Tuesday, October 25, 2016

DIGA Project Holds Dissemination Event in Brussels

October is proving a very international month at The Women's Organisation with project work in Asia and across Europe! Our CEO Maggie O'Carroll and Principal Consultant & Project Manager Lisa McMullan headed to Brussels to hold a special event on 12th October as part of the DIGA (Digital Innovations for Growth Academy) project. 

The event invited MEP's and enterprise experts from across Europe to meet together and hear about the findings of the DIGA project, and to look at the learning programme that has been developed to enable enterprise trainers and educators to effectively support entrepreneurs to think digital while growing their businesses. 

The event was opened be MEP Alessia Mosca who introduced Anna Danti, Policy Officer with European Commission DG for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs giving an overview of how the European Commission is committed to supporting women entrepreneurs.

Dr Briga Hynes Discussing DIGA Research Findings
Dr Briga Hynes from DIGA partners Kemmy Business School at the University of Limerick presented the key findings from the initial research conducted through the DIGA Project, reflecting on how that has influenced the project development so far.  Click here for a summary of those findings presented by Briga. 

Next up was DIGA Project Manager Lisa McMullan from The Women's Organisation.  Lisa talked through the learning modules that have been developed through the project which have recently been pilotted across Europe with Enterprise Trainers and Educators, upskilling them in key digital competancies related to enterprise so they can better advise the businesses they are working with.   The modules cover:

1.Enhancing digital awareness and knowledge
2.The role and use of digital technologies and their benefits to business
3.Making digital deliver for the start-up and small business
4.Enabling and supporting the development of an entrepreneurial digital strategy
5.Designing integrated digital competence entrepreneur support/programmes

Panel Discussion

Once the DIGA Programme had been presented, female entrepreneurship specialist Madi Sharma Hosted a panel discussion around 'Digital Innovation to Promote Entrepreneurship'. Joining the panel were:

• Theresa Griffin, MEP European Parliament, UK
• Martha Ivanovas, Government Affairs Manager Dell
• Janne Elvelid, Policy Officer DG CONNECT, European Commission
• Maggie O´Carroll, Chief Executive Officer, The Women´s Organisation (DIGA Partner)
• Caridad Martinez Carrillo de Albornoz, CEO Inercia Digital (DIGA Partner)

Key themes arising from the discussion included:

  • The importance of using our practical research from DIGA and the experience of the expert organisations involved to influence European Policy, and connecting with our MEP's to help influence the policy agenda.
  • The need for digital economy policy and initiatives to be gender-proofed to strengthen and improve the sustainability of more small businesses It was interesting to see good practice examples from the private sector highlighted by colleagues from Dell around supporting start up s and women entrepreneurs.

It was great to connect with other EU Projects as part of the event, finding out a bit more about 'WEHubs' a European Project aimed at supporting Women Web Entrepreneurs. 

The event concluded with a round up courtesy of Eva Fabry, Director of DIGA Partners European Centre for Women and Technology. 

We'd like to thank our UK MEP's Julie Ward and Theresa Griffin for supporting the event. 

To find out more about the Erasmus Plus funded project 'DIGA' please click here

Monday, October 24, 2016

Enterprise Hub Start-up Conference Came to Sefton with 3 Inspirational Enterpreneurs in Tow

Jo & Sabah from The Women's Organisation
Last week we took our FREE 'Business Start-up Conference' to Sefton. This event is offered as part of the Enterprise Hub project, a European funded programme offering expert advice and support to start in business through a consortium of delivery partners including: The Women’s Organisation, SAFE Regeneration, St Helens Chamber, Granby Toxteth Development Trust, Everton Development Trust, Alt Valley Community Trust, The Prince's Trust, Merseyside Expanding Horizons and Franchising Works.

The conference took place on Thursday 20th October at the new fantastic conference centre within the Hugh Baird campus, L20 Hub.  A huge thanks to InvestSefton who assisted us in organising a fabulous morning, and arranged the delicious refreshments served- warm crispy pastries accompanied by hot tea and coffee, perfect on a cold day!
InvestSefton is an enterprise, business support and inward investment service of Sefton Council. This aims to make Sefton an attractive and easy place for new and old business to thrive. Kris Swift and Julie Swarbrick from Invest Sefton were on hand at the event to encourage budding entrepreneurs to keep in touch with their team throughout their business journey to receive help and advice.

