Britain's Top 100 Entrepreneurs 2006: Winning Women

The females on our list run the gamut of business activities, from tanning parlours and online betting to bespoke travel and financial software services.

Last Updated: 31 Aug 2010


Bookie's daughter Denise Coates came up with the idea of an online betting business in 2000. But Bet365, the firm she started, was no flash in the pan. Bankrolled by £12m from her father, Peter Coates, and managed by Denise and her brother John, Bet365 is now valued at £110m, with profits of £3.8m on sales of £608m in 2004-05, making it a leading UK online bookmaker.

Coates pere first made his money with Lindley Catering, then with the Provincial Racing betting shop chain. The latter was sold in July '04 for about £40m, allowing the family to develop the online business further.

The sale of Lindley and other assets has netted a further £17m, so the family should easily be worth £126m after tax.


Jane Cavanagh started computer games company SCi Entertainment in 1988 and floated it on the stock market eight years later. Best known for its Lawnmower Man and Kingdom O'Magic games, the London firm is also doing well with its Conflict games series, which hoisted profits by 28% to £4.51m - on sales of £31m - in the year to September '04. In April that year, SCi acquired arch-rival Eidos, famous for its Tomb Raider games, in an agreed £106m deal. The combine is now Britain's largest games publisher, with a stock market value of £315m. It was a takeover target itself last October, causing its share price to soar.


Business reality show Making a Million hit the TV screens last November, with Emma Harrison as one of the stars. Yet for Harrison - whose firm Action For Employment (A4E) had sales of £56m in 2003-04 - business success was harder won than TV celebrity. After messing up her A-levels and a brief spell in the NHS, she steamed through a two-year engineering course in just eight months and talked her way on to a sponsored Bradford University engineering degree programme. Graduating in 1987, she went on to run her father's business, training engineers. Four years later, having built the firm into a £1m operation, Harrison started an outsourcing business, A4E. It outsources various services, from training, education, recruitment and administration to childcare, in both the public and private sectors.

She still owns most of the Sheffield-based firm.


Linda Bennett, founder of the LK Bennett fashion group, grew up in north London, read management studies at Reading, switched to History of Art and ended up at Cordwainers, the shoe design college in Hackney. After working on the factory floor for Robert Clergerie and on the shop floor at Whistles and Joseph, she opened her own shop in Wimbledon at just 26.

As well as several prime-site London stores and concessions in Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and Fenwick, she has a store in Paris and a beady eye fixed on New York, LA and Japan. LK Bennett made a £1.5m profit on £36.1m sales in 2003-04. Adding some of Bennett's £3.1m salary to the profit takes it to £4m, and Bennett owns it all. Last year she sought strategic investors in order to delegate management and focus on design, but no-one came up with her £70m price tag and she took the business off the market.


Not all call-centre jobs are going to India. In October, CJ Garland, one of the biggest operators in Britain, announced plans to create more than 200 jobs at its Stockton-on-Tees contact centre 'village', following a large contract win from a major mobile phone operator. The site can accommodate 1,000 staff. Little wonder that serial entrepreneur Chey Garland - who started her first business in 1997 with a mere £600 - is a hero in her native north-east. She now has a range of blue-chip clients, despite stiff competition from low-cost foreign rivals. She maintains staff motivation with an in-house radio station. It works. In 2004, profits rose to £2.3m on £28m sales.


Experienced in the travel industry, Rita Sharma launched London-based Worldwide Journeys, an upmarket bespoke travel business, in 1986. Her marketing savvy was complemented by the financial skills of her chartered accountant husband Rahul, who abandoned his partnership to join the business in 1992. In 2001, the company launched its website - - and now the bespoke service is complemented by a booming online operation.

Its success is evident: sales have risen from £27m to more than £45m in the past five years.


Reports have surfaced that Beauty Source, the company behind the St Tropez fake-tan boom, is to be sold for up to £80m. That would be a hefty windfall for founder Judy Naake, who counts many leading celebs among her clients, including Victoria Beckham, Elle MacPherson, Billie Piper and Denise Van Outen. Naake started in the sales team for John Player's cigarettes and went on to be an agent for French beauty companies Decleor and Darphin, before bringing the St Tropez self-tanning cream from LA to Britain. Nottingham-based Beauty Source made a healthy £3.4m profit on sales of £15.4m in the year to July 2004.


Staffordshire computer software and services business EG Solutions was founded in 1988 by Elizabeth Gooch. She started off as an in-house consultant in the early '80s at Forward Trust, a Midland Bank subsidiary, then moved to Birmingham Midshires as the building society introduced new products.

While working for manufacturers, Gooch hit on the idea of transplanting their lean production methods into financial services. Clients such as HBOS, Morgan Stanley and Scottish Equitable use EG's software to organise their back offices. In June, EG floated on AIM, valued at £13.5m.


Leading the City hiring spree will be top Square Mile headhunter Philippa Rose, who is legendary for her contacts among the banking elite. Like so many in the City, she knows how to party - she had 300 guests to dinner in the middle of Portman Square to celebrate her firm's 20th anniversary, and rounded off the evening with her own rendition of Abba's Money, Money, Money. An apt anthem - The Rose Partnership made £657,000 profits on sales of £8.8m in 2003-04.


Denise O'Donoghue, a former management consultant, has run Hat Trick Productions since 1986 with ex-husband Jimmy Mulville. Best known for Have I Got News For You, Hat Trick has had a string of light entertainment hits over the years, including Father Ted and Drop The Dead Donkey. Kleinwort Capital bought a 45% stake in Hat Trick for around £50m in 2003, which gives it the firepower for growth. But the restless O'Donoghue is stepping down soon - in search of 'something different. What that will be, I have no idea,' she says.

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