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Dame Margaret Barbour receives Lifetime Achievement honour at North East Entrepreneurial Awards

The Entrepreneurs’ Forum has recognised Dame Margaret Barbour’s huge contribution to the North East by presenting her with its 2020 Lifetime Achievement award.

A former teacher, who successfully reinvented the iconic waxed jacket company following the death of her husband in the late 1960s, she is one of several business leaders honoured for demonstrating strong leadership and innovation at the Forum’s 17th annual North East Entrepreneurial Awards.

Dame Margaret said: “It is such a great honour to receive this award and to be recognised in this way by the Entrepreneurs’ Forum. My daughter Helen and I are so proud of everything Barbour has achieved.

“I believe the key to our success has been that we have always stuck to our founding principles and family values and practiced good housekeeping, leaving money in the business both for the bad times and the good; this has never been more important than today with the current challenges we all face.”

For the first time, the Awards were delivered online with winners being announced via the Forum’s social media channels.

Glen Hall, chairman of Newcastle-based Talent Insight Group, was named its Entrepreneur of the Year. The serial entrepreneur, private investor, experienced non-executive director and best-selling author previously built the Write Research Group into the UK’s number one talent intelligence business. Following its acquisition by Capita Group in 2013, he went on to help found Talent Insight Group.

The Emerging Talent Award was collected by Rez Gachcar, CEO of Mud Daddy, which he founded in 2017 after spotting a gap in the market for a portable, gentle, and silent pet washer. Since then, the Newcastle company has dominated the UK pet care market, generating a revenue of £10m in its third year.

Dan Foskett, who founded Connection Retail in 2012, which has 27 stores across the UK – was named Scale-up Entrepreneur. Headquartered in Bishop Auckland, Connection Flooring comprises three flooring brands Flooring Superstore, Direct Wood Flooring and Grass Direct. As well as creating its own in-house delivery network, it plans to open a further 24 stores this year.

The Mentor of the Year award was presented to Lianne Walker MBE. Former Group Managing Director of Washington-based Walker Filtration and founder of Naharlia, Lianne was praised for her ‘inspiration, warmth and passion’ and for being a ‘fantastic mentor’ to other North East business owners.

James Robson MBE, the Forum’s chairman, said: “This year’s Awards recognise those who have gone above and beyond during 2020, from finding opportunity within their business to supporting their peers by sharing advice, knowledge and expertise.

“They highlight not only fast-growing and innovative businesses within the North East, but our collaborative spirit and willingness to support one another.

“Dame Margaret Barbour is a shining example of this, having grown Barbour into a global fashion brand while also giving back a tremendous amount to the region. I’d like to congratulate Dame Margaret on her Lifetime Achievement award, an accolade that is truly deserved.”

Under her leadership, South Shields-based Barbour has been transformed, growing from 100 to more than 1,000 staff, while The Barbour Foundation has awarded more than £20m to charities and good causes across the North East.

The Foundation has supported Newcastle University since 2012, donating £1m to establish the Wolfson Childhood Cancer Research Centre, £1m to support PhD studentships as part of the Cancer Prevention Programme and a £2m donation that established more than 35 PhD studentship posts across the Faculty of Medical Sciences.

Last April she switched production in Barbour’s South Shields factory to make PPE garments to support local NHS trusts in their fight against Covid-19.

The awards were supported by Brewin Dolphin, Diamond Group, Encore Group, Narrative and Ward Hadaway.