Jay Bhayani receives Professional of the Year Award

Jay Bhayani, partner and head of niche employment firm Bhayani Bracewell, which has offices in Sheffield and Doncaster, is absolutely delighted to have won the award for ‘Professional of the Year’ in the ABDN Awards – the region’s first ethnic minority business awards.

The win, which was presented at a glittering ceremony in Sheffield, attended by 300 guests, with Bollywood dancers, Indian and Pakistani food and inspirational speeches, might have been a surprise to Jay who faced stiff competition with a really high calibre of entrants, but not to those who know her background and her sheer determination to succeed.

Irshad Akbar, one of the organisers of the ABDN awards – the theme of which was ‘breaking barriers’ – said that it is now time for business people from ethnic minorities to leave the “comfort zone” of their communities and play a bigger part in the wider world – and that is exactly what Jay has done. Jay came to England from Kampala in 1971, age 3, as a refugee with her family, around the time of the Idi Amin exodus. Determined to succeed: her drive and determination overcame language barriers, as well as financial and emotional challenges, as she went to university and then on to qualify as a solicitor. But testing times didn’t stop there. Being a woman, young and Asian brought Jay some almost overwhelming obstacles, but she didn’t let them stop her and overcame tremendous hurdles to become a junior partner at Sheffield law firm Watson Esam at the age of 29 and one of the youngest senior partners in the profession in her 30’s.

Recognising a gap in the market, Jay set herself a further challenge in 2011 when she moved onto a new and exciting venture establishing niche employment law firm Bhayani Bracewell in Sheffield, where she set to delivering her own style of employment law advice – getting to know her clients and exactly what they want to achieve, so that she can provide practical and workable solutions to complex problems, getting the most favourable outcome for them. Within the first year of trading, Jay was already capturing a market that was looking for something different, introducing practical and innovative services such as ‘Bulletproof’ and ‘Hawkeye’ (flexible and affordable HR protection plans for businesses and schools). Collaborating with local recruitment consultants, she developed the HR Exchange Sheffield and Doncaster (bi-monthly, informal and free to attend forums for HR professionals) and the HR & Employment Forum for Charities.

Having had to overcome such difficulties herself, Jay is a passionate advocate of ensuring that everyone gets a fair chance to succeed, and has always seen her role in the community as an important part of her life and career. Keen to encourage young people who might not find the right opportunities so forthcoming, she has helped to break down stereotypes by presenting her own story at schools; has been a mentor and positive role model to young Asian girls and has promoted and provided work experience to black and minority ethnic community students. She is also a school governor and sponsors the Inter-School Mock Trial Competition – a project aimed at inspiring young people to pursue a legal career. She has presented at Sheffield City Council BME Workers’ Conference on “insight, ambition and ability”; was a member of Sheffield Chamber’s Representation Council and Sheffield’s Local Economy Board; judged Sheffield Chamber’s Medal of Merit and was a trustee of Sheffield Law Society. She also helped to set up ‘Next Generation’ – a forum where young people get together to share experiences in an environment less daunting than the usual networking arena.

Jay says ‘It feels really great to have won this award and to be in such good company with the winners and amazing line up of short-listed candidates. I do feel that I have had to jump through some hurdles when I started out in the late 80’s and sadly there are still very few voices of influence in business from my background and gender. This award makes the effort all the more rewarding. I’m proud to be its recipient and would also like to congratulate everyone who won on the evening and all those who were nominated too.”

Jay can be contacted at Bhayani Bracewell on 0114 272 1884 or by email at hello@bhayanibracewell.co.uk.

www.bhayanibracewell.co.uk