Meet the mentors and judges

Jo Harley, managing director, Purple Cubed

jo-harley255I’m the MD of Purple Cubed – the go-to company for cool brands and growth businesses who want to engage, develop and retain the best talent, by becoming a great place to work. We’re on a mission to show the world how engaged, happy people are central to business success; we provide award-winning technology and expertise; practical solutions to make the people stuff happen brilliantly and in a joined-up way that is business savvy and culturally aligned.

After graduating with honours from Loughborough University I travelled and worked abroad within leisure retail before gaining a licence for my own UK pub where I increased turnover by 45% in less than two years. I then joined Bacardi-Martini in sales and marketing. Having become increasingly more interested in people engagement and career progression; when, in 2002, Purple Cubed (then learnpurple) advertised for its third employee, I jumped at the opportunity and, having made my mark there, was promoted to the board within two years. I have been heavily involved in growing the business; specifically Purple Cubed’s internationally acclaimed online communications and talent management platform, Talent Toolbox™.

The Acorn Scholarship is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who loves the hospitality industry and wants to progress. A real platform to success you only need look at previous winners to know that it’s an accolade that not only looks great on your CV but will give you exposure to the people in the industry that can mentor and advise you throughout your career.

Hannah Horler, managing director, Cartwheel Recruitment

hannah-horlerFollowing eight years in food and beverage management roles and a further nine years in management recruitment working for someone else, I set up my own business in 2007. 
The business has grown substantially and we now have offices in Nottingham, London and Milton Keynes. We work closely with corporate and independently owned foodservice companies to support them in attracting and recruiting the best middle to senior management.

I am a non-executive director and a life patron of Springboard UK and support fundraising events such as running the hotelympia 10K.  I am a member of the BIFM. I am a judge for a number of Awards; The Catey’s, The Foodservice Catey’s, The Hotel Catey’s and the BIFM Awards. I am also a frequent contributor to the press on matters of recruitment, preparing oneself for interviews and the current employee market.

Having been a part of the Acorn Scholarship since it’s inception, I have been proud to be part of the team in setting the criteria and selecting not only the shortlist but the ultimate winner.  It’s always a pleasure to see how much drive and commitment our previous winners have demonstrated, this is most certainly an accolade whereby the more you are prepared to put in, the more you will get out.  Money simply cannot buy the level of personal mentoring, career development and advice you can gain for 12 months through winning this award.

James Horler, CEO, Ego Restaurants

JH Bishopsgate (2)I am CEO of Ego Restaurants and also a director of Patisserie Valerie, Charterhouse Leisure, Ping Pong and Cartwheel Recruitment.

After a career with Trust House Forte and Granada, I developed Frankie & Benny’s in the mid 1990’s and grew the business to 65 sites. With an excellent team, we then acquired La Tasca in 2001 and grew the company to 74 restaurants across the UK and the USA. La Tasca Plc was floated in 2005 and then sold in 2007.

I’m an avid believer that people make hospitality businesses special and our Ego Restaurants Group has the lowest levels of staff turnover in the industry.

Lisa Jenkins, products and suppliers editor, The Caterer

lisa picAs products and suppliers editor of The Caterer my brief is to immerse myself in the world of food, drink and equipment.  To know the movers and shakers in the hospitality industry and write about the products they are manufacturing, supplying and distributing.

I’ve been in involved in hospitality for most of my life. My parents managed pubs and I worked alongside them from an early age; in the kitchen, behind the bar and front of house.

I have been part of The Caterer team, on-and-off for over 14 years, but I also spent four happy years as group events manager at Malmaison and Hotel du Vin including the opening of six new hotels during a particularly crazy growth period as well as managing team incentive events and the company’s Corker awards.

I also manage The Caterer’s Restaurant of the Year competition in association with Seafish UK, the KP of the Year competition in association with Winterhalter and our annual Product Excellence Awards.

Moira Laird, human resources director, Valor Hospitality Partners

moira-laird-255I am a member of the UK Executive team responsible for group HR activity bringing operating standards and parity across all hotels. I lead the human resource strategy in-line with the changing business objectives, culture and employee engagement programme to ensure we strive to improve our employee experience through engagement  and that Valor Hospitality Partners is ultimately recognised as one of the best hospitality companies to work for, endorsed by the Best Employer Catey Award 2016.

We are no strangers to the service profit chain and know  a successful business, particularly in hospitality, is all about having an engaged people, who deliver great customer service.   Proven opportunities for personal growth and development at all levels, with particular success in internal growth to senior leadership roles.

I am an active member and recent chairman of the Hotel Employers Group and have more than 26 years’ experience in hospitality.

I am a hospitality graduate from Robert Gordon’s University Aberdeen, Scotland.

We love the industry and like the Acorn Scholarship, are on a mission to promote hospitality as a great career choice, what a fantastic way to do it through building our partnership with the  Acorn Scholarship.

