Women in Business Dawn Bannister Managing Director KSB Catering and Hospitality Recruitment Agency

Women in Business Embracing Equity: Dawn Bannister

Women in Business Embracing Equity for International Women’s Day 2023

Each year on March 8th, the movement International Women’s Day celebrates all women including women in business. Looking to commemorates their achievements whilst increasing their visibility and removing inequality.

Although the key driver for International women’s day is a gender equal world, this years theme is about embracing equity.

Equity is not the same as equality. Equality sees providing everyone with same believing it gives everyone a fair chance. When in fact everyone is different and to prosper towards the same outcome they may require different resources and opportunities.

Through the process of equity we reach equality

Women in Business Embracing Equity: Dawn’s Story

Our very own Managing Director, Dawn Bannister certainly embraces equity for a more equal world. Dawn has an inspiring story overcoming so many challenges and hurdles it has shaped her into aspiring to create a different world for the women in business that follow.

In the words of the lady herself, here is Dawn’s story…..

The Early Years

I came from a very traditional working-class family living in a small market town which was very much small town mentality. You were born there and most stayed. My dad had a manual job and mum stayed at home to look after my brother and I. Life was tough ,but we got by, we made it work.

Up until I went to high school, I was a typical 70’s kid playing out dawn till dusk but then everything changed. In the early 1980’s having started senior school my life became somewhat chaotic, traumatic and simply horrid. There were a number of well-known bullies at the school who had chosen me as an easy target. They made my life a misery, hell in fact!

Those teenage years where you ought to be having the most fun “the best days of your life” mine sadly were mostly full of fear. From the minute I left the house in the morning, through the day between lessons, break and lunchtimes until I walked back into my house that night. The bullies called me ugly, pulled my hair, kicked, and punched me. Poking fun at every opportunity, I was an easy target that’s for sure, and I certainly wasn’t seen or heard by those around me. My parents nor teachers weren’t interested, what could they do really? Back then bullying wasn’t seen as something you needed to deal with, well not in my school anyway. You just got on with it sink or swim…survival of the fittest.

My grades started to suffer because I played truant and to be honest if I saw the younger me now, I wouldn’t even recognise her. Compared to the the person I am now, I’d turned feral, wild and just generally not a nice person.  I was involved in a circle of people who were also when I look back not very nice indeed.

I was told by those around me (parents and teachers) I’d never become anything in life. I’d be lucky if I’d pass my exams. In fact my grades were so bad, even the local college rejected me for a hairdressing course. A YTS was the best I could hope for.

At 16 I left home to fend for myself and that leads me onto the next chapter in my life…

From Receptionist to Businesswoman

At 19 I fell into the world of recruitment (as most people do who work in recruitment) and became a receptionist at a recruitment company in Coventry. I really enjoyed my job and the people I worked with. After a couple of years I managed to work my way to being promoted to recruitment consultant. I was so proud!

Whilst working here I met Mike, another recruitment consultant in the same business. We got on well,  started a relationship and a few years later married and had our first baby together. Unfortunately in the March of 1991 we were made redundant. The owner of the business we then worked for wanted to close it down to focus on his other core business interests. We were at the height of a recession where mortgage rates were at 15% life was becoming really hard!

We were very lucky and in hindsight now very grateful that the business owner kindly gave us the option to take the few temporary workers with us and set up on our own. It was either an option of unemployment which was rife at that time or giving this a go. It was a no brainer, we had to try it.

We had £37 to our name , but my sheer determination to not to go back to my old life pushed us forward. Survival was our ultimate goal and I refused to live in fear like I had in my earlier years.

We managed to find a small office which we shared with the buildings photocopier and KSB was born. Kensington Staff Bureau as it was then named after the building we were in and it in my view sounded quite “posh”.

Overcoming Challenges

Mike and I were a formidable team even though we had little idea as to what we were doing and winging it on a prayer, it worked, and the business grew.

We grew the business to over 30 staff and opened two further offices and a team of people. We also went on to have a further two children.

However, my fears soon returned. The imposter syndrome as I now know it to be. I was scared of putting my head above the parapet in fear of being criticised. Not only was I a young person without any real qualifications but I was a woman in business, not many of us then. Women in business were not common in the 1990’s. The imposter syndrome and victim mentality was deeply set in. I realised I had carried these limiting beliefs for many years like a big weight around my ankles.

Time to I guess Fake it until you make it. This has always been a great mantra. So I decided to pursue a path of self-discovery. I wanted to prove I was clever and I did have a brain. I wanted to show the world I was worthy of holding the position of MD of a business employing real people.

