Hertfordshire's vibrant business landscape is teeming with remarkable women who have made their indelible mark in their respective fields. In this empowering listicle, we celebrate the extraordinary achievements of three inspiring women who have transformed the funeral, legal, and property industries in Hertfordshire. 

These trailblazers exemplify determination, resilience, and unwavering passion. Prepare to be inspired as we delve into the remarkable stories of Hertfordshire's leading ladies in business.


Nicola Hankin, Manager and owner of The Dressing Room Hair & Beauty

The Comet:

Nicola blushes when referred to as an inspiring women but owner of The Dressing Room Hair & Makeup has spent more than 20 years making others look and feel amazing. Never underestimating the power of good hair she also has a listening ear and takes pride that her salon has that "in your friends living room" feel. 

She explains "I always strive to provide a relaxing environment that is not intimidating to clients, as I am aware lots of women feel anxious walking into a salon. My goal has always been to make them feel at home." 

Nicola's recent progression is offering a new hair extension technique; micro wefts and she is also undertaking education to brush up her wig skills. She explains she would love to help those suffering with hair loss by providing a personalised wig service in the salon.

"It's a very rewarding job and the right wig or extensions can be life changing to someone with thinning hair. I'm excited to take The Dressing Room in this direction. Watch this space"


Sarah Thorp - Centre Manager at Mantle Space Ltd

The Comet:

I am the Centre Manger at Kings Court; Stevenage for Mantle Space Ltd. Mantle Space offers 8 serviced offices facilities in the East of England region.

I started with Mantle in December 2021 and since then I’ve built a community within Kings Court which has helped companies grow and thrive in their office environments.

My team and I create a warm a friendly atmosphere within the building and I’m always on hand to support companies. We regularly host Members Events and other business events, and I regularly assist in the maintenance of the building.

I am kept extremely busy at Kings Court, but I also have an active personal life outside of work. I am the Secretary of my local Royal British Legion Branch and I’ve just started Ballroom dance classes with my husband. I am a keen gardener and an ever-trying golfer!

Prior to joining Mantle Space Ltd, I worked in Education for 14 years and whilst doing that, helped in a Golfing Centre – later Managing it when I left the Education sector. “Managing Golfers is a lot tougher than Mantle members!”

“I have really enjoyed watching the growth of some of our member’s companies at Mantle Space and being able to facilitate that growth within Kings Court has meant an excellent retention rate of our members.

I am looking forward to continuing my career with Mantle Space and the prospect of obtaining more serviced offices within Kings Court is very exciting!”


Claire Austin - Managing Director of Austin’s

The Comet:

You might be forgiven for thinking that the world of the funeral director does not change much. But behind that sense of tradition, things are changing and for Claire Austin, Managing Director of Hertfordshire-based Austin’s, that means that she and her staff must constantly move with the times.

That, in itself, can be a challenge for a business that can point to a history which stretches back more than three centuries in the county. Austin’s is still based in Hertfordshire and Claire said: “We have to be aware of the company’s long history but you cannot afford to stand still in our business.”

Claire is the tenth generation of the family to be involved in the business. “I enjoy the challenges, one of which is the way that the nature of funeral services is changing. More and more people see a funeral service as a celebration of a life that has been lived rather than a mourning of the person who has died.”

Although originally established in Stevenage, Austin’s now has branches throughout north and east Hertfordshire. They opened in Harpenden last year and have just relocated their Hertford funeral arrangement office and Chapels of Rest.

In the autumn of this year, they will be opening Austin’s Natural Burial Park in Stevenage. This will be located adjacent to the Memorial Gardens at Harwood Park, over-looking the stunning views of the Hertfordshire countryside. The area will be left to meadow but will be planted with mature London Plane Trees.


Sandra Foster - Managing Director and owner of Fosters Legal Solicitors

The Comet:

Sandra Foster is a Solicitor, the Managing Director and owner of Fosters Legal Solicitors based in the Old Town Stevenage.

Sandra was originally from Ghana, West Africa. She came to the UK in 1999 to study. She studied a degree in administration and law and also has a degree in Master of Law. She is now a qualified solicitor practising in primarily in family law.

The firm is rated top 3 in Stevenage by ThreeBestRated. Sandra is the driving force behind the success of the firm due to her love and commitment of helping the low-income clients in the community including providing free legal advice, working pro bono in cases of domestic abuse where the parent has no money and is fleeing his or her family home. She has also donated money from her own pocket, paid for shopping for essentials, and spent time visiting victims.  

Because of the firm’s vision and achievements, the firm was recognised as a National Business Leader in 2016 for its community work and support of low-income clients.

Sandra Foster is also privileged to be a Member of the Leaders Council of Great Britain and Ireland since 2021.  

Sandra said it is always her vision to encourage, inspire, and motivate people to achieve what they think is impossible. Therefore, her theme today is “Your Determination determines your success.”