35 Women Under 35 2019: The profiles

From banking and beauty to tech and travel, we spotlight the impressive, the inspiring and the genuinely enviable female rising stars across British business.

by Kate Bassett and Andrew Saunders
Last Updated: 25 Jun 2020

Venetia Archer, founder & CEO, Ruuby - 31

Not your typical beauty entrepreneur, Archer – a Cambridge-educated former geopolitical risk analyst specialising in Somalian piracy – set up her concierge app Ruuby in 2015 to do for beauty what Deliveroo has done for takeaways. Having raised £2m to start the business, Ruuby now connects over 50,000 customers with 1,000 freelance beauty therapists, and business partners include L’Oreal, the British Fashion Council and Mandarin Oriental Hotels. Archer recently acquired two rivals – Neat Nation and Perfect 10.

Nabila Aydin, global marketing director, FDM Group - 34

With a team that spans five time zones, Aydin is the most senior female executive at FDM Group, leading the FTSE 250 firm’s global brand transformation. She joined FDM – a professional services business specialising in IT and recruitment – as a junior employee in 2007, and thanks to her dynamism and commitment rose to became the firm’s first (and youngest ever) female VP, and the first from a Hispanic/Middle Eastern background. Aydin also sits on TechUK’s skills and diversity council.

Christina Bechhold Russ, director, Samsung NEXT Ventures - 33

American angel investor Bechhold Russ is the first female director at Samsung NEXT Ventures, the South Korean tech giant’s investment arm, where she manages investments in early-stage software and services companies. She’s also the co-founder of Empire Angels, a New York-based network of young professionals investing in startups, and a founding board member of Hope on a Strong, a not-for-profit empowering youth and strengthening communities in Haiti through music and performing arts. She was recognised by Business Insider last year as a Woman to Watch in Venture Capital.

Kathryn Campbell, John Lewis Partnership architect - 33

As custodian of John Lewis Partnership’s entire built estate – 50 department stores, 200 Waitrose branches, distribution centres, offices and even hotels – Campbell is responsible for the bricks and mortar of one of the UK’s best-loved retail brands. She joined the Partnership last year from architect BDP London, where she worked on a number of high-profile projects including the new £1bn Google HQ in St Pancras, the £4bn Palace of Westminster restoration programme and the £550m Westgate Centre in Oxford.

Jodie Cook, founder, JC Social Media - 30

Cook is the founder of JC Social Media, the digital marketing agency she started from her bedroom when she was 22, and co-creator of the Clever Tykes series of enterprise storybooks, which introduce children to entrepreneurial role models. Thanks to a partnership with Lloyds Banking Group, the books are now available free of charge to every primary school across the country. She’s a trustee for Birmingham Metropolitan’s Creative and Digital Academy and Sport Birmingham, the local arm of Sport England, plus a board member of Silicon Canal. She has also represented Great Britain at powerlifting: she can deadlift three times her own bodyweight.

Sara Davies, founder, Crafter’s Companion - 35

The latest (and youngest ever) recruit to the panel on entrepreneur show Dragons’ Den, Davies is a bona fide inventor who came up with the idea for The Enveloper, which makes bespoke envelopes for handmade cards, when she was a student at York University. When the product made its debut on shopping channel Ideal World, 1,500 units sold in 10 minutes. Davies’ business, Crafter’s Companion, now sells a wide range of craft products, exporting to 40 countries, employing 190 people in the UK and the US and turning over almost £33m.

Zara Davis, VP of strategy & operations, QuantumBlack - 31

Davis started her career at the Greater London Authority, working on preparations for the London 2012 Olympic Games. At the age of 22, she was elected as a councilor for the London Borough of Tower Hamlets, one of the most deprived areas in the country, and became governor of a local state school. She joined McKinsey in 2012 and powered through the ranks, becoming associate partner in 2017. Last year Davis was promoted to VP of strategy & operations at QuantumBlack, the McKinsey-owned data analytics firm which started out as an adviser to Formula 1 race teams a decade ago.

Crystal Eisinger, strategy & operations lead, Google - 29

Following a fully-paid gap-year placement with Deloitte, Eisinger studied social and political sciences at Cambridge University, then received funding from the Hinduja Foundation to do a master’s degree in political thought. Now strategy operations lead at Google, she spearheads the tech giant’s customer centricity initiative leading a virtual team of 15 across London, Dublin and Hyderabad. She was selected for The Marketing Academy 2018 scholarship programme and received a 2019 WACL Future Leaders Award, a bursary for talented and inspirational women.

