She juggles a legal role with being the driving force behind a mental health charity set up in her husband’s memory. And now Headlight Project founder Catherine Devereux has another role to contend with, having been named the Tees region’s most inspirational business leader in a prestigious annual poll.
Catherine was revealed as overall winner of the inaugural InspiraTees at a special event in front of 160 people at Hardwick Hall Hotel’s new Lakeside Marquee.
InspiraTees was born out of an annual poll by Aycliffe Business sister publication Tees Business to find the Tees region’s most inspiring business leaders, with local business leaders casting their votes.
Each year since 2016, when Boro chairman Steve Gibson OBE topped the first poll, the results have been announced online and in Tees Business magazine.
Other previous winners have included Bill Scott OBE, the late Professor Jane Turner OBE DL, PD Ports’ Frans Calje OBE and, before political figures became ineligible for the poll, Tees Valley mayor Ben Houchen.
This year, to reveal the winners, it was decided to hold a lunchtime event, in association with Tees Medical Services and under the new InspiraTees banner – and it was an emotional moment when Cath stepped up to receive the overall prize.
Almost 200 business leaders took part in this year’s survey, which saw nearly 100 people receive at least one vote.
The top 30 had already been revealed on the Tees Business website but the order and, crucially, the winner, remained a secret – until Wedndesday’s special event.
Seventeen of the top 30 of 2023 were women – a far cry from the first poll in 2016 when there were just three. Indeed, it was that lack of female names initially that prompted Tees Business to organise the Tees Businesswomen Awards – another event that has since gone from strength to strength.
As this week’s InspiraTees audience was told, mum-of-three Catherine is a partner in the employment team at law firm Knights.
But when, five years ago, she lost her beloved husband Russ to suicide, she set up the Russ Devereux Headlight Project in a bid to reduce the number of deaths by suicide in the Tees region.
Since then, through preventative education, training and therapy, the project has gone from strength to strength, offering the sort of invaluable support and advice that makes a real difference.
And it’s a measure of how well the Headlight message is getting through that Catherine has risen in the ranking from 14th in 2021 and sixth last year to be named overall InspiraTees winner in 2023.
Runner-up was Wilton Universal Group CEO Bill Scott OBE, who has never been out of the top four in the eight years the poll has been conducted, while third was last year’s winner, PD Ports’ popular Dutch leader, CEO Frans Calje OBE.
Making up the top five were, in fourth place, Tees Components MD Sharon Lane and in fifth – and making her top 30 debut – the CEO of national charity CEO Sleepout, New Zealander but adopted Teessider, Bianca Robinson.
Bob Cuffe, one of the InspiraTees event hosts along with Martin Walker and Dave Allan, told the 160-strong audience how the leaders recognised by InspiraTees “inspire others by showcasing the power of determination, hard work and talent, igniting a spark of possibility in others.”
He added: “These leaders prioritise integrity and ethical decision-making, setting high standards for themselves and their organisations.
“And through their inclusive leadership styles, they empower their teams and foster an environment of growth and innovation.”
A special guest at Wednesday’s event was undisputed world super-middleweight boxing champion, Hartlepool’s Savannah Marshall, who discussed her “Off The Canvas – The Better You” campaign to inspire and improve the physical and mental health of children aged 3-11.
The InspiraTees Top 30 of 2023:
1. Catherine Devereux (Headlight Project/Knights)
2. Bill Scott OBE (Wilton Universal Group)
3. Frans Calje OBE (PD Ports)
4. Sharon Lane (Tees Components)
5. Bianca Robinson (CEO Sleepout)
6. Karl Pemberton (Active Chartered Financial Planners)
7. Claire Preston (Power of Women/Halo Project)
8. Bob Makin (Behaviour UK – North)
9. Steve Gibson OBE (Middlesbrough FC/Bulkhaul)
10. Chloe Clover (Wander Films)
11. Gary Dawson (AV Dawson)
12. Mike Racz (Racz Group)
13. Victoria Lynch (Additional Lengths)
14. Zoe Lewis (Middesbrough College Group)
15. Alastair Powell (Cleveland Cable Company)
16. Dean Benson (Visualsoft)
17. Jo Davies (HR Alchemy)
18. Mark Easby (Better)
19. Jess Williams (Just Williams)
20. Alison McGee (Durata)
21. Charlie Nettle (AV Dawson)
22. Kimberley Turner (Double Eleven)
23. Jane Armitage (Power of Women/Jacksons Law Firm)
24. Jane Reynolds MBE (Tees Valley Business Club)
25. Lee Bramley (Endeavour Partnership)
26. Lou Tonner (Wander Films)
27. Caroline Theobald CBE (Bridge Club)
28. Lee Flanagan (Bespoke Financial)
29. Yasmin Khan (Halo Project)
30. Nikki Sayer (Casper Customs)