Finalists revealed in Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022

Public voting for the prestigious overall Merseyside Woman of the Year (MWOTY) is now open, with four Wirral women in the running.

Eighteen courageous and inspirational women making a difference in Merseyside have been revealed as finalists in the Merseyside Women of the Year Awards 2022 – with four hailing from Wirral.

The Wirral-based finalists are Amanda O’Keefe, Beauty Therapist and Charity Fundraiser, Dawn Coker, CEO, Access2Funding, Karina Molby, Founder, Designer & Creative Director, Molby the Label and Rachel Daley, Founder of Positivitree (full list of finalists and bios for each can be found below).

With judges’ votes counted, the finalists will now be put to a public vote to determine who will be the overall Merseyside Woman of the Year 2022 will be, with voting open online now here:

The MWOTY awards, a much-loved celebration of exceptional women from across the region, will return to the Crowne Plaza in Liverpool City Centre on Friday 1 July, following a two-year hiatus.

The pandemic meant that the awards missed its official 10th anniversary year in 2020, but excitement is now ramping up for what Founding Director and inaugural ‘Woman of the Year’, Ellie Kerr, is affectionately calling the awards “Twelvety Tenth” anniversary ceremony.

Ellie said: “It might officially be MWOTY’s twelfth year, but we’re determined to make up for lost time in celebrating our milestone tenth anniversary – and what a line-up of truly fantastic finalists we have to help us do that!

“As ever, I was bowled over by the quality of the entries and humbled by the fantastic women we have in our region. Every one of them is already a winner in our eyes and we’re looking forward to celebrating them and their achievements at our ‘Twelvety Tenth’ ceremony in July.”

Speaking on behalf of headline sponsor, Hill Dickinson, Partner, Kerstie Skeaping, said: “The calibre of entries was, as always, incredibly high this year with some truly inspiring stories from a diverse range of women across the region. We are very proud to be headline sponsors at this year’s event and to celebrate the success of Merseyside’s brilliant women. 

“The judging panel had a very difficult time deciding on who to shortlist in each category, given the number of worthy entries to choose from. We thoroughly enjoyed reading all of the stories and just wish we could give everyone an award. 

“Today’s voting announcement marks an exciting stage in the competition as the awards ceremony draws closer and we eagerly anticipate the news of who this year’s shining stars will be.”

Renowned for putting a spotlight on those women who do not seek the limelight or push themselves to the front, but instead work to make a difference to the people, sectors and communities they serve, the awards have grown in popularity and impact since their establishment in 2010.

The overall Merseyside Woman of the Year 2022 will be selected from all finalists, following a public vote (contributing 50% of the overall score) and being marked by the organisation’s judging panel against its criteria, contributing the remaining 50% of the final score. The public vote is open until Friday 10th June 2022.

The coveted top prize will be presented by headline sponsor Hill Dickinson and category sponsors for 2022 include Community Foundation for Merseyside, Courage & Sparkle, Everton FC, Financial Planning Corporation, Neo Community and ADDvanced Solutions.

To cast your vote for Merseyside Woman of the Year, visit:

To book tickets or find out more, visit: ​


●      Afrah Qassim – CEO and Founder, Savera UK (Liverpool)

●      Amanda O’Keefe – Beauty Therapist and Charity Fundraiser (Wirral)

●      Ashton Tansey – Founder, Doyenne Network (Liverpool)

●      Barbara Rouse – Community Volunteer  (Sefton)

●      Colette Goulding – Assistant CEO, The Big Help Project (Liverpool)

●      Dawn Coker – CEO, Access2Funding (Wirral)

●      Debbie Rogers – Founder, Sean’s Place (Sefton)

●      Deborah Stephens – CEO, Fun 4 Kidz and Community Volunteer (Sefton)

●      Ithalia Forel – Co-Director, Movema (Liverpool)

●      Jennifer Greenan – Co-founder and Director of E-Verve Energy Ltd (St Helens)

●      Jubeda Khatun – Director, BlackFest (Liverpool)

●      Karina Molby – Founder, Designer & Creative Director, Molby the Label (Wirral)

●      Lynsay Armbruster – Detective Inspector, Merseyside Police (Liverpool)

●      Natalie Denny – Writer, EDI Consultant for Anthony Walker Foundation and Director of Skywriters LTD (Liverpool)

●      Dr Natalie Kenny – CEO, BioGrad Group (Liverpool)

