Tracey Cunnington - Marketing Assistant

‘I defeated dyslexia to take ticket to the top’: Debra Charles

The founder of a performing arts company, the woman behind a cheerleading business and the chief of a music events firm are among the finalists in this year’s NatWest everywoman awards. The awards, which are in their tenth year and are supported by Financial Mail, champion women entrepreneurs who have overcome personal difficulties to achieve success.

Finalist Debra Charles, 50, was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child and starting a technology company was not the direction she expected to take in life. But after her parents died in 1997, Debra set up Northampton-based Novacroft, which builds and develops the technology behind smart ticketing systems and ‘remote loading train tickets’.

She says:

After my parents died I realised life was too short not to just go for it and set up my own business. I now work with Transport For London and local authorities to deliver the online infrastructure for projects they are working on.

A five-year legal battle during the company’s early years cost Debra her inheritance and saw it come close to bankruptcy. But she won and now employs 128 staff. The firm has a multi-million pound turnover. Debra is a finalist in the Hera category, for women aged 50 or over. There are eight award categories, four based on age.

The winners will be announced at a ceremony in central London on December 5.
Former winners include Dragons’ Den judge and entrepreneur Hilary Devey and Jo Malone MBE.