JACQUI GALLAZZI-RITCHIE won two North-East Businesswoman of the Year Awards in 2016 for her tenacious attitude and sharp business acumen.

However, the route to her current success with the Stockton-based company she founded, All England Gas Services, was not the most typical for a North-East businesswoman.

After being born in the North-East, her family moved to Essex in the 1980s and then London, where Jacqui studied Law at the University of Westminster, then practised on high profile criminal cases which made headlines around the world.

The pressure of this work coupled with her husband Paul Ritchie’s long hours running a major retail business meant they found they had no quality of life with their young son, so in 2002 they relocated back to her native Tees Valley.

Initially they invested in ten Stockton properties near North Tees Hospital, offering rented accommodation to doctors and nurses who wanted to live nearby.

This experience of running several houses for rent led to the entrepreneurial couple setting up a property services company which not only worked on their own premises but also carried out work for other companies and homeowners covering the UK.

This included boiler works.

After her daughter Ellie was born in 2005 Jacqui initially spent less time in the property business but once both her children were older she decided to explore opportunities she had recognised.

She set up her business in the belief that she could offer more within the gas industry.

She said: “All England Gas Services started from nothing.

Paul and I delivered 5,500 leaflets by hand around Stockton, from which we got two jobs.

We set up a website to help our marketing but found most jobs were from personal recommendations which was a marvellous compliment, it has been the bedrock of our business and still is.”

The company has grown from that small base to now supplying boilers and repairs to homes throughout the country from their offices in Stockton.

The next phase in the company’s development is one of its most exciting for Jacqui, with its massive potential for growth.

They have currently gone through the rigorous process of becoming authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority so they can offer customers the opportunity to have financial payment plans, spreading the cost for heating systems, boilers and radiators.

She said this was the new service which will open up many more potential marketplaces and customers for their existing business.

“We currently employ eight office staff and this will undoubtedly grow once we have full launched the new financial service.

"At present we handle 400 gas services a week, with call-outs, boiler installations and other maintenance.

"We expect this number will increase substantially during the next few months and then beyond.”

These posts are in addition to the existing 60 plus gas engineers, electricians and plumbers, who the business employs around the UK.

One of the company’s longest-standing local clients is the Hardwick in Partnership, an organisation working with disadvantaged people in Stockton.

Margaret Middleton, general manager, explained she gave All England Gas Services the contract for boiler maintenance as Jacqui was a local business and she wanted to give an entrepreneur starting out a head start.

Ms Middleton said: “As a charity we obviously know it is imperative we get best value for our money and Jacqui’s business has also not only given us that, but a great service.

She always goes the extra mile to help us out, especially appreciated as funding is so tight for organisations like ours.”

When All England Gas Services operated from Jacqui’s home, Hardwick in Partnership also supported the fledgling company by offering general office support such as photocopying and faxing.

Retention of excellent quality engineers is fundamental to the continuing success of Jacqui’s business and she is proud of the fact so many of her team have been with her for seven years or more.

She said: “I have tremendous respect for the engineers who work for me and they seem to value me as a boss too.

"Even though I am not a qualified gas/electrical engineer, nine times out of ten I can identify what a problem is with a system and discuss it with them.

“Part of my knowledge comes from briefings at our suppliers such a Worcester Bosch where I hear at first-hand how they are made and learn about them totally inside out.

"This adds to my in-depth knowledge of our products and the systems we supply.”

In order to concentrate on growing the business she has now outsourced elements of her company, which are not part of the core operation such as HR, legal services and largescale tendering.

This appetite for success and determined focus is what helped Jacqui win not one but two WIN Awards in 2016.

She said: “I am part of the North East England Chamber of Commerce and my relationship manager Tom Warnock suggested I enter the awards.

I didn’t imagine I would win but I am so pleased I did for the recognition for my team in particular.

“To be honest I never thought I would do so well as the categories had so many inspirational women in them.

“I would certainly encourage more people to enter them.

They make you feel proud as they recognise what you have contributed for the North-East business.”

Nickie Gott, She’s Gott It Events and chair of the North East England Chamber of Commerce Women’s Advisory Board, runs the North-East Businesswoman of the Year Awards.

She explained why Jacqui won: “It is quite unprecedented for someone to win two awards but her drive, attitude of growth and sustainability was outstanding.

"She was also a great role model, something we really want from our award-winners.

"We need women to show the next generation of businesspeople what can be achieved.

“Jacqui has also achieved her accolades in an industry which is not normally led by women.

"When we saw her application it was very apparent she is held in high regard throughout the sector, no mean feat indeed.

“We need more women like her now, ready to promote their business and route to growth, so we tap into the potential of women in the region, more than we do at the moment.”