Prestigious businesswomen awards announced

The former head of a leading online retailer has won a prestigious business award.

Mel Smith, former chief executive of Ocado Retail, won Veuve Clicquot’s 50th annual Bold Woman Award in recognition of her “outstanding” leadership over the last three years.

Mursal Hedayat, founder of Chatterbox, an online language school that trains and employs refugees as teachers, has won the Bold Future Award.

Judges praised Mursal’s demonstration of entrepreneurial daring, in just six years, Chatterbox has raised more than £2 million in investment and works with the world’s leading organisations.

They were also impressed by Mursal’s commitment to championing better representation, a former refugee herself, she came to the UK as a child from Afghanistan and has become a leading proponent of encouraging refugees into skilled work.

Mel Smith was praised for her “inspired” stewardship of Ocado Retail, which under her leadership became the UK’s fastest-growing grocery retailer.

Mursal Hedayat (Veuve Clicquot/PA)
Mursal Hedayat (Veuve Clicquot/PA)

She recently stepped down as chief executive after spending three years at the company’s helm, having overseen the initial setup of a joint venture between Ocado and Marks & Spencer.

Jean-Marc Gallot, president of Veuve Clicquot, said: “For the last 50 years, Veuve Clicquot has celebrated trailblazing female leadership and we have shone a spotlight on some of the UK’s most inspirational leaders.

“The winners this year are no exception.

“Mel Smith and Mursal Hedayat each emulate the entrepreneurial daring of Madame Clicquot herself, but they also represent those characteristics we can expect to see from successful leaders in the coming years, from pushing boundaries and achieving tremendous growth to fostering better representation for women at all levels.”

Mel Smith said: “I believe in the power of curiosity, bringing my best self, and daring greatly.

“I hope that resonates and inspires the next generation of female and indigenous leaders in retail and beyond.”

Mursal Hedayat said: “The world of entrepreneurship remains unduly hostile to female founders and I am immensely grateful for this honour, and the visibility it brings.

“Platforming mine and Chatterbox’s work to integrate refugees and career re-starters into the workforce as language coaches supports our efforts to smash glass ceilings for professionals marginalised for reasons beyond their gender, which means the world to me.

“Thank you to the Bold judges for bringing us into the spotlight.”