Shortlist: Community Leader of the The Year – Digital Women Awards

The Digital Women Community Leader of the The Year Award recognises and celebrates women who are leading communities. This award acknowledges women whose service and contribution to their community have had the effect of making a significant difference to peoples lives by bringing them together around common causes, interests or issues. These leaders also provide a safe space for likeminded people to interact.

Here are your finalists:


Debbie Clarke – debbiedooodah

Through the podcast, the work with Nottingham Uni and the Blue Stockings network I’m trying to create a supportive community of women for women. So that they have the community and support they need to make their business dreams a reality.

Debbie Clarke aka debbiedooodah started her business as a single mum after winning a fight with cancer. She works with female entrepreneurs who want to learn the tools to market their business online and get the confidence to create financial freedom. She’s founded the Indie Freedom Seekers, the Blue Stockings Society, the Women Who Create Podcast and co-authored ‘My Business My Way’ with Nottingham University. This year she was named one of UK’s top 100 female entrepreneurs, one of top 50 twitter influencers in the world for gender inclusion, a Nottingham legend and her podcast one of the top 5 podcasts in the UK for women in business.


Sheryl Jefferson – Light Tree Media & Light Tree Lead Gen

I am PASSIONATE about my business and my skills; I strive to share my passion for marketing with my community in everything I do.

Sheryl is the founder and Director of Light Tree Lead Gen Facebook & Instagram Ads agency. She’s had over a decade of experience working with one of the biggest retailers in the world and uses her insight to help e-commerce businesses scale their profits using advanced marketing strategies. She is also the founder of Light Tree Media which provides a source of learning for smaller e-commerce business owners all over the world. Sheryl is a badged Facebook Marketing Partner and has worked and consulted with some of the worlds biggest brands including Cath Kidson, Ebay, Zazzle, Jigsaw UK and Australia Facebook and Ohmme.


Alex Cachia – CodeHarbour

 I joined a technology meetup called codeHarbour which allows tech enthusiasts to watch talks relating to tech as well as network with other businesses in Kent. After a couple of months, I learnt that the organisers were stepping down so in January 2019 I decided to take over as event coordinator and host for the event. After four months of planning and discussion with local businesses, I was able to relaunch codeHarbour in April and have since gone on to run eight highly successful events, of which I have received positive feedback from my attendees in terms of quality of the talks, the venues acquired and the food and drinks provided. I am now the first woman to act as coordinator for codeHarbour in its five-year history. 

My name is Alex Cachia [Ka-Key-Ah] and I am a full stack web and database developer from Canterbury. I started my business last year as I have a passion for technology and want to inspire other women to pursue careers in development. It was this passion that has led me to taking over as host and coordinator of codeHarbour, a free technology meetup based in Kent, of which I am the first woman to do so in its five-year history. The aim of codeHarbour is to bring like minded individuals together once a month for a night of tech talks, pizza and socialising. I am currently in my first year as host and have watched the event grow in popularity and maintained a consistent level of quality in terms of speakers, venues and most importantly: pizza!


 Emmy McCarthy – Amsterdam Mamas

What makes me unique is the way in which I approach community building. Although community building is one of the oldest skill sets we have, how you blend that into an increasingly digital world has been challenging. I have always believed that community change happens at the intersection of the human and digital experience but when I started I had no role models for that. I had to read and learn and borrow ideas from every other industry to layer it into my own.

We have been brave, prepared to fail at every turn and stayed nimble to change. We also resisted the easy route to take money in exchange for access to our community. Instead we held our boundaries and beliefs that there were more ethical ways to fund communities. I’m an introvert, not a natural candidate for a community leader. I don’t have thousands of instagram followers, but I do know how to bring thousands of people together in a meaningful way.

I believe that communities will save the world. I’ve been building communities across Europe since Y2K. Before we liked each other on Facebook, before we became a number on someone’s mailing list, I was helping humans connect to humans. Since 2010 I have grown and run the not-for-profit community Amsterdam Mamas. We connect almost 18,000 parents across the city and beyond to the information and support they need to raise their family. This has been achieved with no external grants or funding and entirely through the efforts of a dedicated volunteer team with the support of the community. I now work with other community focused organisations to help them make a meaningful change. I believe that we all have the ability to make a difference to create the communities and the change we want to see in the world.


