Express Yourself Mums Ltd

The Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards 2010 - Finalists in Category of Entrepreneur of the Year

Press Release   •   Sep 07, 2010 22:49 BST

The Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards 2010 Finalists Announced


Sharon Blackstone and Carly Silver of Express Yourself Mums Ltd. from Camden, London have been chosen as finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year Award category, sponsored by Santander Corporate Banking.



everywoman, the UK’s largest network for women in business has announced the names of their inspirational finalists in the 2010 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards.  These carefully selected women are positive role models who highlight the opportunities available to women in retail through their wonderful achievements.


Sharon began her career in the telecoms industry after receiving a MA in business, working for BT and Orange. A year before she had her first child she switched roles and became the Executive Director of a Small Children’s charity. After being made redundant whilst on maternity leave, Sharon realised she wanted a career that could work around her family life. It was at this point that she met Carly who had enjoyed a career in publishing and was asked for her help and involvement in Express Yourself Mums, an online retailer of pregnancy, birth, breast feeding, expressing and baby products. Within six months Sharon and Carly became joint equal owners, partners and friends and have not looked back since. Having suffered from their own pregnancy problems, they had identified a gap in the market for good and useful baby products, expert advice and support. Running the company soon became round the clock jobs and both Sharon and Carly struggled to create a successful business whilst raising their young children and overcoming a number of obstacles including fires and floods but they thought outside of the box and persevered to prove their success. They conducted business meetings at the zoo to ensure their children were occupied and through hard work, willingness to try anything and the support of each other, their families and staff, the business soon began to grow. They listened to what their customers were looking for and responded to feedback. Sharon and Carly are always looking for ways to improve their business and expand.


“We hope to inspire other customers to pull through difficult times and draw attention to problems that occur whilst breastfeeding. We are examples of women with successful careers whilst being dedicated mums and wives and hope to prove to women that you can do both.”


The UK retail industry employs over 2.8 million people, which equates to 11% of the total UK workforce*. Although 60% of employees in retail are women, there are very few females in senior management positions, with less than 5% female CEOs in retail companies and only 8% of purchasing decisions within these organisations being made by women**.  This situation has not changed over the past decade, which indicates the urgent need for action to remedy this situation by identifying positive role models to inspire other women.


The Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards were established to help readdress the gender balance in management roles within retail by highlighting role models and their various accomplishments, many of which would otherwise go unnoticed. These are encapsulated in the differing award categories which include; ‘Star of the Future’ for a young woman striding ahead in her career, ‘Innovator of the Year’, ‘Hidden Talent of the Year’ and ‘Leader of the Year’; an award open to any woman heading a team, department or business successfully. In addition the overall ‘Specsavers Woman of the Year Award’ will be presented to an inspirational female whose vision and success is exemplar to all within the industry.


Maxine Benson MBE Co-founder and Director of everywoman remarks, “With the UK coming out of recession, it is important to champion the women that possess the skills necessary to ensure organisations can continue to thrive. Through highlighting the female stars in the sector, these awards prove to other women that retail is a viable and rewarding career option.  These are really talented finalists and we want to encourage more women to consider careers in retail.”


Lindsey Rix, Regional Director for London and South East at Santander Corporate Banking said: “Santander Corporate Banking is delighted to sponsor the everywoman Entrepreneur of the Year Award and would like to congratulate Sharon Blackstone and Carly Silver on their outstanding achievement.  It is clear that Sharon and Carly have the drive and determination needed to be successful entrepreneurs and in addition, are an inspiration and role models to other enterprising young women looking to make their mark in the retail market."


The panel of judges involves a select group of women who are committed to increasing the number of women working in management roles within retail.  Judges include Rose Foster, Managing Director, Hed Kandi Fashion; Kim Morton, Chair of the Fashion Retail Academy; Carrie Rubin, Director of Pentland Group; Julia Reynolds, CEO of Figleaves; Karen Barter, founder of Women in Retail; Karen Hubbard, Operations Director, Supermarkets, Asda and Sue Shipley, Partner & Head of Retail Practice at Odgers Berndston.


Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers says, “There are some excellent opportunities for women in the retail industry.  Although there are not as many women in senior positions as there should be, there are many good prospects.  At Specsavers, many of our stores are owned by female opticians who recognise the importance of excellent customer service and high retail standards. I congratulate all the entrants in this year’s awards – to come this far shows commitment, resourcefulness and true retail flair – each is a shining example to all women in business.”


The winners of the eight different categories will be announced at a glittering ceremony at The InterContinental, on 14 September which will be compered by Gok Wan of Fashion Fix fame.  For table bookings and ticket enquiries, please contact everywoman directly on 020 7981 2574 or for further information visit




Notes to editors:

Finalists are available for interview, in order to arrange and for further information or images, please contact Natasha Williamson or Emma Jarman at LUCHFORD APM on 0207 631 1000 or email or


About everywoman

Founded in September 1999 by Karen Gill and Maxine Benson, everywoman is an organisation dedicated to the empowerment, inspiration and support of women in business in the UK. With 40,000 members and growing it is the UK's largest female business community - the online and offline network is a hive of activity, contact-building and business debate. The events, training and awards programmes are designed to educate, inspire and support both those women who have already started their business journey and those who have yet to set off. Its ambition is to become the world’s largest and most influential female business network, inspiring generations of businesswomen and championing their cause, talents and prospects on a global scale. Karen and Maxine were both awarded the MBE in January 2009 for services to women’s enterprise. For more information, please visit: www.everywoman.com40,000 members


About Specsavers

Specsavers Opticians was founded in the spare bedroom of the Guernsey home of optometrists Doug and Dame Mary Perkins in 1984 and is now the largest privately owned opticians in the world. Specsavers has more than 925 stores throughout the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, Spain and Australia. All are owned and run by optician joint venture or franchise partners.


