The Athena Programme is proud to announce that Sarah Goodall, our Director, has won Start-up Business of the Year 2010.  The news was revealed at a glittering awards ceremony at Ribby Hall in Lancashire on Friday (29th January).

The 3rd annual Women in Business Awards, organised by the Northwest Women’s Enterprise Forum (NWWEF) was its biggest yet, with a record number of entries across all business sectors.  The Awards both celebrate the achievements of the women that are running some of the region’s most successful and innovative businesses in a challenging economic climate and inspire more women to consider enterprise as a career.

Co-funded by the Northwest Regional Development Agency (NWDA) and private sector sponsors and presented in association with lead sponsor Barclays Wealth, the awards recognise the significant contribution that female entrepreneurs make to the regional economy.

Sarah, who founded The Athena Programme, a creative training and consultancy company specializing in safeguarding children and vulnerable adults, described her vision and motivation for starting company:

“I am a person with strong energy, enthusiasm, passion and commitment for training and inter-agency work to safeguard children and vulnerable adults.  My main motivator is to ensure a change in thinking by all people in putting the needs of all children and vulnerable adults above those of the organisational and professional.

Setting up a business involved embracing new innovative projects where I solely generated ideas, internal systems, models for service delivery, strategic and long term sustainable plans.   I wanted to own the intellectual property, creditability and copyright, therefore wanted to do this for myself.

I have a vast range of knowledge and skills complemented by my incredible creative and visionary approach and wanted to create an environment for this to flourish.  I wanted to follow my desire and dreams of creativity and long term vision for a business to offset a charity.  The charity will be a centre for those who may have suffered abuse to be creative, use experiential playfulness to act as an expression of freedom.  This is an underlying deep prayer that acts as a constant drive and reminder for taking the business forward.

The vision for The Athena Programme is to become the national leading training and consultancy organisation for safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.”

Sarah’s drive and determination was reflected in her ability to develop her company as well as remain committed to her family and work-life balance:

“My main challenge has been this year with the relocation of the business within a limited time frame due to my pregnancy.  Low energy levels and long hours have proved challenging, and it has been hard work juggling everything including my home life.  For example, submitting a funding application with Lancashire Rural Development Fund and applying for a bank loan to purchase the building, relocation and rebranding of the business, training a new staff team whilst continuing to secure contracts and delivering a high quality service to clients has all been achieved whilst fitting in quality time with my husband, step-sons, daughter, dog and teaching tai-chi.

I worked right through my pregnancy and afterwards as I hold a strong sense of responsibility to my team, investors, client contracts, and safeguarding children and vulnerable adults which continues to drive me.  I communicate daily either by email or phone with the team and clients. This has meant I attend and oversee meetings and training events with my baby whilst breast feeding!”

The five category shortlist for awards reflected the high quality and wide range of women’s businesses in the region from start-ups to companies whose turnover is in the millions.  The 26-strong shortlist encompassed a diverse range of entrepreneurs including forensic consultants, Laughologists, a Cumbrian bakery and freight forwarders.

Elaine Owen, Chair of the Northwest Women’s Enterprise Forum said:

“The Northwest Women in Business Awards are growing from strength to strength and this year’s event was its biggest yet.  Each year the standard of entries gets higher and the judging process becomes more difficult.  This is a testament to the hard work and great business acumen of women entrepreneurs in the Northwest.  This year’s event was another fantastic success and highlights the strength of female entrepreneurial talent in the Northwest.”

Steven Broomhead, Chief Executive of the NWDA, said:

“Women are significantly under represented when it comes to setting up and owning their own businesses, and the Agency is working with partners to address this and encourage more women to consider enterprise as a career option.  The Northwest Women in Business Awards make an important contribution to supporting this agenda, showcasing the achievements of some of the region’s most talented and successful female entrepreneurs, and the Agency is pleased to provide its support.”

Chair of the judging panel, Professor Laurie Wood (Executive Director – Enterprise & Development, Salford University) said:  “The standard of entries was very competitive, it was an excellent field and it was very difficulty to highlight the best but I believe we distilled some worthy winners.”

For further information please contact Sarah Moston, Press Officer on 01925 400552 or 07810 528 471 or

For further information about the North West Women in Business Awards please click on


The Athena Programme is a team of experienced professionals specialising in safeguarding with care and creativity.  Our goal is to help people protect children, young people and vulnerable adults and to make organisations, staff and working environments safer by providing training and consultancy that is dynamic, inclusive and relevant.

Call us now on 01200 428769.