A 32-year-old entrepreneur from Belfast shook hands with the new King last week as she celebrated winning a prestigious business award. Jemma Simpson, from Belfast, was at Buckingham Palace after winning the national NatWest Enterprise Award and was presented to King Charles, Founder and President of The Prince’s Trust. Jemma, who was made redundant during the pandemic, now runs a successful, inclusive recruitment company called Diverse Talent. She said: “The Prince’s Trust helped me to understand business operations, which included writing a business plan, creating a cashflow and product marketing. I feel so fortunate to have come across The Prince’s Trust. They’ve helped me create my dream business and, in doing so, have allowed me to give back to the community too. It’s been an absolute surreal experience winning the NatWest Enterprise Award.”
Talking about her background, Jemma explained: “I faced many challenges growing up. We moved house a lot and, before I was 16, I’d lived in multiple places including a women’s aid refuge. As the eldest child, I felt a lot of responsibility to look after my mum and siblings. School wasn’t a priority of mine and when I left at 16 I didn’t have much to show for it. From a very young age, my ambition was to create a better life for myself and my family.
“I got my first job at 17 but it required a huge change to my lifestyle. I ended up leaving the family home and living on my own. Looking back, I probably wasn’t mentally ready for it, but I had no other option. However, I pushed myself to shake off my past and focus on my career and what makes me happy. It wasn’t until my mid-twenties that I began to accept my sexuality. It was a process that took time, but I’m so proud of where I am now in my life.
“I put a lot of time and work into focusing on myself and healing from past experiences, and working in (what I thought was) my dream job. But then Covid hit, and everything changed when I was made redundant. This was a difficult time and I started to plan what to do next. I wanted to complete a CIPD course to become a certified HR professional and The Prince’s Trust offered me financial support with the course fee. They also provided insight into the other ways they could help, including the Enterprise programme.
“Having worked in the recruitment industry for over 10 years, I’ve dreamt of starting a recruitment company specialising in hiring candidates into STEM jobs and matching them with companies that prioritised equity, diversity and inclusion. However, I had never acted on the idea because I was nervous when it came to understanding both the legality and HMRC-related responsibilities.”
Jemma has now moved the business into premises in Belfast City Centre and employs a team to cope with demand. She is passionate about helping people find roles with ethical employers that are good places to work. Diverse Talent also sponsors a local football team called Belfast Blaze FC – Northern Ireland’s only LGBTQIA+ football team. Her company regularly hosts networking events, raises awareness of equality, diversity and inclusion in the workplace and is a respected recruitment group within the industry.