Tara Howard is the epitome of an inspiring woman. Ex-commercial pilot, model, business woman and mum of four, in 2009 she founded the Venus Awards to celebrate the achievements of women – now in eight regions across the UK and growing. We found out why (and how) she did it.
What did you do before you had children?
A lot! I worked in the family business, I travelled the world, I worked for a large-scale Oprah company in Toronto, I did some modelling and I became a commercial pilot and flight instructor.
How did your career change once kids came along – and how did you feel about it?
I had to learn to let go of the business a bit once kids came along. I breastfed all of them and would sometimes be feeding my baby at the same time as answering the business phone in the back office. That’s what being a business mother is all about. Sometimes my mother would bring me the baby to feed and then take it away again.
Looking back I wish I had had more time for the kids but It seemed impossible at the time.
What do you do now?
I run awards to recognise and reward women in business. It started in 2009 in Dorset and we are now in eight regions across the country including Sussex, Devon, Southampton, Bristol, Birmingham, Oxford and Portsmouth.
What inspired you to start the Venus Awards?
It’s really tough juggling business and home life and it can feel quite lonely. Dorset Chamber called me one day to suggest I enter the Entrepreneur of the Year award and I felt a bit of a fraud going for it as I can not dedicate my full attention to my business due to the responsibilities I put on myself as a mother and society puts on me as a woman. It made me think – what is there out there for us women?
How did you go from idea to actually bringing them to life?
As soon as I decided I wanted to do it I just took the first step, set a timeline and started making calls. I was inspired by what a great response I got, and how businesses were so keen to get involved.
Why are the Venus Awards important?
The Venus Awards are important because they make a difference. They change people’s lives. It sounds like a big claim but I have had so many women come up to me days, weeks and years afterwards saying what a difference the awards have made to them and their confidence to achieve anything.
The Venus Award can and have been a first step to setting women on the road to national and international awards.
Who can enter them?
To enter the awards you have to be a woman (except for Employer of the Year – that can and has been won by a man). You have to be over 16 years of age and either work in someone else’s business or own or run a business. Its that simple!
What has been your biggest challenge in running the awards – and how have you overcome it?
I guess the biggest challenge in running the awards is the duplication – setting up the back office support to ensure the awards run smoothly not just in one region but in eight, and eventually 40!
The other is letting go so that others can run with the awards, leaving me free to open new regions and hopefully even new countries eventually.
And what are you proudest of?
Following my children and getting my Private Pilot License I guess I am most proud of the huge success of the very first awards ceremony. The first national final was pretty cool too!
What winners have most inspired you?
They all inspire me in their own way. I admire any woman that either tries to run a business while juggling a family or hold down a job. I am in awe of these women. I know I did it myself but still can’t fathom how!
What’s your vision for the awards in five years?
Within five years I would like to see the awards cover all of the UK. And in ten I would like to have had the first global finals (if you want the moon, you have to reach for the stars)!
What advice do you have for other mums?
I have one piece of advice for mums which I believe has stood me in good stead and helped me produce four fabulous, confident, self-sufficient kids… and that is don’t do everything for them.
It’s certainly worked for us (more by necessity than my design)! Today, my eldest son is in America on a tennis scholarship, my daughter has taken herself around the world three times (using her own money) and is still only 20, and my 12 year old just left for Australia for a month to stay with family (again, he paid for the trip himself by saving up for three years and helping out in the family business).
I have always given my kids the space to do and be, giving them a certain responsibility for their own fate. And it’s certainly worked so far!