Head of consumer goods firm SHS bags 'outstanding businesswoman' award

 Pictured at the Women in Business Awards are Roseann Kelly, Women in Business Chief Executive, Elaine Birchall who received the accolade of Business Woman of the Year 2018, Tamara McMillen, Executive Sales Director for Virgin Media Business and Pamela Ballantine
Gary McDonald Business Editor

THE chief executive of the family-owned consumer goods giant SHS Group has walked off with the top accolade at the 2018 Women in Business Awards.

Elaine Birchall, who has been chief executive of the company since 2014 following two decades of international business experience, claimed the Outstanding Business Woman of the Year gong.

In the last year alone SHS - which employs 900 staff and owns popular brands like Shloer, WKD, Merrydown Cider and Sunny Jim firelighters - reported a 17 per cent jump in sales to £545.7 million, and reported a profit of more than £24 million.

Throughout her career Elaine has directed finance, supply chain and general management operations for organisations based in the US, South Pacific, Europe, the UK and Africa.

She currently has responsibility for developing and growing SHS across its divisions and is widely recognised for her business acumen and for being an inspirational leader in her field.

And also at the awards, a Special Lifetime Achievement Award - made to celebrate the 100th anniversary of suffrage - went to Monica McWilliams.

She has filled many roles and fulfilled many duties throughout her impressively rich and long career as a politician, human rights defender and professor, giving women a voice over many years.

More than 300 people attended the eighth annual Women in Business Awards in the Crowne Plaza Hotel, an initiative which celebrates the dedication, achievements and talent of female business women.

Women in Business chief executive Roseann Kelly said: “All the women who entered have proven themselves to be highly skilled in their field and demonstrated tremendous determination and passion for what they do, and I congratulate each of our winners.

“Women are often reluctant to put themselves forward for acknowledgement and are humble about their abilities and talents. This is why celebrating and highlighting the inspirational women at these awards is so important. It promotes positive recognition of women in our society and in turn encourages others to strive to achieve their goals.”

Tamara McMillen, executive sales director of awards sponsors Virgin Media Business said: “There is no greater recognition than that which comes from colleagues and peers, and all tonight's winners should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved.

Finalists and guests were addressed by US Consul General and former Department of State director for press operations Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau.

Winners of the 2018 Northern Ireland Women in Business Awards are:

• Excellence in IT (sponsored by The Irish News) - Adrienne Hanna, Right Revenue.

• Best Marketing Campaign (sponsored by Kaizen Print) - Olga Lynch, The Transfer Tutor.

• Best in Professional Services corporate (sponsored by Grafton Recruitment) - Aideen Duggan, Keenan Healthcare.

• Best in Professional Services individual (sponsored by Grafton Recruitment) Tracey Schofield, A&L Goodbody.

• Best New Start Up (sponsored by Go For It) - Katie Matthews, Excel In Education Tutoring School.

• Best Customer Service corporate (sponsored by RSA) - Noreen Courtney, Bombardier Belfast.

• Best Customer Service individual (sponsored by RSA) Claire Stewart, Cartmill Stewart & Co Chartered Accountants.

• Outstanding Innovation (sponsored by First Trust Bank) - Cara Macklin, Macklin Care Homes & Malone Lodge Hotel.

• Corporate Award for Advancing Diversity in the Workplace (sponsored by Queen’s University) - Allstate Northern Ireland.

• Individual Award for Advancing Diversity in the Workplace (sponsored by Queen’s University) - Vicky Davies, Danske Bank.

• Best Small Business (sponsored by Danske Bank) - Claire Hunter, Marine Hotel Ballycastle.

• Outstanding Management and Leadership (sponsored by Fleet Financial) - Maeve Monaghan, NOW Group.

• Young Business Woman of the Year (sponsored by Ulster Bank) - Deirdre Lynch, Vector Improvements.

• Outstanding Business Woman of the Year (sponsored by Virgin Media Business) - Elaine Birchall.

• Special Lifetime Achievement Award - Monica McWilliams.

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