About Santander Corporate Banking

Banco Santander (SAN.MC, STD.N, BNC.LN) is a retail and commercial bank, based in Spain, with presence in 10 main markets. At the end of 2009, Santander was the largest bank in the euro zone by market capitalization and third in the world by profit. Founded in 1857, Santander had EUR 1,245 billion in managed funds at the end of 2009. Following the acquisition of Sovereign Bancorp. of the U.S. in January 2009, Santander has 90 million customers, 13,660 branches – more than any other international bank – and 170,000 employees. It is the largest financial group in Spain and Latin America, with leading positions in the United Kingdom and Portugal and a broad presence in Europe through its Santander Consumer Finance arm. In 2009, Santander registered €8,943 million in net attributable profit.


In the UK, Santander Corporate Banking was established June 2009. The corporate banking division supports businesses with a turnover over £1 million via the bank’s 20 regional corporate banking centres, which are located around the UK.


The categories for The Specsavers everywoman in Retail Awards are:



Hidden Talent of the Year Award, sponsored by Asda
This award will go to the woman whose contribution to the success of the organisation may not be obviously visible, but nonetheless invaluable and greatly appreciated.
This could be someone who supports a successful team/individual in the organisation. It could be someone who holds a position unique to your business.


Star of the Future Award sponsored by Royal Mail
This award will go to the woman aged under 30, whose energy, ambition and generosity of spirit represents the positive future of the retail industry.  She will be the one to watch.

Leader of the Year Award sponsored by Pentland
This category is open to all female team, department and business leaders working in retail.
This category reaches across all job functions and nominees could be team / project leaders, managers, department heads or directors within the business.

Entrepreneur of the Year Award sponsored by Santander Corporate Banking
This award will go to the founder/operator of a retail business whose entrepreneurial talent and vision will inspire others to start their own venture.

Inspiration of the Year Award sponsored by Mastercard Worldwide
This award will go to the woman whose efforts are bringing about positive cultural change for women within her organisation.
This could be someone who is influencing / implementing programmes to support the development / advancement of women in the business.

Store Manager of the Year Award
This award will go to the woman whose leadership skills and commercial flair set her apart from her peers.

Innovator of the Year sponsored by Morrisons
This award will go to the woman whose innovative ideas, fresh approach and vision for improving an aspect of the business is having a positive impact on the organisation and/or those working in it.
This could be someone who has introduced innovative sourcing ideas to the business. It could be someone who has devised new processes/functions for the business to make the business more profitable/effective.

The Specsavers Woman of the Year Award
This award will be selected by the judges from the finalists of our seven categories listed above and will go to one exceptional woman whose vision, innovative approach and success make her an outstanding role model that will inspire more women to choose a career in retail.


*    British Retail Consortium

**  Skillsmart Retail



Karen Barter, founder of Women in Retail

Jane Guillaume of the Retail Trust

Kim Morton, Chair of the Fashion Retail Academy

Anne Seaman CEO, Skillsmart Retail

Rose Foster, Managing Director, Hed Kandi Fashion

Sue Shipley, Partner & Head of Retail Practice at Odgers Berndston

Carrie Rubin, Director of Pentland Group

Gaynor Gillespie, People & Corporate Development Director, Capital & Regional plc

Sue Brownson, OBE, The Bluebell BMW Group

Jo Delbridge, Director of Public Relations, Specsavers Optical Group

Julia Reynolds, CEO of Figleaves

Sharon O’Connor, MD Oasis Group PLC

Michelle Irving, Head of Employment Policy, British Retail consortium

Karen Hubbard, Operations Director, Supermarkets, Asda


Express Yourself Mums is an internet retailer of pregnancy & birth and breastfeeding & expressing and baby products. Although based in London we serve customers from all over the UK and although a retailer with an online shop, our higher purpose as a business is to help increase breastfeeding rates in the UK. We do so by offering positive specialist advice on the subject of breastfeeding and expressing and all aspects relating to these topics, e.g. establishing breastfeeding and expressing, milk storage, returning to work and still breastfeeding, needing to travel/night out etc. We also work closely with parts of the NHS and SureStart providing leaflets and posters free of charge aimed at helping create a positive and confident image of breastfeeding.

Part of our business also involves supplying trade customers with the “My Brest Friend” feeding pillow of which we are exclusive importers of into the UK.

Most of our customers come to us via internet search engines (e.g. Google) as well as recommendation from friends and health care professionals. We aim to offer excellent customer service and are always at hand to answer questions, offer advice and service.

We are 4 staff, two of whom work full time from our warehouse in East London picking and packing orders and delivering customer service and advice over the phone and via email.

The business has been running for about seven years, albeit five years in its current format. Our annual turnover is around £700,000.

Both Directors, Carly and Sharon are available for interviews and are absolute industry experts on breastfeeding products and expressing.