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7 inspirational women in business in the Cotswolds

PUBLISHED: 15:10 29 January 2019 | UPDATED: 15:10 29 January 2019

(c) Peshkov / Getty Images

(c) Peshkov / Getty Images


We've some extraordinary, and inspiring, women in business in the Cotswolds. We talk to 7 female trailblazers in local industry who offer the business advice they've lived by

Kerissa Khan - Aerospace Engineer

Safran Landing Systems

Cheltenham Road East, Gloucester, GL2 9QH

01452 712424

Twitter: @SafranLandingS

Kerissa Khan, an aerospace engineer at the world-leading business in aircraft landing and braking systems - Safran Landing Systems, has been working to secure the future of UK aerospace. The youngest elected member of the Royal Aeronautical Society Council, she directs the professional, technical and learned affairs alongside global leaders.

Who or what inspires you?

I was inspired at a young age by the supersonic Concorde jet to pursue a career in aerospace. I continue to be motivated by my passion for aeronautics to create innovative solutions. Whether it’s a military, business or commercial jet, it’s exhilarating and rewarding to see my work take off.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Connect with an inspirational mentor for invaluable insight, advice and guidance. Be motivated by your passion, believe in your talents, confidently pursue your dreams and let no one undermine your skills because you are young or don’t fit the stereotype, but set a new example by your words and actions.

What does the future have in store for you?

As the first female chair of the Royal Aeronautical Society Gloucester and Cheltenham branch and a signatory of HMG Women in Aerospace and Aviation Charter, I will continue to be an ambassador for aerospace encouraging the next generation of professionals and championing gender diversity and inclusion in the sector.

Kerissa Khan - Aerospace Engineer, Safran Landing SystemsKerissa Khan - Aerospace Engineer, Safran Landing Systems

Sophie Haslehurst - Associate Financial Planning Director

Investec Wealth & Investment Limited

Festival House, Jessop Avenue, Cheltenham, GL50 3SH

01242 240829

Twitter: @InvestecWin

Sophie has over ten years’ experience, starting her career in Surrey, then the City of London. Following a move to the South West three years ago, she joined the Investec team. Providing independent financial advice to clients, she works closely with other professionals to provide a holistic approach to clients’ planning.

Who or what inspires you?

My great-grandmother was one of the first female doctors in the UK. Although the link to financial planning might not typically be something you think of, taking inspiration from her dedication has allowed me to forge my own path. It helps me to empathise and develop a deeper understanding of clients.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

“We not I”. Working together as a team provides our clients with the best service possible, whilst allowing all members of the team to learn and grow. The support system created encourages a healthy working environment and strong relationships. A game changer in this profession!

What does the future have in store for you?

Financial planning has never been more in demand. People can now access pensions flexibly, inheritance tax paid to HMRC has never been higher and people are living longer. This makes for an exciting future for our profession and I am looking forward to it.

Sophie Haslehurst - Associate Financial Planning Director, Investec (c) Rebekah TaylorSophie Haslehurst - Associate Financial Planning Director, Investec (c) Rebekah Taylor

Emma Willis - Founder/ Managing Director and Designer Founder and Managing Director of Style for Soldiers

Emma Willis Ltd

66 Jermyn Street, London, SW1Y 6NY

020 7930 9980

Facebook: @emmawillislondon

Twitter: @EmmaWillisLtd

Emma Willis is a clothing manufacturing and international retail business specialising in shirts, made at the company’s Gloucester headquarters. The company employs 28 people locally and operates a successful earning and learning programme, training young employees post college or university. The annual turnover is predicted at £1.9 million.

Who or what inspires you?

Sir John and James Timpson inspire me with their extraordinarily successful business, upside down management, training and trusting hundreds of employment challenged people including ex-offenders, offering simple and highly affective psychological support where needed. They bring opportunity and self respect to thousands; careers where people are valued and respected.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Successful businessman customer Sir Gulam Noon told me ‘keep the fire in your belly ‘, another to ‘stick to what you’re good and not diversify’. Sir John Timpson consolidated my belief that company hierarchy is unnecessary. ‘Keep the blame’ is our company’s motto, given to me by my husband.

What does the future have in store for you?

Continue the growth of sales and relative manufacturing at the present healthy rate. Adding to our significant Mr Porter online wholesale business, we launch a women’s collection on Matchesfashion.com this month. Our London shop generates 80% of sales so we shall also be investing in our international ecommerce business.

Emma Willis - Founder/ Managing Director, Emma Willis LtdEmma Willis - Founder/ Managing Director, Emma Willis Ltd

Anastasia Asprou - Land Manager

Mactaggart & Mickel

Cheltenham House, Cheltenham, GL50 3JR

01242 895200

Anastasia began her career in housebuilding in 2012 as a Postgraduate and has since progressed to Land Manager with Mactaggart and Mickel. Anastasia joined the family-owned housebuilder at an exciting time since its beginnings in 1925, as the company expands out of Scotland to build its first homes in England.

