On behalf of TiE UK North, Gemini recently initiated and organised the prestigious “Pioneering Women at the Forefront of Discovery and Innovation” event in Manchester. Supporting global entrepreneurship organisation TiE and Cancer Research UK, the event was attended by 50 aspiring women entrepreneurs and women business leaders. The world class speakers included: Deborah Leary OBE (President of the British Association of Entrepreneurs and Board Member of the United Nations Global Compact UK Network), Dr Caroline Wilkinson (COO of Cancer Research UK), Kresse Wesling MBE (Environmental Designer and Co-Founder of Elvis & Kresse) and Jeanette Jackson (Nutritionist, Scientist and Author).  JMW Solicitor’s generously sponsored the event and hosted it at their premises in Spinningfields.

Deborah Leary opened the event, revealing how her curiosity in a piece of basic equipment used by the police at a crime scene led to her creating an innovative new product which was adopted and used by police forces around the world. This initial success has now ultimately led to a group of world-class businesses which supply police forces, governments and numerous corporations with a broad range of forensic equipment, software and services. It was fascinating to learn about Deborah’s journey, from beginning as someone with no experience or knowledge of the industry, to her position now as a role model for entrepreneurs the world over. It was a story that clearly inspired many in the audience.

Deborah was followed by Dr Wilkinson from Cancer Research UK (CRUK) who presented an insight into how Manchester is at the forefront in the fight against cancer and the role women are playing in this pioneering work. Benefitting from the unique collaboration of the Research Institute at The University of Manchester with The Christie Hospital next door, CRUK has the facilities and expertise to enable it to perform world-leading research in a broad range of areas. This ranges from research into the basic biology of cancer cells to biomarker research and drug discovery. The soon-to-be-opened Manchester Cancer Research Institute will further this work and Dr Wilkinson went on to explain how their More Tomorrows campaign is funding this centre, and how women in business can support this initiative.

Jeanette Jackson then went on to describe how she started with an interest in nutrition and went on from there, acquiring expertise and knowledge through various courses and degrees as she went along to achieve her goal of being able to help people lead healthier, more productive lives. Following books and appearances on Sky TV and other media, she explained how she is now delivering her expertise to corporations through a dedicated bespoke online TV channel, educating their staff about how to improve their well-being and providing them with all the knowledge and resources they need to succeed. 

Finally, Kresse Wesling closed the event, beginning with a presentation about the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards which recognise innovative female entrepreneurs around the world, providing insight into how members of the audience could become involved in this global programme and the range of benefits available to the winners. As a previous winner of the awards, Kresse was certainly able to provide some good advice! She then went on to present the fascinating story behind Elvis and Kresse, her environmental design business with which she won the Cartier award. Rather unusually she started with a story about how since childhood, she has always been fascinated by rubbish dumps, visiting them regularly wherever she went to explore and see what was there. This fascination led to the beginnings of her business though when she acquired a batch of waste fire hose from the London Fire Brigade and set about with her partner working out what she could do with it. After numerous unsuccessful prototypes and experiments, they created a batch of belts from the old hoses and after selling out completely her first batch, set about expanding the range. Following an appearance for her belts on the cover of Vogue magazine and her success at the Cartier Women’s Initiative Awards, her business has boomed and they continue to develop new ways of using waste creatively. Her lessons for the audience were focused on doing good with business and the rewards this can provide, something which finished the event on a truly inspiring note indeed. 

A video showing interviews with the speakers at the event and with Christine Kelly from Gemini is provided at the foot of the page. If you would like to find out more about this event, or would be interested in being involved in future events organised by Gemini, please feel free to contact a member of the team here.

AuthorAlastair Cotton