Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Business Open Day @ The Women's Organisation - April 9th

















The Women’s Organisation is opening its doors once a month for our new Open Days! This will be happening at our 54 St James Street building and are perfect if you are thinking about starting a business or growing your business, and want to drop in and speak to a member of our team about our services.

We will be open from 8:30am to 6:30pm, so if you are working, you can fit this around your schedule! And our fantastic team will be on hand to answer any questions you may have.

Our first Open Day is Thursday 9th April, and there are many things that we can offer you support on, including…

1-2-1 Appointments with a business start-up or growth expert

Support to write a business plan

Courses on Confidence Building, Business Planning, Tax and National Insurance, Digital Marketing and Bookkeeping (Free or heavily subsidised!)

Advice on how to target professional customers and win business

Building Strategic Sales & Marketing Plans

Information on how to access business finance (grants and loans)

Specialist advice for social enterprise and third sector organisations

Information on local networks and opportunities

We hope to see you on Thursday 9th April, feel free to drop in at any point during the day and speak to our team!

















Alternatively you can secure that you will have no waiting time by booking a spot over on our Eventbrite, and indicating the time of day that you would like to see us!

Find out where we are located here too!

See you on Thursday April 9th!
 The Women’s Organisation

Monday, March 30, 2015

Thought Leader #2 | Hana Awwad | #WIBA Winner


Hana Awwad is a happy 54 St James Street tenant at the moment after her fantastic success at Downtown’s Women in Business Awards last week. Hana received Best Newcomer of the Year for her growing business Chocolate Envelope Designs, and The Women’s Organisation sat down with Hana for a chat about her views on business, what she has been up to, and what’s next for Chocolate Envelope Designs.

Chocolate Envelope Designs which showcases a beautiful range of gift wrapping, greeting cards and stationery has been trading since June 2013 with Hana moving into 54 St James Street in (August 2014), and this year has been getting better and better for Hana with her success at the #WIB Awards and being shortlisted for Young Business of the Year at the Merseyside Open for Business Awards. She also discovered her wrapping paper had been published in ‘Giftwrapped’ by Jane Means as well as featuring in the Create and Craft TV Show and is due to see it feature in Craft Beautiful Magazine next month. She attends trade shows around the country and has had interest in her products from as far away as Australia!

But like any young business there are continuing struggles which Hana is working hard to overcome. She is not afraid of making mistakes and even sees it as a way of learning. She says; ‘I tend to make mistakes and learn from them, I’m not afraid of my mistakes because when you’re doing something that you’ve not been taught and you’re working on your own, you have to accept that you will make mistakes and use them as a learning opportunity.’, one of these hard but vital lessons Hana had to learn was when she ordered from a manufacturer that was abroad and received a huge shipping bill! ‘As long as every mistake isn’t that expensive then that’s okay!’

With Chocolate Envelope being a small and developing business, for a long time it was just Hana working alone, but she has recently recruited her first intern, Layla, who has made a big impact on the office!

‘The difficulty with running this business is that the business side of things is taking up 99% of my time, and I’m only using 1% for creativity! It’s hard to be producing as many new designs and products as I want when I have to be marketing, managing customer accounts, making sales and packing and dispatching orders and dealing with suppliers! So, having Layla here has been great, as there is an extra pair of hands to help me!’

But, Hana says, it was also important for her to give something back to Layla, that she could use elsewhere and take away with her. ‘I have been helping her get to grips with the digital software we use. By passing on those skills, she’s been able to do more work for me and save me time but also I know I’ve taught her skills that she will go on to use to develop her own career”.

She goes on to say that having Layla be part of the team has been a taster of what it is like to employ people, which in the long term is a big aim for Hana; ‘It would be great to be able to create jobs’, and working together they have built up a rapport. ‘I’m doing something that I love everyday so I want anyone who comes into my environment to feel inspired and enjoy the work they are doing.

It is clear when talking to Hana that she has strong personal morals and values that she projects into her business. Chocolate Envelope products are sourced locally wherever possible, and the majority of their products are printed in the UK using machinery and inks that are solvent free and that use vegetable oil based inks, which make them kinder to the environment.



