●      Olivia Hanlon – Founder, Girls in Marketing (Liverpool)

●      Rachel Daley – Founder, Positivitree (Wirral)

●      Rebecca Taylor – CEO, Aquarate (Liverpool)

Afrah Qassim – CEO and Founder, Savera UK

Afrah Qassim is the founder and CEO of Merseyside-based charity Savera UK, one of the leading charities tackling culturally-specific abuse in the UK, including forced marriage, ‘honour’ based-abuse and female genital mutilation. Since winning ‘Humanitarian of the Year’ at the 2012 MWOTY awards, for establishing the service in Merseyside, Afrah and the Savera UK team have extended the service to include a one-to-one support service in Merseyside and Cheshire and a national helpline.

Amanda O’Keefe, Beauty Therapist and Charity Fundraiser

Amanda achieved her ambitions despite having enormous problems blocking her path, none of which deterred her. She escaped a destructive relationship, left a secure job to start a new life running her own business and now also employs others. She supported her family and friends through their critical illnesses and raised £2,800 for MIND by reaching the summit of Kilimanjaro in five days of exhausting physical effort. Her determination, generosity, courage, dedication and positive attitude are an inspiration to everyone.

Ashton Tansey, Founder, Doyenne Network

Ashton Tansey is the entrepreneur behind women’s networking group, Doyenne Network. Ashton created this group back in 2017 while starting her hospitality business. At the time she was working 100 hour weeks and wanted to reach out to other women entrepreneurs who also felt they worked so hard and didn’t have time to socialise, Doyenne now has over 100 members across three regions – Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds – with further locations planned.

Barbara Rouse, Community Volunteer

Barbara Rouse is affectionately known as the “Duchess of Bootle” and with good reason! She has worked tirelessly as a community volunteer for over 45 years to make things better in the town she loves so much. Barbara packs more into a week than most people half her age, whether volunteering in her role as CEO of Bootle YMCA, Chair of Derby Park or Director of SAFE Community Homes CIC, Barb gives her time freely, with infectious enthusiasm and genuine affection. She’s amazing and Bootle is incredibly lucky to have her!

Colette Goulding, Assistant CEO, The Big Help Project

Colette Goulding is the Assistant CEO of the Big Help Project. Brought in to the Big Help to co-ordinate the establishment of the project’s trading arm, Big Help Trading (BHT), in 2014, it now boasts eight community stores and employs 12 members of staff. Colette spearheaded the planning and implementation of BHT’s “Homes With Style” retail offer – which provides an ethical alternative to rent to buy retailers such as Bright House, by partnering with ethical lenders. Colette is also a Volunteer Trustee for Dovecot based charity The Dovecot and Princess Drive Community Association (The Drive). This means that after Colette finishes her working day supporting individuals in need referred to the Big Help she will often travel to Dovecot to support the operational team delivering life-changing support to the Dovecot and Knotty Ash community that Colette holds dear to her heart.

Dawn Coker, CEO, Access2Funding

Dawn Coker, CEO of Access2Funding, is an inspirational and tenacious leader striving to transform the culture of the finance sector. Not only has she been instrumental in securing more than £50m for UK businesses in tax relief and helping SMEs grow, but Dawn has also dramatically increased awareness of menopause at work on both a regional and national scale, by sharing her personal menopause journey. Achieving gender equality in the workplace, and retaining female talent, is paramount to Dawn.

Debbie Rogers, Founder, Sean’s Place

Debbie is the founder of Sean’s Place, a men’s mental health charity based in Bootle, Liverpool. Debbie set up the charity in remembrance of her brother Sean who tragically took his own life. Sean’s Place was created by Debbie two years ago to help support men in Liverpool who may feel lonely, isolated and may have a mental health concerns. Sean’s Place provides free and immediate access to 1 to 1 and group support for men who are struggling and has saved the lives of many.

Deborah Stephens, CEO, Fun 4 Kidz and Community Volunteer

Debbie Stephens is the CEO of Fun 4 Kidz and has also inspired her local community to take control in their neighbourhood, to work together to improve their environment, to create jobs, to increase their skills and to support each other through good times and bad. She is an inspirational woman, making a difference in her community by recognising that everyone who is part of it has something to offer, and providing them with the space, encouragement and support to build on those strengths to ensure the community has its voice heard.

