Tees Talk: how inspiring women overcame their biggest challenges

To mark International Women’s Day, we asked inspiring local businesswomen what was the biggest challenge they’d overcome and how did they overcome it. Take a few moments to read their inspiring responses…

Catherine Devereux, trustee, The Russ Devereux Headlight Project, Inspiring Others winner, Tees Businesswomen Awards 2019

I’ve had many challenges in my legal career over the years – difficult cases, questioning whether I was capable of doing my job, worrying about giving the correct advice to a client.

However, my biggest challenge by far was the one I faced in my personal and family life when my husband Russ died by suicide nearly three years ago. Dealing with an all-consuming grief, facing the future alone whilst raising three children and working full-time meant that I was frightened about the future.

Whilst I still have the grief and always will, I have overcome my fear of the future and I have done this with the continued love and support of my family and friends. Going through something so traumatic and life-changing has changed my outlook on life. The challenges I once thought were challenges are no longer.

Annalice Argyle, director, TRAC UK, Inspiring Others winner, Tees Businesswomen Awards 2020

The biggest challenge I have overcome after decades of abuse is beating my addiction to drugs and alcohol. I believe this was the hardest, bravest and most courageous thing I have ever done and will ever have to do.

Why? because recovery isn’t just about quitting your substance of choice – in many respects that’s the easy part. It’s facing your demons, finding a new way to live, finding out why and who you are and maintaining recovery spiritually, mentally and physically, no matter what comes your way.

How did I do this? I found the gift of desperation. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. I finally wanted recovery more than I wanted drugs. Despite that determination, willingness and resilience, I didn’t become drug-free or sober straight away. I found support within the community, family, sponsors, mentors, trusted friends and therapists.

I volunteered helping others and found employment in prisons before setting up my own charity, empowering women and helping them regain control of their lives whilst smashing the stigmas that particularly keep women’s voices hidden.

I am 12 years in recovery and am thankful every day that I am alive and that my adverse experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. My message to anyone reading this who is still suffering is that there is a way out – you just need to reach out.

Angela Davies, director, Crime Scene Assist

My biggest challenge was my inner saboteur…self-doubt and lack of confidence. In my younger years, I believed I was thick. This was compounded by a teacher who once told me I would never get to university or work in forensics. Many years later, I have two degrees (BSc & MSc), two businesses and I have worked in many challenging roles, including as a crime scene investigator.

It took time and experience to overcome this, in fact I still work on it to this day. My best advice would be to believe in yourself sooner rather than later. You can achieve anything you put your mind to.

Sharon Lane, managing director, Tees Components & 2019 Tees Businesswoman of the Year

My biggest challenge is leading a well-established, traditional heavy engineering business through a changing market, and adapting to external changes to ensure we continue to thrive. It is so vital that we retain our skills and strengths which have made us successful for the last 58 years.

We must recognise the opportunities that come from digitisation, the fourth industrial revolution and the future green economy – all of which are arriving more quickly due to the pandemic. Our young people are critical to our long-term continuity and the current challenge includes how to ensure we listen and understand their perspectives.

It feels like a big challenge but in fact a big opportunity, to develop a new business model that is sustainable to 2030 and beyond.

Lyndsay Hogg, director, Hogg Global Logistics, New Business Award winner, Tees Businesswomen Awards 2020

The biggest challenge I have overcome is making the decision to leave behind a good job in a toxic work environment and venturing into the scary and unknown world of starting a business.

I have overcome this by having a fantastic support network behind me in my family. If I have achieved anything at all, it is truly down to the great support I have from them, the outstanding support from other businesses, the Teesside business community, a lot of hard work, training and research.

In overcoming all of those obstacles, it enabled me to flourish in an industry that I love and job I am good at. Believe in yourself, do not let others hold you down and empower other women to do the same.

Emily Bentley, director, Bentley’s Coffee House

We’re actually facing a huge challenge currently in the fact that three of our five premises are within Debenhams stores and all their stores are set to close in the near future.

Therefore, as well as contending with being currently unable to trade, due to the ongoing pandemic, we potentially need to find new homes for three of our coffee shops.

We’re peddling like mad to have plan A, B and even C to ensure that all jobs are retained, the shops continue to trade in whichever premises. However, what we do know is each of these shops already have fantastic teams in place and the trade will be there once we are able to reopen.

We are hugely optimistic about what the future holds for the business and already have expansion plans in the pipeline and in discussion.