Diane Farrell, senior site manager, Talisker Distillery, Diageo - 29

Having completed a master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Strathclyde and an IBD diploma in distilling, Glasgow-born Farrell now works for Diageo, the global drinks giant behind brands including Guinness, Johnnie Walker and Baileys. She heads up one of the world’s most renowned Scotch whisky distilleries – the Talisker Distillery on the Isle of Skye. Farrell oversees the entire production process and the visitors’ centre.

Charlene Friend, COO, Acosta Europe - 34

Friend started out in consulting with PwC and, by the age of 28, was a European finance director at brand solutions business Monotype. She was headhunted to join Acosta, one of the largest FMCG marketing firms in the world, two years ago and is spearheading its move into Europe. She works closely with group president and CEO Alejandro Rodriguez Bas, who describes Friend as "a passionate and driven leader who isn’t afraid to take tough decisions".

Serena Guen, founder, SUITCASE magazine - 29

When Guen was at NYU, she had the simple idea of combining real-life travel advice with beautiful imagery for the modern-day traveller, so she started SUITCASE magazine from her dorm room. It now has a quarterly print circulation of 77,000 and is available in more than 50 countries on newsstand. Described as the "Mark Zuckerberg of publishing", she also runs SUITCASE Media, a full-service creative agency for travel and lifestyle brands. Guen is behind the #CookForSyria and #BakeForSyria campaigns, raising more than £750,000 for Unicef's Next Generation.

Sissel Gynnild Hartley, founder & CEO, Nala Marketing - 32

Sports marketer Gynnild Hartley made her name at the Football Association, where she helped to double attendances at Women’s Super League games, took the Women’s FA Cup to Wembley and launched the Lionesses brand – as well as working on last year’s award-winning World Cup campaign. In January this year she decided to go it alone, setting up Nala Marketing with the aim of raising the profile and popularity of women’s sport more generally, with clients including UEFA, the FA and the UCFB.

Mursal Hedayat, founder, Chatterbox - 28

After visiting the infamous Calais Jungle in 2016 as part of her studies, Hedayat decided to do something to help refugees integrate more easily into the world of work. So she set up language school Chatterbox, training refugees to become teachers of their own native languages, and also connecting them with organisations in need of their skills. So far, more than 110 coaches have been trained, engaging with thousands of learners. Chatterbox has signed up universities, non-profits and corporations, and received backing from Bethnal Green Ventures and Nesta. Hedayat – who arrived in the UK aged three as a refugee with her mother – has been named an MIT Innovator for her inspirational work.

Nikki Henderson, professional yachtswoman - 25

In July 2018, Henderson became the youngest skipper in history to finish a round-the-world race. Heading up a team of 60, she battled 100mph winds and 50ft waves over 11 months to complete the gruelling 40,000-nautical-mile Clipper Race. She was just 25. An inspiring young leader, she won the 2019 YJA Yachtsman of the Year Award and recently skippered the iconic yacht Maiden to Sri-Lanka, kick-starting a world tour to promote female education.

Ana Herranz, head of customer & commercial strategy, Telefonica UK - 34

Spanish-born super-achiever Herranz speaks five languages and has three master’s degrees and an MBA to her name. She has worked in finance for BNP Paribas, as an analyst at steel giant Arcelor Mittal, and as a management consultant at PwC. She is now head of customer & commercial strategy for Telefonica UK, owner of the O2 mobile brand, where she works directly with the board. She is a member of the O2 Women’s Network and has led workshops for female entrepreneurs for the Cherie Blair Foundation.

Oluchi Ikechi, managing director, head of business restructuring and innovation, UKI, Accenture - 35

Having graduated with a first in information systems from Brunel University, Ikechi is a rising star in Accenture’s financial services business: she built and now leads the firm’s business restructuring unit in the UK and Ireland. Her work includes creating innovative solutions for global banks plus asset and wealth management firms, leading multi-billion pound restructuring deals, and helping firms prepare for Brexit. She sponsors Accenture’s African and Caribbean financial services community and mentors entrepreneurs.

Irra Ariella Khi, CEO and founder, VChain - 35

When she was 29, Khi was an out-of-work single mum sleeping on a friend’s sofa. Now she’s the founder and CEO of VChain, the first productionised blockchain-enabled security system for the airline industry, with clients including BA and Emirates. The business has taken out three patents for its identity-as-a-service technology, which helps airlines to improve security and provide a better and faster customer experience. Khi, who has a master’s degree in history from Oxford University and speaks nine languages, has raised £4m for VChain.