Charlotte Wibberley – VIPVA & Charlotte Wibberley Ltd

Over the past 4 years, through coaching, connecting, supporting and championing existing and aspiring VAs, I feel that I have made a significant contribution to driving the industry forward, creating a collaborative community and improving awareness around VAs. I’ve built a 2000+ VA strong online community, helped dozens of freelancers to build sustainable and professional Virtual Assistant/Online Business Manager businesses, and introduced VIP VA accreditation to help make professional business standards (insurance, professional business contracts, etc.) the industry norm.

Charlotte leapt into self-employment and started her first online business, Blossom Executive Support in 2012. This multi-award winning Virtual Assistant business provided entrepreneurs and small business owners the opportunity to outsource their admin, client relationship management, social media and more. This success enabled her to find my own passion in supporting successful women juggling family and businesses.

She transitioned into an Online Business Manager, Project Manager and founded VIPVA in 2016. Today, Charlotte works with female business owners as an Online Business Strategist, Technical Implementor and Business Coach. She’s deeply passionate about coaching and mentoring both established and aspiring female entrepreneurs to realise their potential, be top of their game and build a business around their lifestyles.

Charlotte’s big why is focussed around her two big passions: supporting women in creating and growing businesses and supporting her young family.


Sian Conway – Ethical Hour

I started searching online for forums or groups I could join, but as this was pre-Blue Planet II and the recent surge in awareness of the climate emergency, I struggled to find anything. I began connecting with individuals who had lots of knowledge and experience to share, and I learnt so much from my online conversations – but I was disheartened that there wasn’t a place for us all to connect and discuss these important topics together. That’s how the idea for #EthicalHour was born. I set up a Twitter account, set a date for our first Twitter chat and started tweeting everyone I’d ‘met’ online to invite them to join. Our first chat was more popular that I could have ever imagined – attracting attention from big organisations like Oxfam and Divine Chocolate, and it’s gone from strength to strength ever since.

Sian Conway is the Founder of #EthicalHour – the world’s first and largest online network for people who want to live and work more ethically and sustainably.

She has worked around the world on social impact projects and now supports ethical and sustainable entrepreneurs and organisations as an ethical marketing strategist and business mentor. A bestselling author and speaker, Sian was Green & Eco Influencer of the Year 2018 and in 2019 she was personally invited to be a DEFRA Year of Green Action Ambassadors in recognition of her work to inspire individuals, communities and businesses to live more ethically and sustainably.


Laura Moore – The Hub

Our FB community is amazing, freelancers working together to support each other rather than view each other as competition. Every single day they are helping each other find, win and retain clients. We’ve also supported hundreds of freelance SMMs to start and grow their businesses using the social media managers toolkit. And are now helping SMMs and business owners to understand Facebook ads with our online (live) course. Our whole aim is to help people to grow a business that works on their terms AND actually puts food on the table.

Laura Moore is a freelance Facebook Ads strategist and co-founder of The Hub for Social Media Managers. She is a self confessed social media addict & is passionate about supporting other social media pros to achieve their goals inside their popular (and free) Facebook group and with the legendary Social Media Manager’s Toolkit and Facebook Ads Course.


Laura Davis – The Hub

Our FB community is amazing, freelancers working together to support each other rather than view each other as competition. Every single day they are helping each other find, win and retain clients. We’ve also supported hundreds of freelance SMMs to start and grow their businesses using the social media managers toolkit. And are now helping SMMs and business owners to understand Facebook ads with our online (live) course. Our whole aim is to help people to grow a business that works on their terms AND actually puts food on the table.

Laura Davis is a freelance Social Media & Ads Manager and also co-founder of The Hub for Social Media Managers. She loves social media & supporter other freelancers to achieve their goals in their hugely popular and busy free Facebook group and via their much loved Social Media Manager Toolkit and Facebook Ads Course.

