Facts International founder Barbara Lee died peacefully at home in Kent on 20th February 2018, aged 80.
Barbara Mary Lee was born in Suffolk into a farming family, 'always wanted to see the world', and when at 23 she was offered a post in New Zealand, she emigrated, taking her Lambretta Scooter with her. Although she returned to England a few years later when her father was taken ill, her love of New Zealand never faded and she and her friend Mary built a holiday home there overlooking the Pacific Ocean in 2004.
In her late 20s Lee (pictured) entered the world of market research, as an interviewer with NOP and then as Field Manager for Gordon Coulson. A few years later she set up Fieldwork International in the second bedroom of her flat in London, selling the company after eleven years and starting Facts International in Ashford, Kent. The company grew to 120 employees, some of whom had been with Lee for the whole thirty years when she sold to Chime Communications and Nick Lamb in 2007.
Aged seventy, she retired following the sale, but studied astronomy through the open university, acquiring several telescopes and an astrodome. In addition to the NZ residence, she and Mary bought a motor home to travel around Europe, and holidayed 'all over the world'.
Lee, a Fellow of the Market Research Society and familiar figure at conferences and events, will be sadly missed by many in the MR world. Linda Henshall, MD of the New Fieldwork Company, comments: 'Barbara was a good friend to me for many years, I have many happy memories of times we spent together. She was also well respected in the industry'. Network Research MD Virginia Monk says: 'I have been a long admirer of her over the years , such a fantastic role model for women in business at a time when there were so few women in market research - and such a lovely dignified lady'. Former MRS Chairman Peter Bartram says simply 'Hers was a life to celebrate', while Qualitative Consultancy founder Sue Robson comments: 'I met her in 1970 when I was a young researcher, I was much less experienced that Barbara and she was unfailingly kind and supportive to me in my career. I had a lot of respect for her skills and business acumen and I have many fond memories of her'.