Fast Forward 15 founder Fay Sharpe awarded OBE

Fay Sharpe, founder of the mentorship programme Fast Forward 15, has been named on the Queen’s New Year Honours List 2022.

Sharpe was awarded an OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for her services to mentoring women, gender equality and charitable fundraising.

In a LinkedIn post, Sharpe said: “I am so humbled to be named in the Queens New Year Honours List. It goes to show it doesn’t matter who you are or what background you come from, if your heart is in the right place good things will come to you.

“I’m proud of our industry and the changes we’ve made to level women up in events.”

Sharpe told M&IT: “What an honour, this is not just for me it’s for women and our industry. Being awarded an OBE is the ultimate recognition for the work I have done not just being a role model for other women in our sector but also putting on the agenda and talking about equality and the challenges we face. I know that this alone has resulted in change. That’s always been my objective and I’m really proud of that.”

She added: “I really believe my work over the last 10 years has resonated with women and men across our sector and slowly but surely we have seen positive action and change for good in the area of equality and diversity and I see women becoming more confident.”

Congratulatory messages from fellow event industry colleagues came flooding in their hundreds following Sharpe’s announcement.

Jacqui Davies, head of group events at Zurich Insurance Company said: “Congratulations Fay, how amazing. Well-deserved and a true testament to your hard work and dedication to our industry… one of my sayings is ‘you reap what you sow’ and you definitely are – truly deserved.”

Mark Riches, an events industry advisor said: “A very honourable reflection of your career, but more importantly your work for levelling up opportunities for women in our world. Congrats to you Fay.”

Sharpe’s events industry journey began in the late 80s when she co-founded venue-finding agency IBR. In 2005 she masterminded the rebrand of events business Zibrant, which was bought by Nigel Cooper’s Motivcom in 2007 in a £15.9m deal. Motivcom was subsequently purchased by Sodexo in 2012, at which point Cooper and Sharpe bought back Zibrant.

BCD Meetings & Events purchased the Zibrant brand in July 2016 and Sharpe stayed on as vice president before leaving the agency in late 2020.

Sharpe told M&IT: “For the first part of my career, I was focused on personal success and then 10 years ago, I had one of those epiphany moments when I had achieved the goals I wanted to and thought what next? I set out to help others particularly women as I had worked with many fantastic women who had either been held back, not given opportunity or didn’t have confidence in themselves and I thought I can do something about that so I did.

“Having started from social housing background and working my hind off to be someone and achieve something in my life, I wanted to leave a legacy for the next generation of women in events and hospitality. It’s all well and good saying we are ‘levelling up’ but we have to believe that and we have to keep pushing forward whether it be equality or diversity or inclusion.

Looking to the future, Fast Forward 15 is launching two new brands – Mentoring Excellence and an as-yet-unnamed wellness brand.

Sharpe’s other professional achievements include winning the M&IT Personality of the Year in 2018.

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