Hana says; ‘I’m proud that my products are as eco-friendly as I can make them, because I’d hate to think that I was being wasteful with resources. Because for me, success is not just about reaching your destination, it’s also about how you get there. I want to feel that things have been done ethically.’


‘Some people believe that you have to be ruthless in business, but I think you can be thoughtful, honest and kind and still do well.’

A lot of Hana’s values as well as her influences and inspiration for Chocolate Envelope Designs come from her family and mixed cultural background. Hana recalls her Father and Great-Aunty travelling home to Italy and the Middle-East, when she was a child, and returning with beautiful exotic gifts. She believes this may have sparked her interest in traditional patterns and uses this inspiration as the basis for creating her designs, manipulating traditional pattern structures into her own contemporary prints and patterns with stunning colour palettes and intricate details. She feels incredibly blessed to have had a supportive family and is grateful to her father who taught her how to be confident and believe in her abilities and ideas.

Now working in her studio alone, and no longer in the  large communal studio space of university, the difficulty can sometimes be getting feedback on her work; ‘Sometimes the first time I will get feedback is when I’ve produced the product and I’m waiting for it to sell!’- But she is luckily able to ask those close to her what they think – especially her Mother, who she counts as a great influence on her.

‘My Mum is a very fair person. I find business very exciting, but I always want to make sure I do the right thing, in both my business and also in my personal life. My mum is a talented artist and it is great to show her my work and get honest feedback from someone I can trust. She’s also a very moral, honest, hardworking person. I’ve learnt a lot from her.

Contact Details for Chocolate Envelope Designs
To find out more about Hana's business vistwww.chocolateenvelope.co.uk or contact hello@chocolateenvelope.co.uk 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Launch of new 'Open Days' with The Women's Organisation

The Women’s Organisation invite you to come and speak to a member of our team about the help and support that we can offer Merseyside women who are starting a business.


We have a range of FREE and subsidised services that can help Women-led businesses*

Our support can include: 

  • 1-2-1 Appointments with a business start-up or growth expert
  • Support to write a business plan.
  • Courses on Confidence Building, Business Planning, Tax and NI, Digital Marketing and Bookkeeping.
  • Advice on how to target professional customers and win business
  • Building Strategic Sales & Marketing Plans.
  • Information on how to access business finance (grants and loans)
  • Specialist advice for social enterprise and third sector organisations.  
  • Information on local networks and opportunities.
  • Plus much more

Drop in to 54 St James Street, Liverpool, L1 0AB on one of the following dates between 8.30am and 6.30pm.




Thursday 9th April 2015

Thursday 7th May 2015
Thursday 4th June 2015
Thursday 2nd July 2015

    Thursday 6th August   2015

 If you're super organised and want to book a place, click HERE


*Criteria applies to our programmes. A full eligibility check will be completed during the drop in.




Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Friends Rachel and Julia on their way to Self-Publishing Dreams

Firm friends Rachel Harker and Julia Williams first met 12 years ago whilst they were teaching at a secondary school in South East London. Julia taught English, whilst Rachel
taught Art.
Although they both loved their jobs, as with many teachers, the increasing work load and endless student leveling meant that they were both seeing less and less of their families, they have children the same age and say they spent their maternity leave together; ‘Dreaming big and talking of leaving teaching.’
When they both decided to leave teaching, Julia went to teach in Thailand and Rachel moved back to her hometown of Liverpool. She says; ‘It was with a heavy heart that I decided to leave the profession, but I wanted to spend more time with my young family.’ This is when she began to draw and paint portraits for friends and family, and rediscovered her love of making art.
Meanwhile in Thailand, Julia had been learning about Early Years and Foundation Stage development, which is the acquisition language and the retention of words through rhyme. She created the character, Peculia Fright and invented a story that tapped into the slightly scary side of a child’s imagination.
The story is centred around a little girl called Peculia Fright, who wakes in the middle of the night to hear a loud noise, and is determined to find out what the noise is and where it is coming from. The story captured Rachel’s imagination and she produced 8 illustrations to accompany it, some of them in full colour and others in an atmospheric black and white.
After initially considering turning the book into an app, they stumbled upon Britain’s Next Best Seller, which is a crowd-funded startup website. After submitting the manuscript and illustrations it was accepted straight away. Julia and Rachel received a huge amount of support in the first week, achieving over 200 copies in pre-order sales, but have to get 500 before they secure their publishing dream!
They are offering free resources to schools that go along with the book such as schemes of work, and ideas sheets in drama, literacy and art, and have already had interest globally from Australia, Dubai and Singapore, and are currently receiving support and advice from The Women’s Organisation



