executive & Co-Founder, The Therapeutic Forest


Helen Rattner, Assistant Clinical Director, Horsham and Crawley Counselling Group CIC


Jane Binnion, Managing Director, The Growing Club CIC


Jen Baughan, CEO, Solutions for the Planet


Jennifer Neff & Leeann Monk-Ozgul, Co-CEOs & Co-Founders, Elemental Software


Jennifer O'Brien, Co-Founder, Music Broth


Jo Salter, Founder & Social Entrepreneur, Where Does It Come From? Ltd


Joanne Chidwick, Chair, Board of Trustees, HERA (Her Equality Rights & Autonomy)


Joy Foster, Founder & Managing Director, TechPixies Limited


 Katherine Hibbert, Founder & Director, Dot Dot Dot


Kathy Jones, Clinical Director, Horsham and Crawley Counselling Group CIC


Katie Sherjan, Chief Executive, Hollywell Housing Trust


Kim Griffin, Founder & CEO, Griffin OT


Laura Boyle, Co-Founder, Square Circle


Lauren Davidson, Founder, Oddities


Leigh Carey, Chief Executive Officer, The Hummingbird Project NI


Liberty Bligh, Chief Executive, The Libertie Project


Lindsey Hall, Chief Executive, Real Ideas Organisation CIC


Lisa Lea Weston, Founder, Talking Heads


Lisa Mari Hilder, Director, Hull Women's Network Ltd


Lisa Pickard, Chief Executive Officer, Five Lamps


Lisa Westcott Wilkins, Founder & Managing Director, DigVentures


Louisa Taylor, Creative Manager, Fablevision Studios


Lucy Findlay, Managing Director, Social Enterprise Mark CIC


Lynsey Pollard, Founder & Director, Little Box of Books


Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive, NOW Group


Marian Adejokun, Social Entrepreneur, Reachout2all


Marianne Greenway, Founder & CEO, Ayrshire Children's Services CIC & KO-NEKT


Michelle Ferguson, Director, RBLI T/A Scotland's Bravest Manufacturing Company


Michelle John, Founding Director, PEGS C.I.C


Nancy Doyle, CEO & Founder, Genius Within CIC


Natalie Shenker, Co-Founder, The Human Milk Foundation


Natasha Eeles, Founder, Bold Voices


Neomi Bennett, Registered Nurse, Equality 4 Black Nurses


Nickala Torkington, Co-Founding Director, Flourish Together CIC


Nureen Glaves, CEO, Feed Me Good


Nyasha Gwatidzo, Founder, Banya


Patricia Alexander, Managing Director, Shared Interest


Rachel Gardiner-Hill, Lead Director, Horsham and Crawley Counselling Group


Rocío Perez Ochoa, Co-Founder & Director, Bidhaa Sasa


Rosie Mead, CEO, Musica Music and Wellbeing CIC


Sado Jirde, Director, Black South West Network


Sally Callow, Co-Founder & Educational Consultant, Stripey LightBulb CIC


Sara Hawkins, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Projekt 42


Sarah Jordan, Founder & CEO, Y.O.U Underwear


Dr Seyedeh Naseriniaki, Founder & Executive Director, Chrysalis Craft Coventry CIC


Shanelle Webb, Youth Worker, The Soul Shack LDN CIC


Sharon Benning Prince, Chief Operations Officer & Founder, Justice in Fashion


Sharon Jones, Director of Partnerships - Social Value, Creating Enterprise


Shelley Perry, Clinical Director/RMN, Breathe Therapies


SJ Hunt, Chief Executive, Parity Trust


Stacey Green, Director, Freedom Foundation CIC


Suzie Booth, New Projects Director, Horsham and Crawley Counselling Group CIC


Tabitha Stapely, Director & Founder, Social Streets C.I.C


Tracey West, Charity CEO, The Word Forest Organisation


Verena Hefti, CEO & Founder, Leaders Plus


Vicky Smith, Founder, Earth Changers


Yuliana Topazly, Director & Business Mentor, Phase 1 Enterprise Training CIC trading at My OutSpace


Zinthiya Ganeshpanchan, Founder, Leicester Community Benefit Society


Zoe Graham, Director, Dig Deep for Dyslexia Ltd


Zoe Portlock, Founder & Chair, Bikeworks CIC


Explore more stories and interviews with leading women in social enterprise in our WISE collection.


Thanks for reading our stories. As a social entrepreneur yourself, you'll know that producing quality work doesn't come free. Pioneers Post is a social enterprise itself, with a mission to help you do good business better through our content. We rely on our subscribers to sustain our journalism (and to keep programmes like WISE running) – so if you think it's worth having an independent, specialist media platform that covers social enterprise stories, please consider subscribing