West Midlands business leaders recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021

A young business woman whose ethos is to ‘put people and purpose before profit’ has been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours 2021.

Josie Morris, managing director of eco-packaging firm Woolcool in Stone, Staffordshire, has been awarded an MBE for services to manufacturing and the environment.

The 34-year-old joined the business – which was founded by her mother, Angela Morris – in 2014 in the sales and marketing department, after strongly insisting she was interviewed for the job and treated no differently than any other prospective employee.

Today she leads the 50-strong Woolcool team which produces sustainable temperature-controlled packaging used in the food, pharmaceutical and healthcare sectors – with customers including Gousto, Abel & Cole, Fortnum and Mason, John Lewis, Waitrose and Unilever.

Alongside her role at Woolcool, Josie is a member of the Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce Council where she provides advice, help and support to small and medium-sized business, and an Export Champion for the Midlands Engine, helping to promote UK trade.

She is also a board member of the Bio-based and Biodegradable Industries Association which lobbies the Government and oil industry to promote debate about sustainability and the green economy.

Josie said: “When I had the email from the Cabinet Office I thought it was spam. I thought recognition such as an MBE was only for people who are much further along in their career and who have achieved much more than I have.

“Once I found out that it was real I was blown away. It’s a real honour.”

Josie added: “One of my first thoughts was about the amazing team we have here at Woolcool. A lot of things I have done I couldn’t have done without them. It’s just like a football team, the players do the work and the manager just makes changes to the tactics when they need to. So this MBE is for everyone.”

Woolcool directors Josie and Angela Morris, and Keith Spilsbury
Woolcool directors Josie and Angela Morris, and Keith Spilsbury

Over the next 12 months Josie will lead the business toward further growth by spearheading a move into a bigger premises in Staffordshire.

She said: “I am so proud of the way that our team has coped over the past 12 months and all of the effort that they – and my sister, Jess – have put in to make Woolcool a success.

“They have shown so much commitment and without them we wouldn’t have a business.

“So I would like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported and assisted me in the growth of Woolcool, I can’t wait to celebrate all of our achievements with a big party when we can.”

Elsewhere in Staffordshire, former Leek United Building Society HR director Tracey Johnson has received an MBE for services to financial service during Covid-19.

The 56-year-old has been a leading driving force behind the society’s effective handling of the Covid-19 crisis which has seen support given to the local community, to vulnerable customers and to the organisation’s staff.

She has also championed the society’s diversity and inclusion agenda which included signing up to HM Treasury’s Women in Finance Charter in June of this year.

Also receiving recognition is 31-year-old food retail worker Hannah Findlay, from Biddulph in Stoke-on-Trent, who has been awarded a BEM for services to the food supply chain.

Throughout the Covid-19 crisis, she not only led her own store in Milton, but also assisted other Co-op stores across the county with a huge focus on helping colleagues in looking after their mental health and checking on their capacity.

In the West Midlands, 59-year old George Wrigley received an MBE for services to higher education.

Mr Wrigley, who is the head of security and emergency planning at the University of Birmingham, worked tirelessly to ensure that critical Covid-19 research, education and student welfare services at the university have kept operating during the crisis.

He managed a team of 60 who have been required to ensure the campus has remained a safe and secure place for those who need to be there throughout the crisis.

His planning ensured the university was able to continue to carry out critical research related to the virus as well as operating laboratories to carry out testing of up to 10,000 swabs a day and supporting clinical trials related to Covid-19.

Click here to sign up to the daily BusinessLive email

And care home manager Cheryl Harbourne has been awarded an MBE for services to veterans during Covid-19.

The 55-year old has been home manager of Royal Star & Garter, in Solihull, since 2015.

The home offers nursing care to the military veteran community – those who have served and their partners.

At the beginning of the crisis, Cheryl took the decision to appeal to staff to move in and live in the home 24/7 for a fortnight, including herself.

To her credit 35 members of staff followed her lead and joined her.

This bold step ensured that all of the 60 residents stayed safe while the rate of infection in the local area was increasing.

Business Live – West Midlands