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To celebrate International Women's Day on Sun 8 March, Muddy is shining the spotlight on some of our favourite trail-blazing, commotion-causing women from the creative industries.

Fancy going freelance? Or setting up your own business? Muddy shines the spotlight on some seriously inspiring women around Leicestershire and Rutland.

Ladies, we salute you and your wonderful work.

The one waging war on plastic: Lauren Welch

Leicester born mother to Penelope and more recently Felix, Lauren studied fine art and worked with at risk youths but went onto combine her passion to making a difference, with her commitment to planning for a sustainable future. Knowing that landfills and oceans are filling up with plastic, she really wanted to do something to help the environment and prove that we all can do our bit by having a zero waste lifestyle – it’s tricky but doable. So to prove her point, she opened NADA, a zero waste lifestyle store that stocks organic and biodegradable goods. Its aim is to also help fight the war on plastic by selling bulk items so people can come with their refillable jars and buy exactly how much they need – think dry goods such as cereal, muesli, granola, grains and pulses, beans and lentils, nuts, herbs and spices and vinegars and oils. But it’s not just food that she sells, there’s also things like tooth brush, dental floss, mouthwash, kitchen cleaning products, soap and more.

Special mention also to Beth Lambert who runs Refill Revolution, an eco-friendly business in  Market Harborough and earlier this year opened the fantastic Eco Village – an alternative to supermarkets where local, like-minded businesses can sell their own sustainable products.

The female chef: Carol Craddock

Originally from South Africa, chef Carol settled in Rutland with her family after working with the likes of Rebecca Mascarenhas at The Phoenix in Putney and Simon Hopkinson at Bibendum. Along with her husband Scott, they took over the running of The Wheatsheaf almost 12 years ago and turned what was once a quiet village pub, into a buzzing village local.

The only female chef in Leicestershire and Rutland, she likes to focus on local ingredients and tends to only feature dishes on her menu that she’d like to eat. Her deliciously scented onion focaccia bread, which she bakes every Sunday is always a winner and her ice cream, cordials and cheese biscuits are just as popular. She cooks everything herself but hires local kids to help her out in the kitchen. She says, “do what you love, because you’ll be doing it for the rest of your life.”

The mummypreneur: Estelle Keeber

Born and raised in Leicester, wedding photographer Estelle had the idea of creating a community for other women in business like herself. Her sister Leona also worked from home around her kids and they both would get frustrated that there was nowhere to connect with other women who understood the struggles of being a mum but also a woman in business. Fast forward a few months and MIBA (Mums in Business Association) was created. They opened the Facebook group in June 2017 and since then have grown a community of over 53k women.

With nothing but bags of determination, hard work and balls, they turned over almost £250k in their first year. The MIBA brand is ‘fun, honest, hardworking, transparent’ which sums Estelle and Leona up in a nutshell. MIBA now runs in 220 locations reaching as far as Canada, Mexico, Barbados and America. Estelle has shared the stage with the likes of Lady Michelle Mone, Caprice and Karen Brady which she says was “utterly mind-blowing” and was even invited to Valencia to deliver an Instagram Masterclass. She believes that surrounding yourself with women who support and empower you will give your the biggest motivation – something you’ll always find in the MIBA groups.

The community cheerleader: Maria Arnesson

Maria moved to Market Harborough 4 years ago because she was drawn to the strong community feel, great schools and its beautiful market town buzz and green space. Previously looking after the HR department for American fashion design house, Kate Spade, Maria went into business with her friend Pam and opened children’s store The Growing Tree. The busy mum of two does as much as she can to support the local community including helping refugees and really stepped it up a notch by being part of the team that created The Harbs Collective last year. The aim was to bring something unique and different to the town by bringing together ideas and event with other indie stores. Running successfully, she’s now stepped away as its Chair and works as coordinator for Taste Harborough –  a non-profit organisation celebrating Harborough’s local food and drink businesses and suppliers and most recently helping out at the brilliant new EcoVillage with organising their events.

Special mention also to womenswear designer Sukhina Garcia who runs her very own fashion label Betty Brown (a previous Muddy award-winner.) She’s a massive advocate for supporting local and last year  launched the hashtag #supportleicesterlocal after a string of  local indie businesses were forced to close down. One year on and not only is the hashtag still going, it’s had almost 20k posts all thanks to Sukhina’s love of local and Leicester.

The fashionista turned barista: Arti Chudasma

Working as a ladieswear designer for almost 20 years, Arti lived a life that any budding fashionista could only dreams of. She came back to Leicester and had a light bulb moment when she realised the city was lacking stylish vegan eateries. Fast forward four months and she’d set up The Pantry in the city’s indie hub, Loseby Lanes. Her vegan cafe is seriously snazzy making full use of Arti’s fashion chutzpah and combining it with her love of food. Arti describes herself as ‘an all or nothing kinda woman’ who saw what she wanted and raced after it. The result? A flourishing business with lots of love and support from the local community – she serves homemade vegan goodies – everything from seasonal Buddha bowls to beetroot burgers and we’re told her Peruvian coffee is one of the best around.

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