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Meet this year's winning Pioneers

Read how our Pioneers won over our panel with their innovative businesses.

Neil Wilson

Thermal Issues

Thermal Issues

Thermal Issues manufacture bespoke, thermally conductive, electrically isolating, sealing gaskets and anti-vibration pads for electronic assemblies. Parts are designed and manufactured using digital technology, with no tooling and next-day turnaround. As the Managing Director, Neil has tight control of all areas of the business including sales, logistics, finance, marketing, production and R&D.

Neil’s passion for service and customer satisfaction as well as his commitment to delivering quality products quickly and efficiently greatly contributed to the judges’ decision to award Thermal Issues. With his new mentor, Neil is looking to improve upon the effectivity of the company’s day-to-day activities, specifically focussing on manufacturing operations.

“Since winning a Pioneer 10 Award, I have been able to discuss a number of complex situations, and gain an understanding of what drives our customers. It’s given me an opportunity to review our business model and use this as a springboard to enhance the company’s capabilities”


Sarah Cripps

Salad Skills

Salad Skills

Salad Skills works ethically, innovatively and honestly to recruit apprentices as well as supporting organisations with accessing government funded training especially apprenticeship levy-paying companies. Their specialist apprenticeship recruitment service, which includes a range of tailor-made assessment and profiling techniques, significantly increases the chances of matching the right individual to the apprenticeship role. Their apprenticeship support team offers ongoing telephone support and evaluation demonstrating their passion for talent development. 

Salad Skills stood out to the Pioneer 10 judges because of its comprehensive range of services and the level of personal support the team offers to their many happy customers. The directors are confident that the sector expert mentoring, through the Pioneer 10 initiative, will strengthen their strategic planning and provide them with a more targeted approach to business growth.

“We’ve had one meeting with our mentor with follow-up support too and it’s already making a difference to our business. Additionally our Recruitment Assistant Apprentice has gained broader work experience beyond Salad Skills with our mentor organisation which has been hugely beneficial for her” said Sarah Cripps, Managing Director. 


John Fannon



GIS4Business is an independent small business, formed in 2004, specialising in mapping and geographic information systems consultancy, services, software and data. Their goal is to enable organisations in a variety of sectors to make better use of geographic information within their business operations to aid decision making, increase efficiency and improve the management of their assets.

The Pioneer 10 judges were impressed with GIS4Business’s commitment to making a real impact to businesses and how mapping and geographical information can be used to deliver benefits to different organisations. John is confident that the mentoring and marketing support provided by Pioneer 10 will aid GIS4Business in developing their marketing strategy and core product and service offering.

“Winning an award with Pioneer 10 will assist us with working towards our growth aspirations and raises our profile locally as an innovative business. We are looking forward to accessing additional business mentoring and marketing expertise.”


Gemma & Terry Streather

Oakwood Training

Oakwood Training

Husband and wife team Gemma and Terry Streather started up Oakwood Training after both serving in the Leicestershire Police Force. Their shared passion for community safety led to the pair deciding to give up their police officer roles and begin training organisations across the UK on how to look after the physical and mental wellbeing of their employees.

Oakwood Training was chosen by the Pioneer 10 judges due to their outstanding commitment to tackling serious issues such a lone working, physical intervention, anxiety, stress and depression. They help staff deal with challenging and aggressive behaviour and to understand the crucial link between pressures in the workplace and their own mental wellbeing. The team believe their forthcoming mentoring will add great value to their business, with an aim to focus on strategic priorities for driving growth.

“We feel very honoured and delighted to have won this prestigious award. We are excited to be growing our business to the next level and are hugely grateful for all the help and support the Pioneer 10 program had given us so far.”



Nenette Scrivener

Nenette Chocolates

Nenette Chocolates

After making chocolates for around 10 years, Nenette Scrivener started up Nenette Chocolates with a vision to create luxury, homemade treats and truffles in a range of exciting and unexpected flavours. Nanette is proud to use fresh, local ingredients for her chocolates, and offers dairy-free and gluten-free alternatives on request. As the company is still in its infancy, Nanette runs the entire business herself: sales and marketing, chocolate production, stock management and finance.

It was Nenette’s outstanding product range and commitment to her craft that made Nanette Chocolates stand out to this year’s Pioneer 10 judges, alongside her impressive reputation for beating even the top high-street chocolatiers on quality. With her mentor, Nenette is particularly looking for guidance about how to promote and grow the brand and expand routes to market.

“As I am the only person who works for Nenette Chocolates, I acknowledged quickly that there are significant gaps in my knowledge and experience that Pioneer 10 mentors would be able to help me with. There is a broad spectrum of expertise in the Pioneer 10 team that they have generously offered to share which is invaluable for new start-up companies such as mine.”


Jude Kenny and Stacey Barthorpe

Molly Mae

Molly Mae

After over 6 years of running her own card and gift shop, Stacey Barthorpe wanted to put her ideas and insight to good use. Joining with esteemed graphic designer Jude Kenny, Molly Mae was launched in 2009, specialising in beautiful, design-led greeting cards for all occasions. Molly Mae cards are created from original images, designed around hand drawings and incorporating quirky patterns in contemporary colours that give the cards a unique and recognisable style.
This is the second year that Stacey and Jude have won a Pioneer 10 Award. This year, the pair are looking forward to working with their mentors on their business model and internal procedures to help open the door to new exciting opportunities as well as drive operational efficiency so they can continue to grow the business.

“The support we received from Pioneer 10 previously has really helped to shape and grow our business, so we were keen to enter again and to continue to benefit from the expert support given. We can’t wait to see what opportunities the support and mentoring from Pioneer 10 will open up for us this time around.”