Maree Kinder, founder, Beauty & Seoul - 32

When adopted orphan Kinder returned to her native Seoul looking for her birth parents, she also began a side-hustle blogging about the hugely fashionable Korean beauty scene and curating her favourite products. Ultimately disappointed in her parental search, she threw herself into writing a business plan in an effort to turn tragedy into triumph. It worked: Beauty & Seoul is now the UK’s leading online K-Beauty specialist retailer. Kinder still volunteers at her South Korean orphanage whenever she is in the country and donates a portion of her profits to it.

Susie Ma, founder, Tropic Skincare - 30

China-born Ma started Tropic Skincare when she was 15, selling a homemade body scrub at Greenwich Market to help her mother pay the bills. It’s now one of the fastest-growing companies in the country, employing 160 staff at its headquarters in Croydon and turning over £29.5m last year. Ma attracted the attention of Lord Sugar after appearing in the seventh series of The Apprentice: he subsequently invested £200,000 in her vegan, cruelty-free skincare brand in return for a 50% stake.

Emmalene Maxwell, CFO, The Fold - 32

After notching up corporate experience with the likes of American Express and L'Oréal, Maxwell qualified as a chartered accountant and went on to join Charlotte Tilbury in 2013, helping to build the fledgling startup into a global beauty brand. She became CFO of contemporary womenswear label The Fold in 2017. On Maxwell’s watch, the business has grown 80% year-on-year, turning over more than £10m in 2019. The Fold founder Polly McMaster describes her as a "true partner and wingwoman".

Alexandra McCready, head of reputation & privacy, Vardags - 34

McCready studied law at Cambridge, completed her training at Linklaters, which included a six-month secondment to the Prince's Trust, then spent eight years working as a solicitor at Schillings. She now heads up the reputation and privacy department at Vardags, working for clients ranging from billionaire CEOs to A-list celebrities. Described as "one of the sharpest, well informed lawyers in her field", she has featured in the Citywealth Leaders list and the Future Leaders Top 100 list.

Shanice Mears, co-founder and head of talent, The Elephant Room - 25

Mears went from intern at an agency to co-founder of an agency in less than a year. Her business, The Elephant Room, is focussed on diversity, creative collaboration and championing emerging talent, winning clients including Converse, Dyson and The National Trust. "We’re not just here to do advertising. We’re here to change advertising," she says. Mears is also brand manager at GUAP magazine, has her own event series Girls Let’s Talk, and curates an online industry talent network called The Guestlist. She was invited to sit on Downing Street’s Race Disparity Audit Advisory Board earlier this year.

Siddhi Mehta, founder, RHYTHM108 - 34

Mehta graduated with a master’s degree in engineering science from Oxford University then consulted for McKinsey before starting RHYTHM108, aiming to revolutionise the food industry with her vegan, gluten-free snacks. She began selling her "better-for-you treats" at a Sunday market: they’re now stocked in more than 5,000 shops including Sainsbury’s and Selfridges. "Biscuit by biscuit, chocolate by chocolate, we’re slowly laying the brickwork for a new type of food industry," she says. Mehta expects turnover to hit £14m next year.

Ayesha Ofori, founder, Axion Property Partners - 34

With a master’s degree in physics from Imperial College and an MBA from London Business School, Ofori joined Goldman Sachs and rapidly became one of the firm’s most senior black women in a client-facing role in Europe. She quit last year to set up Axion Property Partners, an investment firm for UK property investors, and the Axion Academy, educating under-represented groups about property investment. She has also started two new communities, PropElle and the Black Property Network.

Naomi Pryde, partner, DWF - 34

A commercial litigation lawyer specialising in complex cross-border cases, Pryde joined law firm DWF as a partner earlier this year. She is qualified in three jurisdictions and is The Law Society of Scotland’s council member for England & Wales. On top of her day job, Pryde is a volunteer solicitor for the National Centre of Domestic Violence, obtaining injunctions and non-molestation orders for women who are being abused by their partners. She also supports SmartWorks charity and the Red Box Project, which seeks to prevent period poverty.