The morning was hosted by Jo Austin from Enterprise Hub Partner The Women’s Organisation who gave all attendees a quick introduction into Enterprise Hub and how it is a great time to access free support to get started.

Cheryl Grogan was inspirational
Our first inspirational speaker of the morning was Cheryl Grogan who has recently set up a soft play centre, AJ’s Playdays, which is due to open on Stanley Road in Bootle, later this month. Cheryl spoke about choosing self-employment to enable her to create a job for herself that fits around her children. Cheryl also emphasised that ‘market research’ was very important in the process of setting up and that she literally wouldn’t have got to the point of launch if she hadn’t tapped into advice from Yan Miao, business advisor at The Women’s Organisation.  She also said not to listen to those close to you who might worry about self-employment not being a steady income as they will soon be positive when they realise what you have achieved.
Jack & Julie offered real insight

Next, Jack Foster from Crosby Coffee was interviewed by Business Growth Adviser from Invest Sefton Julie Swarbrick, who had helped him to get his business off the ground and growing.  Jack started roasting coffee at home in a popcorn machine as a hobby, but soon found friends were asking him for his coffee and he built a demand testing the market by taking his product to a local farmers market in Sefton.  He received advice and support to build on his idea and now has a unit in Sefton with staff, and is getting help from Sefton@Work – partners of InvestSefton, to recruit more staff through a scheme they have that helps to fund initial cost of wages. Jack also highlighted the importance of market research, and advised that social media is one of the best platforms to promote business.

Kevin Murphy's practical tips were great
Our third impressive entrepreneur was Kevin Murphy from Rentaspace who spoke about how he built his storage empire from 2005 to a nationwide venture turning over £5mil+. He then sold it and started again in 2015 with Rentaspace which is a flexible storage facility on Dunningsbridge Road in Sefton.  Kevin is keen to support other entrepreneurs so has set up a hot desk space within his facility that he welcomes small businesses to use free if they want somewhere to hold meetings or just have desk space for a while. Kevin’s advice is that you only get out what you are prepared to put in and that it is essential to build a network around you to take away the loneliness of self-employment.

Our key event partners were Startup Direct, an organisation that provides government-backed funding, mentoring and support to small businesses as part of the UK governments Start Up Loans Scheme. Ali McGrath from The Women’s Organisation spoke on behalf of Startup Direct stepping through the benefits of the scheme and offering advice about getting yourself investment ready.

The programme also included activities which explored the 'Pros and Cons of Self Employment' and understanding why businesses fail so we can avoid making mistakes early on. This was highly enjoyed by attendees and gave them an insight into self employment.

Below are some comments received as part of the feedback:

“I have found this session really inspiring and don’t feel as scared of making the jump into working for myself.”

“I think it’s amazing the amount of help Invest Sefton and Enterprise Hub have to offer, I feel my knowledge and conference has grown just rom attending this workshop today.”

“Absolutely fantastic, didn’t know it existed will attend further workshops.”

“Really helped with my confidence in moving forward with my business.”

“Highly recommended the course for anyone with an idea.”

“Positive and good introduction for individual considering self-employment.”

It was great to see representatives from the Local Growth Hub also supporting the event and helping to raise awareness that there is support for every business no matter what stage via localgrowthhub.com

It was a busy morning but we are glad that it benefitted so many attendees. Don’t worry if you missed out because we are hoping to deliver similar sessions across the boroughs within Merseyside, so keep an eye on @MerseyEntHub on twitter and contact our team on 0151 706 8113 to find out how to join the programme. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Women’s Organisation Consultancy Arm Expands to Work in Thailand!

Enterprise Evolution, the consultancy arm of The Women’s Organisation is continuing with its international work, having just completed a British Council Funded project in Thailand.

Enterprise Evolution, which aims to embed entrepreneurial approaches in individuals and organisations, has been working with Grwp Llandrillo Menai (GLLM), a Further Education college in North Wales, to develop entrepreneurship curriculum in Thailand’s vocation education sector.
Photos from Enterprise Evolution's latest Thailand trip!
Our team were commissioned by GLLM to work with the British Council in Thailand and OVEC (the Office of Vocational Educational Commission) in Thailand who are responsible for tailoring vocational education and training to the needs of the labour market. They were tasked with undertaking research and making recommendations for strengthening student entrepreneurship.

Photos from Enterprise Evolution's latest Thailand trip!

