Our Judges

We have built a large panel of experts from which we can select a bespoke judging team that has an in depth knowledge of the sector to which the individual entries relate.

The GBEAs take great care about the makeup of our independent judging panel. Unlike most other awards we don’t adopt a one size fits all approach and expect a small group of judges to be able to assess a broad range of entries for which they may have little or no knowledge. Instead, we have built a large panel of experts from which we can select a bespoke judging team that has an in depth knowledge of the sector to which the individual entries relate.

The panel is regularly evolving as we invite senior representatives from award winning organisations to join. This unique approach ensures that every entry is given the utmost consideration by people highly qualified to pass judgement.

Haylee Benton

Founder & CEO, The Silver Fern Group

Originally from New Zealand, and now living and working in the UK, Haylee Benton is an entrepreneur with 15 years’ experience in creating sustainable business growth, both for her own start-ups and as a manager and director of large corporations.

Since the age of 22, Haylee has been transforming struggling businesses into multi-million-pound organisations before she successfully launched PamperPad, a platform where people can find top-rated beauty treatments nearby.

Now, she’s spearheading The Silver Fern Group where she is turning her concept of accessible VIP beauty and floristry experiences into a reality. Her four brands, Alchemy & I, Cecily Spa, Hanako and Koha Skin Clinics, all aim to turn ordinary services into extraordinary experiences, leading to them quickly becoming High Street successes.

Supported by a hand-picked team of hair, beauty, skin and floristry experts, Haylee’s brands are continuing to expand globally while picking up a number of awards, both within business and the personal care sector.

Visit: https://www.thesilverferngroup.co.uk/

Penelope Cheshire

Founder, Beauty Works Limited

Penelope Cheshire founded Beauty Works Limited in July 2010. She is an undisputed industry leader and pioneer in the hair industry. Through her extraordinary leadership, she has guided the organisation in becoming one of the world’s most successful and exciting beauty brands, selling hair extensions to more than 4000 professional salons and consumers in over 180 countries.
Penelope has successfully established a recognised multi-million-pound global concern, and with distributors in the US, Europe and Dubai, is on target to become the leading powerhouse in the hair and beauty space.

A respected, and revered businesswoman, Penelope’s efforts have been award-winning. The industry has taken notice of Penny’s extraordinary successes and acknowledged her talents with accolades from the Marie Claire Hair Awards and the OK Beauty Awards. In July 2020, she was named Outstanding Entrepreneur at the Global Excellence Awards and in September, Outstanding Female Entrepreneur at the Best Business Awards. Her products have featured in Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Grazia Magazine and Glamour, and been awarded at The Hair Awards every year since 2013. They have been worn by Nicole Scherzinger, Olivia Palermo, Bella Hadid and Dame Joan Collins. In 2018, Hollywood actors, Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, wore Penelope’s hair extensions in the film, ‘A Star is Born’, and in 2015, she collaborated on a range of hair extensions with Jen Atkin, voted the most influential woman in hair on the planet.

An inspiring businesswomen and entrepreneur, Penelope has created employment for local people in Cheadle and is particularly proactive in employing young women from low socio-economic backgrounds who struggle to secure employment elsewhere. Of her team of 60, 50 are women.

Penelope is a vocal advocate for men and women’s rights to wear hair pieces without fear of judgement or embarrassment, vital for those suffering from illness-related hair loss and cancer. She is deeply committed to inclusivity and diversity, providing equal opportunities for plus-size models, embracing different ages and skin colours. A genuine philanthropist, in February 2020, Penelope launched the Penelope Cheshire Foundation through which her continuing charitable work will be filtered. In October 2020, she was named Founder Patron of Hideout Youth Zone, a charity that helps underprivileged children in Manchester; its objective is to provide young people aged eight-19 with somewhere to go, something to do and someone to talk to. She is donating her time to the organisation, and £25,000, annually, for the next four years.

Visit: https://beautyworksonline.com/

Samie Al-Achrafi

CEO, Marmalade Fish

Samie Al-Achrafi is an award-winning speaker, author and podcaster. He is recognised as one of the world’s leading voices on values and culture change, and has won a host of accolades including Most Visionary Business Transformation CEO, Game Changer of the Year, and Most Influential CEO of the Year.

