Celebrating Ashford Women in Business

Posted on 29 February 2024

Ashford has so many amazing women leading successful businesses in Ashford. Embracing and promoting women in business is not just important - it is essential for creating a more equitable and prosperous future.

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we want to shine a spotlight on remarkable businesswomen who are inspiring the Ashford community.

Jackie Dawes

We are delighted that Jackie made the decision to invest her new business in Ashford by opening the town’s very first virtual reality (VR) gaming room in Elwick Place. Prior to opening V-Rec, Jackie worked in the education sector, leading administrative teams in Higher Education but always wanted a little more autonomy over her work which led her to start Virtual Recreation.

Portrait photo of Jackie. She is wearing a blavk t-shirt and has brown hair

“I’m proud to be a female CEO in a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths) environment, and part of my mission is to encourage young females to embrace technology and discover a passion for it.

“I’m working in partnership with a number of local schools to support this mission, and I’m very excited to see where that might lead us.”

Beth Peal

Ashford Volunteer Centre provides a range of services, training opportunities and a friendly volunteer service, helping those who wish to volunteer to find opportunities, and supporting local organisations who wish to find volunteers.

Beth is the CEO of Ashford Volunteer Centre and is a shining example of giving back to our community.

Beth Peal,  wearing sunglasses and smiling at the camera

“Diversity is a key factor for organisations that value innovation. Women bring unique perspectives and experience to leadership roles - something which really helps make a better and more well-rounded decision-making process in a business environment. As a woman in business, I can have my voice heard and actively contribute to the change I aspire to see in the world. I want my daughter to have the same self-belief – knowing she can truly impact the world if she chooses to.

“Don’t get me wrong I work very hard, but there is a tremendous sense of satisfaction from my job and seeing the benefit of volunteers locally.”

Jasmin Vardimon

Ashford thrives as a creative hub thanks to the renowned Jasmin Vardimon Company. Jasmin, who set up her headquarters JV H.O.M.E in Ashford, is an inspirational woman who is helping to shape Ashford’s cultural scene and inspiring women and audiences worldwide.

Jasmin is not just a talented dancer and choreographer, but also a leader who has built a successful company and significantly impacted the dance scene in Ashford and beyond. To recognise her company’s significant contribution to the development of the borough, Ashford Borough Council presented Jasmin Vardimon with an Honorary Ambassador of Ashford Award in 2023.

A portrait photo of Jasmin Vardimon

“Happy International Women’s Day! It is so important to show young girls that women can become leaders of organisations and companies should they wish to do so. I am very proud to be celebrating 25 years of my Company within JV H.O.M.E. in Ashford – the first purpose-built building for a female choreographer in the UK.

“I hope that my journey can inspire other female artists to pursue their creativity and continue to grow the number of females in leadership positions.”

Melissa Dawkins

Many of you know her from Made in Ashford and now the The Craftship, located in Park Mall. She is the founder of The Craftship Enterprise CIC a social enterprise dedicated to creativity in our community. She leads this town centre shop and craft hub which is made up of 95% female founded businesses, artists and creatives filling our town with colour and creations. She is passionate about free creativity for families and has been raising funds and reinvesting shop profits into these sessions which increase well-being and build connections in our community.

Melissa smiling at the camera.

“Leading Made in Ashford made me realise the importance of making a community for creative business owners like myself, mainly comprising female entrepreneurs. I wanted to support them to gain flexible work & varied revenue streams, for others to build their networks of creatives in the local area and help our community find the happiness in making. At this point we became a CIC led by a fully female board.

“We were then able to create more paid opportunities for these business owners and in turn help support our community too. That is when we really started to hone-in on our values, and those values are the inspiration and drive that I hold every day, which push me to work hard, fight for the future of our organisation and support other women in business.”