THE 2014 NatWest Venus Awards in Dorset were launched with a call for everyone to share their stories of amazing women in business.

The awards were launched at Bournemouth’s Green House Hotel at a gathering of sponsors, supporters, past winners and the mayor and mayoress of Bournemouth.

Tara Howard, who founded the awards in Bournemouth as the Women in Business Awards, said she was pleased to be launching year five.

“I can’t believe how time has flown and how much has happened since then,” she said.

“We started in Dorset in 2010. In 2012, we went to Southampton, then in 2013 we went to Exeter and we also went to Brighton and then to Bristol. This year we’re going to Portsmouth, Oxford and Birmingham, and then Wales.”

She was hoping to take the awards into Northern England, Scotland and Europe, she said.

The mayor, Cllr Rod Cooper, said business needed more involvement from women. “Although 80 per cent of decision-making on buying a car is made by women, it’s only now that we’ve had the first woman in charge of a large motor manufacturer, namely General Motors,” he said.

Cllr Cooper added: “If women unleashed their full potential in industry, the Exchequer would raise another £23billion a year.”

Among the speakers was Venus ambassador Sam Acton of Southbourne-based Domestic Angels, who won the Home Based Business Award last year, in both the regional and national finals.

“A year ago, I would never have been able to guess I was going to be standing here speaking to you,” she said.

“I recommend that people go into the Venus awards and nominate wherever possible,” she added.

She said many people knew an “amazing” story of a woman involved in business.

“Why not tell them that you think they’re great?” she said.

The awards are sponsored by NatWest in association with Breeze VW.

Julie Baker, regional director of business banking for NatWest, said women in business were “inspirational”, working seven days a week and juggling family and business commitments.

Steve Mercer of NatWest added: “Businesses run by women have a smaller failure rate, have a smaller rate of employment tribunals and are more profitable.”

The event saw the launch of three new award categories: the Customer Service Award (sponsored by Stewarts Garden Centres), Young Entrepreneur/Manager and Influential Woman of the Year.

The Daily Echo is once again sponsoring the Business Mother award.

Other categories are: Employee of the Year (sponsored by Heart Radio), Entrepreneur of the Year (Inspire Accountants), Professional of the Year (Evenlines), Home Based Business Award (Gem Freeman Jewellery), Small Business (Dutton Gregory LLP), Inspirational Woman (Chantal Lockey Training), Lifetime Achievement Award (Move On Rentals), New Business (Nat West), New Media and Online Business (, Employer of the Year and Green Business.