His career spans six continents, working with governments and organisations around the world to create high-performance cultures underpinned by values. In 2019, Samie presented a TED talk on Why Business Needs Our Humanity, and the following year authored the bestselling book #Time4Humanity.

As the founder and CEO of Marmalade Fish, Samie leads a team of world-class facilitators and coaches to bring humanity to business, reaching over 1 million people in 2020. Marmalade Fish was the first certified B Corporation in the GCC, and has been named Best Organisational Change Consultancy and Change Management Company of the Year. Samie is also a partner at ELEPHAS® Paris, the first beauty brand in the world dedicated to elephant conservation.

Samie gained a double first-class degree in philosophy and theology with a specialisation in ethics from the University of Durham, and a Master of Science in Management (with distinction) from the University of London. He studied Leading Global Businesses at Harvard Business School.

Interesting facts: Samie is a pluviophile, his passion is aviation (hoping one day to own a retired 747!), and he loves exploring nature trails while listening to podcasts. He is a reiki master and regularly participates in neurofeedback training to access the full range of brainwaves and states of consciousness, delta being his favourite.

Samie is a Fellow of the RSA, and a Chartered Fellow of the CIPD and CMI. He is also an NLP practitioner, executive and systemic coach, and assessor with the British Psychological Society.

Visit: https://www.samiealachrafi.com/

Ryan Dempsey


Ryan has held several positions across a variety of sectors which has naturally moulded his character and fuelled his motivation to operate outside of the norm. From years in the military, a police officer onto becoming a fully qualified electrician his career path took him into the world of Social Housing where he was quickly recognised as a leading figure in the management of compliance and risk.

In October 2017 Ryan was awarded a Fellowship of the Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET). At the age of 35 he was one of the youngest Fellows to be elected for his outstanding contribution to the Electrician, Technology and Housing Markets. He is currently the Chairman of the Electrical Safety Roundtable – Social Housing. The committee created pioneering guidance which was publish in the Houses of Parliament as a Code of Practice in 2017.

Co-Founding TCW Ryan wanted to disrupt the old, inefficient ways of managing assets/compliance. With 41 million checks performed to date and processing 4,000 documents daily, the software is turning previously unsearchable data into a searchable database of scrutinised information and knowledge, enabling data-driven planning and strategic decision making. He truly believes if you support and empower people by giving them visibility of data and information, things will change for the better.

Visit: https://www.tcwin.co.uk/

Michael Tobin OBE

Michael was CEO of TelecityGroup plc, where he led the business from a market cap of £6m to Europe’s leading Data Centre operator worth over £1.5bn. He is currently engaged in non-executive roles across 4 continents, helping businesses within the TMT space to drive growth and profitability both at an early stage and at exit level. Michael is on the board of tech companies Pacnet in Asia and DataPipe in the USA. He is also chairman of Ultrahaptics, the developer of ultrasonic free-space haptics technology. He is author of ‘Forget Strategy. Get Results.: Radical Management Attitudes That Will Deliver Outstanding Success’.

In 2014 he was awarded an OBE by the Queen for Services to the Digital Economy. Michael has won multiple awards including the PwC Technology CEO of the Year and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year three years in a row. Michael is also engaged with many charities including being chairman of CEO Sleepout UK and of the Friends of the Loomba Foundation. In 2016 he will be completing 40 marathons in 40 consecutive days to raise £1m for the Princes Trust’s 40th Anniversary year to help disadvantaged children.

When asked to talk about his ‘radical’ approach to management, Michael said: “When I wanted to encourage my team to break old patterns of thinking, I treated them to an unprotected swim with sharks. When I needed to diffuse tension between colleagues who had previously been bitter rivals, I took them up to the Arctic Circle where they had to huddle together to keep warm at night”.

