HUNDREDS of people gathered to celebrate the achievements of women in business at the NatWest Venus Awards Dorset.

Fifteen prizes were handed out to the women who have achieved, excelled or inspired other people in business and the workplace.

The Daily Echo Business Mother of the Year award went to Sarah Milligan,  service delivery manager of Innovate Ltd, based at Acorn Business Park in Poole.

Sarah has received three promotions during her three years at Innovate, with 75 per cent of the company now reporting to her.

She is the only woman in the company and is an ambassador for STEMnet, the organisation which works to inspire young people in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. She also follows Lady Geek, an agency which makes technology more appealing and accessible to women.

She was nominated for the award by a former marketing intern, Charlie Knight, and by her 11-year-old son Joshua, who said she deserved it for her hard work for him and sister Ellie-May.

Receiving her award at the Concert Hall in Poole’s Lighthouse, she thanked her colleagues at Innovate and her family, and congratulated Joshua on winning a place at Bournemouth School. Sarah was among three impressive finalists in the Echo-backed award.

Anna-Lee Kewley, who started the online babies’ and children’s wear business Baby Moo’s, missed out on the Business Mother award but came away with the New Media and Online Business Award. She set up Baby Moo’s with £230 she raised by selling possessions on eBay and has seen it grow rapidly.

Also pipped at the post in the public vote was Kelly Elsworthy, author and publisher of The Adventures of the Cuddle Pirate. She turned the stories she used to tell her son Jack into two books promoting healthy eating, as well as an app, with plans for a cuddly toy.

The Venus Awards were organised by Bournemouth’s Tara Howard, who urged finalists to celebrate their achievements.

“Previous winners and finalists have gone on to great heights. Tonight is a celebration of what you’ve achieved and yet to achieve,” she said.

The winners

Daily Echo Business Mother of the Year

Sarah Milligan - Innovate Ltd

Stewarts Garden Centre Customer Service

Joanna Boughton-White - Dorwest Herbs Ltd

The Foundations for infant Loss Training Inspirational Woman Award 

Linda Parkinson-Hardman - The Hysterectomy Association

Move On Rentals Lifetime Achievement Award             

Joanna Kane -  Trailblazers Coaching and Consulting

NatWest New Business Award

Claire Tillotson - Treehouse Family Play Ltd

Bournemouth Town New Media & Online Business Award

Anna-lee Kewley - Baby Moo’s

Heart Employee of the Year

Lesley Telford - The Grove Hotel (Macmillan Caring Locally)

Gem Freeman Jewellery Home Based Business Award

Jane Adkins - A Head for PR Ltd

Dutton Gregory Small Business Award

Pippa Latimer Harris - Latimer House

Evenlines Professional of the Year

Maria Kemp - Kemp & Co Property Ltd

Inspire Accountants Entrepreneur of the Year

Rachel  Day - LoveKeepCreate Ltd

Breeze Volkswagen Influential Woman of the Year

Pauline Monk -  Purple Teardrop Campaign

MX Strategic Marketing Green Business Award

Sarah Watson  - Rural Works Ltd.

Employer of the Year

Olga  Clapcott - Tigerlilly Nails

Marketing & PR

Simone Thomas  -Mwah