The Retail Week Rising Stars Awards celebrate the brightest young retail talent. We catch up with some of the previous winners.

The Retail Week Rising Stars Awards highlight the very best young talent in retail, from store managers to buyers. They often represent a dream come true for winners as well. Standing out among peers in front of a panel of successful retailer judges is a real achievement, and one that is coveted across the industry.

But once the celebrations have wound down and it’s time to go back to work, what comes next? Retail Week finds out from the last five winners of the overall Rising Star of the Year prize – the top honour of the event – to find out what it meant to them, and how far they’ve come since.

2009

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Jenna Anians, MyDeco.com

Less than a year after her big moment on the stage, Jenna Anians took one of the bravest decisions of her life. She quit MyDeco.com to become one of the founders of a whole new venture in retailing.

The result was Tribesports, which she describes as social commerce for the international sportswear industry. Tribesports uses social networks to reach a community of 200,000 shoppers, who are invited to engage with brands and give feedback about products. That unique approach means the retailer’s products are constantly being updated according to what shoppers say they want.

Anians says she was always an innovative thinker but winning the Rising Stars Award helped set her on a path towards turning her vision into reality.

She says: “Winning the award definitely gave me resoluteness in my decision to branch out and start Tribesports. The panel were hugely supportive of new approaches – challenging the status quo, understanding data and closing the online/offline gap in retail – all of which underlie our whole approach with Tribesports”.

2010

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Sarah White, Boots

Sarah White always loved her role in HR, engaging with colleagues and helping them to develop their careers.

But when she headed to London for the Rising Stars Awards ceremony, she never imagined she would scoop the overall prize.

“It was a night I will remember for the rest of my career,” says White. “To win the award was such a shock. To think that an HR person could win it was amazing.

“There were so many people who had done things from a general retail perspective, so to be recognised like that showed that HR can make a difference.”

The difference to her own career was instant. After years of boosting others in their work, she was promoted to head of capability at Boots’ support office, a buzzing department of 60 people.

But her biggest challenge was yet to come. With the confidence that came from winning the award behind her, White took the big decision to move out of HR and into general retail. And now as a regional manager with 18 Boots stores and 190 people under her leadership, she hasn’t looked back.

2011

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Kate Barrett, Sainsbury’s

Kate Barrett has moved on at Sainsbury’s to the frontline of retail, having been promoted to manager of a 50,000 sq ft store in Bolton. She was previously based at the grocer’s head office in Holborn, where she was a retail support manager when she received the award.

Kate says: “It was a real privilege to receive The Rising Stars award in 2012 and it’s been a great source of recognition and pride with my peers and those on my team.

“It’s hard work and in order to demonstrate leadership you need to really prove yourself in the cut and thrust of frontline retailing – so I’m learning a lot from my time as store manager in Bolton.”

2012

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Francesca Hewitt, New Look

Francesca Hewitt still remembers how she felt when she made her way to the stage to collect her Rising Stars award.

“I was so overwhelmed,” she says. “People were just grabbing me and saying ‘well done.’ It was amazing.”

At the time she was an assistant merchandiser with big ambitions. Less than two years later, she is regional business manager for New Look’s Asian division, jetting between the UK and Asia to deal with the retailer’s franchise partners in the region.

She has been in the globe-trotting role for a year now, but she says it was winning the award and the two promotions in the four months afterwards that put her on the map at New Look.

She says: “I was so pleased. I’d been working so hard to get to that point for such a long time. When I got back to work everyone was really pleased and congratulated me. I was getting congratulatory emails from people I’d never even met before.”

2013

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Terry Washington, Vodafone

Terry Washington has had quite a journey since his first day as a Christmas temp at Vodafone’s Orpington store 10 years ago.

By the time he caught the eyes of the Rising Stars Awards judges last year, he had risen to become Vodafone’s flagship regional manager for Greater London.

That was just eight months ago, but winning the award wasn’t the end. Since then Washington has been promoted three times. At present heading Vodafone’s enterprise transformation operations, he has been picked for the company’s senior leadership programme and has been called on to consult at its division in Qatar.

Where does the award fit into all this? Washington explains: “It was a very proud moment to win UK Area Manager of the Year but to win Rising Stars was the proudest moment of my career. I would say it has helped my confidence, as you can often not know how other companies operate or how talented my peers in other companies are. To be recognised amongst them is a real UK career boost as opposed to a specific Vodafone one”.

One bonus of winning is exemplified by a contact Washington picked up in the process. BrightHouse’s commercial director Hamish Paton was one of the judges last year, and since then he has stayed in touch with Washington in a mentoring role.

How to enter

The Retail Week Rising Stars Awards 2014 will be held at the Grosvenor House Hotel in London on September 11.

Through these inspiring awards we unearth the wealth of talent that exists in the industry and celebrate the rising stars of retail.

A full list of categories can be found at www.retailweekrisingstars.co.uk. The extended entry deadline is May 16.