East Devon businesswoman Julie Hawker has been awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in the 2023 New Year Honours List.

Julie will receive an MBE for her 25 years service dedicated to inspiring people and businesses to achieve success in the digital world.

Julie plays a pivotal role in the South West’s business community. Responsible for the initiation of the Digital Skills Partnership, for Heart of the South West, Julie has been chair for the past five years. She also holds vice-chair positions for the Devon Air Ambulance and South West Business Council and is chair of the Bank of England’s Citizens’ Panel for the South West.

Speaking about her MBE, Julie said: “I’m thrilled to be recognised for this honour and know my whole family, especially my Mum, will be over the moon.

“Having come from a working class background, I really hope other people will see this as proof that you can achieve anything, whatever walk of life you are from. I hope it encourages people to think they are capable of it too.”

Paul Coles, CEO of South West Business Council said: "Julie has been a mainstay of the South West Business Council board over some considerable time. A keen advocate of Social Enterprise, Julie was the lead Director who took SWBC on the journey to becoming a Community Interest Company, which sent an important message about the spirit behind SWBC’s work.

“Julie is a leader; strategic thinker and mentor who is passionate about the South-West and its people. It is of no surprise to me that Julie should be awarded an MBE, as it is thoroughly deserved. I have no doubt this award signifies a “comma” in her career, rather than a “full stop” and that Julie will continue to play a crucial role in developing the south-west as a leader in socially responsible business with people absolutely at the centre of that.”

Julie said: “Cosmic is regarded as a front runner in the world of social enterprise in the UK and I want to acknowledge all the brilliant people who have taken this journey with me. This award is recognition of the hard work they have put into making Cosmic the success it is today.”

“The pandemic made everyone wake up to the need for digital skills and we were well positioned to help people through the trickiest years by building their confidence and employability skills.”

“I’m most proud of the role I’ve played in the fields of digital skills and social enterprise, from steering the Digital Skills partnership to the 25 years of achievements made by Cosmic.”

“I’m also proud to be the Vice Chair of the Devon Air Ambulance. I was inspired to get involved with the charity after I was airlifted 12 years ago, nearly losing my leg. I started volunteering with them while still on crutches and I was thrilled when I was later approached for a board position.”

“I hope this award brings the opportunity for me to inspire and support others whose voices can bring about positive change and impact for the economy. Having more credible and passionate voices, especially women’s, influencing inclusion, skills and support for the voluntary sector is vitality important.”