Friday, June 12, 2009 - 11:01

Eden’s Manager Director Gaynor Coley has won a major award in recognition of her pioneering work at the project.

Gaynor collected first prize in the Tourism and Leisure section of the First Women Awards 2009 at a gala dinner on Thursday evening (June 11) at the London Marriot Hotel, Grosvenor Square.

The awards ceremony was introduced by Patron of the First Women Awards, Sarah Brown, wife of Prime Minister Gordon, who herself highlighted the inspirational achievements women had made during her three-year patronage.

Gaynor’s prize was presented by Nicky Kinnaird, founder of the beauty chain Space NK.

Judges of the awards - which are held in association with Lloyds TSB Corporate Markets and supported by the CBI – said Gaynor was “outstandingly special”. They praised her achievements as being a “first” in her market – combining private and public sector funding and making it work. They noted that this model has since been taken on by others proving her to be “a real trailblazer”.

After receiving the award, Gaynor said: “I would like to thank the women and men of the last generation who opened up opportunities for people on a scale not imagined before.

”These awards recognise that women can make a significant contribution in all walks of life, from science and technology to business and finance.

“For the next generation, I hope that this demonstrates what women bring to the world of work and what we can all achieve by working in collaboration – not competition.”

The evening’s cast included winners from a cross section of areas including Angela Mortimer, Founder and Director of Angela Mortimer plc (Business Services), Isobel Sharp CBE, Partner, Deloitte (Finance), Emma Scott, Managing Director of Freesat (Media), Helen Barratt, Construction Capability Manager, BAE Systems (Manufacturing), Julie Spence OBE BEd LLB MA MBA, Chief Constable, Cambridgeshire Constabulary (Public Service), Anne Walker, Partner, International Dance Supplies (Retail and Consumer) and Paula Bell, Group Finance Director, Ricardo Plc (Science and Technology). The First Women Business of the Year Award went to The Financial Times Group and the PwC Lifetime Achievement Award went to Nikki King OBE, MD, Isuzu Truck UK.

Supporters of Gaynor’s nomination both in Cornwall and from across the UK confirmed to the judging panel that Eden would not have been built without her and the “firsts” she has achieved in many areas.

She has been the champion of the innovative policies that have given rise to Eden being an engine for regeneration, demonstrating how real collaboration on a wide scale can pay dividends.

Gaynor joined Eden as Finance Director in 1997, having been Director of Corporate Finance at the University of Plymouth.

She has described the move as like “stepping from an oil tanker on to a small, fast-moving speedboat with little petrol.”

Her first job at the project was to make it financially and commercially secure and she led the development and delivery of the £86m public and private sector funding package that allowed Eden to be delivered on time and on budget. This provided a template that has been used by many other projects throughout the UK.

Her Finance Team was recognised as the Accountancy Age team of the year in 2001. In May 2001 she became Managing Director and steered the team through their first full season and a record-breaking 1.8m visitors.

Since Eden’s opening, Gaynor has continued at the helm of operations, leading the team to deliver a world-class visitor destination, and establishing the project as a social enterprise and top brand in the UK and overseas.

Gaynor, who lives in Wadebridge, Cornwall, grew up in Wales and graduated in Economics from University College London in 1979. She has a postgraduate certificate in Education from London’s Institute of Education.

She trained in the City of London with Touche Ross, moving to Cornwall in 1987 with KPMG. She moved into the food industry with her first Financial Directorship in 1990.

When asked about women role models in her life Gay added “as my mother used to say, Fred Astaire was a fabulous dancer, but Ginger Rogers was just as good and she did it backwards and in high heels!”