Top UK Inspirational Women Award For Kate & Laura

Joint directors of Memory Matters SW, Kate Smith and Laura Walker won the title ‘Social Business Leaders of the Year’ in the prestigious NatWest Women in Social Enterprise 100 awards, beating over 300 nominations across the UK and a shortlist of 100.

The sisters in law and former nurses received the accolade at a ceremony in London. A select panel of judges handed out awards to the UK’s most inspirational women in social enterprise in a total of seven categories to celebrate their outstanding achievements in trailblazing social businesses.

Kate and Laura set up Memory Matters in 2010 with a vision to change what they saw as a desperate lack of real support for people living with dementia and their families in the face of increasing demand. Almost three years ago, they opened a public ‘good food’ Café in Plymouth, supporting a dementia information hub upstairs, with all profits going towards the Hub’s work.

The enterprise is based in New George Street in the city centre, but has a reach throughout Devon and Cornwall and nationwide and a staff of 25 plus teams of volunteers. Kate Smith said, “Memory Matters is an umbrella organisation with many projects within it – our aim is always to listen to those that need support and be as reactive as we can to provide solutions in creative ways.

Kate Smith and Laura Walker

We have been running for nearly 10 years and it’s been quite the journey. To be nominated for the WISE 100 List was enough for us, but to be chosen from enterprises across the UK as Social Business Leaders of the Year is amazing, and a bit of a shock as there were some sensational nominees!” Judges assessed thousands of nominations – looking at passion, commitment and leadership. Kate and Laura were praised by the panel for the “huge impact” they are making to tackle the stigma that still surrounds dementia and to change perceptions. 

Judge, Mary Rose Gunn, CEO of The Fore said, “The Café is taking on huge international brands on the high street and winning. It is a fantastic example of how people can make a difference.” Kate Smith added, “Success can be measured in many different ways – our is by the happiness of the team we work with and by the people whose lives we can positively affect. The award has to be dedicated to the amazing teams and supporters we work with – we may drive the ship but they are the engine.”