Our Directors and their stories
Jo Ashburner Farr, CEO and Operations Director
Jo graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Surface Pattern Design BA(Hons) from what is now UWTSD in 2004 as a single parent. She developed her brand Noonoo during the degree and won a European Social Fund scholarship to do a Masters degree in Enterprise at the University of Manchester. Soon after, Jo established an ethical manufacturing hub in Vietnam and went on to win Wales Regional and UK National Businesswoman of the Year award in 2006.
NOONOO sold throughout the UK and worldwide through eight distributors and was the first eco product and brand to be sold in the baby department at all 36 John Lewis stores, online and catalogue. NOONOO won the UK Gift of the Year award for eco products in the gift and lifestyle markets in 2009, numerous National Business Awards in the UK and worldwide, Sustainable Product of the year in New York and Best Product in Show (Extra Small) at Maison & Objets in Paris in the same year.
Jo was headhunted to set up the LEAD WALES programme at Swansea University as Business Development and Marketing Manager pan Wales to where she relocated at the end of 2009. Within three years she resigned to return to her passion of ethical and social enterprise manufacturing in her home town of Swansea, became a Role Model for the Welsh Assembly in October 2012, Entrepreneur in Residence at UWTSD, CEO and founder of Red Dragon Manufacturing Ltd and Entrepreneur of the Year (Manufacturing in 2015).
Andrew Evans, Trustee Director
Andrew graduated with a law degree from University of Reading and qualified as both a solicitor and a Chartered Tax Adviser with a major commercial law firm in Bristol. In 2003 Andrew joined Geldards LLP and become a partner with the firm in 2006.
Andrew advises companies, businesses and their owners on a wide range of tax matters including the establishment of businesses, reorganisations and preparations for and the final sale of the business or company. He also provides advice on incentivising staff via share options and other incentives.
A large part of Andrew’s work includes advising on the tax implications of property transactions including vat, capital allowances and stamp duty land tax. Andrew has been a member of the Tax Advisory Group since 2014 advising Welsh Government on the implementation of the Land Transaction Tax which will be the first new tax in Wales for 800 years when it comes into force in April 2018.
Andrew also advises charities and third sector organisations on tax issues with a particular emphasis on their trading activities. He also enjoys advising start-up and spin out companies on the tax and general business issues that growing companies need to consider.
Outside of work, Andrew enjoys cycling, skiing and sailing; he is a volunteer crew member on Challenge Wales, a charity run 72 foot Round the World yacht based in Penarth used to provide sail training and life skills development for young people in Wales. RDM and Challenge Wales are commercial partners.
Peter Holbrook CBE, Trustee Director
Peter Holbrook became CEO of Social Enterprise UK in January 2010.
Social Enterprise UK is the national trade body for social enterprise and represents a wide range of social enterprises, regional and national support networks and other related organisations. SEUK works to promote social enterprise as a model for changing both business and society.
SEUK inform the policy agenda, continue to influence the political agenda, promote the benefits of social enterprise through the media, campaigns and events, and undertake research to expand the social enterprise evidence base.
Peter has established, developed and supported hundreds of diverse social enterprises over his career. He has advised government taskforces in the UK and overseas and chaired the Social Enterprise World Forum, the global network of social businesses until 2015.
Peter has previously worked for Oxfam, Greenpeace and various disability charities. He has experience of working in overseas development, community development and public health. Peter started his career with Marks and Spencer PLC and also spent several years with Body Shop International
He was appointed a CBE in 2015.
Sian James, Trustee Director
Sian is the former MP for Swansea East. Raised in the Welsh speaking, mining community of Cwmgiedd, in the Upper Swansea Valley. She began her political journey during the 1984/1985 Miners' Strike.
As an an active member of the Neath, Dulais & Upper Swansea Valley Miners Support Group and of the wider Women Against Pit Closure movement, she spoke out against the actions of the then Government.
When the strike ended, encouraged by family and friends, she enrolled on a full time degree course in Swansea University, graduating in 1989. After a career, that encompassed, both the public and private sectors, she was elected to Westminster in 2005. The first woman MP to represent a West Glamorgan parliamentary constituency.
In 2015 she stood down from Westminster to pursue other career options and to spend more time with her family. She is still engaged in political activity and also supports campaigns and organisations, which promote women's rights and encourage women to participate, at all levels of Welsh public life.
Sylvia Ossel, Trustee Director
Sylvia originates from the Netherlands, where family instilled values and principles of equality and community, grass roots socialism, and reduce-reuse-recycle well before it became trendy.
She studied English Language & Literature and completed a vocational study that roughly translates as Youth Welfare Work. Sylvia did voluntary work in a shelter for homeless teenagers, worked on a production line, and became an HGV driver. Until in 1991 an opportunity for her partner brought her to Swansea. Accepting the first job that presented in the local Job Centre, she worked in residential care with adults with learning disabilities whilst studying with the Open University.
Sylvia eventually found employment as a social worker, again with adults with learning disabilities. She graduated with a First Class Honours degree in Psychology but continued in social work, now as a working parent. Sylvia got to know Jo through their sons’ rugby team, and became intrigued how the Social Enterprise model applies to an otherwise traditional manufacturing business.
In 2016 Sylvia decided to leave 21 years of permanent employment with sort of a plan to start a Social Enterprise in social care, hoping to combine hobbies in upcycling with a belief that disability need not be a barrier to meaningful occupation. Almost immediately an opportunity presented to do agency work for the same local authority, as an independent Best Interest Assessor (Deprivation of Liberty Safeguards).
As a Director of RDM Sylvia advocates to stay true to the Social in Enterprise, and ensure a level playing field regardless of background.
Other Director's profiles are under construction. This list is in alphabetical order.