If you would like to help Rachel and Julia achieve their big dream of publishing, then you can pre-order Peculia Fright’s Awful Night at Britain’s Next Bestseller, and follow their progress on Facebook.



Rachel Gilbertson is Jewel of Crosby with The Treasure Trove

Starting your first business aged 19 isn’t the usual route for all young people. But it’s the one that Rachel Gilbertson took, and success has been hard-earned but worth it for her! Her Crosby shop The Treasure Trove is going from strength to strength and she was recently nominated for a Downtown Women in Business Award in the category of Young Entrepreneur. The Women’s Organisation has been a part of Rachel’s journey for a couple of years, and we took the opportunity to head over to Crosby and speak to Rachel about the business growth and what success means to her…

Roxiie’s Treasures, based in The Treasure Trove on College Road in Crosby has been open since June 2014, but previously Rachel had a space in the Crosby Emporium. When this wasn’t available any longer, then 19-year old Rachel paired up with Wendy and began looking for a new retail space. Staying on the high street where there’s a great footfall, they took over a building (previously David’s Cakes). Right now, having been in the space for a few months, business is going well and Rachel is continually thinking of ways to expand and grow Roxiie’s Treasures.

‘I’m addicted to social media. Having been to the social media courses at The Women’s Organisation, I hated it all at first. But now, I do it all the time and it’s the first thing I do when I get home after closing the shop. It’s about connecting with other business owners through the #networking hours and speaking to my clients and customers.’

The journey to being self-employed hasn’t been smooth for Rachel, having left school she completed a National Diploma in Graphic Design and used Jobseekers to try and find employment. ‘I was on Jobseekers and I was applying for twenty jobs a day and continually getting rejection emails. It got to the point where I was sick of applying for jobs and sick of going to the Jobcentre. I could by in pajamas all day applying for jobs on my laptop. After a while, I knew something had to change, so I got in touch with The Women’s Organisation.’

Rachel met with our Business Advisor, John Jones in Crosby at one of the local drop-in sessions and was put onto the right track. She says; ‘I didn’t have a clue about anything to do with business, but I was able to get involved in the courses that The Women’s Organisation held and that helped with my business planning.’ 
Grand National Themed Shop Front

From there Rachel moved from selling at home, to the Crosby Emporium and then finally to where Roxiie’s Treasures in The Treasure Trove is now.But what are the factors that make up success for Rachel? And does she think it’s important that entrepreneurship is promoted in young people? Having started her business so young, she has been a guest speaker at the school she attended, a business enterprise college, and spoke to the students there about her story. ‘It was all about getting them interested in entrepreneurship because I don’t think it’s promoted as an option in schools. They all want you to go to University, but even if you do, you might not get a job. Starting your own business is hard work, but for me, it’s worth it.’

Hand-made Iron Men Cushions

Of course, with every young business there will be mistakes made, but something that is vitally important for Rachel, is not be afraid to ask for help; ‘You think you might know everything, but it’s good to have a fresh pair of eyes on something’. Rachel says; ‘Always listen to people who know what they’re talking about. Sometimes admitting that you don’t know something is really important, because when you’re young you think you know it all, but you don’t’.
Although Rachel doesn’t know it all, she does know an awful lot and is proud of the amount she has learnt about business at a young age and has big plans for the future and growth of her business. At the moment she is working with Sefton and Liverpool Women in Business to get her own website up and running, and continuing to network and connect both on Social Media and at events across Merseyside. As well as this, she’s connecting with client’s overseas and shipping packages of Roxiie’s Treasures goodies globally.

