Greengrape Solutions was founded in September 2007 by Emma Loizidis, Charlie McDonald and John McDonald, as a venture which supports the recruitment, training and business needs of public and private providers, delivering significant employability and skills programmes on behalf of central government.
Whether the organisation is looking for staff, training or work, Greengrape Solutions aim is to make a positive and unique difference to the experience of working within this industry. They are the only consultancy in the UK specialising solely within employability and skills, delivering a range of different services, and of course, are one of the only businesses to have the gorgeous cockapoodle, Rudy, greet their clients at the door!
Prior to setting up this business, Emma, Charlie and John, worked for national welfare as Specialist Employment Advisors, and became close friends. Emma says; ‘After witnessing the difficulties our employer went through when recruiting and training staff, we came up with the idea to set up a consultancy specialising only within the employability and skills sector, starting off with our current employer’. She goes on to say that, they saw a ‘complete gap’ in the market, and they seized the opportunity with confidence that they could make a difference.
Focusing in on the two women, who make up two thirds of Greengrape Solutions, their different backgrounds and experiences combine to create a fantastic team. Charlie is the mother of 3 children and married to founder John McDonald. She says that; ‘Family life is really important to me and being self-employed allows me the flexibility to work from home and be available for my children as and when needed.’
Emma, after graduating from University with an English degree, found she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a living. ‘I was always quite entrepreneurial and was constantly thinking of business ideas, having started my own video rental service in school at the age of 12.’ After working as Holiday Rep for 5 years, she returned to the UK and secured her job within welfare where she met Charlie and John. She says; ‘And the rest is history!’
Recently Greengrape Solutions have received assistance from The Women’s Organisation through our Venture Accelerator Growth Programme. The women say; ‘This was extremely helpful and couldn’t have come at a better time. The last 12 months has seen our business scale back and focus on a new direction.’ The Women’s Organisation has assisted Greengrape’s with a new 3-year business growth plan, and the Greengrape’s women say; ‘We certainly couldn’t have done without the support and guidance from Maggie and Francine.
‘Getting advice and support from The Women’s Org has been a complete revelation for us as it enabled us to refocus, reenergise and reignite our passion and confidence in our business and has forced us to become more disciplined in terms of business planning.’
Greengrape Solutions has had an incredible growth over the last 7 years, and in the past, have employed 11 members of staff, first on the premises in the Albert Dock, before moving into the home of The Women’s Organisation; 54 St James Street in January 2014. In the past, their training programmes have gained interest with both Education and Welfare to Work providers.
They developed a bespoke training programme which links together recruitment, employability and project experience, in 2013. ‘Positive Workology’, aims to help unemployed job searchers deal with the psychological barriers to getting a job. They say; ‘The focus of this programme is to educate and support job searchers to undertake more successful strategies to job searching, and to help them deal with the emotional challenges of the process.’
Following on from this, Greengrape Solutions had a great success when they received a large commission to implement this programme at a huge level, within a National Welfare to Work provider in the North of the UK. They are now in conversations to extend this to other areas towards the end of the year. They also won the Morgan Foundation ‘Best New Business’ Award, back in 2009, after beating tough competition from across the North West.
As well as massive peaks within their business and their growths being large, there have been challenges for Greengrape Solutions. They say; ‘We are extremely proud of our ability to ride the storm after big changes within our industry, overcoming adversity’. The business took a huge knock when the new Government came into place, and Greengrape Solutions had to rethink and refocus the future of their business. Right now they are back on track and looking forward to their next big step, but it has helped them learn an important lesson in their business.
When asked what their most important lesson has been along their journey. Charlie and Emma both agreed that it is crucial for them to be one step ahead of their competitors at all times;
‘We constantly scan the horizon and keep abreast of any potential changes within policy and government, as these changes can often have a huge impact on our business.’
Something that Greengrape Solutions credits to their success is their reputation and their ability to build relationships. Having spent 7 years building up relationships with their clients, they have a large number of loyal clients who give them consistent business. Their key rule for getting this right is to; ‘provide outstanding service to everyone we work with.’ Emma and Charlie say; ‘We have excellent word of mouth reputation and feel that this has led us to become recognised leaders within the industry.'
Greengrape Solutions is now looking forward to growing their business even further in 2015 after receiving support from The Women’s Organisation, Emma, Charlie and John say; ‘We now feel ready for the challenges ahead and can’t wait to see what 2015 has in store for Greengrapes Solutions.’
54 St James Street
Liverpool L1 0AB
Tel: 0151 706 8128
The Women's Organisation are challenging Merseyside women in business to step their business up to the next level through The Venture Accelerator (TVA) programme. Venture Accelerator brings together a dynamic partnership of The Women’s Organisation, Downtown in Business, Agent Marketing and High Performance Consultancy to deliver a highly innovative and effective business growth and business incubation programme, which is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
The programme is aimed at enterprises that have the potential to grow by bringing innovative products and processes to market, scaling up, and internationalising. The programme is available to SME's across Merseyside and provides funded consultancy to enable businesses to prepare for growth, it runs to June 2015.
The Women's Organisation are currently offering free business growth consultancy services through Venture Accelerator business growth programme. Venture Accelerator is open to women in Merseyside who are ready to significantly expand their business. Advice around all business growth issues, including taking on staff, are offered as part of the programme. To find out more contact firstname.lastname@example.org