“After I read the first two lines I couldn’t read any more. I cried for an hour.”
It was April 2016 when Anne Wilson was tearfully reading the letter from Buckingham Palace informing her she’d been awarded an MBE for her services to engineering.
She had taken a huge risk in 2006 by taking out a massive loan to buy Numill Engineering from its former owner. With a background in banking, and no prior experience as an engineer, she has spent all of her energy on turning the company’s fortunes around as its managing director.
The business, which repairs broken machinery that would usually be replaced, has a widespread client base across Europe, Scandinavia, Singapore and Malaysia. When Mrs Wilson joined Numill the company’s foreign exports for less than a 20% of revenue, it is now around 50%.
“I think the biggest thing is knowing that someone believes that you’ve made a such an input into society that they believe you deserve it in the first place, and I find that really humbling,” said Mrs Wilson.
The 57-year-old from Manor Top in Sheffield has found her own niche by being one of the few women in the country to manage an engineering company.
But she didn’t plan on being involved in engineering when she left school. At the age of 16 she wanted to be a teacher.
Then after working in a bank for 13 years she was forced to resign after being devastated by the death of her mother, but returned to work when her husband could no long continue as a police officer due to ill health.
Being the sole breadwinner, she took a part-time job as a book-keeper for Numill in 2000. While there she attended night classes and was awarded a Masters in accountancy where her dissertation was a plan on how she could buy the company from its owner who was planning to retire.
However, it was her background in banking and finance that saved the company in the recession of 2009. Sales dropped 40% wiping out their overdraft with clients going bust regularly things looked bleak.
Mrs Wilson claims it was her ability to please the banks by returning weekly cash reports and making every penny count that saves the business. A fact that the rest of the 18 strong workforce readily agrees with.
Anne has now become a key advisor to the Sheffield City Region which is due to elect its first mayor in May. She views the region’s success as vital to the health of her company and the local economy.
“I was born and bred in Sheffield, I was educated here, I did my degree here and now I’m an employer here who uses Sheffield City Region skills to enhance my business,” she said.
The Sheffield City Region has the backing of the Sheffield business community and they’ve expressed frustration at the delays the devolution deal has faced.
“It’s something we really do need to get on with and it’s something this region needs. Hopefully we can get on with it soon and elect a mayor who is truly representative of the region that will be able to take our issues directly to Downing Street, to central government to fight for our region, that’s what we need from our Mayor,” she said.
The Sheffield City Region has faced numerous setbacks. The Mayor was originally planned to be elected in 2017, but Barnsley and Doncaster pulled out and backed a wider ‘One-Yorkshire’ deal which would unify all of Yorkshire under one elected Mayor.
“At the moment there’s only one deal on the table, we’ve got to grab that offer and that deal for here for now at least lets start that journey, whenever we procrastinate we are missing out on opportunities that could make our city region better and stronger.”