Sandra Patterson – Kids Bee Happy Ltd

 Building a community is challenging, building a community of people building their own businesses is even more challenging, but where I stand out is that we have built a community that where everyone is helping everyone else build their business, where everyone is running, and building to create a much bigger business than just them themselves.

I am CEO of an arts and crafts distribution company and our primary product is Sand Art. We sell through our own direct sales network of 300 branded consultants operating from Orkney down to the Channel Islands, and we have also replicated out business model with a partner in South Africa, providing a foundation for further international growth. In the UK we also sell directly to multi site corporate partners such as Parkdean, Haven etc. I am a Chartered Accountant by training, qualifying with Arthur Andersen, and first went self employed in 2001 with a local village store. Myself and my husband also built an online courier platform which we successfully sold to the US market leader in 2010 I am completely passionate about achieving equality and creating a working environment fit for 21st century families. Kids Bee Happy is a Scottish Pledge company, our working style embraces proper flexible working and we are heading towards achieving the four day week by 2021. I adore business. My training and background teaching me early in my career that all business skills and knowledge is infinitely transferable. My speciality is strategy and big picture, and understanding the detail needed to achieve that. My background in the 3Principles understanding also gives me a grounding that reduces stress, improves decision making, and creates an openess to new opportunities and thinking.


Erin Heenan – Pickr

I’m proud to be the Community Manager for Pickr, a Norwich based tech start-up that empowers businesses to deliver major infrastructure projects, by changing the way they build and empower their delivery teams. I was the first marketing hire, so it’s been an amazing experience to help tell Pickr’s story from the beginning, particularly now as it gets increasingly promising as our story unfolds!

Erin Heenan is the Community manager for Norwich-based Start-up Pickr. Pickr is a technology first-solution to getting the job done. The business, which helps ambitious contractors and businesses work better together, has secured over 8k active users in a niche market in just 6 months since launch.


Dolores Andrew-Gavin – IrishHealthHour

I, Dolores Andrew-Gavin set out to create a community which is inclusive and helpful, collaborative and not competitive. There are many people doing the same type of work and especially in the area of coaching that I am in, but the main difference is that we are all individual people working in different ways. Not everyone is OUR client and each of us resonates with different people. By offering a space where people can come and be their authentic selves, it supports them grow both personally and as businesspeople. If I see someone on the fringe of the hashtag hour, perhaps they like a post, I draw them in and ask them to share with us what they do, should they wish to. By doing this I am helping people see the great service they have to offer! Recently a girl from England liked a post during the hashtag hour, and I invited her in share with us what she does. Now she joins the hour regularly and she tags #irishhealthhour with each new episode of her podcast on mental health.

My name is Dolores Andrew-Gavin. I am the Founder of IrishHealthHour a global health and wellness community. My passion is to help people become the master storytellers of their life and to create content coming from their passion and how they want to show up in the business world. We all have a WHY that makes us the unique individuals we are. When we find our own story and come from this place in our work and in our personal life everything changes as we are working in alignment with our core beliefs and values. There is less push and pull as we are working authentically. I created the #IrishHealthHour community and hashtag hour to offer a space for people to network on line in the sometimes crazy fast digital world where we try to fit in instead of feeling like we belong. It is open to everyone to join and share what it is they do. AND there is a wellness angle to everything; if you help people with their social media then you are having an effect on your client’s mindset by taking away their overwhelm! If you are a financial advisor you are likely taking the stress from people around their finances! I am also an author, podcaster and speaker.

Sian Meades-Williams – Freelance Writing Jobs

Freelance Writing Jobs is a digital initiative that really filled a gap in the market. I launched the newsletter on Valentine’s Day in 2018 after a particularly difficult six months of freelancing; I had to postpone my MA halfway through because I couldn’t afford the fees. When work finally picked up again (and I went back to university to finish my degree), I had honed my job seeking skills to quickly seek out the best freelance writing gigs. The newsletter was my way of sharing these opportunities with other freelancers.