Starting young, even if it was tough has been a positive experience for Rachel, and one she would recommend to others, and her business role models reflect this. Richard Branson, Alan Sugar, Duncan Bannatyne and BeyoncĂ© are public figures that she counts as inspirational. All business-minded individuals that started their ventures when they were young and continued to grow and branch out into other projects, and one final word from Rachel on BeyoncĂ©; ‘She’s a woman who knows what she wants’.A bit like Rachel we think…   

If you would like to find out more about Rachel and The Treasure Trove, follow her on Facebook and pay a visit to the shop!

Email: roxiiestreasures@live.co.uk
Twitter: @RoxiiesTreasure
Facebook: /Roxiiestreasures/liverpool

Address: The Treasure Trove, 187 College Road, Crosby, Liverpool,
0151 345 6331





Monday, March 23, 2015

Start Up and Grow a PR or Events Business - The Secret World of PR with Nicola Pink of Pink Media…

This month we are introducing a series of FREE industry specific workshops at The Women’s Organisation. These will look at the specific details of setting up a business in a variety of different areas and sectors, and will feature talks from industry experts and other women who have been through the process of setting up their own business. The second in this series of workshops will be ‘Start Up and Grow a PR or Events Business’

We’ve joined forces once again with the fantastic Nicola Pink of Pink Media to give you her top tips about being in the PR and Events Industry, and if you want to find out more then you’ll need to come along to the workshop on Wednesday 25th March from 10-12pm and hear other industry experts and women speak about this industry.



Be realistic

Nicola says ‘When I first met a potential client, I go away and spend some time putting in calls to the media and realistically working out the type of coverage that I could secure for’ This is important for Nicola because she doesn’t want to be the type of PR Company to promise the world and not deliver; ‘Because if we can’t do it, it’s going to ruin our reputation.’

PR isn’t Voodoo!

Public Relations, a lot of people don’t really understand what it is, and how it works, so it’s important that you’re entirely clear on the inner workings of the industry before you dive into that world. PR requires a deep understanding of the interests and concerns of each of the client’s communities or ‘publics’. Nicola say; ‘PR is a big ask and a big sell because a lot of people have had their fingers burnt, and lots of people don’t understand what it is or how it works!’


The story is key

‘You have to be a good writer because it’s all about telling a good story.’ One of the most important skills in PR is your writing, and finding the story in every potential client. Nicola believes everyone has a story, and it’s just about finding out what it is and telling it in the right way

It’s not all glamour and glitz!

‘A lot of people think PR is about going to parties and events and drinking champagne – but it’s not’ Nicola says that PR is a lot harder than just that, but believes it’s an incredibly rewarding career and business, from the buzz of creating an idea, to pitching it and then seeing it in the print or press, can be a big buzz for results driven individuals 

Don’t be mean!

Another PR myth would be the notoriously ruthless and brutal depiction of PR agencies fighting for clients. Thankfully this isn’t something Nicola has experienced or would encourage in the Liverpool PR circle, having a wide group of friends in different areas; she believes that collaborating and sharing thoughts and ideas with the people around you, is much more beneficial!

If you want to find out more insider tips and hear from experts in the PR and Events industry, then make sure you come down to our FREE workshop at The Women’s Organisation (54 St James Street) on Wednesday 25th March from 10-12pm. To book your spot on this course, use our Events link or email hello@thewo.org.uk!





Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Start Up and Grow a Property Management Business - Bad Landlords and Lies

Bad Landlords and Lies - Insider Knowledge on Property Management

This month we are introducing a series of FREE industry specific workshops at The Women’s Organisation. These will look at the specific details of setting up a business in a variety of different areas and sectors, and will feature talks from industry experts and other women who have been through the process of setting up their own business. The last in this series of workshops will be ‘Start Up and Grow a Property Management Business’



 We’ve done our research, talked to some experts and want to give you a few hints and tips in the run up to the workshop! So here we have a look at bad Landlords and the lies they tell, so you can never be in danger of saying them, or you can spot them a mile off! But if you want to find out more about running your own Property Management Business, then you’ll need to come along to the workshop on Tuesday 31st March from 1-3pm!