Ruby Raut, founder, WUKA - 29

Eco-entrepreneur Raut grew up in Nepal where women are frequently shamed – and banished – when menstruating; the Nepalese word for periods is "nachune" meaning "untouchable". Aged 20, she moved to London, gained a degree in environmental science and raised £7k through crowdfunding to launch WUKA (which stands for Wake Up Kick Ass) in 2017. Her brand of eco-friendly, reusable "period pants" completely replace tampons and pads. Raut is listed in the 2019 Top 100 Women in Fem Tech and Health Tech.

Emma Roberts, Lean In Global Programs, senior lead, LeanIn.Org - 29

While Roberts was working as an account director at Procter & Gamble, she set up the Lean In Supper Club in London – growing it to 700 members in the first year. She soon attracted the attention of LeanIn.Org, the non-profit organisation founded by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, and was recruited as its first international employee to grow its presence across Europe. She now leads the Sheryl Sandberg and Dave Goldberg Family Foundation’s global growth strategy, managing a team across three continents and overseeing a community of more than 43,000 Lean In Circles in 172 countries.

Ella Robertson, managing director, One Young World - 27

Robertson trained in law before changing track and pursuing a career in the third sector. She’s now the managing director of One Young World, the global forum for young leaders. Known as "the junior Davos", its annual summit draws more than 1,500 young leaders to discuss some of the world’s most pressing challenges, ranging from climate change to sexual violence. Having represented Scotland at the World Debating Championships, she is also the founder of W1 Debates.

Christina Sandkuehler, company director, Integrity Research & Consultancy - 34

Born in Germany, Sandkuehler worked as a PR consultant in Berlin and London, climbing the ladder to become head of corporate communications at LaSalle Investment Management before pivoting into the international aid sector. She is now the youngest and first female board director at Integrity, an international consultancy that works with clients including the UN, World Bank and the UK government to end conflict and build stability in countries such as Syria and Sudan.

Daniela Seitz, founder, Twigdoo - 28

Seitz trained as a professional chef before joining grocery startup Hubbub then starting her own venture Twigdoo, a lead management platform which handled enquiries from potential new customers, allowing business owners to be more efficient with their time and focus on their warmest leads. The business counted serial entrepreneur William Reeve – the founder of LOVEFiLM.com and Secret Escapes – as a non-executive director and investor. He describes Seitz as "one of the most talented people I’ve worked with". With entrepreneurial experience under her belt, she's now looking to pivot into the corporate world.

Amrita Srivastava, director of business development, Mastercard - 34

A London Business School graduate with a passion for supporting female entrepreneurs and businesswomen, India-born Srivastava did stints in banking giant Citi and management consulting at AT Kearney before landing her current role: leading fintech and B2B payments for Western Europe at MasterCard. She is spearheading a project to find and support more female-led fintech start-ups – and aims to turn it into a global initiative across Mastercard.

Kate Surala, partner, The Analyst - 26

At the age of 12, Surala went to court to watch her social-worker mother represent minors. Inspired by what she saw, she went on to study law and finance at Oxford University, then joined equity research firm The Analyst as head of compliance and legal in 2017. She was promoted to COO after four months and made partner earlier this year, having helped the firm to double in size – both in the number of staff and revenues. Surala is studying for a PhD and supports digital charity platform Cancer Central UK.

Rosie Warin, founder, Kin&Co - 32

Warin is the brains behind Kin&Co – a next-generation management consultancy focussed on diversity and sustainability. She started the firm in 2016 when she was 29 and has beaten off competition from some of the world’s top consultancies to win clients such as TripAdvisor, Ella’s Kitchen, Comic Relief, Danone and BT. With an all-female leadership team, Kin&Co has offices in London and Toronto, 38 employees and is set to turn over £2.6m this year.

Hannah Willmott, chief of staff to the Master of the Household, Buckingham Palace - 26

A polylingual Oxford graduate, Willmott joined McKinsey as a business analyst in 2015 before working as chief of staff – and "a challenger and coach" – to managing partner Dame Vivian Hunt DBE. In that role, she helped to launch Generation, an independent nonprofit aimed at tackling youth unemployment. Willmott is currently on secondment to Buckingham Palace, acting as chief of staff to the Master of the Household.

Sarah Zaidi, engagement manager, McKinsey & Co - 29

Raised in Saudi Arabia, Zaidi has studied at Oxford University and Harvard Business School. Still under 30, her CV includes working as a research assistant at Pakistan-based women's rights organisation Shirkat Gah, an adviser to the Pakistani ambassador to the United Nations, and a consultant at The World Bank. Now an engagement manager at McKinsey’s London office, she is helping to shape the firm’s public finance practice.

Main picture credit: Julian Dodd