Stuart Lyons CBE

Stuart is chairman of Beales department stores. He is also chairman of the furniture manufacturer and distributor Airsprung Group Plc. In his executive career, he was a managing director of UDS Group plc, which owned the Allders Department Stores, Richard Shops, John Collier and Timpson businesses. Subsequently, he joined Pearson plc, where he was chairman and chief executive of the Royal Doulton group. He has been chairman of the British Ceramic Confederation, the West Midlands Development Agency, Gartmore Absolute Growth and Income Trust PLC, The Wensum Company plc and the Development Board of King’s College, Cambridge.

Stuart has served on the Ordnance Survey Review Committee, the Monopolies and Mergers Commission, and as a parliamentary front-bench advisor on trade and industry, health and education, and transport and the environment. His publications on the privatisation of Royal Mail and the remodelling of the DTI as a Department for Business both proved influential. Recently, he founded the Entrepreneurship awards scheme at King’s College, Cambridge.

In 1993 Stuart was awarded a CBE for services to the china industry.

The Ultimate Guide to Winning Business Awards
  • What are the benefits of winning awards?
  • How to write a successful award entry
  • What are the best awards to enter?
  • How to start your business awards programme
  • How to impress the judges
  • Success stories

Download this Guide for Free today and you will also receive our newsletter giving you advice and guidance on how our services can help you get the success you deserve.

Howard McKenzie

Managing Director, HMSL

Howard McKenzie spent 30 years as a manager and academic in education and training rising from tenant dairy farmer to Principal of a large College in Scotland. In 2008 he returned to the portfolio life of a consultant building an international client base in the engineering, financial services, education and publishing sectors. He remains the senior academic consultant for Pearson plc. – Direct Delivery who deliver education and training to 20000 students across the Gulf region. He is deployed to make high level educational management interventions including a four month assignment as Interim Dean at TQ Pearson Makkah College in Saudi Arabia. Howard is a Fellow of the Institute of Directors and a Chartered Director with experience of providing high level advice and support for Boards and companies. He is also a published romantic novelist.

Ian Hughes

Managing Director, Consumer Intelligence

Driven by his passion for information technology, Ian has made it his life’s work to help companies understand how to improve their world by helping them better understand and serve their customers. He started his career by combining his love for IT with Marketing in roles at M&S and MM Group, and went on to form eCharity.com during the .com boom.  In 2003, he launched Consumer Intelligence – an insight partner for financial services which uses its unique data offering to provide compelling consumer understanding and a comprehensive view of the marketplace, inspiring confident decisions that build consumer trust. Ian is also Fellow of the Institute of Direct Marketing, an I Love Claims Board member, and a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Visit: www.consumerintelligence.com

Nicky McCrudden FCMI

Managing Director

After injury precluded Nicky from the career she had planned, it took several years to discover her passion for organisational learning and development.

Today, she is MD of the highly successful McCrudden Partnership, a consortium of businesses dedicated to providing highly effective learning to operational managers in both the public and not-for-profit sectors. As a Fellow of both the Chartered Management Institute and the Royal Society of Arts, she blends her passions for learning, management and creativity to produce multi-award winning training programmes, including most recently the Silver award for the Best Training Partnership at the National Training Journal (TJ) Awards in 2019.

Over the last decade, serial entrepreneur, author, and public speaker Nicky has progressed from a ‘harry potter’ business operating from the cupboard under-the-stairs to managing a team of highly sought after L&D experts with an enviable client list.

Today, the McCrudden Partnership offers both strategic learning and development planning, and bespoke, high-impact learning solutions to hundreds of organisations ranging from medium-sized charities through to hospital trusts with thousands of staff.

Visit: mccruddenpartnership.co.uk

Niall Shanahan


Niall is an international consultant and Digital Transformation Lead at escalla, providing services to multi-nationals, systems integrators and central and local governments.

He has designed and delivered learning programmes supporting technological and cultural transformation in leading commercial and governmental organisations around the world, helping them embrace new ways of working and doing business, to achieve positive and sustainable outcomes.

Niall led the submission that won escalla a National Training Award for their work supporting organisational and community regeneration through radical recruitment and training programmes. He is also an integral part of the team that consistently wins the company multi-million-pound training contracts around the world. He is a Fellow of the LPI and contributes to leading think tanks, especially around successful global learning initiatives and developments in learning and technology.

Visit: http://escalla.co.uk