I had the honour to attend Buckingham Palace as a guest at one of the 25 award ceremonies held each year.
My childhood friend Octavia Goredema received a Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to black female entrepreneurs.
The married mum of two young children set up the inspiring Twenty Ten Club, a social enterprise dedicated to nurturing entrepreneurial acumen among women.
The club offers business development support for black female business owners and shares the success stories of more than 100 entrepreneurs on its website.
The 33-year-old, who travelled from Los Angeles where she is now based for the ceremony, has since launched an ‘Interview an Entrepreneur’ school programme. It enables students of all backgrounds and ages to interview the black female role models they most admire.
She is an inspiration to many of our friends with her tireless work and can-do attitude. So, when we learned she was on the Queen’s birthday honours list we were impressed, but not surprised.
She joined 111 other people, including footballer David James and actress Amanda Redman, to be presented with her award by Prince Charles.
The investitures are held throughout the year, with one at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh and the remainder at Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle.
The whole ceremony is shrouded in tradition but, refreshingly, is not a pompous affair.
Security was strict on entry, and cameras and mobile phones had to be left in cloakrooms before entering the colourful banqueting hall for the ceremony.
An orchestra, one of the Bands of the Household Division, played music while we waited for Prince Charles to arrive – and he did so, punctually.
Prince Charles entered with two Gurkha Orderly Officers, a tradition started by Queen Victoria in 1876.
There were also five members of The Queen’s Body Guard of the Yeomen of Guard, which was created in 1485 by King Henry VII after his victory at the Battle of Bosworth Field. They are the oldest Royal Body Guard and the oldest military corps still existing in the UK.
The guests were dressed in their finest which included an array of hats and national dress – ranging from the kimono to the kilt.
Those receiving awards included members of the armed forces and police – dressed in their uniforms – and civilians whose work ranged from services to healthcare to basket making.
The recipients were given guidance about how to address His Royal Highness and how to bow or curtsy without turning their back on him. Octavia said walking backwards in heels was a challenge, but it was one she did beautifully.
Prince Charles took each decoration from a velvet cushion and presented it to each recipient in turn, while chatting and smiling.
As Octavia stood in line to receive her award, she was complimented on her handmade hat, by Brianna Kenyan at Pooka Queen, by an officer. She was later told Prince Charles himself approved and one guest gave her day even more sparkle by nominating her for the ‘best dressed’ award.
Prince Charles congratulated her on her work and they spoke about his charity, The Prince’s Trust, which offers support and funding to young people seeking to start their own business. He was thrilled to hear Octavia had a number of Prince’s Trust ambassadors in her club. She then proudly received her breast badge.
I sat with her aunt and uncle, Patsy Boyce-Forgenie and Patrick Goredema, wanting to cheer her on. However, we had earlier been advised it was ‘not the done thing’ – particularly after Kylie Minogue caused a furore when she picked up her OBE.
Afterwards, people gathered outside the palace balcony where Will and Kate shared a kiss on their wedding day. People posed for photos with their awards, fellow heroes such as David James, friends, family and visiting Beefeaters.
Octavia, who now offers business development and marketing services to entrepreneurs in the US and UK, is a self-made woman. She showcases examples of entrepreneurialism and encourages youngsters to realise they can start their own businesses too. She was one of many ordinary people to have done extraordinary things at this awe-inspiring event.