How they started: the UK's 13 most inspiring businesswomen

From Posh Spice to teaching history and studying in a kibbutz, these women have seen it all. Everyone's got to start somewhere...

by Rachel Savage
Last Updated: 11 Apr 2014

MT loves inspiring women, as anyone who went to our inaugural conference last year will know, but even those who make it to the top have to start somewhere. To tie in with tomorrow’s International Women’s Day, Crunch Accounting surveyed 160 business owners (men and women) to find out which women they rate.

From one to 13, here’s where Britain’s inspiring businesswomen began their careers:

1. JK Rowling

The first female novelist to become a billionaire (in US dollars) started out by writing a story about a rabbit who got measles when she was six years old. The Harry Potter author was also a French teacher after finishing university.


2 & 3. Holly Tucker & Sophie Cornish

Holly Tucker started young, getting a job at an advertising agency aged just 17. Her Not On The High Street co-founder Sophie Cornish advised women on how to sculpt that perfect cheekbone as a beauty writer with a women’s magazine.

4. Anita Roddick

The late, great Body Shop founder trained as a teacher, but then got a scholarship to study at a kibbutz in Israel where the socialist principles informed her ethical views.

5. Martha Lane Fox

Lastminute.com co-founder Martha Lane Fox joined consultancy Spectrum in 1994, writing business plans for media and communications companies. Her first project was in New Zealand – would that all grads were so jet-settingly lucky…

6. Karren Brady

Another ad agency early starter, Karren Brady, the West Ham vice chairman and right hand woman of Lord Alan Sugar on The Apprentice, started work with Saatchi & Saatchi aged 18, winning a place on their graduate programme without a degree.

7. Justine Roberts

The Mumsnet founder worked in the City for 10 years as an economist and market strategist, and then tried her hand at sports journalism before creating the go-to website for mothers.

8. Juliet Davenport

The chief exec of Good Energy knows her stuff, having worked on energy policy at the European Commission and European Parliament after a degree in physics, and then returning to the UK to finish a masters in economics & environmental economics.

9. Victoria Beckham

Does Posh Spice really need an introduction? Before becoming a globally respected fashion designer (and a dab hand at business), VB was strutting her stuff on stage in some very questionable, albeit classic 90s, outfits and heavy brown lip liner.

10. Carolyn McCall

The easyJet chief exec taught history at Holland Park School before flying into the world of business. Having never worked in aviation before taking the pilot’s seat at the budget airline, Carolyn McCall is evidence that history doesn’t repeat itself.

11. Ana Patricia Botin

Ana Patricia Botin has banking blue blood, as daughter of Santander’s group executive chairman. The UK chief exec of Santander was never going to do anything different: she started out at JP Morgan where she worked for seven years.


12. Christine Hodgson

The Capgemini UK chairwoman started her career as an auditor with Coopers & Lybrand. ‘You spent a lot of time in dusty basements,’ she said of the experience, in an interview with the FT.


13. Liv Garfield

The Severn Trent chief exec was hired as a management consultant by Accenture straight out of university, before being snapped up by BT six years later.

Want to rub shoulders with this country's inspiring women? Then join us for an evening of fun, fizz and fabulous females on Thursday 10th April (6.30pm-9pm). The event, which marks the launch of our Inspiring Women 2014 event, will be held at a private room at Kettner's in Soho and will include a keynote speech from Kim Winser, founder of Winser London, and former CEO of Aquascutum.

Email inspiringwomen@haymarket.com if you'd like to come. Tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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