Karen West-Whylie

Chief Executive

Karen started working with the BEC in April 2015 and developed the project which would lead to the BEC becoming a Community Interest Company (CIC) in 2016. Karen loves her varied work load at the BEC and leads on supporting creative businesses and the hospitality industries, as this is where her experience and passions lie.  


Formerly Karen was a Group Manager for Barking and Dagenham Council, leading teams and people, which supported people with learning disabilities to lead independent lives.

Donna Finlay

Operations Director

Donna has been Operations Director since June 2016. Previous to this she held a Business Manager role within the regulated financial services sector for over 31 years where she managed a portfolio of small businesses, offering support and professional expertise as well as delivering enterprise workshops within the local community. Donna is a member of the Chartered Banker Institute and holds a recognised accreditation in business banking.

Donna is passionate about her family and has two beautiful nieces who never cease to inspire and amaze her every day! A true believer that you can achieve anything in life if you work hard and want it enough.

Wendy Akinnawo

Reception team

Wendy has 27 years experience working in various public sector roles, including 17 years with the Department of Trade and Industries. Wendy is passionate about her family, most especially her four children and seeing their achievements.

Michelle Obama is the person that inspires Wendy. She’s a go-getter, self-assured, self-confident, no nonsense sort of person. The best professional/career related advice Wendy has ever received is to treat others as you would like to be treated.

Ameena Sharif

Reception Team

Ameena studied health and social care for almost two years before deciding she wanted a change. She completed her apprenticeship with the BEC for a year and enjoyed it very much. She is passionate about a career in customer service.

Her manager and work colleagues inspire Ameena to be the best she can be and have taught me everything she needs to know for the job she’s doing. The best career related advice Ameena has received is to have a path but be flexible; to be willing to accept challenges even if it seems they may lead you down and different path.

Gemma Gillingham

Reception Team

Gemma volunteered on and off for two years in local community centre and library before completing her apprenticeship in business administration with the Barking Job Shop and then joining the BEC reception team as junior receptionist.

Gemma is passionate about building her career and making a good future for herself. Her family inspires Gemma as they have always believed in her and knowing she is making them proud makes her very happy in return.

The best advice Gemma has received is that it may not be the path you chose for yourself but don’t see it as a step back. See it instead as a side step towards that goal. Or the goal might change because you took that side step!

Community Development winner 2017

Business person of the Year

Karen West-Whylie

Corporate Social Responsibility – Winner

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