Edinburgh founder of Projekt 42 wins UK-wide NatWest title for social entrepreneurship

An Edinburgh-based entrepreneur behind a not-for-profit gym and wellness venture has been crowned the “most inspirational” founder of a social enterprise at a national awards ceremony.

Capital entrepreneur Sara Hawkins is over the moon. Picture: Steve Dunlop

Sara Hawkins of health studio Projekt 42 scooped the Gaia Award at this week’s NatWest Everywoman ceremony in London, which recognises outstanding UK businesswomen.

Hawkins founded Projekt 42, on the capital’s Leith Walk, after post-traumatic stress disorder left her unable to work.

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A combination of fitness, counselling and life coaching sessions aided Hawkins’ recovery, which inspired her to set up the social enterprise using funds from donations and the sale of her own home.

It now offers more than 300 fitness classes each month and has the largest team of counsellors and psychotherapists in the city outside the NHS.

Hawkins said: “I’m over the moon to have brought the Gaia award back to Edinburgh. Projekt42 is a unique offering.

“We recognise that many people out there need counselling support right now, but are stuck on waiting lists in the health system.

“We’re committed to helping everyone. I am looking forward to scaling Projekt42 and plan to open additional sites across the UK.”

The Gaia Award goes to the most inspirational and successful female founder of a social enterprise who has combined community benefit with a sustainable business.

Everywoman judges included Greenock entrepreneur Poonam Gupta, founder and chief executive of PG Paper.

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Everywoman co-founder Maxine Benson said: “Women in the UK do not lack ability or ambition, yet only one in three British entrepreneurs are female – a gender gap equivalent to 1.1 million missing businesses.

"Women are consistently less likely than men to believe they have the necessary skills to be successful entrepreneurs, which is why showcasing the success stories of winners is so critical. They demonstrate passion, determination and dedication often in the face of adversity.

“We congratulate this year’s winners and applaud their incredible achievements.”