Enterprise Evolution first visited Thailand back in March, again in June and have recently returned this month. On their first visit they met with key policy makers and influencers including entrepreneurship educators, entrepreneurs, employers and students. Here they were asked for their recommendations on how to strengthen the entrepreneurial activities that were taking place in colleges and help develop a curriculum similar to the quality of those we have in the UK.

When they returned to Thailand in June, Enterprise Evolution presented their findings to OVEC and began to look at how their recommendations could be implemented into the curriculum. And on their latest trip the team worked with 30 enterprise educators introducing the new curriculum and building the teachers capacity to teach in an entrepreneurial way.

Photos from Enterprise Evolution's latest Thailand trip!

Lisa McMullan, our Project Manager and Principal Consultant of Enterprise Evolution told us; ‘It’s been great to work with policy makers, teachers, directors and leaders of the colleges in Thailand to develop and deliver new approaches to entrepreneurship education. There is a real commitment and desire to increase the number of businesses started in Thailand and to support young people in particular to be more entrepreneurial – through self-employment or when working for others.’

The proposals and recommendations made by the GLLM and Enterprise Evolution are now being taken forward by OVEC with a view to introducing the new approach by the end of the year! 

Monday, October 17, 2016

The Women's Organisation Hosts a Second Sector Specific Business Start Event

 At The Women's Organisation we have recently developed a set of new events based around setting up businesses in various sectors to give extra specialist advice and support. This month we delivered 'How to Make Hair and Beauty Your Business' - a successful event with a great turnout. This event was aimed at those completing their qualifications in this field or those just considering whether to start a business. A huge thank you to our Enterprise Hub Partners City of Liverpool College for encouraging their students to attend.

Samina from La Femme
The morning consisted of various activities to equip individuals with the necessary information required, tips from two successful business women while delving into delicious pastry treats. We would also like to thank our speakers Victoria Riley and Samina Irfan for sharing their experiences and giving our attendees fantastic tips and secrets of business success.

Victoria is the owner of a mobile hairdressing service 'Victoria Hair Liverpool' who encouraged our guests to set up their business.  She strongly believes that being self-employed gives her the freedom of choosing her working hours and allows her to work around her child. Victoria also gave us all an insight into the best form of promoting, which she mentions to be the 'word of mouth'.

Victoria from Victoria Hair Liverpool
Samina from La Femme hair and beauty salon who inspired our guests by sharing her experience of successfully fulfilling her dream of owning her very own salon. Samina highlighted the hard work and determination that is required to run her own business but mentioned that the satisfaction of reaping the rewards was what keeps her motivated to further grow her business.

Following these inspirational speakers our first activity was based on what self-employment consists of, a perfect opportunity to understand the pros and cons of this option. Engagement Officer from The Women's Organisation Sabah Shams gave an overview of the qualifications, legalities and importance of market research needed to succeed in the sector. This was greatly appreciated by attendees who found the session 'useful and prepared them for what is required to start a business'.

Below are some feedback comments we received on the day:
"Enjoyable session, full of creative and inspirational ideas for anyone thinking of starting a business."
"Really inspiring, informative session."
"I have learned an awful lot this morning and would definitely advise people to use The Women’s organisation for help"
"I really enjoyed the workshop and it has motivated me to start my own business."
"Really useful session, gathered lots of information."
"I gained a lot of knowledge from the session."
"Great hearing from the two ladies business owners, staff who led the course were very knowledgeable, really good thank you."

We are planning to deliver more sessions based on other business sectors - so watch this space!  This week we are holding a general 'Enterprise Hub Business Start-up Conference' out in Sefton open to every sector.  Click here for bookings and information.

If you have an idea for a business and would like to access expert advice and support, please contact our team to ask about the European funded 'Enterprise Hub' programme on 0151 706 8113 or enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Excelerate Labs Join the Northern Enterprise Conference 2016

Janine Hyland & Ameena Ahmed from Excelerate Labs
Our 'Exelerate Labs' team (the Greater Manchester business growth support project of The Women’s Organisation) were thrilled to support the Northern Enterprise 2016 Conference last week, held at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester.