“We can fix that once you’ve moved in”

Make sure the house is in great condition before you show your potential tenants round! Don’t let the leaking tap or mouldy carpet be left on the to-do list. It’s best to get everything fixed that you know of before your tenants move in, sign their contracts or pay their deposits







“Don’t worry about the deposit – it doesn’t need to go in TDS”
Yes it does. A good landlord will always put their tenants deposit into a Tenancy Deposit Scheme. The tenants shouldn’t take your word for it, and you shouldn’t let them. It makes the sometimes messy nature of requesting and giving back deposits, simple, easy and protected by an external body
“Just read the contracts and sign them whilst you’re here”
It’s legal that potential tenants have 24 hours to read their contract before signing them. Give them a day to have a look through it, read all the small print and sign it in their own time. It will be much better in the long run, and any issues can be ironed out before the signing of the contract







“I’d sign now. It will be gone by the end of the day”
This sense of pressure does no good for anyone! The tenants will of course find somewhere else if the property does disappear, but adding this pressure to their decision isn’t fair or proper. If they need one day to think about it and talk to each other, it’s gracious to offer them that.
If you want to find out more insider tips and hear from experts in the Property Management business, then make sure you come down to our FREE workshop at The Women’s Organisation (54 St James Street) on Tuesday 31st March from 1-3pm. To book your spot on this course, use our Events link or email hello@thewo.org.uk



Women’s Enterprise Scotland holds their International Conference of 2015

Women’s Enterprise Scotland, close connections of The Women’s Organisation, are holding their international conference in Glasgow this May.













Women’s Enterprise Scotland ‘works to create an entrepreneurial environment where women-led businesses can flourish and grow’, much like The Women’s Organisation. They say; ‘If the number of women-led businesses increased to equal those of men, our national bank balance would be at least 5% better off. That’s equivalent to a £7.6 billion boost to the economy, minimum.’

Much like The Women’s Organisation, Women’s Enterprise Scotland supports and inspires women to start their own businesses and ventures, and this May they are holding an international conference to continuing doing just that…















On the 12th and 13th May at the Glasgow Caledonian University WES will introduce Shifting Gears: Women’s Enterprise Moving On. This is an international conference, the first of its kind in Scotland and is designed to build on the global leading Women’s Enterprise framework that is established in Scotland.

‘This international event is aimed at all those supporting small and medium sized businesses, but in particular, policy makers, enterprise support practitioners and academics and researchers. Exchanging information and views on current approaches whilst collaborating on the next gear change for women’s enterprise support delivery in Scotland.’














The conference has a fantastic line-up of speakers and events, and will explore the growth trend in female self-employment and small/medium business formation, particularly in non-traditional and innovative sectors. They will be identifying and examining the strategies and resources needed to support sustainable growth and unlock the significant potential of women’s enterprise to contribute to the Scottish economy.

Thought Leader #1 | Jennie Riding | #WIBA Winner

Jennie Riding, founding Director and Shareholder of Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd, and winner of Downtown’s Women in Business ‘Environmental and Sustainability’ Award spoke to The Women’s Organisation as part of our Thought Leader Series about her experience as a woman in business and the exponential growth Ancorra have achieved so far…


Jennie Riding is a founding Director and Shareholder of Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd, which is based in Merseyside and provides a full range of services in waste management solutions and environmental sustainability throughout the UK.

Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd began trading in March 2013. Previous to setting up her business Jennie worked for a waste management company progressing through the ranks from Waste Transfer Manager to Compliance Manager and then Special Projects Manager, before being promoted to Operations Director, with a shareholding in a multi operational site responsible for over fifty operatives.
After a successful strategy of growing and developing the business the company was sold, in early 2010, to a large American company after which things began to change. Jennie says; ‘I worked there for a further year but did not flourish under the new corporate regime with its boardroom politics.’ and she says the company, like so many others, discriminated against women with unequal pay, which she of course found extremely frustrating. Upon deciding to resign with no firm future plans there was a final incident, which cemented the decision firmly in Jennie’s mind;

‘I knew I had made the right choice to leave when in a final meeting with the Managing Director I expressed that I may set up my own business. He replied that he could imagine me “with a nice little shoe shop or florist somewhere” There is nothing derogatory about owning either of these types of businesses but it was clear from his inference what he thought a women’s role was in the workplace and it certainly wasn’t at the top of a multi million pound turnover waste company.’

