A WOMAN who grew up on a council estate in Bolton and went on to become managing director of two thriving international companies has been awarded the MBE.

At the age of 38, Tracy Mort has established herself as a leading entrepreneur in the health and beauty market, at the helm of firms that export to nearly 70 countries.

Now, her business acumen has been rewarded with an MBE in recognition of her services to the UK economy.

Early in 2007, after working as head of buying for a toiletries gift company, the former Sharples School pupil launched her own business, Grace Cole, which distributes toiletry gift sets to 68 countries. In the UK, the goods are supplied to a number of popular high street stores including Superdrug and John Lewis.

From just two employees five years ago, Grace Cole now has 21 staff at its base in Cheadle, Cheshire.

Approximately 60 per cent of its £7.5 million turnover for 2011 was achieved through exports.

Last year, Grace Cole spent £70,000 on exhibiting overseas.

Today, the business has more than 200 products in its portfolio. Earlier this year, Mrs Mort launched a sister company, Affinity Bay, offering premium toiletry products.

She and her team have won a clutch of prestigious awards, and Mrs Mort has also established herself as an ambassador for women in business while being heavily involved in charitable and voluntary work since 1997.

She said: “When I heard about it, I was in shock and really overwhelmed. You just don’t expect something like this and I’m really pleased.

“In terms of the export market and customers, they love anything British and, particularly, the Royal Family. It’s just amazing.”

Mrs Mort grew up in Wellington Walk and attended Pikes Lane primary and Egerton primary after moving house, then Sharples School.

Today, she lives in Lansdowne Close, Ramsbottom, with husband Steven and daughter, Georgia, aged 13.