Sian Meades-Williams is a freelance writer with over a decade of writing experience. She’s made digital newsletters her speciality, as editor of the popular media newsletter Freelance Writing Jobs, and cult lifestyle newsletter Domestic Sluttery. She’s also the newsletter editor for the slow lifestyle magazine The Simple Things. Alongside her digital projects, she’s written for The New York Times, The Guardian, and Sunday Times Style magazine. She’s also Project Calm’s travel columnist. She’s working on a book with Unbound – The Pyjama Myth: the Freelance Writer’s Survival Guide and is freelance agony aunt for the IPSE – The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed. When she’s not writing or searching for London’s finest pain aux raisins, Sian can be found in her ballet shoes trying to nail a pirouette.


Tanja Sharpe – The Creative Counsellors Club Ltd

I set out to connect people through online community so that together we can begin to change the way mental health is viewed and tackled globally.

I recognised that the current counselling and mental health system needed a shake up and a more creative approach so that many more people are able to access support in a way that feels right for them. I knew that we needed to be a voice for change and I could never have guessed just how much impact we would have in the world. We set out to make ripples and we are now making waves.

I’m a published author, Counsellor and online social entrepreneur. Im also the Founder, Director & Community Leader for The Creative Counsellors Club, a growing digital community of over 11500 counsellors and therapists from 99 different countries. We are on a mission to end the global mental health crisis through The Power of Community & Creativity.

I founded our community in April 2017 from my kitchen table and in 2019 I was recognised by Facebook as “one of 115 most inspiring Community Leaders in the world” and invited to join their year long fellowship program. In 2019 we launched our Big Ripple Project and held 45 in person community gatherings, trained 1400 members through our online courses & membership platform, hosted self-care retreats, conferences and launched peer support circles in 21 cities run by our team of 21 Ambassadors. We are a self-sustaining community and aim to triple our impact in 2020 by reaching new members so we can continue to make waves in the mental health world.


Suzanne Alderson – Parenting Mental Health

From a simple Facebook group, Parenting Mental Health now connects thousands of families to others with similar experiences each year through online Peer Mentoring, online Listening Circles, and online training from me and psychologists and other professionals that they may not get an opportunity to connect or engage with. This digital community has created opportunities for others who have been through the experiences to give back. We have placed our videos promoting the free Community support on digital signage in over 500 GP’s surgeries in the UK, as well as Australia – giving us a monthly offline reach of around 3.5m.

Suzanne Alderson is a speaker, writer, and community leader and Founder of Parenting Mental Health. Suzanne started the organisation in 2016 to support, educate, and empower parents of young people suffering with mental illness following her experiences with her child. She supports over 15,000 families across the digital channels, and delivers online training in her methodolgy, Partnering, not Parenting. She was recognised by Facebook in 2019 as one of the world’s leading community leaders and made a Fellow of their inaugural Community Leadership Program.

Suzanne’s first book on parenting a child with a mental health issue will be published by Vermillion in October 2020. Suzanne’s digital experience started in the 1990s when she co-founded the first of 2 digital agencies and completed the first online transaction in the UK in the ‘90s.


Louise Upchurch – Mush

I have been working as community manager/head of community at Mush for almost 2 years and working on growing, developing and meeting the specific needs of our community.  Building dynamic, positive communities, working closely with engineers and having meaningful impact are the key drivers for me. I have a real passion for bringing people together – creating inclusive, safe and dynamic communities. This is more than a job it’s almost a way of life as to me Community should be at the heart of everything!

Louise Upchurch Mum of 2, Head of Community at Mush: Specialist in building safe, positive and vibrant communities.


Stacey Calder – Business Success Network

The Business Success Network and Magazine was born giving Stacey the chance to support other businesses, work with great clients and build a team of experts within that network that complimented what she offered. She now runs the network, online community,has a podcast and last year launched an app bringing it all together in one place. 

Stacey Calder is a Speaker and trainer, social media manager and online community builder. Owner and editor of the Business Success Magazine. Campaigner. Super mum/guardian to a not quite normal family.


