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Pictured (L-R): Stella Smith, Beena Sharma, Katherine Gunderson, and Caroline Laurenson

Four aspiring female company founders have been recognised for their innovative businesses as winners of the AccelerateHER Awards 2023.

The winners, from the awards’ four specific categories of technology, environment, culture, and health, were unveiled at Thursday’s finals event which was held at the new Barclays campus in Glasgow.

The winner in the technology category, supported by CodeBase, was Stella Smith, founder of pirkx, an online platform which increases accessibility to vital wellbeing benefits.

Taking the award in the environment category was Beena Sharma, founder of Carbon Capture Utilisation International (CCU). Her company’s technology captures CO2 from industrial emissions, purifies it and transforms it into other revenue generating resources.

Meanwhile the culture category winner was Katherine Gunderson of Grand Bequest, a BCorp certified business focused on getting empty buildings back into use.

The final category of health was won by Caroline Laurenson of TL Tech. Her company’s mission is to empower people regardless of age, technical ability or finances to adopt digital solutions and transform their lives by creating a unique caring and entertaining home environment.

Last month, Penelope Carruthers of patented waterwheel developers Carruthers Renewables was announced as this year’s Rising Star. The category recognises a female founder with a great early-stage business idea.

Now in their eighth year, the AccelerateHER Awards provide a springboard to growth for participants by opening doors to new opportunities and market-building connections through the organisation’s global network. The awards, supported by the Scottish Government, Barclays Eagle Labs and Scottish Enterprise, are open to women who are founders or co-founders of companies which are Scottish-based or actively trading in Scotland.

Award winners benefit from a prize package that is potentially worth thousands of pounds and includes a six-month mentoring programme from Investing Women Angels, Scotland’s first all-female business angel group.

Elizabeth Pirrie, CEO of AccelerateHER, said: “Huge congratulations to this year’s winners as well as the dozens of other inspirational women-led businesses who entered the AccelerateHER Awards 2023.

“We’re delighted to support these businesses and provide them with a much-valued platform for recognition and potential investment opportunities to help them flourish.

“Over these last eight years, we are proud to have supported hundreds of female-led companies across Scotland and beyond connecting them to our global network of angel investors, commercial advisers, and other successful business people.

“During that period, the AccelerateHER programme has helped secure more than £50 million in external investment for female-founded companies.”

Katherine Morgan, head of high growth & entrepreneurs at Barclays, said: “A huge congratulations to the winners of the AccelerateHER Awards 2023. Once again, this programme has provided an ideal platform to recognise and promote aspirational female-founded businesses.

“We are passionate in our support of these companies and through our close partnership with AccelerateHER, we are delighted to provide mentoring and support to the exceptional women behind these innovative companies.”

Leah Pape, head of high growth services at Scottish Enterprise, said: “Congratulations to all the winners in what was a highly competitive field. It has been great to work with the shortlisted finalists in the run-up to the awards, and we look forward to following all of their success stories as well as potentially working with them again in future.

“We know many of the fastest-growing and most successful Scottish businesses are those delivering solutions to major global challenges, so it’s especially pleasing that this year’s AccelerateHER awards focused on women entrepreneurs whose innovative companies are ‘forces for good’. The winners are fantastic ambassadors for Scotland.”