Rachel Smurthwaite, head of communications at Sewell Group

31st Aug

Rachel took on the role of head of comms in January, and what a busy first year it has been so far. From starting her diverse role covering all 11 Sewell Group brands during lockdown, promoting the group’s highest accolade, and doubling the size of the comms team, Rachel has certainly hit the ground running.  

We caught up with herto talk about all things comms, and what’s next for recent Queen’s Awards for Enterprise winner, the Sewell Group.  

Rachel, thank you so much for your time. Let’s start by hearing more about you and your background.

“After graduating from the University of Lincoln, I trained as a journalist and producer with the BBC and worked alongside the sports team at BBC Radio Humberside, which I absolutely loved. 

“From there I went into local government comms, before moving across to work for local creative marketing agency Sowden + Sowden where I was for nine exciting years working with a whole host of different clients from across the UK. 

“My background in both the public and private sector has stood me in good stead for my current role at Sewell Group, as a lot of the work we specialise in on the estates side of our business is health and education, which I have a lot of experience in.”

What were your first impressions of Sewell Group?

“I knew a fair bit about the Sewell Group already, with it being a reputable company in the area, but also from work that I’d done in the past. Everyone always said it was a great place to work, and this is obviously reinforced with our Sunday Times Top 100 Places to Work accolade – and it really is genuine. What struck me from day one was how the business cares for its people and wants everybody to be happy and do well.  

“This is something that is unique within a business of this size, particularly because despite its growth, it still feels very much like a family-owned business. It is very entrepreneurial; I love the fact people are given freedom to try new things, bring ideas to the table and give things a go. People are trusted to do what they’re good at, which is why we’re so successful commercially, as well as culturally.”

Big news this year is that Sewell Group has been given the Royal Stamp of Approval. Congratulations on being awarded a Queen’s Awards for Enterprise for Promoting Opportunity! Tell us about that.

“The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise are the highest accolade that businesses can get, so for us to win one is fantastic. I don’t think it gets much better than that. We always aim high, and so to get an award commendation from Her Majesty the Queen is outstanding.  

“The Promoting Opportunity category fits perfectly with what we’re about as a business; promoting opportunities for our people, and also for the communities in which we work.  

“For me personally, it was a great honour to be able to work on something so exciting in my first few months being in post. There was a real buzz; we couldn’t communicate even with our staff about the award until the embargo was lifted on the day of the announcement. 

“We created a film which we’re really proud of, we shared the news with our staff through video content and sending them personalised cards, thinking of all those little touches to enable us to celebrate with our team was really special for us. We had so much appreciation from our staff as well, but it is the people who make this business successful and so they were the focus.”

Hot off the press – you have just been appointed to the new HEY LEP Business Support Board among some other top people across the region! Great for you personally, but also for Sewell Group, what will this entail?

“The LEP announced these very exciting appointments last  week following a successful recruitment campaign, where they were inundated with applications. I’m delighted to have been one of those appointed to the Business Support Board, especially because of the number and quality of applications this year. 

“The Business Support Board ensures that businesses can receive and access advice, finance and other support to sustain and develop their organisations to flourish, whatever their size and sector.  

“A colleague of mine also received news that she has been appointed to the Infrastructure Board which looks at future investment opportunities for the region, focusing on transport and place-based property developments and where necessary, bring together Government agencies to expedite these developments.  

“I can’t wait to get started and play a part in helping our fantastic area to thrive!”

BusinessWorks Hull & East Yorkshire Autumn 2021

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