MILK and Coca Cola helped mum Penny Hughes become Cheshire Woman of the Year. She has been awarded the prestigious title at Chester Town Hall for finalists nominated by the public for their talent and achievement.

Penny is the youngest of three daughters of a middle class family, born in West Kirby. She was educated at Birkenhead High School, where her leadership quality made her head girl.

She then went on to achieve a first class honours degree in chemistry at Sheffield University, where she also studied economics.

After two years business experience with Proctor and Gamble and the Milk Marketing Board, Penny joined Coca Cola in 1984. She had 10 successful years with Coca Cola rising to the post of president of Coca Cola Great Britain and Ireland at the age of 33 - a position never previously occupied by a woman, a Brit or anyone under 40-years-of-age.

In 1994, Penny decided to leave Coca Cola in order to start a family and develop a more flexible career. She and her husband now have two sons, Alex and Robert and as a mother she is giving them the benefits of a happy, stable and secure childhood, as she enjoyed.

Penny's career continues, though, with a portfolio of interests. She is a non-executive director of the Body Shop, Berisford, Mirror Group and Next plcs. She is a frequent public speaker and supports voluntary and charitable organisations.

Thirteen proved lucky for Penny, with the Woman of the Year Award now in its 13th year. This year money raised through sponsorship will help the work of the NSPCC in the North West.

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