Who or what inspires you?

My parents are my role models. I like to think that everything I’ve achieved so far and my future progress involves the support, dedication and belief of my parents. It’s rewarding to work for a family-owned company that has similar values and supports its people to achieve their professional goals.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

‘Always grab the opportunity while it’s there.’ Even if it’s potentially challenging, you should always seize opportunities and put in the effort to get the job done properly. In housebuilding, it’s vital to establish strong internal and external relationships - to increase the chances of delivering the best deals.

What does the future have in store for you?

As one of the first employees to join Mactaggart and Mickel’s Cheltenham office, I’ve already helped acquire some of our first development sites in Oxfordshire. It’s so exciting to witness the company’s progress and I look forward to growing with the business, delivering iconic homes and creating a lasting legacy.

Anastasia Asprou - Land Manager, Mactaggart & Mickel (c) Paul Reich PhotographyAnastasia Asprou - Land Manager, Mactaggart & Mickel (c) Paul Reich Photography

Charlotte Toemaes – Partner


Countrywide House, 23 West Bar Street, Banbury, OX16 9SA

01295 250401

Facebook: @ellacotts

Twitter: @Ellacotts

Charlotte Toemaes joined Ellacotts as a part qualified trainee in 2006 rising through the ranks to become Partner in 2016. Now responsible for the Corporate Services department, Charlotte has led many firm changing projects, including a new practice management system, developing an academies specialism and creating a cloud accounting offering. Charlotte was recently Highly Commended in the New Partner of the Year category at the British Accountancy Awards.

Who or what inspires you?

People who achieve in spite of a challenging situation. Malala Yousafzai, who fought for her right to have an education - something so many of us take for granted - is a real inspiration, proving that if you have determination and believe in something then anything is possible.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Listen to other people and be open to their ideas. We all see and do things differently and our own experiences shape the way we interpret things, meaning everyone has something to offer and we can learn so much from those around us.

What does the future have in store for you?

Our big project over the next few months is helping our clients become compliant for Making Tax Digital, which comes into force April. We already have a dedicated cloud accounting team which we plan to grow to help more clients and support the rest of the firm.

Charlotte Toemaes - Partner, EllacottsCharlotte Toemaes - Partner, Ellacotts

Melanie Baker - Managing Director

Melton Group

1 Link Business Centre, Howsell Road, Malvern, WR14 1UQ

01684 565187

I’m extremely proud to lead the fantastic team at Melton Group. With over 100 employees, we’re an award-winning facilities management company specialising in education and healthcare. Our clients, from both the public and private sectors, trust us to manage the balance between increasing cleaning and waste standards, and decreasing budgets.

Who or what inspires you?

I’d love to mention them all but one person who inspires me is Queen Elizabeth I. Before marketing people even existed she developed a brand, a reputation and the right credentials where she was respected – and sometimes feared in medieval times!

What is the best advice you’ve been given?

My accountant once advised me never to go home poorer at the end of the working day. Its good advice but I do believe in taking calculated risks which can help take my business to the next level. It’s served me well so far.

What does the future have in store?

We’ve recently refreshed our brand and overhauled our values – two moves which will really support our quest in becoming a leading supplier to the education and healthcare industries. I’ve said many times before how much I love and respect our employees. They make us tick and will play a key role in our future. They’re our DNA.

Melanie Baker - Managing Director, Melton Group (c) Daniel Graves PhotographyMelanie Baker - Managing Director, Melton Group (c) Daniel Graves Photography

Suzanne Hall-Gibbins & Angela Edwards - Founders & Directors


Unit 22A, 21 Bamfurlong Industrial Park, Staverton, Cheltenham, GL51 6SX

03300 536186

Facebook: @circle2success

Twitter: @Circle2Success

Circle2success is a connected business community delivering value through strategic support in a range of areas. These include marketing and PR, developing connections and building long-term relationships, providing learning and development opportunities, as well as celebrating success. C2S focuses on people, skills, organisational improvement, knowledge sharing, best practice and accelerated growth.

Who or what inspires you?

Every day we see and hear amazing stories from our members, they inspire us to get out of bed every day! We work with a number of charities that keep us real with our feet on the ground reminding us of the adversities people overcome every day, this is inspirational!

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

The best advice we have had was from the Chairman of a large corporate, he told us ‘you never really make mistakes you either win or you learn’. We have always challenged ourselves and we aren’t afraid of making mistakes as we look to develop and grow our business.

What does the future have in store for you?

We are excited about developing a national network and expanding our offer so that we can work and connect great businesses together across the UK. Whilst it’s not quite world domination we do see ourselves operating right across the UK and then why not go international!

Suzanne Hall-Gibbins & Angela Edwards - Founders & Directors, Circle2Success (c) Thousand Word MediaSuzanne Hall-Gibbins & Angela Edwards - Founders & Directors, Circle2Success (c) Thousand Word Media

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