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Welcome Dame Mary Perkins to the judging panel!

We’re over the moon to be announcing that Dame Mary Perkins, founder of Specsavers, has joined our judging panel.

A fully qualified optometrist, Mary launched Specsavers with her husband Doug in 1984 and went on to establish it as the world’s largest privately-owned opticians with over £1.5 billion in turnover. A member of the board, Mary oversees business development and public relations. In 2007, she became the first female optometrist to receive a Damehood.

Dame Mary is also the founding patron of Modern Muse, a social enterprise that encourages and inspires the next generation of female entrepreneurs and business leaders.

Asked why she is joining the judging panel, Dame Mary said: “Being an entrepreneur can be quite a lonely life – albeit exciting – so encouragement is needed from outside. Hence championing them can sometimes give that little extra push and a pat on the back.”

Our founder, Francesca James, is particularly excited about the latest addition to the judging panel. She said: “Dame Mary is a hugely inspirational entrepreneur and one of the most influential women in business in the UK.

“We’re absolutely thrilled that Dame Mary has joined our mission to celebrate the inspirational stories of the UK’s entrepreneurs.”

Dame Mary will be judging applications in our new Health & Beauty category. She said: “It’s always uplifting to see so many entrepreneurs forging ahead, innovating and in many cases, disrupting the markets they are in. The new Health & Beauty category will be particularly interesting because it could be an ideal ‘starting’ situation for many entrepreneurs.”

Dame Mary added: “To be a great British entrepreneur, you have to have the leadership skills where a huge diversity of skills and experience will be needed. You have to know everything about whatever business you are in, and, if there are gaps, then to fill those with others. It goes without saying that there has to be a passion about what you are doing, which means a passion 24/7 and a passion to take others along with you. I would also say you have to be determined to succeed and be customer-focused.”