Swindon's award-winning entrepreneur Sara Tye will be speaking at a major conference in November. Sue Bradley discovers how her enterprising spirit owes much to her Swindon roots.

BUSINESSWOMAN Sara Tye’s long list of achievements is dizzying by anyone’s standards.

She’s one of the top 500 international public relations experts, honing her skills working in high level communication and organisational development roles for such high profile companies as BT, Yellow Pages and Thames Water Utilities.

She took The Body Shop online, making the retailer to become one of the first to establish a global internet presence, and managed the personal PR for the company’s founder the late Dame Anita Roddick for three years.

And she was instrumental in starting and developing the hugely successful ‘Make Your Mark for a Tenner’ campaign and ‘Make a Difference Day’.

These days she splits her time between her Swindon-based public relations company redheadPR, which boasts an impressive list of clients including blue chip companies and charities; the cycling experience company Etape Suisse and a personal portfolio of properties in London and Wiltshire, and she puts her wealth of experience to good use as a motivational speaker, coach, mentor and trainer – as delegates at the forthcoming Women’s Business Club Maximise Conference & Awards will discover.

Alongside her business achievements she is bringing up two daughters, devotes between nine to 14 hours a week to training for triathlons and even finds time to make pots of jam for Christmas presents.

‘Dynamic’ and ‘driven’ are two words that immediately spring to mind to describe Sara, along with ‘incredibly well organised’, a skill she says she began developing as far back as her teenage years.

“I have always been very driven and always done as much as I can with every single minute of the day since I was young,” she explains. “I am a good project manager and organiser because I have been doing it for so long for so many organisations and senior level people and I am very results driven.”

Sara’s actual introduction to the world of business came from the Hillview Residential Home for the Elderly in Swindon, which her parents ran for a decade.

“My mum, Joyce Cook, is a huge inspiration to me,” she says. “She started a residential home when they were only just becoming a thing that was needed and I think that living in the same house and talking to the residents helped to shape me.

“Mum always encouraged me to be independent and to have my own career and life and my own property and money.

“Living in a residential home for the elderly was unusual, but at the same time I would leaf through Vogue magazines and knew I could be successful and known for something.

“Back then I couldn’t wait to leave Swindon and get a high profile job – my whole drive was to try to do something really phenomenal.”

Sara was a high performer at the Commonweal School in Swindon but left without many O’levels, the result, she says, of doing ‘too much’ when she was a teenager, but she went on to rectify the situation by going to college to do retakes. Afterwards she considered moving on to A’levels but, at the age of 17, opted to start at job at the Royal Military College of Science at Shrivenham, working in faculty development with the armed services and the Ministry and Defence.

“It was a time when there were three million unemployed,” says Sara.

“I decided to get a job and study at the same time. I spent six years studying two nights a week and all day on Saturdays at Swindon College’s management centre – even though I went on to move away from the town - and ended up with two post graduate qualifications in management studies."

Sara’s determination and hard work would go on to set the bench mark for her future career and in that time she says she’s never lost her thirst for learning, continually reading the latest books and journal articles on management and business success.

She’s also made a point of spending time networking with other business people, something of which her former boss Anita Roddick was a firm advocate.

“She used to say that women form the best support networks – many co-operatives in India and Africa are run by women,” Sara recalls. “Women’s style of leadership is very different to that of men. We have so many women entrepreneurs now."

The economic slowdown of 2008 was a particularly tough time for entrepreneurs Sara says she experienced a number of low points in the period afterwards.

“The downturn in London was the worst experience of my life and I didn’t know how I was going to come back from it. “I was looking at losing everything I had worked for. It’s taken eight years to get through it and I’ve learned that it doesn’t matter how hard something is, you will come back from it.

Despite the current economic situation, Sara says there’s never been a better time to start a business, especially with the latest advances in computer and communications technologies.

“The first thing I would say is, ‘just do it and don’t worry that it might go wrong’,” she says.

Sara’s recipe for success includes typical business activities such as networking, along with getting plenty of exercise, being sensible when it comes to wine at events, eating healthily and being early to bed and early to rise.

“Doing sport is very important – I’m now fitter than I was when I was younger; I couldn’t do what I do every day without it.

Despite leaving Swindon in pursuit of high profile jobs during her younger years, Sara has chosen to base her PR company in her home town and is passionate about sharing her lessons she has learned in business with others.

• Sara will be presenting her talk ‘Grow Your Business #aheadofthecurve’ at the Women’s Business Club Maximise Conference & Awards at the Pittville Pump Rooms in Cheltenham on November 30.