But this year really belonged to the entrepreneur, with more than half of our winners involved in start-ups. So who better to come and share the secrets of her success than JoJo Maman Bébé founder and Veuve Clicquot Business Woman of the Year award winner Laura Tenison. Tenison talked about how difficult it is to run a retail business in a multi-channel age where the consumer is ‘absurdly demanding – and fickle’. She also explained how her business has thrived (it’s now turning over £29m and employing more than 300 staff) thanks to an obsessive attention to detail: ‘I need to be 100% proud of everything I do,’ she said.
Tenison also spoke of her recent tricky decision to bring in an external investor – an issue with which some of the entrepreneurs on our list are currently wrestling. ‘I diluted my share in the business – something swore I would never do. But I will do almost anything to help my business,’ she said. And despite having myriad offers on the table, she based her decision on ‘ethics’ rather on how much cash they were offering. ‘It was not the most generous investment on the table, but he was the one who could work with me. I would never compromise my values and ethics,’ she said.
Tenison’s speech certainly went down well with the guests gathered on the stunning terrace at Nomura’s City offices, who included this year’s cover stars Zu Rafalat, Misha Patel and Alex Pumfrey, along with previous 35 under 35ers Samantha Mangwana, Alison Bishop and Emma Sinclair. All those present were only too happy to raise a glass to the class of 2011. Congratulations to them all.