The event, organised by Social Enterprise Network, aimed to shape and drive the devolution agenda in the north, and provide enterprising and socially minded businesses with an opportunity to explore partnerships, and collaborative opportunities that create positive social impact. A number of influential speakers joined the event including Rt Hon Hazel Blears, Philip Blond (Managing Director of Respublica), RT Hon Rob Wilson (MP Minister for Civil Society) ,Cliff Prior (CEO Big Society Capital), and Chris Murray (CEO Core Cities).

The fabulous awards dinner concluded the conference

During the conference a variety of master classes took place, showcasing innovation and best practice in the social sector.  Exelerate Labs own Enterprise Enablers Ameena Ahmed and Janine Hyland delivered a master class on ‘Top tips for growing your business’. This was attended by 10 local social organisations and SME businesses, who had opportunity to work interactively with our facilitators, taking lots of useful hints and tips to scale their work.

Ameena Ahmed present 'Female Entrepreneur' Award
The conference culminated with the Northern Enterprise 2016 Awards, which recognise the achievements of individuals and businesses that are shining beacons of social value best practice. The Women’s Organisation sponsored the ' Female entrepreneur of the year award’ which had a number of brilliant nominees put forward. On the night the worthy winner was Gina Jones, CEO of ‘Always Active’ , an organisation set up to support dementia sufferers. Gina has been a recipient of The Women’s Organisation's support in previous years and has set up a diverse range of businesses spanning from golfing to children’s entertainment. Excelerate Labs Business Growth Adviser Ameena Ahmed presented the award on behalf of The Women’s Organisation.

Ameena with Female Entrepreneur winner Gina Jones

During the conference a number of connections were made between Exelerate Labs and infrastructure bodies such as social investment companies like Big Society Capital and support groups such as GMCVO, so it was a great networking opportunity.

Excelerate Labs is a new business growth programme aimed at businesses in Greater Manchester and part funded by European Regional Development Fund. If you are working in a B2B sector in the Greater Manchester area and are looking for support to grow your business, the expert Excelerate Labs team may be able to help you FREE! Drop a line to exceleratelabs@thewo.org.uk to find out more. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Grow Your Business Like Sane Seven & Mercury Franchise Consultants At #WOBizClub

We are thinking BIG for October’s Business Club! BIG BUSINESS GROWTH! And we’ve got the perfect panel guests who are going to be giving you their tips on how they got there…

On Tuesday 25th October, 6-8:30pm we will be hosting ‘Think BIG! Building Business Growth’ – our penultimate #WOBizClub event of the year.

SO…What does business growth look like to you? More clients? Taking on your first member of staff? Building a team? Increasing turnover? Franchising? Whatever way you want to grow your business, we’ve got just the right business women who can help you.

Introducing – Viktorija Grigorjevaite of Sane Seven and Cheryl White of Mercury Franchise Consultants and Apollo Care! Two incredible business women who have worked tirelessly to grow their businesses into the powerhouses that they are today.

Viktorija is Co-Founder and Creative Director of Sane Seven which she describes as; ‘Creative thinkers specialising in photography production.’ – Prior to Sane Seven, Viktorija became the Creative Director of The Collective magazine that she helped turn into a successful art, style and travel magazine with the international readership of over 1 million! 

Now, heading up Sane Seven, Viktorija has worked on some incredibly impressive projects, most recently the Beyond The Desk in which 34 business leaders collaborated with Sane Seven in a creative project that challenged the stereotypes we associate with business leaders (Including our very own, Maggie O’Carroll!)

AND of course, just last week Viktorija photographed world famous designer Jimmy Choo! One of the things that is most impressive about Viktorija is the trajectory her business journey has taken, from a sole trader to studio limited company in a matter of years – we think it’s pretty clear why Viktorija is the woman to talk to about business growth!

And our second panel guest will be Cheryl White, who doesn’t run and own just one business, but two! Apollo Care and her newest business; Mercury Franchise Consultants who we have to thank for kindly sponsoring this Business Club event.

Before Cheryl had started her first business, it was just her wish to create a job for herself and her mum, but now she has built up her own business so that it was possible for it to become a franchise AND opened a second business to act as a franchise consultancy.

Cheryl told us; ‘In 2013 I franchised my home care company, Apollo Care, and realised that many people may wish to franchise their business but may be on a tight budget. My team and I decided that putting together 2 franchise packages would help people to achieve their franchising goals without overspending, and set up Mercury Franchise Consultants in 2015!’

(To get a sneak peek at some of the great things Cheryl might be speaking about, check out this Guest Blog she wrote for us last week!) 

