The founder of a Pontypridd charity which has supported hundreds of want-to-be entrepreneurs into self-employment was this week named one of the most awe-inspiring women from across the UK.
Karen Davies, chief executive of Pontypridd charity Purple Shoots, is one of three inspirational and successful female social enterprise founders in the running for the Gaia Award in the NatWest everywoman Awards. Karen is the only Wales-based finalist.
Now in their 18th year, the NatWest everywoman Awards celebrate female entrepreneurs from all walks of life, and this year’s finalists include environmental and sustainability disrupters, technology innovators and visionaries who risked everything to build their businesses from scratch. All are united in one common purpose: to leave the world a better place than they found it.
The Gaia Award is for a female founder who has combined strong community benefit with a sustainable business model. Karen Davies’ charity, Purple Shoots, has enabled entrepreneurship, created over 500 jobs and started numerous thriving businesses since launching in 2013. It’s done this by providing small loans to individuals wanting to start or develop a small business to people unable to access finance from other sources, such as banks. It makes its loans on a not-for-private-profit basis, supporting a diverse range of businesses (examples below).
Karen Davies said:
“I set up Purple Shoots to tackle unemployment and disadvantage in Wales because I could see a lot of people who had skills, talents and something to contribute. With longterm unemployment and traditional opportunities limited in many former mining communities in South and West Wales, people often turn to enterprise as a route to economic independence.
“But with few assets, a history of illness or disability, or an adverse credit record, they find it difficult to access finance from mainstream sources to get businesses off the ground. We are different from other lenders and may be able to help people even if everyone else has turned them down.
“We’re thrilled to be among the visionary finalists for the NatWest everywoman Awards. It’s recognition at a UK-wide level of the profound and unique impact of our work in communities. It’s great that what we are trying to do has been recognised.”
Purple Shoots’ customers include Scentsational Cottage, selling beautifully designed, vegan and green soaps; Laura Shannon, a slow fashion brand producing items which are fully handmade, hand sequinned and beaded and digitally printed with original prints; Kismet Vintage, a vintage and antique furniture shop in Swansea launched by Claire and Kevin Richards; and SDR Progression in Newport, a physical therapy centre working mainly with children and adults with cerebral palsy.
Speaking about the finalists, Maxine Benson MBE, co-founder of everywoman comments: “For 18 years the NatWest everywoman Awards have provided a platform to share the journeys of hundreds of entrepreneurs and we continue to encourage, embolden and empower women to follow suit. This year’s finalists have shown remarkable resilience in the face of recent extraordinary trading conditions. We believe that, by amplifying their stories, they will inspire other women to have the courage and confidence to embrace self employment.
Following the 2008 financial crash we saw a surge in female self employment and if Covid-19 has any positives, it will be the catalyst for greater innovation and enterprise.”
Yvonne Greeves, Director of Women in Business, at NatWest Group, says: “We are delighted to once again be supporting these prestigious awards for some of the UK’s most talented and inspirational female entrepreneurs. At NatWest we are proud of our long standing partnership with everywoman and these awards help showcase role models that have the potential to inspire those around them and female talent from every sector across the length and breadth of the UK. Congratulations to all the shortlisted finalists and we look forward to the Awards on the 3rd December.”
Helen Pattinson, Co-founder of Montezuma’s Chocolates, sponsors of the Gaia Award, added: “We love supporting the NatWest everywoman Awards and in particular the Gaia award as it provides a completely different perspective on business. As founders of social enterprises, all the nominees in this category are truly inspirational ladies whose motivation goes well beyond making a profit. This year has been exceptional, not just in the calibre of the candidates but also the challenges that they have had to overcome in order to continue to thrive during Covid-19. Judging the category is a truly uplifting experience!”
Earlier this year Purple Shoots was recognised by the international The Citi Foundation for its resilience, and Davies is now looking forward to the 3rd December when the NatWest everywoman award winners will be announced.