Lincolnshire entrepreneur Kirsty Gale, who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer, has been crowned Businessperson of the Year at the SME National Business Awards 2023 at Wembley Stadium.
Kirsty (43), founder & CEO of the UK’s largest dress specialists Red Carpet Ready, was chosen from thousands of entries by a national panel of judges and was presented with the award at a prestigious ceremony on 1st December 2023.
After leaving school at 16 with only a handful of qualifications, Kirsty started Red Carpet Ready in 2013 without any outside financial support or investment and has achieved impressive year-on-year growth.
Despite difficult trading conditions, the company is on track to achieve a record turnover of £1.6m – an increase of 14% on last year – and was recognised as one of the UK’s fastest growing female-led companies in this year’s E2E Female 100.
Winning Businessperson of the Year is the latest in a long list of accolades Kirsty has achieved and is even more remarkable given that she was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in October.
She recently underwent an emergency lumpectomy and is facing an intensive course of radiotherapy but said her diagnosis has been a catalyst to achieving even greater success.
“I was absolutely thrilled to win Businessperson of the Year as it’s been a really tough year for me personally and I was up against some of the UK’s top male and female entrepreneurs,” explained Kirsty.
“Being told I have cancer was devastating and I was worried about the future as I have an 11-year-old daughter who needs her mum, as well as a business to run, but I am determined not to let it defeat me.
“Instead, I’ve tried to turn something negative into a positive and used it to fuel my ambition. Becoming a market leader is hard work but staying on top is even more of a challenge, which is why I’m constantly striving to lead from the front and exceed customer expectations.
“I’m a strong believer in bricks and mortar; Red Carpet Ready is a shopping destination and we attract thousands of customers from all over the UK every year to our venue which has five luxury showrooms and over 3,500 different styles, all under one roof.
“We’re open seven days a week and provide exceptional levels of customer service to give people an experience they’ll remember for years to come. I also design our own dress label, RCR Exclusives, which is manufactured globally and is by far our bestselling brand.
“Despite facing further treatment I’m full of optimism for 2024 and what we can achieve. I hope my story can inspire others to start their own business; you don’t need to have qualifications or be an expert, but you do need to have the vision and drive to succeed.”
A spokesperson from the SME National Business Awards said: “This year we have had a record number of entrants into the SME National Business Awards. Reaching the finals is a huge achievement in itself, especially considering the wealth of talent and the calibre of entrants for 2023.
“The Businessperson of the Year award is one of our most highly sought after categories, so to take home the gold trophy is a testament to Kirsty’s hard work and determination. We are pleased that her efforts have been recognised and awarded at a national level.”
Image – Left to right: Oliver Roylance, Red Carpet Ready marketing manager, Kirsty Gale, Red Carpet Ready founder & CEO, and Tara Kemp, Managing Director, Astar Accountants