Instead of letting this discrimination affect her Jennie used it to fuel her determination to succeed. After a gap year spent traveling she, along with a team of six others, went on to establish Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd with huge successes. Ancorra has grown massively and turned over £1 million in its first year of trading and are on target to achieve sales of £1.5 million in their second year. Jennie says that customer service is the key to their success; 
 ‘As a small independent company competing with multi nationals we have been sure to provide an offering that is heavily focused on good customer service. The response to this has been fantastic and a lot of our growth has come from word of mouth recommendations resulting in repeat and new business opportunities.’

As well as exceeding their targets Ancorra has been succeeding in other areas of business, with the company being nominated (and winning) in the Downtown Women in Business Awards, for the Environment and Sustainability category. They were also shortlisted in 2014. Ancorra has achieved accreditation from the British Standards Institute for Quality, Environment, and Health & Safety standards. This is an impressive accomplishment for a Company to achieve with 12 months of start up and is testament to their professional approach to their industry.
As well as leading Ancorra to great successes Jennie has also been simultaneously dealing with many changes in her personal life, including the birth of her first child which has made her re-evaluate her approach to business and indeed life in general.

Jennie says; ‘I have spoken with many women who make out that motherhood just slotted right in with their careers, maybe it did for them but I don’t have any shame in saying otherwise. Before the birth of my child, I was able to have a single minded approach to my career and I would often work long hours to meet deadlines and complete projects. Now my passion for my work has been split with an overwhelming love for my daughter. At first I found it very hard to balance the two without the feeling I was fulfilling neither.’

This is a paradox that many women business owners may come across in their lives but Jennie is keen to speak out about this issue and has been able to overcome this difficulty with the help of a good support network; ‘Becoming a Mum has been a great leveller – it is the first role in my life that I haven’t been able to fully control. But it has taught me the benefits of routine, improved my organisational skills and taught me not to take myself too seriously.’ 

Thankfully Jennie can see the funny side of mixing parenthood with business; ‘The first meeting I had after going back to work was, unknowing to me at the time, conducted with a generous spit up of mango puree on my back!’

The Women’s Organisation have supported Jennie throughout her business growth over the last two years and she says; ‘I had no idea how invaluable the Organisation would become to me.’

‘My regular meetings with Maggie are a chance to take some time out for myself, to assess where I am with the business, to put some order and priority to the thoughts running through my head and to make a plan on how to achieve my next objectives. We have also done extensive work on developing my marketing skills, an area where I have not had much previous experience and yet is an invaluable expertise for any budding entrepreneur to have.’ Jennie has also been taking advantage of the networking opportunities from The Women’s Organisation which she has used to forge valuable relationships with other women in business.


A surprising lesson from Jennie’s experience of setting up in business was people’s perceptions of what she was trying to achieve. She says; ‘In the beginning there was a large amount of preparation work but not a lot to show for it and a surprising amount of people, including some of my own family and friends, clearly thought I had merely extended my gap year, despite me giving them regular updates to the contrary.’ She began to find those around her putting her forward for voluntary roles or sending her job advertisement’s, with the thought in mind that it was about time she got a ‘proper job’. She goes onto say; ‘I choose to see the funny side and carried on regardless. These same people must now be surprised to find that my success has seemingly come from nowhere!’

 Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd is a fantastic example of a new business with a planned start up strategy that has grown and grown, despite the obstacles that were facing both Jennie and the business. And her advice for anyone thinking of setting up their own business? ‘Test the market and evaluate the figures – if they are favourable then take the leap!’

Contact details for Ancorra Environmental Services Ltd
0151 546 3012   www.ancorraenvironmental.co.uk

As well as her commitment to Ancorra, Jennie also owns and manages Artlegarth Country Lodge Breaks Ltd with her husband Neil. These are three holiday let log cabins with hot tubs on a beautiful seven acre site in Ravenstonedale, Cumbria. They are planning to build three more lodges in 2016. 

To find out more about Artlegarth, use the contact details below:


Contact details for Artlegarth Country Lodge Breaks Ltd          
07960 351 421        www.lodgebreaks.co.uk