National Enterprise Network CEO and well known enterprise champion Dawn Whiteley has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her services to business support and enterprise. Dawn was confirmed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, alongside other 2016 Birthday Honours recipients. The Chief Executive of […]
National Enterprise Network CEO and well known enterprise champion Dawn Whiteley has been awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours List, for her services to business support and enterprise. Dawn was confirmed as a Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, alongside other 2016 Birthday Honours recipients. The Chief Executive of National Enterprise Network has worked tirelessly in the support of pre start and start-up businesses for nearly 25 years.
National Enterprise Network is the membership body that represents the enterprise support sector across England – enterprise support organisations providing independent and impartial advice, training and mentoring to new and emerging businesses. Dawn joined the organisation in April 2011 from Business Link Yorkshire, where she was Head of Enterprise, with 16 years before that spent at West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency (WYEA).
Dawn started working in the enterprise sector in 1992 and has never looked back – dedicating her professional life to supporting pre starts and start-up businesses locally, regionally and now nationally across England. Speaking about her MBE, Dawn said:
“I am completely and utterly delighted to be recognised for the part I have played over the last 25 years – and am truly humbled too. Working in the sector felt right to me from the very beginning, I immediately saw the importance of the work and I’ve loved every day of it. My work has never been just a job, but the roll out of a real passion and belief in the sector. The role the enterprise support sector plays is essential in the support of start-up and established small businesses. To be highlighted for the work I’ve done is fantastic – but the light it shines on the value of the sector is even better!”
Dawn’s career in the enterprise sector began at Kirklees & Wakefield Venture Trust back in 1992, an organisation which later became West Yorkshire Enterprise Agency, joining as an Office Administrator to look after the newly opened office in Huddersfield. It was a small office in a council managed workspace facility and Dawn’s connections with start-up businesses started immediately, with a responsibility to talk to clients interested in starting or running businesses, provide basic business information and book them onto a range of courses or arrange an adviser meeting.
From the very beginning, Dawn wasn’t frightened to get stuck into things, often outside her role; showing that she had an ability beyond what she was doing at the time – and it got her noticed. As a highly motivated self-starter, Dawn never actually applied for another role in the organisation. By continually demonstrating her growing skills, Dawn organically evolved in the organisation as it grew, taking on vacancies when they arose and naturally moulding herself in to new structures.
Looking back on her early career, Dawn said: “In the enterprise support sector, we all play a really important part in people making some really important, often life changing, decisions and recognising the small part I played in that was incredibly rewarding. Within a matter of weeks of starting as an administrator back in 1992 I knew this was a job I was going to love and want to do for a long time. I’m proud to have helped thousands of start-up clients – both those I’ve talked to and those I’ve represented more widely – and I’m very grateful for the great bunch of people I’ve worked with along the way too.”
Putting the clients first has always been at the heart of Dawn’s approach, working with them from the very beginning to help them gain confidence in the starting of business to representing the organisations who do that very job today. Whilst elements such as funding, criteria and eligibility were all key components of the business support programmes Dawn was involved in – her client focussed approach means that the sometimes complicated politics, partnerships and frameworks were never a barrier to the client directly. Dawn knew that the client needed one to one support and advice – and keeping it simple for them was key.
Dawn worked at WYEA for 16 years in total – starting as an administrator in a team of four and finishing as General Manager running a £5m pa turnover business employing 120 staff. A strong work ethic and complete enthusiasm for the work she was doing saw Dawn grow in experience and impact at WYEA – and from those who know and work with her, it is clear that those two inherent attributes are what drives her today too.
Dawn has been Chief Executive of National Enterprise Network since 2011, having previously sat on the Board as Chair from 2008-10 and as Deputy Chair and Regional Director before that. National Enterprise Network first appeared on Dawn’s horizon back in the early 2000’s, when she was instrumental in confirming WYEA’s commitment as a Member of the national body.
Dawn’s current role focusses on developing trust and respect with the range of enterprise support members and dedicating significant amounts of time in building and enhancing partnership relationships in both the public and private sector. Building trust and maintaining integrity across all she does is very important to Dawn. She consistently creates excellent working relationships across the sector, in part due to the fact that she doesn’t just believe in the good work the sector undertakes but she’s seen for herself the difference it can make. With a long established career across the entire enterprise support system, Dawn truly knows the sector and its clients, the challenges they face and what can be achieved.
Managing a large number of team members has been key in each of Dawn’s roles – and she really has built her tribe. Her enthusiasm and hardworking ethos are contagious. A complete team player, hugely supportive and building trust in all she does has led to people wanting to work with her and for her.
It is evident from talking to those who know and work with her that Dawn is well respected by those in the sector. In response to Dawn’s award, National Enterprise Network Chairman Chris Pichon commented: “On behalf of National Enterprise Network, and on a personal level too, I am truly delighted that Dawn Whiteley has been awarded an MBE in recognition of her service to business and enterprise. Working in the enterprise support sector has completed consumed Dawn’s working life for the past 25 years and she continually excels in it.”
Chris continued: “Dawn is hugely passionate about the value and impact of pre start and start-up businesses and her deep rooted belief in the work of the sector drives all her achievements. Her hard working ethos and her shining personality mean that Dawn creates strong partnerships and enterprise supporters wherever she goes. In her 25 years she has been instrumental in the direct support and wider representation of businesses in the sector and I’m hugely proud of what she’s achieved. The sector is lucky to have her and is all the better for it.”
Dawn was also Head of Enterprise at Business Link Yorkshire from 2008 to 2011; responsible for large elements of the regional enterprise delivery and the advice and training provided for those looking to start up. A senior role in the wider regional structure enabled Dawn to expand her partnership working from a truly local base at WYEA to a wider regional one – giving her insight into the wider economy, an understanding as to how business support happened in a larger area and the importance of clear delivery on a wider scale.
Dawn is a proud daughter, sister and auntie outside of work and is an avid sports fan too, a season ticket holder at Huddersfield Town and a member of Yorkshire County Cricket Club. She is also Chair of Governors at Kirkroyds Infants and Wooldale Junior Schools Federation – a school she has supported for nearly 15 years.
First contributing as a school governor for the small local infant school in 2002, Dawn some became Chair of the Finance committee and the Chair of the Governing body soon after. Having loved school, Dawn was aware of the platform it builds for life – and wanted to bring her enthusiasm and business skills to her local community. Other voluntary activities include being Company Secretary for a youth charity Chrysalis Youth Trust in the early 2000s and very active involvement in the Action Halifax Regeneration Trust, from 2004 to 2010 serving on various committees and eventually becoming Vice Chair. She is also currently a member of the assessment panel for the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion.
Dawn will be invited to an investiture sometime within the next seven months, to officially receive her MBE from a member of the Royal Family.