The new Chair of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership (CWLEP) has won a leading regional business award at a ceremony which celebrated the achievements of individuals and companies from across the West Midlands.
Sarah Windrum, who was appointed Chair in April, was presented with the Business Woman of the Year title at the annual Nachural Summer Business Ball and Awards at Wolverhampton Racecourse.
CWLEP board directors Parveen Rai, Mark Lee and Tony Minhas also attended the evening to watch Sarah collect her award from sponsor Kings Real Estate.
She launched Emerald IT Managed Solutions in 2009 to provide SMEs with the advice and support to adapt to an increasingly digital world which was rebranded as The Emerald Group six years later as the business continues to go from strength to strength.
She became a spokesperson for SME businesses through the Federation for Small Businesses (FSB) and worked on campaigns like Fair Play Fair Pay and It’s Ok to Talk about Mental Health.
Sarah has championed the voices of those not always heard particularly during the pandemic by working with CWLEP’s Digital Creative Business Group to highlight the importance of freelancers to the economy. The subsequent evidence paper became part of the West Midlands State of the Region Report to Government and was also taken up nationally by the Creative Industries Federation.
Regionally, it led to local authorities across Coventry and Warwickshire using their discretionary funding to support freelancers in events, performing arts, and other creative industries who had not been able to generate income during 2020 due to the pandemic.
Sarah said she hoped winning the award would inspire more business leaders to engage with organisations such as CWLEP and the FSB and help drive positive change for everyone.
She said: “I was shell-shocked to win! It was wonderful to have fellow Board Directors from CWLEP there as it felt like an award for all of us who give up our time and energy to fight for our business eco-system.
“Sometimes it’s difficult to manage taking time out of your business for commitments like the LEP Board because it’s not work you get paid for and it often goes unnoticed so it was an amazing feeling to have my contribution recognised as well as my business success with Emerald.
“Judges said I demonstrated entrepreneurial skills to succeed in my business but also a passion for the community and a drive to improve the business eco-system for everyone through my work at CWLEP and volunteering with organisations like the FSB.
“Since taking over as CWLEP Chair, I’ve had to upskill on a few areas especially battery technology and future mobility, but I am really pleased about the work we are doing at CWLEP not just for Coventry and Warwickshire but also for the whole of the Midlands region.
“I am currently working with LEP Chairs across the country on developing an indigenous supply chain for electric vehicles in everything from raw materials to skilled engineers.
“And we’re leading on Net Zero too with Coventry’s pledge to be an all-electric bus city by 2025 and our focus on accelerating the production of green energy. I’m always thinking of small businesses and we’re working on a programme of support to help SMEs tackle the challenge of decarbonisation and benefit from new opportunities in the green economy.”
The current Government review of LEPs is examining how future local business organisations can best support the Plan for Growth with a specific focus on the UK’s transition to a Net Zero economy, boosting international trade, stimulating innovation, and exploiting local strengths and comparative economic advantage. The results will feed into the Levelling-Up White Paper which is due to be published this autumn.