Women’s network honoured to be joined by ambassador for female entrepreneurs

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Our West Cheshire Women’s Network was honoured to welcome Melanie Bryan OBE as its latest guest speaker, who focused on female entrepreneurs and how to sparkle in business. 

Melanie, a multi-award winning social entrepreneur, was awarded an OBE for her services to both social enterprise and women’s enterprise and is now an ambassador for attracting more women into the honours system.

The 52-year-old divides her time between being a nana of two, an active volunteer, and running her successful organisation WhyNotChange Limited (www.whynotchange.co.uk)

Melanie’s passion for helping Small to Medium Sized Enterprises, Social Enterprises and Charities grow sustainably and make a positive difference has paid off in the form of a string of awards, which include becoming a Prime Minister’s Big Society Award winner and Britain’s Top Real Role Model.

Melanie, who lives in Wigan, received her OBE in 2012, and is also a Deputy Lieutenant for Greater Manchester, which is a voluntary role until the age of 75.

As part of their role, Deputy Lieutenants actively encourage local individuals and groups to nominate appropriate individuals for honours, invitations to Buckingham Palace Garden Parties, the Queen’s Award for Volunteering and anniversaries warranting a message from the Queen. 

Among her many business achievements, Melanie has helped businesses, charities and social enterprises win a staggering £157 million in public sector contracts.

Her community and voluntary work includes stopping a church hall from being demolished and turning it instead into a thriving community led social enterprise.

She’s also a Greater Manchester Poverty Commissioner, charity trustee and volunteers for organisations like UnLtd that support grass roots social entrepreneurs. 

The West Cheshire Women’s Networking event is led by Ellis and Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers in Northgate Street, Chester, NatWest Bank, West Cheshire and North Wales Chamber of Commerce and Cheshire West and Cheshire Council.  

Speaking at the networking event at Lyndir Hall Hotel in Rossett, Melanie said: “I couldn’t believe it when I received my OBE and I was equally shocked to find myself in line for a Big Society Award.

“I went with my husband Donny who is also a social entrepreneur to 10 Downing Street. It was an inspiring day and David Cameron even commented on how cool my husband’s purple suit was!”

Melanie is also the visionary behind the North West Women’s Enterprise Day (www.nwwe.org.uk) which is now in its 6th award winning year and will take place on Friday, 20th November at Cranage Hall, Holmes Chapel, supporting hundreds of businesswomen across the region.

Passionate about women’s enterprise, Melanie added: “I had a light hearted dispute once with a journalist on the Independent who referred to me as their ‘business man of the week’ rather than business woman!

“There also appears to be an ongoing theme in the media to single out a select handful of women like Victoria Beckham as entrepreneurial role models when part of my work is about empowering women to recognise that what they do in business is equally entrepreneurial. They don’t have to be married to a footballer or on a TV programme to stand out from the crowd.

“I’m always busy with projects, so much so that my five-year-old grandson refers to me as super nana which I quite like. My one-year-old granddaughter and I also have matching pairs of pink sparkly wellies – everyone in business should own a pair – they certainly keep my feet on the ground!”

Melanie’s path into consultancy and social enterprise happened after being made redundant from a consultancy firm. Her previous corporate business experience, which has taken her all over the world working for household names, extends to NatWest, Girobank, Cap Gemini, EDS and the Co-operative Group.

Accounts Senior Alison Howell, of Ellis and Co, said: “It’s fantastic to attract people like Melanie to our networking events.

“She is a real inspiration and has worked tirelessly across the region supporting businesses and helping with the complexities of tendering to access the funding needed to help them grow.

“At Ellis & Co a large part of what we do focuses on supporting businesses and helping them meet their forecasts for growth which is similar to what Melanie sets out to achieve.” 

Johanna Holehouse, Relationship Manager at NatWest Bank, said: “Melanie is a fantastic example of how a passion for business combined with a social conscience makes a long lasting difference to communities. Her hard work and determination makes her thoroughly deserving of an OBE.”

Melanie Bryan OBE

HONOURED SPEAKER: Melanie Bryan OBE was the latest inspirational speaker at our West Cheshire Women’s Network. Pictured from left to right are Debbie Stokes, Membership Director of the West Cheshire & North Wales Chamber of Commerce, Sara Pomfret, Business Development Manager at Ellis & Co Chartered Accountants and Business Advisers, Melanie Bryan OBE, Carol Vella, Senior Economic Development Officer at Cheshire West and Chester Council. Sarah Bailey, Relationship Manager at NatWest Bank and Alison Howell, Accounts Senior at Ellis & Co.