Local businesswoman Jane James, the founder & CEO of the national popular performing arts school franchise Little Voices, was recognised on Thursday evening in the national What’s On 4 Kids Activities awards, the UK’s longest-running awards for children’s activity providers.
One of six finalists in the Steve Franks Industry Champion of the Year Award category, Jane was awarded highly-commended for her outstanding contribution to the children’s activities sector outside of her work with Little Voices.
This award recognises those who have gone above and beyond for the greater good of the whole sector, and was set up in memory of the former CEO of Water Babies who sadly passed away in April 2020 from COVID-19 complications.
Alongside her day job as franchisor of Little Voices, Jane is also a voluntary board member of the Children’s Activities Association (CAA), a not-for profit CIC dedicated to raising standards for activity providers in the UK.
As well as helping shape the CAA’s operational strategy, Jane regularly spends time talking 1-to-1 with other children’s activity providers about the challenges they’re facing, sharing her knowledge and best practise to help them grow or improve their businesses.
“And yes, I’ll happily do this with providers who could be perceived as ‘competition’,” Jane explained, “because I’m a firm advocate of collaboration over competition – one of the few positives to come out of Covid in my opinion. I truly feel we’re stronger together, and believe above all else that our children deserve the very best.”
Jane is also on a Department of Education steering group to assess the impact of the pandemic and shape children’s activities moving forwards; and is due to meet with the new Minister for Education.
Commenting on her award, Jane said: “I feel honoured to be among so many other inspirational finalists, each of whom I hold in the highest regard.
“I had Steve on speed dial in my phone, and he was always so supportive of me and my business journey. So to receive this recognition in his memory is truly an honour.”
This year’s awards took place at Mercedes-Benz World in Surrey, hosted by Jonathan Bremner, and supported by a number of sponsors, including Headline Sponsor Morton Michel.
Organisers What’s On 4 Kids concluded: “What a night we had at the glamorous Mercedes-Benz World, with hundreds of VIP guests, the highest number of awards to date, and a wealth of fabulous sponsors and supporters joining us for this black-tie extravaganza. Congratulations to each and every winner!”