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Karen Davies

Karen is the founder and Chief Executive of Purple Shoots. Karen is extremely dedicated, passionate and enthusiastic when it comes to helping others. She acquired a variety of experience before starting Purple Shoots which all helps her in her varied role. She worked for 10 years in an investment bank, 10 years in a small manufacturing business, a few years as a self-employed translator and prior to that she worked in the City of London for one of the big four firms of accountants. She holds an MA from Oxford University in Geography and an MSc in Economic Development. When Karen is not busy giving out financial help she enjoys doing puppet shows for children and churches, playing the drums and she also likes walking.

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Bob Shepherd

Bob is the Operations Director and works with Karen on the lending. He has previously spent 30 years with a major Bank in a rich variety of Commercial and Retail management positions, as well as administrative, and after leaving the bank, he worked building businesses as a mentor and consultant to a diverse range of clients. With Management and Financial expertise he has 45 years experience in helping UK based businesses. He is a qualified ACIB an MIBC, MILM and has a level 4 NVQ in Business Counselling. He is a visiting University Lecturer in Corporate Finance and has written and delivered seminars on ‘Starting a Successful Business’, and ‘How to get on with your Bank’ and Consumer Fraud among others. He has various Business interests and locally he is a Community Councillor with a place on a number of voluntary groups.

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Emma Musgrave

Emma is the Self Reliant Group manager. She works with Karen and the SRG coordinators in Wales and England managing Purple Shoots’ work on SRGs and helping to find and train new partners and facilitators for our groups. She has previously worked in educational publishing for companies such as Pearson and Cambridge University Press with a focus on employability. Emma loves working with people to take control of their own lives and reach their potential. When she is not working on SRGs, she is on her small holding in Wales knee-deep in sheep, chickens and mud.

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Lesley Dodwell

After a number of years being an Executive Director of her family’s office supplies business until its sale, and taking time to raise two amazing children, Lesley has enjoyed a variety of interesting customer-facing roles. These included running an NHS Training Centre, working for Gloucestershire Enterprise, being a Road Safety Officer and a Teaching Assistant at a local primary school in a disadvantaged area of Cheltenham. During much of this time she has led a number of clubs for primary school children introducing them to Drama, Music and Fun.

Lesley has, though, found the work of creating and facilitating Self Reliant Groups the most rewarding of her career and one in which she shares the joy of being valued. In her spare time, she loves looking after her grandchildren, and enjoys the Theatre, reading and keeping fit, though not all at the same time – and if cookery required a degree, she would be a PHD by now!

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Judith Isherwood

Judith is a self-reliant group coordinator based in Swansea and covers groups in Neath Port Talbot. She has previously worked in a development role overseas, including Mongolia and Rwanda, and on similar craft-to-business projects. Most recently she has experience of managing teams in the retail sector across South Wales. Judith’s ethos is to offer a hand-up not a hand-out, and she loves empowering people to create the change they want to see. She enjoys travel, coastal walks, and knitting!

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Mike Lewis

Mike is one of our self-reliant group coordinators based in Cheltenham covering our West of England patch. His previous role was for the Responsible Finance lender Fredericks Foundation where he was their Client Manager in Gloucestershire. He also spent 25 years working for Barclays Bank PLC mainly in small business roles in Gloucestershire. When he is not coordinating groups Mike enjoys walking, football & athletics and he plays bridge for Gloucestershire.

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Phil Burkhard

Phil has 36 years’ experience in business development, programme management and partnership working. This covers all three sectors and includes leading innovation, business improvement, corporate change, business development and regeneration initiatives; managing regional, national and UK teams & creating two businesses in Wales. The first provided creativity and innovation services and the second helped disadvantaged young people improve their life chances via mentored work experience. He has also managed programmes and grants up to £1m, and is a De Bono trained Creative Thinking Facilitator, a former Business Excellence Assessor for the Wales Quality Award and a prior Awards Assessor for Business in the Community. Phil has led teams, multi-sector partnerships and programmes to achieve 10 UK and National Awards and accolades including the UK Enterprise Support Initiative of 2010 and was nominated for the Queens Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2011. In his spare time Phil enjoys walking, cycling, golf and travel – anything outdoors! Along with his wife he does occasional voluntary work and supports their parents.


Tony Johnson

Tony is a retired solicitor.  During his working life he regularly acted for clients in the sale and purchase of businesses as well as advising clients on a variety of business issues.  In addition, with a partner he ran a 2 office legal aid practice with a dozen staff for 16 years before selling the business.  He therefore has a practical understanding of the issues with which those running a small business have to deal on a regular basis.

Paula Pridham

Paula has spent 25 years in leadership positions in the not for profit sector and is currently a Director of UK charity Care for the Family. She has a BSc (Hons) Social Science with Social Policy and specialises in Training and Development.

Peter Elsworth BA (Hons), MsC, ACIS, FRSA. MIM

Peter has worked in industry in a number of financial and commercial roles over the last 40 years, which includes 34 years in IT. Currently he is Commercial Director for a large software company. Peter is also Vice Chairperson and Treasurer of a local charity, Treasurer of 4 other organisations and secretary of two.


Peter Saunders, OBE

Peter is an entrepreneur, business angel and philanthropist. He has created and developed award winning businesses employing hundreds of people in Wales, been named the UK Business Angel of the Year and received the Community Foundation Award for philanthropy in Wales.

Noel Matthias 

Noel is the Managing Director of WEvolution and is responsible for introducing the Self-Reliant Group (SRG) approach to the UK. He is originally from India and holds degrees in History, Philosophy and Theology. He completed his Masters in Communication at the Westminster University in London in 2006 and has lived in Scotland since then. Noel is passionate about working alongside people determined to overcome poverty and trusts their capacity and imagination to turn their lives and those of their families and communities around. (