The cream of Kent business womankind turned out for the eighth Kent Women in Business Awards: a glittering, black tie evening hosted by Hilary Steele at the Mercure Great Danes Hotel in Maidstone.
It was an evening that would see Karen Deans, MD of Edenbridge-based, frozen food specialists field fare, taking a runner up award for the Growth Award and winning the coveted Business Woman of the Year Award for a business over five years old, which pitted her against impressive competition, including runners up Hasmita Reardon (Reardon Properties), Natalie Pieri (Accounting Connections Ltd) and Siobhan Stirling (Sharp Minds Communications).
“I have a fantastic team”, said Karen, as she received the award, “I couldn’t do what I do without you … thank you guys”.
As Hilary Steele summarised, however, Karen won for her, “Drive to create a sustainable future, not only for [field fare] but also for their stockists. Karen is constantly looking for ways to develop their offering by monitoring food trends and customer consumer demands. She’s not afraid to take risks. She leads with her heart and is backed by a business brain.”
In an evening packed with inspiring stories, some 300 hopefuls were assembled hoping to win across 18 main categories, which included Mumpreneur, PR & Marketing, Contribution to Community, Service Excellence,
Start-Up Business of the Year and Women in the Arts. Some had started at their kitchen tables, many were juggling families around building their businesses and most had shown immense courage in risking their security to follow their dreams and to make a difference.
“What an incredible gathering of talented, driven and passionate business women” Deans said later of the awards evening. ”On that basis alone, I am honoured to have been a winner.”
“The Food and Drink sector is a particularly exciting one to work in – full of innovation, creativity, vision and integrity – which are values that are at the absolute core of field fare,” she continued, “and at the heart of the specialist producers and independent retailers that we work with. I hope this award helps to highlight our ongoing commitment to supporting them and their incredible products; and that it promotes our continuing sustainability work, which is so important to me. Not least our campaign to encourage our stockists and their customers to avoid packaging and to bring their own reusable containers when buying our packaging-free, loose-serve lines. But, above all it as a chance to thank my wonderful team for their hard work and support.”
Karen Deans has been MD of field fare, since 2002. In that time, she has expanded their offer to over 150 lines of premium ready meals, desserts, vegan products and loose serve fruit, veg, bakery and fish products, with seven Great Taste Awards, five shortlisted and runner up Great British Food Awards, two Free From Awards and one Veggie Award Highly Commended, as a testament to the quality of her tireless NPD work; all carefully sourced by her for quality and authenticity from an international roster of the finest specialist producers.
Her Business Woman of the Year Award comes on the back of a record year for field fare, which welcomed 43 new stockists to a total of over 370 farms shops, garden centres and delis across the UK, including a growing swell of zero-waste shops. It saw a 14.84% growth in turnover, a new salesperson expanding reach in the South West of England and an exciting build of their Bring Your Own Tubs initiative, enabling the refilling of customers’ reusable containers on Scoop & Serve lines. Introduced by Karen in 2016, it exemplifies the vision, prescience and social conscience that marks her out as that ‘business brain with a heart’ that so impressed the KWIBA judges.