Q&A: Griselda Togobo of Forward Ladies
How the organisation is supporting, inspiring and celebrating women in business
Forward Ladies was founded in 1999 to “unlock potential in professional women” in the Yorkshire region. Its owner and managing director, Griselda Togobo, talks about its work and the HSBC-sponsored Women In Business Awards.
When was Forward Ladies set up?
Griselda Togobo (GT): “In 1999 by the [now abolished] regional development agency, Yorkshire Forward, to encourage women to do business with each other. I took over running Forward Ladies in 2014.”
Tell us about your background?
GT: “I’m a chartered accountant and trained at Deloitte, where I provided auditing and management consultancy services to large corporates and SMEs. I also hold an MPhil in industrial systems, manufacture and management from Cambridge University. Before becoming an accountant, I studied engineering in Ghana. I’m also an Enterprise Ambassador at Leeds University and give guest lectures nationwide on entrepreneurship.”
What does Forward Ladies do?
GT: “Forward Ladies is dedicated to the personal development of women in business through networking, training, mentoring, peer support and specialist programmes. We run monthly networking groups in Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle and London, monthly online webinars and lunches featuring inspirational speeches from female business leaders. We also run special events throughout the year.”
How does membership work?
GT: “Our standard membership is free and open to everyone, but you must pay to attend events. Premium members pay an annual membership fee of £75 plus VAT, but can attend business breakfasts throughout the country and log in to our webinars for free. Premium members also get discounts on special events and receive private invitations to exclusive activities.”
What about your Women In Business Awards?
GT: “They’re are open to everyone and there’s no entrance fee. There are 11 categories: start up; SME emerging; SME growth; rising star; inspirational leader; STEM; international; retail; digital/technology; not-for-profit/social enterprise; and young.”
How does it work?
GT: “There will be four regional heats: in London [16 September]; the Midlands [28 September]; Yorkshire, North East & Scotland [14 October]; and North West, Wales, Ireland & Isle of Man [21 October]. Shortlisted candidates will be invited to each and the winners will go forward to a judging day in Manchester [16 November] where they’ll be interviewed by expert judges. The national winners will be announced at the national final in Leeds on 1 December. The overall Businesswoman of the Year will be chosen from these.”
What types of businesses entered your 2015 awards?
GT: “The overall businesswomen of the year last year was Alexa Greaves, who runs her own IT-managed support system company. Other winners included the owners of a spa and beauty salon, a digital agency, accountancy practice, caravan manufacturer, IT consultancy, ballet academy, beauty wholesaler, forensic software company, analytical testing company and a charity. All manner of businesswomen enter.”