THE Venus Awards Dorset reached “new standards of excellence”, its organiser has said.

The event at Poole’s Lighthouse was a celebration of women who influence, inspire and achieve in business and the workplace.

Hundreds turned out for the glitzy ceremony in the venue’s concert hall, which had a “long and luscious” dress code for women and was compered by Dan Mills from Heart.

Venus ambassador Sam Acton began proceedings with advice from Oscar Wilde: “Be yourself – everyone else is already taken.”

She said: “Don’t worry about how other people perceive you and what other people think of you. What other people think of you is their business. It’s none of your business.”

The Business Mother of the Year award, sponsored by the Daily Echo and Dorset Echo, went to Sarah Milligan, service delivery manager with IT firm Innovate Ltd in Poole.

She has achieved three promotions in three years and works to encourage more women and girls to become interested in IT.

The other finalists in the award, decided by public vote, were Anna-Lee Kewley, founder of the online babies and children’s wear firm Baby-Moo’s, and Kelly Elsworthy, author and publisher of The Adventures of the Cuddle Pirate.

Other award winners included Pauline Monk, whose campaigning to move human trafficking up the local and national political agenda won her the Breeze VW Influential Woman of the Year award.

And the evening ended on a thoughtful note with Joanna Kane, author, speaker and coach and the founder of Trailblazers, and winner of the Move On Lifetime Achievement Award.

She said: “The things that I thought were important in my early 30s – all the things society tells us we should be going after because that’s what makes us successful – I realised the hard way sitting in a cancer clinic in my 30s that those things may make you successful but for a short time.”

She added: “When you reach the end of your life, what do you want to leave behind?

“I think it’s about the connections you make with other people and the impact you’ve made in other people’s lives.”

Organiser Tara Howard – who is rolling out Venus Awards across the country – said afterwards: “This year the competition reached a new standard of excellence and it was a true honour to attend the Dorset awards; the county where it all began.”