Jemma Simpson, 32 from Belfast, has won a prestigious national Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx and Homesense Award, after previously winning the Ulster Bank Enterprise Award in the country final.
Winner of the national NatWest Enterprise Award attended a reception yesterday at Buckingham Palace to meet His Majesty The King, Founder and President of The Prince’s Trust, who congratulated the award winners on their achievements.
Jemma was honoured at this week’s star-studded award ceremony, hosted by Ant and Dec, and attended by many celebrity supporters and Ambassadors of the youth charity. Jemma was presented her award by former professional boxer, Nicola Adams, and England Manager and former international footballer, Gareth Southgate.
The Prince’s Trust and TK Maxx & Homesense Awards recognise young people who have succeeded against the odds, improved their chances in life and had a positive impact on their local community. The NatWest Enterprise Award honours young people who have taken part in The Trust’s Enterprise course and then developed a successful business.
Despite a rocky start in life, Jemma, 32 from Belfast, realised her own potential after being made redundant during the pandemic and is now running a successful, inclusive recruitment company, Diverse Talent.
“I faced many challenges growing up. We moved house a lot and, before I was 16 years old, I’d lived in multiple places including a women’s aid refuge. As the eldest child, I felt a lot of responsibility to look after my Mum and siblings. School wasn’t a priority of mine and when I left at 16 I didn’t have much to show for it. From a very young age, my ambition was to create a better life for myself and my family.
“I got my first job at 17 years old but it required a huge change to my lifestyle. I ended up leaving the family home and living on my own. Looking back, I probably wasn’t mentally ready for it, but I had no other option. However, I pushed myself to shake off my past and focus on my career and what makes me happy. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to accept my sexuality. It was a process that took time, but I’m so proud of where I am now in my life.
“I put a lot of time and work into focusing on myself and healing from past experiences, and working in (what I thought was) my dream job. But then Covid hit, and everything changed when I was made redundant. This was a difficult time and I started to plan what to do next.
“I wanted to complete a CIPD course to become a certified HR professional and The Prince’s Trust offered me financial support with the course fee. They also provided insight into the other ways they could help, including the Enterprise programme.
“Having worked in the Recruitment industry for over 10 years, I’ve dreamt of starting a recruitment company specialising in hiring candidates into STEM jobs and matching them with companies that prioritised equity, diversity and inclusion. However, I had never acted on the idea because I was nervous when it came to understanding both the legality and HMRC-related responsibilities.
“The Prince’s Trust helped me to understand business operations, which included writing a business plan, creating a cashflow and product marketing.”
Jemma has now moved the business into premises in Belfast City Centre and employs a team to cope with demand. She is passionate about helping people find roles with ethical employers that are good places to work. Diverse Talent also sponsors a local football team called Belfast Blaze FC – Northern Ireland’s only LGBTQIA+ football team. Her company regularly hosts networking events, raises awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and is a respected recruitment group within the industry.
“I have so much more self-confidence than I used to and want to make a positive change in the recruitment industry. I’m excited about what the future holds and we’re now in motion to expand Diverse Talent across the UK. I am more satisfied with life than I dreamed I could be.”
On winning the NatWest Enterprise Award, Jemma said: “I feel so fortunate to have come across The Prince’s Trust. They’ve helped me create my dream business and, in doing so, have allowed me to give back to the community too. It’s been an absolute surreal experience winning the NatWest Enterprise Award.”
Samuel Okafor Affluent Head of Client Growth, NatWest said: “As the proud sponsor of the Enterprise Award, we are delighted to name Jemma as this year’s winner. She is a very deserving winner and a true inspiration to so many young and aspiring entrepreneurs across the UK.”
Commenting on Jemma’s win, Gareth Southgate said: “Jemma is an inspiration to all young people out there. With her entrepreneurial spirit, she is a stellar example of how, with the right support, young people can achieve their dreams. I’m very excited to see what the future holds for Diverse Talent!”
Nicola Adams, presented Jemma to His Majesty yesterday. She said: “Huge congratulations to Jemma who has dedicated her career to promoting equality, diversity and inclusion. She is not only making her friends and family proud with her achievements but is also making a positive change in the recruitment industry.”
Youth charity The Prince’s Trust gives young people the skills and confidence to get their lives on track. Three in four young people helped by The Prince’s Trust around the world move into work, training or education.