So – these two impressive business women will be joining us at our panel style event for October’s Business Club. On the evening we will be talking about how your business can grow and develop in different ways and find out what exactly business growth means and how you can achieve it!

                                          BOOK YOUR TICKETS!

As always, tickets for this event can be purchased over on Eventbrite and they are £5 for Members of Business Club and £10 for Non-Members!

If you would like to become a member of Business Club, email us on businessclub@thewo.org.uk

We would like to thank Mercury Franchise Consultants for kindly sponsoring this month’s Business Club event!

About Mercury Franchise Consultants

‘Mercury Franchise Consultancy helps businesses to franchise! Our business model is based around helping business owners to franchise their business, be involved in the process and understand how franchising works. In 2013, we franchised our own home care business, Apollo Care, and realised that as well as needing the relevant documentation to franchise, business owners also needed bespoke support and planning that was relevant to their business model and potential franchisees. We decided that we would help people to franchise their business by looking at the business in a holistic and individual way that would be apparent through documentation and advice.’

10 Things to Consider if You Want to Franchise Your Business

Turning your business into a franchisable model is one way to contniue to grow your business empire. Are you considering franchising your business?

Cheryl White, Mercury Franchise Consultancy
Here are some top tips thanks to Cheryl White Director of Mercury Franchise Consultancy that can help you conduct a quick check to see if your business is ready to be franchised…

1. Master every aspect of your business: Create processes around every aspect of it, identify what will be required of new mangers and grow your current systems accordingly.

2. Can your business be franchised?
Not all businesses are suitable to franchise. Things to consider are, is your business profitable? Can it be replicated and how long has it been established?

3. Establish your brand: as a franchisor, you will be building a brand with a reputation that other people will want to buy into. You will need a brand that is distinctive and appropriate to franchise- this brand will need protecting.

4. Financing the franchise: ensure you have the correct financial support to franchise your business. You will need to take into consideration initial costs, marketing and growth and franchisee support.

5. Seek sound advice: be very careful to obtain good advice, both legal and any help you may look from in a franchise consultant. Getting your franchise set up correctly from the outset is vital. You will need to decide about your pricing, have a legal agreement drawn up and put together a comprehensive operations manual for your future franchisees.

6. Know how you want to grow: the idea of growth is appealing but a small business owner wants his or her company to scale at a reasonable rate- grow at the rate natural to your business.

7. Screen your franchisees: have in mind the “perfect” franchisee. They are going to be representing your brand so be sure to have a system in place to make sure they will take your company in the right direction.

8. Support: create a comprehensive, detailed support plan for your future franchisees.

9. Draw up: you will need a number of documents before you can franchise your business. These include legal documents, franchise prospectus, financial information and an operations manual. You r legal advice and franchise consultant will provide you with all relevant documentation, bespoke to your business.

10. Study: find out about the franchising process, what to expect from your advisors and what will be expected from you. Your franchise consultant should provide you with a contract of work and a timeframe for completion.

At a recent event Cheryl told us that looking back at her original business plan for her care agency her ambition when starting up was simply creating a quality business that would be a job for her and her mum Sue.  How the business grew really took her by surprise and so working with our team at The Women's Organisation Cheryl continued to get advice and guidance around managing the growth.  It is great to see how far she has come in that time, and impressive to see that Cheryl is now operating her second business born out of her own learning and development. 

If you are based in the Liverpool City Region (Liverpool, Sefton, Knowsley, Wirral, St Helens or Halton), working in a B2B sector and looking for support to grow your business, then contact our team to check your eligibility for specialist support through our New Markets 2 Programme on 0151 706 8111 or hello@thewo.org.uk.

If you would like to speak to Cheryl and the team at Mercury Franchise Consultancy to explore the idea of franchising a bit more then read about them below and get in touch.

About Mercury Franchise Consultancy

Cheryl told us "Mercury franchise consultancy helps businesses to franchise! Our business model is based around helping business owners to franchise their business, be involved in the process and understand how franchising works.  In 2013, we franchised our own home care business, Apollo Care, and realised that as well as needing the relevant documentation to franchise, business owners also needed bespoke support and planning that was relevant to their business model and potential franchisees. We decided that we would help people to franchise their business by looking at the business in a holistic, individual way that would be apparent through documentation and advice."
To find out more visit www.mercuryfranchise.co.uk