Cotswolds entrepreneur named one of the 50 most inspirational businesswomen in the UK

The entrepreneur, campaigner and businesswoman behind the fast-growing Cotswold-based Little Soap Company has been awarded a coveted Women in Innovation Award 2023.

By Andrew Merrell  |  Published
Emma Heathcote-James has been named as one of the UK's 50 most influential women in business by Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation.

What started as a hobby business has grown into a multi-million pound success story and turned the pioneering entrepreneur who founded it into both a campaigner, gay role model and now winner of the Women in Innovation Award 2023.

It is the latest accolade for Emma Heathcote-James, who runs the multi award-winning Little Soap Company; and it comes with a bespoke package of mentoring, coaching and business support, plus a £50,000 grant – which will be used to launch a yet to be revealed 'new product'.

Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation programme identifies what it calls the top 50 pioneering female entrepreneurs and supports their innovative, ambitious business plans in the hope they will 'inspire others and have a positive economic, environmental, and societal impact'.

Heathcote-James, who began making ‘natural and organic soaps’ on her kitchen table in 2008, said: ‘This type of validation and funding with government backing will enable us to continue to innovate and shake up what is currently a very unsustainable and un-eco category.

'It will give us the potential to increase the size of our business by 30 per cent leading to greater employment, adding value to the local economy and potentially saving 120 billion plastic containers a year.’

She added: ‘As a woman in business there are very few role models. While the numbers of female founders are rising, we still only make up 23 per cent of businesses with a larger employee count.

‘And based on our calculations, we estimate there to be around 15,000 female founders in the UK who are also gay – however finding those who are open and vocal about it is a real challenge.

‘I feel passionate that I should be a visible role model for those like me, who are female and gay, and want to run their own business and make a difference in the world. You can’t be what you can’t see.

'We need to remember that 50 per cent of the UK population is female so we need to see more women in innovation – the more of us that go for it the more of us there will be. Change is happening slowly – it’s important to be the change you want to see.’

Today The Little Soap company’s products are stocked in supermarket shelves like Waitrose, and the firm is a B Corp certified, carbon negative business with accreditation testifying to its products being vegan, cruelty free, RSPO Palm, and Made in UK.

In April 2022 Little Soap Company, which is headquartered in Broadway and makes its products in the UK, was also granted a Queen’s Award for Enterprise for Innovation for their Eco Warrior range.

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