Jon Reed, operations director, Purple Cubed

Jon profile picI started my career in hospitality with independent hotels, Whitbread and then Marriott which led me to discover a keen interest for great company culture, engagement and people. After winning the Acorn Scholarship and an Acorn Award, I’ve now enjoyed 13+ years at Purple Cubed. I’ve moved through the ranks and currently head up the operations team who work with organisations all over the world on growing their business through their people. I do however, remain a true operator at heart and use this knowledge alongside my experience in people culture and people engagement.

Ruston Toms FIH, founding trustee, The PM Trust

Ruston-Toms-255I am a founding Director of Blue Apple, a foodservice company set up by Brian Allanson and myself back in 1998. We are a specialist business and industry caterer serving some of the UK’s leading companies and employ a team of 350 talented people. Our philosophy is very much driven by both customer and employee engagement and we are experts in developing contemporary food service solutions for our clients.

I started my career at Pennyhill Park Hotel and Spa in Surrey as an apprentice commis chef when I was 18 years old. I attended Westminster Kingsway College on a day release course for four years and qualified as a chef. My time in the kitchen was relatively short as I had ambitions to transfer into catering management. However, following a spell in London, where I used to play football in Hyde Park with Marcus Wareing and Jason Atherton between shifts, I made the transition from chef to manager. This was after I joined Sodexo, (Gardner Merchant at the time) and made use of numerous development courses at the fantastic training centre at Kenley in Surrey. During my career I have had the opportunity to experience a wide variety of catering management positions from Insurance Companies, retail catering at Heathrow airport and M&S, weddings and events at Syon Park to managing hospitality suites at the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

I started Blue Apple with my business partner in 1998 having both met at Initial Catering as fellow development managers. We started the business from the front room and today the business has grown substantially and we now have over 55 clients and grown sales to over £12m. My involvement with the PM Trust stretches back from my time working in London where Brian Turner and some others founded the PM Trust. I am also past chair of the Association of Catering Excellence and a fellow of the Institute of Hospitality.

The PM Trust has a very similar philosophy to the Acorn Scholarship in that we want to nurture and encourage young talent.

Our trustees are proud to sponsor the scholarship and see it as a great way to extend the work we do in ensuring that hospitality becomes a career of choice for young people.

Personally I feel as though I‘ve gone full circle with the Acorn Scholarship, as I was a judge back in 2004 when Jon Reed was a winner.

Laura Wigley, global director of learning & talent, Dorchester Collection

wigley255I am the Global Director of Talent and Learning at Dorchester Collection. I am responsible for our corporate approach to attract, develop and retain the best team. As a company it is important for us to ensure we support our team member’s development by nurturing their personality and creating a transparent culture of trust collaboration and appreciation. We support our team members through our annual personal development planning process, tailor-made learning opportunities and our Academy training programmes to ensure they can create a truly individual experience.

During my career I have always been part of the people team in the organisations I have worked with. After graduating from Loughborough University I worked with ARM Holdings and Marks and Spencer before joining Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) in 2006. During my time at JLR I led teams focusing on engagement, early careers recruitment, training and latterly leadership development, before leaving in early 2016 to move into the hospitality industry and my currently role at Dorchester Collection.  Although moving to work in hotels after almost 10 years in other industries is not the traditional career path, I believe it has presented some great opportunities to apply my cross-sector experience to current and new challenges.

At Dorchester Collection we feel it is extremely important to support the leaders of the future – we are proud to support the Acorn scholarship as a great way to support the development and raise the profile of the winners.

Sean Wheeler, director of people & development – Principal Hotels

sean-wheelerMy operational career within the hospitality industry started wotking through the ranks within pubs, restaurants and themed restaurants, including TGI Fridays which eventually enabled me to move into HR with Mitchells & Butlers. Subsequently, as head of people for the Malmaison & Hotel du Vin Hotel Group I was instrumental in bringing two iconic brands together, growing the business from six to 28 hotels and achieving numerous ‘best places to work’ accolades, as well as the CIPD award for talent management, along the way.

Following the successful sale of the business, I then moved on to The Dorchester Collection, overseeing their UK people strategy, opening the iconic Coworth Park & 45 Park Lane hotels, winning a prestigious Catey award for HR team of the Year in 2012 and another for Employer of the Year in 2015.  I am now director of people & development for ‘Project 1898’, a Starwood Capital backed repositioning of 15 ‘Grand Dame’ hotels around the UK to ‘Celebrate Great British hotels that are Local at Heart’.

In addition, I chair the People 1st Accreditation Panel, and work with The AA to develop talent of the future in colleges across England. I have also chaired the TVPS HIV charity since 1993.

I’ve been committed to the Acorn Scholarship since day one as I have always had a passion for supporting and nurturing talent in our great industry.

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