Liz’s reward for helping tourists have good night’s sleep

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An entrepreneur who helps thousands of Britons to enjoy restful holidays has been crowned as the 2012 Forward Ladies’ Yorkshire Business Woman of the Year.

Liz Colleran created her company, Duvalay, after experiencing many uncomfortable nights sleeping on a caravan mattress. She was determined to devise a product that would make life easier for holidaymakers.

The concept was fiendishly simple – she combined a portable memory foam mattress topper with a shaped duvet. Her business took off after she pitched the idea to Hilary Devey from Dragons’ Den. She became Ms Devey’s first investment on Dragons’ Den and, despite the economic downturn, sales for Duvalay are up 10 per cent this year. The company turns over around £850,000.

She was presented with her award at a celebration lunch held at the Queens Hotel in Leeds yesterday. She was given a glass bowl by award sponsor Caroline Pullich, head of relationship banking (North East Region) at Barclays. Ms Colleran, from Gomersal, West Yorkshire, was also the winner in the Manufacturing Business Woman of the Year category, sponsored by the Yorkshire and Humber Manufacturing Advisory Service.

The judges said of Ms Colleran: “Liz is ambitious and has plenty of drive to grow the business through selective customer targeting and exports.

“Targeting large companies like Virgin Atlantic and JML, and adapting products to suit their market increased sales by 30 per cent and presents a strong demonstration of product innovation.”

She is also developing a new venture –the first fully recyclable, lightweight mattress for the caravan market – which has the potential to reel in large sales in the US.

Speaking after winning the award, Ms Colleran said: “It’s in recognition of all the hard work we have done to keep moving the business forward. You have to keep an open mind and make well-informed decisions.”

She said she aimed to make Duvalay, a “sleeping necessity” for the leisure industry.

The Yorkshire Post was one of the award sponsors. A full report on the awards ceremony will be carried in the next edition of Business Tuesday.