A former Gleneagles chef who has expanded the reach of her restaurant throughout the Covid pandemic has been named this year’s overall winner at the Business Women Scotland Awards. 

Hayley Wilkes, owner of The WeeCOOK Kitchen near Carnoustie, said it has been a “busy, crazy year” despite this spring’s lockdown and subsequent restrictions that have put many hospitality businesses under severe strain. As a result, she has been able to keep all staff and apprentices in jobs throughout. 

Like many, WeeCOOK initially turned to takeaway food to keep revenues coming in. However, the restaurant has also been selling its award-winning pies across the country, from Glasgow and Edinburgh to Aberdeen and Perth.

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“2020 was my planned year of growth – despite Covid, with our pies and deliveries we have grown, increased our brand and reputation,” Ms Wilkes said. 

“I wrote in my business plan three years ago that I wanted to sell pies in Glasgow in 2020. I never imagined it would be under the circumstances that transpired.” 

She opened WeeCOOK in 2016 after using her last paycheque to purchase a laptop and business cards. Working in hospitality all of her life, it had long been her ambition to own her own restaurant, creating jobs and providing a service to the local community.

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Ms Wilkes was one of 11 women honoured at this year’s Business Women Scotland Awards, which was for the first time held as a virtual event. Now in its sixth year, the awards are run by the Business Women Scotland network headed by Lynne Kennedy. 

“This year we have all faced the challenges of living with a world pandemic and recent statistics have reported that women-led businesses were impacted more adversely than those of men, seeing their businesses experiencing lower trading volume,” Ms Kennedy said. 

“In this year’s awards we have paid tribute to the incredible achievements of our shortlist of established and rising stars. Every single one of the finalists is an inspiration and a role model – not only to their peers within the sector but also to the next generation who are considering starting a business.” 

The full list of winners: 


Overall winner 

Hayley Wilkes, WeeCOOK, Carnoustie 

Board Member of the Year 

Sue Bomphray, Scottish Veteran Residences, Glasgow 

Business Woman of the Year 

Sarra Bejaoui, SmartPA, Edinburgh 

Established Business of the Year 

Tracy Clark, ITC Hydraulics, Aberdeenshire 

Inspirational Woman of the Year 

Susie Fraser, Adeo Group, Glasgow 

Resilient Woman of the Year 

Joint winners: 

Hayley Wilkes, WeeCOOK, Carnoustie 

Michelle Milnes, Property Studios, Edinburgh 

Rising Star of the Year 

Katie Murrie, Service Design Academy, Dundee and Angus College 

Social Impact Award 

Claire Murray, Emotion Works, Edinburgh 

Highly Commended: 

Elaine Brown, Edinburgh Remakery 

Sole Trader of the Year 

Francia Boakye, Frank Francia, Edinburgh 

Start-up Business of the Year 

Melodie Paterson, Heather Street Food, Dundee