Michelle Goodman MEng DFC RAF

Pilot Flight Lieutenant Michelle Goodman was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (DFC) in 2008, the first time the honour had been awarded to a female pilot.

The DFC, awarded for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy” was awarded to Flight Lieutenant Goodman following a sortie during her second two-month tour as part of the Joint Helicopter Force (Iraq) in support of Operation TELIC.

On 1st June 2007 she was the aircraft captain of the Incident Reaction Team (IRT) Merlin helicopter based at Basra Air Station. At 23:15 hours, Flight Lieutenant Goodman was alerted that there was a serious casualty following a mortar attack on an isolated British location in the centre of Basra City. Intelligence reports indicated a large, ‘spectacular’ attack would occur somewhere in Basra, with a helicopter being a possible target. Alert to the high risk, but being fully conscious of the importance of providing unfailing IRT support to ground forces, Flight Lieutenant Goodman elected to fly her approach, whilst under enemy direct and indirect fire. Without the IRT, the casualty would have died within 15 minutes.

Despite extreme pressure, Michelle made the right decision in what was later described as a bold and daring sortie which undoubtedly saved a life.

Michelle recounts this brave feat and wider experience of working as a female helicopter pilot in RAF with great humility and insight.

Rachel Elnaugh

Rachel is the entrepreneur who created the market leading experiences brand Red Letter Days at the age of 24 – which she grew from nothing, on a shoestring budget, into a multi-million turnover household name.

This won her an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2002 and she was shortlisted for the 2001 Veuve Clicquot Businesswoman of the Year Award along with Barbara Cassani, Jo Malone, Sly Bailey and Chey Garland.

Red Letter Days’ went into administration in 2005, after the over-expansion of the business in 2002, gained huge media exposure…

Rachel says: “Five years ago my first business Red Letter Days was forced into administration by Barclays Bank – even though we had £3.3 million cash at bank – after a 16 year journey creating the company from nothing more than an idea, on a shoestring budget which built into a £multi-million turnover market leading brand contributing £13 million to the coffers of UK plc in the years I ran it. I was left with no business, no income, a one week old baby, plus 1 million in personal debt. And, because I’d just been a Dragon on the very first series of BBC TV’s cult business show Dragons’ Den, the Press had a field day. It would have been so easy to roll over and die at that moment. Give up and stay under the duvet. But that’s not what entrepreneurs do.”

Rachel chose to use her experiences in business to help other entrepreneurs on their journey – through speaking at business events. Rachel also mentors and advises business about how to stay energised and positive even in the face of great adversity.

Rachel wrote about her experiences in business in her 2007 book ‘Business Nightmares’. The timing of the book launch could not have been more fortuitous as it was published at the beginning of the current recession – and has since become the handbook for business survival for many struggling entrepreneurs.

Rachel’s appearance as a ‘Dragon’ on the first two series of BBC TV’s Dragons’ Den in 2005 secured her celebrity entrepreneur status, which has resulted in over 300 engagements as a speaker and celebrity guest in the Enterprise Sector over the past five years.

Rachel does corporate speaking talks on themes such as “how conscious capitalism will dramatically transform the way we do business in the future”

Rita Clifton

Rita has been called ‘The doyenne of branding’ by Campaign magazine, ‘Brand guru’ by the Financial Times, and the Daily Telegraph described her as ‘The Brand Leading the Brands’.

Rita is one of the world’s leading experts on brands and branding, and is a speaker, facilitator, writer, business leader and portfolio director.

She has worked with many of the world’s leading companies on their brand strategy, as well as start-ups and ambitious businesses in just about every sector.

She was Vice Chairman and Strategy Director at Saatchi & Saatchi in its most successful period, and over fifteen years was London CEO and then Chairman at Interbrand, the world’s leading brand consultancy. She now has a portfolio of directorships, including as Chair of BrandCap, the brand consultancy for the boardroom.

Rita is in demand as a speaker all over the world, both as a brand practitioner and business leader, and she regularly speaks on a wide variety of topics including leadership, innovation, corporate reputation, women on boards and communicating sustainability. She covers all aspects of branding, including personal and nation branding, branding in the digital age and how to build a world class brand.

Rita was a platform speaker at London 2012 “Britain is Great” Business Summit at Lancaster House during the Olympics, where business leaders from all over the world were hosted to showcase the best of British business and creative talent. She has also appeared at a TEDx conference on Branding Democracy, and speaks regularly at corporate and private events in UK and overseas reaching audiences across a wide business spectrum.

She appears regularly in the media across all major TV and Radio Stations, BBC, Sky, CNN, LBC etc. and writes articles for all of the main newspapers on current issues across a wide range of subject areas.

Sahar Hashemi OBE

Sahar is one of UK’s most inspirational female entrepreneurs.

She shares with the audience her captivating personal stories of building two famous brands; Coffee Republic, the UK’s first coffee bar chain which she and her brother grew to 110 stores and £30m turnover and exited in 2001; and Skinny Candy, the guilt free confectionery brand which she sold to Glisten Plc. in 2007.