Ithalia Forel, Co-Director, Movema

Ithalia is a Liverpudlian with Afro-Caribbean and Irish roots and a dynamic and impressive entrepreneur with a big heart and a ready smile. She is a co-director at Movema an, an organisation that celebrates diversity through dance and creates safe spaces for different communities to come together and learn about each other through high-quality arts initiatives. She inspires others and makes a real difference to the lives of so many people through her work and is a shining example of a leader who runs a sustainable, local business, while also being a caring mother to her toddler son.

Jennifer Greenan, Co-founder and Director of E-Verve Energy Ltd

Jennifer is a co-founder and Director of E-Verve Energy Ltd, one of the UK’s leading independent providers of electric vehicle charging infrastructure and E-Verve ECO Ltd which provides specialist energy saving advice to improve the energy efficiency of customers’ homes and optimise existing Government-backed grant funding. Jennifer is also the founder and trustee of the Electric Futures Charity Trust which aims to raise awareness of issues our planet faces today with tomorrow’s generation.

Jubeda Khatun, Director, BlackFest

BlackFest is a grassroots combined arts festival co-founded in 2018 By artistic director Jubeda Khatun with the aim to empower and platform local Black artists across community spaces and established venues. The festival answers a crucial need in the city to celebrate black artists and bridge the gap between institutions and marginalised communities.

Karina Molby, Founder, Designer & Creative Director, Molby the Label

Karina Molby is a local Wirral-based businesswoman who runs her own womenswear label called Molby the Label. Karina has created an inclusive, handmade to order, sustainable brand which caters to all customers, any shape or size and aims to make them feel beautiful and empowered. Karina is heavily involved with her community and loved by all. Whether it is through her charity work or the impact on her employees and following, she is making changes to people’s lives.

Lynsay Armbruster, Detective Inspector, Merseyside Police

Lynsay is a Detective Inspector with Merseyside Police. She is also a wife, mother to two sons and a voluntary force lead coordinator for the National Police Autism Association. Recognising that at least 1% of the community has an autism-related condition and the role of policing to service the community, Lynsay strives to provide assistance, advice and guidance to Merseyside Police to ensure they are able to achieve their goal of Community First through the effective support for this community.

Natalie Denny, Writer, EDI Consultant for Anthony Walker Foundation and Director of Skywriters LTD

Natalie is an amazing young woman who is raising awareness and helping some of the most vulnerable people in the community. She is involved in many wonderful projects such as Skywriters Ltd, The Goddess Projects, Scouse Solidarity Sisters, Anthony Walker Foundation and The Period Project Merseyside, educating and empowering women and supporting communities and those in poverty, victims of racial and religious abuse and hate crime. Natalie is an inspiration to so many, young and old, from a range of backgrounds.

Dr Natalie Kenny, CEO, BioGrad Group

A highly-skilled and inspirational leader, Dr Kenny is the driving force behind BioGrad, and as its director is responsible for the continued growth of the company, as it opens new sites, creates hundreds of jobs for local people and invests millions of pounds back into the company, the sector, its staff and the communities that it works within.

Olivia Hanlon, Founder, Girls in Marketing

In 2019, Olivia Hanlon founded Girls in Marketing, an online community platform tailored towards women working in the marketing industry. Girls in Marketing provides affordable (mostly free) resources, guides, events and advice for marketers around the world. Girls in Marketing has quickly grown to over 80 thousand followers across social media and is now a six-figure thriving female-led business. Olivia’s key focus is to educate and empower both aspiring and professional marketers by encouraging a collaborative community spirit.

Rachel Daley, Founder, Positivitree

Rachel is founder of the Positivitree, a wellbeing movement that helps to empower parent-carers, and is described as a “true hero” for her work. Inspired by her little boy Jack who had cancer and drawing on her first-hand experience of the lack of support for parent-carers, Rachel helps to provide meals for families who have to stay in hospital, food and activities during school holidays, holds regular coffee mornings for parent-carers and offers courses such as mental health first aid. She also provides support at any time of day or night and empowers people to live a more positive life.

Rebecca Taylor, CEO, Aquarate

Rebecca Taylor is a young, innovative and passionate entrepreneur whose goal is to really make a difference to people’s lives. She set up her company Aquarate and developed her life-changing product whilst in her final year at University. Rebecca created a smart cup which tracks exactly how much an individual is drinking and gives carers access to the data 24/7. Rebecca wants to improve the quality of life for our ageing generation, ensuring they live happier and healthier for longer.

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