Berenice Smith – Company Name? Hello Lovely’ and ‘The Full Stop’ podcast

The Full Stop podcast is the only one of it’s kind. There are plenty of infertility podcasts but we’re different in that we have mixed genders so male infertility gets a voice. Currently there are no stats on suicide or mental health in connection with male infertility and we believe that gently opening up this conversation through podcasts can create data which can help mental health support services.

Berenice Smith MA, is a wearer of Dr Martens, typography obsessive, designer of practical and beautiful bespoke websites, branding, books and marketing material. She lives in Cambridge, where she can be found chatting to her dog or podcasting in her spare time.


Ebony Escalona – Vets Stay Go Diversify!

Ebony set up the Vets Stay Go Diversify! (VSGD) community 3 years ago to help her peers who were leaving the veterinary profession in droves, suffering from mental health issues (vets are 4x more likely the public to commit suicide) and wondering how they could become unstuck in their careers. People in healthcare leave very little in the tank for them as caring for others comes more naturally. veterinary work can be geographically and mentally isolated and VSGD aims to bridge and connect the humans behind the profession to inspire career journeys. VsgD is made up of over 13,000 veterinary professionals, running mentorship, live career Q and As, anonymous posting service, award winning live events and more. Partnering with congresses and organisations in the vet sector to encourage peer to peer learning and inspirational stories

Ebony is a GP vet, vetmed educator, speaker and mentor. She focuses on unlocking people’s potential and building confidence in others through her advisory positions with the VDS Training team and as a consultant to a number of congresses. She is fascinated with harnessing technology to support animal health education in developing countries and collaborates with tech charity Learn Appeal and Brooke. She is the founder of the online support platform Vets: Stay, Go or Diversify bringing peer to peer inspiration for career pathways within and beyond the profession. Ebony is also a visiting lecturer at Surrey University and publishes work in the field of gut health on whole horse health. Ebony is the recipient of the inaugural RCVS Inspiration Award and sits on the executive board of StreetVet


Kirstie Smith – Social Circle

The brand values for Social Circle are: LEARN CONNECT SHARE …and this comes through in everything I do in all of my various roles! I never like standing still and love continuing to push my knowledge for my own work, my students and my clients. As Gary V says ” innovate or die” and I totally live by this…if you aren’t pushing forward in our industry, then you are going to get left behind. I’m a huge advocate of the inbound approach (this comes through in my marketing approach and in my general philosophy in life!). I like to give give give and expect nothing in return. 

With 10 years’ experience working in Social Media and Digital Marketing as a practitioner, Kirstie’s work is focused on driving revenue through co-ordinated ecommerce, social media and digital strategy, consultancy, and training. She currently heads up the Marketing team at Digital Cake – an ecommerce agency based in the Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham. Kirstie is also a lecturer at Birmingham City University for the BA(Hons) Digital Marketing and the Future Media: Pro MA / MSc courses, where she is encouraging the development of the next wave of passionate creatives by teaching them about the joys of digital marketing! She also runs a monthly meet-up for like-minded marketers called Social Circle. Social Circle was born out of curiosity and the pursuit of delivering great work for our businesses and clients. They meet monthly in Birmingham and Sydney to discuss innovations in the world of social media and host an industry guest speaker.

Anne Scott – Girl Gone international

Girl Gone International is a not for profit community started in 2010 in Hamburg when I moved to my 10th city in 10 years and felt alone in the world, trying to start a new life far from friends, family and the familiar all while navigating in a foreign language. 

I felt if I could just find a friend, another woman in the city who was living a similar experience, I wouldn’t feel so alone on this journey. 

I went online and I did find one, in fact over 300,000 to date! 

Girl Gone International is now a safe home away from home for women from every country and culture in the world. Our community represents the fast growing nation of digital generation, mobile women who live far from their place of birth through choice or circumstance. 

On a budget of zero, I have dedicated the last 10 years of my life to building the community so that women can connect online and face to face in 200 local communities (we use Facebook, Meetup, Whatsapp and Wechat) in 40 countries via 15000 free events to date. 

My mission is the same mission I had on day one : to create a meaningful online and in real life community for one another to belong to wherever we are. I am proud that my team of 260 community managers all share my belief that together we go farther.