She is a bestselling author – her book ‘Anyone Can Do It – building Coffee Republic from our kitchen table’ has been translated into six languages.

Formerly a lawyer, Sahar has been recognised for her achievements as an entrepreneur by Her Majesty the Queen and named as a ‘Pioneer to the life of the nation’. She was named Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum in Davos and also one of 100 most influential women in Britain by Daily Mail and 35 top women in British business by Management Today.

In a Shell Livewire survey of role models Sahar was among the top five along with James Dyson and Dame Anita Roddick. Meanwhile in 2011 Sahar was nominated by Director magazine as one of its Top 10 Original Thinkers, alongside Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Jonathan Ive.

In 2012 she was honoured with an OBE for ‘services to the UK Economy and to charity’.

As a speaker Sahar tells her very personal journey as an entrepreneur and in doing so she connects with the audience on an emotional level, bringing to life the passion, determination and open mindedness needed to succeed.

Sahar always makes a strong impact, igniting the audience with a ‘can do’ spirit and the tools and habits to ‘make it happen’.

Debra Searle MBE


At the age of 35, Debra Searle has achieved more than most people would dream of achieving in a lifetime, including a first class honours degree, the launch of two companies, won World Championship medals, presented on the BBC, has had two books published and has successfully rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean. In 2002 her Majesty the Queen awarded Debra an MBE for her achievements.

Debra grew up in Devon attending Hazeldown Primary School followed by Stover School on the foothills of Dartmoor National Park.

After school Debra’s love of the outdoors led to her choosing to study a BEd in Physical Education, majoring in Outdoor Education. She graduated in 1997 with a first class honours degree and a whole string of instructor qualifications including Canoe and Kayak Instructor and Mountain Leader. Her lifetime ambition of becoming a Professional Adventurer was more alive than ever. She was later awarded an honorary Masters from De Montfort University.

Debra went on to gain a place in the Great Britain Dragon Boat Racing Team and spent much of 1998 and 1999 committed to intensive training for the European Championships in Rome, followed by the World Championships in Nottingham. The team came home with a collection of bronze, silver and gold medals.

Sadly Debra’s father died of Leukemia in between the two Championships. One of the most precious moments in Debra’s life was going up to receive her medals in Rome with her Mother and Father looking on during a break in his chemotherapy treatment. Her father’s death spurred Debra on to start to live out her dreams and the race to become a full time businesswoman and adventurer began.

Debra now lives with her husband, Tim, in Devon. They have a 2 year old little girl called Heidi and recently added to the family with the birth of baby Molly. Debra and twin sister Hayley are incredibly close and have been business partners since 2002.

Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE

One of Britain’s greatest Paralympic athletes, Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson is an inspiration to disabled athletes and is a highly sought after motivational speaker.

During her incredible sporting career Tanni amassed a remarkable medal haul of eleven golds, four silvers and a bronze. Breaking 30 World Records on the track and winning the London Wheelchair Marathon six times, Tanni was awarded the prestigious honor of DBE in 2005 for her considerable contributions to sport.

Since retiring Tanni has devoted herself to helping others and was subsequently made a life peer in 2010, conferred as Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham. As a working peer, Tanni uses her experience and knowledge to discuss matters including Disability Rights, Welfare Reform, and of course, Sport.

Tanni has continued to be involved in sport and physical activity. She is a Board Member of the London Marathon, the SportsAid Foundation, the Duke of Edinburgh Awards, Join In and is the chairwoman of UKActive. In addition to this, she is also a Board Member of several organisations including Transport for London, the London Legacy Development Corporation, the London 2017 Organising Committee and is the Chancellor of Northumbria University.

Tanni is an exceptional public speaker with vast experience of delivering key messages to a wide range of audiences. She coaches and mentors in group and individual capacities, inspiring all with her discussions on motivation, diversity and going up against the odds to achieve your goals.

Tanni is also a passionate television and radio sports commentator. Her voice and insightful analysis is a key part of the coverage at a number of events including the London Marathon, World and European Championships, The Olympics and The Paralympic Games.

Tanni has won an accolade of awards including BBC Sports Personality of the Year (2000), Sunday Times Sports Woman of the Year and BBC Wales Sports Personality of the year (1992, 2000 and 2004).

Mandy Hickson

Mandy Hickson provides a unique insight into being a female, fast jet pilot in a high pressure, male dominated world.

A world where focus, ultimate teamwork, and the highest levels of risk taking and communication are the cornerstones of survival. Mandy honed these skills to the ultimate degree through three tours of duty and the flying of 45 combat missions.

Tailored to be relevant to the organisation’s to which Mandy speaks, her main themes are: The building and empowerment of effective teams; Inspired goal setting and ultimate focus; Decision making under extreme pressure; Maintaining momentum despite losing top talent; Nurturing a culture of self-confidence and aspiration.

Mandy’s story shares a wealth of unique insight delivered with the humour that was key to her success. She presents with a creativity, energy and passion which will engage and inspire all. Her story is designed to ignite self-belief and motivate her audience to move forward with determination and focus.