A businesswoman who risked everything from the family home to her own health in her quest to build one of the UK’s most successful training operations has been recognised with a prestigious national award.
Fleur Sexton, joint managing director of PET-Xi Training, was crowned the Businesswoman of The Year 2017 at the 35th annual Women of the Year Awards on Friday (October 6).
Sexton – who wrote a range of revision products for GCSEs two weeks after giving birth to save her family business and prevent staff losing their jobs following a change in government policy – was awarded the title in front of an influential audience at a ceremony in the Hilton Birmingham Metropole Hotel at the NEC.
The awards panel praised her not only for her success in building a nationwide company with clear commercial and social aims, but also as a shining example to other women of how to never give up when the going gets tough.
Judy Groves, director of the Businesswoman of the Year Award, said: “Fleur Sexton is as an inspiration to the thousands of women out there with business ideas they dream of turning into a living, breathing company.
“She has shown that with faith, courage, perseverance and a lot of hard work, everybody has the chance to build a better future for themselves, their families, and the wider community.”
Sexton co-founded PET-Xi Training in 1995 from a spare bedroom in her family home in Coventry and has turned it into a UK-wide business delivering learning programmes to schools and businesses.
Now an increasingly significant player in the sector, it lists helping more than 100,000 youngsters from Northumberland to Cornwall reach their academic potential amongst an impressive range of company activities.
Yet the going has not always been smooth. While resting after giving birth, a change in government policy threatened to render some of her company’s flagship products obsolete overnight.
Despite still recovering from childbirth and looking after a new-born baby, Sexton managed to design and write a series of new GCSE revision programmes in time to prevent her company lurching into trouble while also risking her family house to finance the bid.
This tenacity, drive, and ability to keep focused on the big picture has been instrumental not only in carrying the business to success, but also in creating a family atmosphere among its 500 full and part-time staff where much emphasis is placed on never giving up on any learner.
Sexton is involved in fundraising for The Trussell Trust food banks across the UK; supports Coventry’s St. Basil’s centre for homeless young people; backs the Coventry Blaze ice-hockey team; and also mentors groups of young children at two specialist schools in Coventry.
The mum-of-three also established the PET-Xi Foundation in 2014 to provide support to young people to break down barriers and enable their progression – an effort which has offered multiple forms of support from buying clothes for job interviews to funding a prosthetic leg for a young girl.
She also recently pledged £50,000 sponsorship from PET-Xi Training for Coventry’s bid to be the UK City of Culture 2021, believing the event would help lead to a thriving events programme, increased jobs prospects and prosperous city centre for her home town.
Judy Groves added that the calibre of women shortlisted had, once again, been of a very high standard.
“This award was created 35 years ago to highlight the fantastic work businesswomen are carrying out every day in their companies as well as being trailblazers within their industries,” she said.
“However, having taken an opportunity borne out of adversity and turning it into a national business while also acting as a mentor to countless young people, Fleur Sexton is fully deserving of being our 35th award winner.
“I’d like to thank her and all of this year’s candidates for what they have done by participating. As women, we’re often uncomfortable with putting ourselves forward for this kind of attention, but by allowing themselves to be nominated for the award they have collectively stood up to show the next generation of girls growing up that they can be whoever or whatever they want to be.”
The event also included a lunch and shopping event to raise money for national employment charity Tomorrow’s People and national disability charity Revitalise.
Pictured (left to right): Anita Wright (Global Radio), Fleur Sexton (PET-Xi), Hayley Miller (HSBC), Lady Penny Cobham