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East Midlands Chamber News

Meet Eileen Richards MBE: New East Midlands Chamber president on her career, royal recognition and 2021

She’s earned a big reputation as a woman who gets things done in her business, and now Eileen Richards MBE is hoping to bring those qualities to her latest role as president of East Midlands Chamber.

The founder of Leicester-based Eileen Richards Recruitment – recently rebranded as ER Recruitment – took the chains of office from outgoing president Dawn Edwards at the Chamber’s AGM today (11 December).

Eileen, who also co-founded the Chamber’s Enterprising Women network that continues to go from strength to strength, has set out three priorities – to encourage inter-membership relations and trading, support the region’s future business leaders and lobby hard in Government for investment to aid the East Midlands’ post-Covid economic recovery.

She said: “I feel really honoured to become president because it’s a fantastic accolade.

“I’ll carry out the role of president like I run my business – the members will be at the heart of everything we do, just like people are in recruitment.

“I might not be able to solve the economic recovery all on my own but I’d like to get some great individuals and businesses together within our membership to make a difference.

“Hopefully, in 12 months’ time, people can see what we’ve achieved.”

From Leicester to Buckingham Palace

Leicester-born Eileen, a Chamber board member for the past four years, has been in the recruitment industry for more than two decades.

She believes the communication and relationship skills she developed from a young age – she was the fifth of seven children – helped her in a people-focused industry, even though it was something she admits to “falling into” aged 23 after a recruitment agency she worked with to find a new job told her she’d be a natural in recruitment.

Eileen was eventually headhunted by another agency and appointed managing director at the age of 30.

The initial feeling of “imposter syndrome” would be something she’d later take into the Enterprising Women network – “it’s about women recognising and appreciating their potential” – but the confidence she gained ultimately led to her setting up her own business.

“The firm became very big and successful, but focus shifted from delivering customer experience to simply filling roles, so I wanted to offer a more boutique service for clients and candidates,” she said.

In 2013, after a brief period working from home heading up another agency with a business partner, she set up ER Recruitment.

The company specialises in sectors such as accountancy and finance, construction, HR, sales and marketing, with a “fill rate” of 94% far outshining the industry average of 33%.

Many of the clients Eileen had on day one remain on board and, after the recent rebranding – which includes the motto “part of your DNA” to reflect how her consultancy aims to become embedded into the culture of employers it works with – she hopes to double the eight-strong headcount by the end of 2021 with a new focus on staff retention services and executive search.

In 2018, she won both the Niche Businesswoman of the Year and Leicester Mercury Businesswoman of the Year, but her crowning glory came when she was awarded an MBE for the promotion of female entrepreneurship that November.

“I still don’t know who put me forward for it but it was such an incredible moment of my life,” said Eileen, a trustee of Hope Against Cancer and committee member of the Wooden Spoon Leicester charity.

“I was given the award by Prince Charles at Buckingham Palace and he knew so much about my career and the charities I worked with. He said something that will stay with me forever – ‘if everyone does their bit, it makes a huge difference’.”

Enterprising Women will be key part of Eileen’s presidency

One of the factors behind her royal honour was the Chamber’s Enterprising Women network that Eileen co-founded with Jean Mountain.

Eileen Richards MBE and Jean Mountain founded the Enterprising Women network

Due to celebrate its 25th year in 2022, it aims to help businesswomen support each other, whatever stage their career is at, through advice, education and networking events. The Enterprising Women Awards, currently open for entries, is now in its fifth year.

Eileen will continue to promote enterprising women in 2021, adding: “We still say there’s not enough women sitting around boardroom tables. For the applications we get for executive roles at my agency, probably 8% are from women.

“The quality of speakers we get at our events is amazing and the awards showcase some great success.”

Eileen’s three themes for 2021 as president

  1. Member 2 Member: Supporting local enterprises by encouraging inter-membership trading and collaboration
  2. The Next Generation… or Generation Next: Promoting the Chamber’s network for young professionals, Generation Next, to support the development of the region’s future business leaders
  3. East Midlands Economic Recovery: Ensuring the Chamber acts as a voice for businesses when lobbying key decision and policymakers to bring infrastructure investment to the region and deliver the promised “levelling up” agenda


This article appears in the December 2020/January 2021 issue of the Chamber's Business Network magazine. To read the online edition, click here.