I decided to start with college and I completed a HNC in Business and Finance. Ironically at the same College (who ten years before had rejected me for hairdressing school) I was excelling in this so carried on the learning. Bringing learning into the business, I embarked on a journey

Harder Challenges Ahead

Although I had gotten a better hold of my own fears, the business challenges kept rolling in over the years, don’t get me wrong we had some amazing times too.

Sadly, a trusted employee fell victim to the blackmail of her partner and decided that stealing £17,000 over a period of time would keep him happy! Sadly not. Times were frustrating when we as an independent recruitment business would lose really great contracts with amazing clients because of Head Office decisions being made with the larger corporate agencies.

That survival instinct was still there and I always pushed through ensuring we made it through the otherside.

Then a really big blow came and it completely rocked my world and forced a change in direction. A whole team who had worked for us for a number of years, spent 6 months planning and nurturing a new company that would be direct competition. One by one they left the business set up themselves and took over 80% of my business overnight.

That was tough, all the hurt from my younger years came flooding back, the underhanded way it was done, the lies and deceit broke me. It left me really bitter, for a while it really changed who I was as a person which then became a huge contributory factor in my marriage breaking down.

However , in the face of adversity a whole new journey for me began……

Following A Different Path

Following my divorce  and the dividing of our businesses, I became totally disillusioned with recruitment. Recruitment became all about cost and less and less about relationships and service. Price was all that mattered, procurement became the new trend!

In 2008  as the country faced yet another recession, and the financial crisis was biting, I felt that I no longer had the drive or the stamina for another battle of survival.

I made the decision to scale down the business to let it tick over with people I trusted. Then decided to pursue a passion of being a Midwife. Midwifery was a lifetime passion that I truly never ever thought I would be able to pursue, especially after being rejected for hairdressing school. Oh the irony of that now.

Everyone loves a Midwife, and I knew I could be loved and I could care for people without the fear of being “screwed over”. In my mind it was a “win win” and I would finally become my true authentic self and give to others in a truly authentic way.

Training to be a Midwife and obtaining my Bsc in Midwifery with a 2:1 made me so proud. I loved my job beyond belief, met some incredible people and had life changing experiences that really humbled me. I was on cloud 9 with my dream job and an income from the business that allowed me to live a wonderful life without worrying about how to pay the bills.

However, life has a way of throwing you a curveball and I faced yet another life changing event. Due to this I was back within the business, but this time with a completely different mindset.

Back To Business

In 2017, I received a call one day to say my mother had had a stroke. This was now my number one priority. Mom was really poorly. I had extended leave to look after her with every intention of going back to my Midwifery work.

Not long after this, the accountant who was running the business (letting it tick over) made attempts to take his own life. It was very sad to see someone get to this point in their life.

In March 2018, I had to make the tough decision to say goodbye to midwifery and the life it gave me to come back into the business. I was faced with it survival again.

Embracing Equity

Although it feels throughout my life I’ve had one crisis after another, these life events are what have shaped me to be the person I am today, as many would say these happen “for you and not too you”.

I honestly believe if life hadn’t thrown the curveballs the way it had, I would never have coped with all these challenges along the way. Have I learnt along the way absolutely, has it made me a better person, I like to think so, am I grateful, every day of my life.

Do I miss being a Midwife? Every day. Have I found the love for my business again? Of course. It provides me with a platform to do great things and help people in so many ways. It not only enables me to be a great boss (and I know that I am) but also provide the funding to help charities. We have helped the Ukrainian appeal, Children in Crisis, we donate to Foodshare every month and the MOD charity events plus many many more. Everything I do is done from the heart and with the utmost integrity, being a woman is no longer a challenge but a great achievement and puts women up there where we belong.

Not only am I supporting our clients, candidates and internal staff but I can truly embrace equity. Everyone in the world has a different set of circumstances. If I can provide support through my business a community that everyone (regardless of their background) can tap into including the many resources and people I have been fortunate enough to access and meet since I started my business and my personal journey then I feel I am making the difference needed for change.


You can listen to Dawn go deeper into this story by listening to a Special International Women’s Day episode on the Recruitment Marketing and Sales Podcast, hosted by Superfast Recruitment.


Here at KSB Catering and Hospitality Recruitment Agency, we have been helping candidates find hospitality and catering jobs for over 30 years. If you would like us to help you in finding work click the link below, or contact us via [email protected] or 0121 314 9365. We can also support you to create an outstanding CV. Alternatively, if you are a business looking for staff, we can also help.

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Who is Rebecca Crowther

Rebecca joined KSB Recruitment in June 2021 as Head of Marketing. Rebecca has over 8 years marketing experience and over half of this has been within the recruitment industry. %%page%%