Gemma Lee Ruskin Design

An apprentice who started as a sewing machinist with a Wigston car interior specialist and rose to become operations manager within three years has been recognised with a prestigious award. Gemma Lee from Ruskin Design won Best Apprentice as part of the Leicestershire Live Women in Business Awards.

Gemma started out as a sewing machinist with Ruskin Design, which creates upholstery for luxury car brands including Land Rover, Mercedes and Porsche. Having shown an interest in design, Gemma was asked to lead a small team, achieving an apprenticeship in team leadership which she passed with flying colours.

Gemma excelled in the design field and worked hard to update her industry knowledge. She created an innovative centrepiece for Ruskin as part of its stand at the Great British Land Rover Show and went on to secure international recognition for meeting the brief to design the first ever vegan interior for a Land Rover.

Nominated by her apprenticeship assessor Kirsty McNamara from North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College who supports her on the team leadership programme, Gemma has now moved on to follow the Level 3 apprenticeship.

The award was made in recognition of Gemma’s achievements as part of an annual quest to find the most successful and inspirational businesswomen in the region. Finalists were selected from dozens of nominations for the fifth annual Leicestershire Live Women in Business Awards devised to celebrate the outstanding achievements of female entrepreneurs and professionals in the region. Winners were announced by TV presenter Emma Jesson at the ceremony on Thursday, 26 September at the King Power Stadium in Leicester.

On receiving her award, Gemma said, “I was really surprised to hear that I had even been nominated and haven’t stopped smiling since I heard that I had won the award. I was away on holiday in Menorca when I heard the news so missed the awards ceremony but celebrated with my family instead.”

Steve Castledine, managing director of Ruskin Design said, “Gemma’s achievements are well-deserved, and we are delighted for her. She has demonstrated excellent organisational skills, is completely unflappable, a good listener and a quick learner. Gemma is also keen and ambitious and has proved herself to be a real asset to our business. We will be organising a dinner for the whole company so that we can congratulate Gemma on her success to make up for the ceremony that she missed.”

Showing skills as a sewing machinist, Gemma quickly realised her ambition of becoming a designer at Ruskin through dedication and constantly updating and improving her knowledge of the industry. Ruskin Design uniquely adopts a ‘fashion house’ approach to car trimming by creating traditional and unique designs for vehicle interiors including the Diesel Jeans Land Rover Defender and Bumblebee Chevy Camaro.

Steve added, “Gemma always takes an innovative approach and one her great designs was the centrepiece of our display at the Great British Land Rover show. The design is unique and has drawn impressive comments from industry pundits. The Vegan Land Rover has been written about by journalists from all over the world.

“Gemma’s mentor from the College, Kirsty McNamara, has been brilliant in encouraging and developing her and as a result, Gemma was first in line for promotion after an opportunity arose for her to take responsibility for our operations.

“Gemma thoroughly deserves her new role and is an outstanding team member for whom nothing is too much trouble. She is hoping to develop her skills further with a management qualification to continue her professional development.”

Click here to find out about Apprenticeships at the College.