Our community turns 10 this year.

I believe in leading from the centre, and am known for strong, mission led, value driven community leadership which has created a strong healthy culture over 10 years. 

My personal mission to to make online and offline worlds collide.

Girl Gone International is an empowered community of both local community leaders and community members who together have a deep social impact globally and locally, online and offline. 

I have over 10 years personally on-boarded and trained over 600 women has developed a unique digital training and support system for community building across the whole community lifecycle and across the globe so we can recruit and train our local volunteer teams (of 1000s). We share our strategies with other non profit organisations and communities to help them scale and deepen their reach and impact.

I have spoken across the world on how to create community to connect a disconnected digital world and I am a regular keynote speaker and panelist (for example at Facebook alongside Jay Shetty, headliner at MSessions and more)

I am also an advisor to large brands such as Facebook, Tui, Etsy, Emoov, Neighbour, Ella and more, working in the digital marketing and community space to create communities with meaningful social impact and ROI, taking communities and platform based business and multi-sided marketplaces from ignition to scale. 

I was awarded in 2018 and 2019 as one of Facebook’s 100 most meaningful community leaders online and offline for my work on reducing social isolation among women using digital platforms. 

I also have an interesting backstory as the daughter of the first lesbian couple to marry in Scotland. I attribute my love for community building to my mothers (Susan Douglas Scott was awarded a CBE in 2019) who spent their life fighting to reform oppressive structures and taught me that community is crucial for well-being and equality. I now harness the digital technology that was not available then to those women, to connect and empower women. 

This year marks 10 years that I have been using digital technology to build a global and local, online and in real life non profit volunteer run communities for women living far from the location of their birth which empowers women to go anywhere and belong everywhere. 


Rosie Davies – Social World

I set up a Facebook group called Women’s Business intuition. From the name you can see it was created just for women. I felt that women, especially in the earlier stages of business needed extra support as well as a safe space to chat. I’m really proud of this group and the facet that it grew to 500 members within 12 months. Most of the ladies in the group are mums in business working around their (often young) families and wanted to feel that they were contributing to the household budget. 

Rosie was brought up in a musical family and enjoyed playing the violin, oboe and singing. She later joined the Royal Marines Band Service where she met her husband. After leaving the Armed Forces to have her two children she started working in events. Before long though she found her true calling in helping businesses (especially events businesses) with their social media. Rosie is passionate about helping other businesses grow using social media and integrated technologies. She regularly helps female business owners and members of the Armed Forces Community through a variety of training classes including a paid members group called The Orchestra. Her love of music can still be seen in her business as she wants to hear ‘Social Media Sing’ for everyone.

Congratulations to these incredible Female Community Leaders!

Join us on the 9th March in London as we celebrate international women’s day and the work women are doing in digital and business.


Related Articles

40 Digital Women to Watch in 2020

This isn’t a list of Digital Marketers or the Most Influential in People in Digital. This is a list to showcase women who have been…

Shortlist: Role Model of the Year – Digital Women Awards

The Digital Women Role Model of the Year recognises and celebrates women who are positive and confident in themselves. lifting others up. A person who is doing…

17 Amazing Digital Entrepreneurs!

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. The Digital Women Entrepreneur of The Year Award…

8 Brilliant Podcasts Produced and Hosted by Women

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. Digital Women’s Podcast of the Year award recognises…

Shortlist: Digital Entrepreneur – Digital Women Awards

The Digital Women Entrepreneur of The Year Award recognises and celebrates women who are are operating a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal…

6 Incredible women who champion other women

The Digital Women Awards which takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. Whether that be by leveraging digital communities…

12 Inspiring Role Models!

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. The Digital Women Role Model of the Year…

6 Inspiring Digital Women-Led Communities and Their Leads

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. Digital Women’s Woman-Led Community of the Year award…

10 Brilliant Virtual Assistants!

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. The Digital Women Virtual Assistant of The Year…

10 Wonderful Carers Working in Digital

The Digital Women Awards takes place every year to celebrate the work women are doing through digital. The Digital Women Carer of the Year Awards…