A leading Coventry business figure collected her MBE at Windsor Castle this week almost two years after it was announced – and after nearly missing out altogether.
It marked a proud milestone for professional business mentor Sandra Garlick who was presented with an MBE for Services to Women In Business in the West Midlands by The Princess Royal. But it was also a day which nearly never came when she missed the deadline for accepting the award while caring for her terminally ill father.
She said: “My dad was ill so I was living at my parents helping to care for him and so had been about three weeks late sending the paperwork back to accept the nomination. The letter notifying me was sat in a pile of post unopened and as I never heard anything from them I assumed I had missed the boat. I never really thought anything of it again until Facebook exploded with people saying congratulations on December 27th in 2019 when the Honours were announced.
“I was very proud that I was able to tell my dad before he passed away. He died the day before I was due to collect the award, on March 12th 2020. I had declined the invitation because he was so poorly and it’s a good job I did because Prince Charles was presenting it and it turned out he had Covid at that time. He went down with it just a few days afterwards!
“I then received another date in June but of course by then we were in lockdown so it was postponed again.”
Sandra was accompanied to the ceremony on Wednesday (Dec 1st) by her youngest son Mark Harris CeMAP who has been a big part of her professional as well as personal, journey.
She added: “We were made to feel special from the moment we arrived. I had a great conversation with The Princess Royal about women in business, decision making, and women representation on Boards.”
The former solicitor who now runs the successful Woman Who Achieves Academy as well as hosting awards celebrating female achievers across the UK. Earlier this year she also released the fourth book in her I Am A Woman Who series celebrating some of those inspirational stories.
Her other roles include ambassador for the Coventry charity The Luca Foundation and a non-executive director of Warwickshire-based Career Mums – a Community Interest Company that helps businesses achieve a better gender balance in the workplace.
Today she admits this success has been inspired by her own journey of overcoming huge personal and professional challenges.
Sandra struggled for several years as a single mother of two young sons following the collapse of her marriage.
She explains: “Things were extremely tough. I was exhausted. I was a single parent with no money, no income, and no direction.
“I will always remember the day I went to sign on for Income Support. I had nothing. I stood in the queue and said to myself ‘This is the last time I am coming here. I need to make a change and get a profession to give my boys the opportunity to be who they want to be.’ “
It was after spells working in a variety of other roles, including typist, cashier, PA, and sales rep that she went on to qualify as a solicitor and establish her own law practice in Coventry. This was later to merge resulting in Sandra leaving the company and, finding herself once again, in a position of financial uncertainty.
However, after suffering a serious fall in 2016, she was forced to re-evaluate her life and her business. It was a wake-up call for Sandra who soon realised her true ambitions – and this is when the now hugely successful Woman Who brand was born.
“Breaking my ankle was one of the best things to ever happen to me. It gave me the chance to stop and reflect and really take a hard look at what I was doing. And that’s how it came about. I call the ‘Woman Who’ brand my accidental business. It wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t broken my ankle!
“I looked around for that support network. I found those women in business who knew exactly how I was feeling. They were there for me and helped me to get back on my feet. The mantra and determination kicked in and despite being on crutches, I brushed myself down and got on with it.”
Sandra said: “I’m incredibly proud to be awarded the MBE. It’s the one award you can’t put yourself forward for. I’m also proud of the fact that it not only recognises my achievements, but enables me to show other women what you are capable of achieving.
“I always say, be proud of your achievements and be a role model to others. Women are very modest when it comes to shouting about their successes. I want to encourage more women to step out in business and be proud of their achievements. I now create the opportunities for women in business to share their stories, to inspire others and become role models.”
Sandra is the Founder of the Woman Who Achieves Academy