Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Hot-Desking, Office Space and Unmissable Discounts - a Look at What's in Store for 54 St James Street in 2017

It’s been a great year here at 54 St James Street, but we already have some exciting announcements to keep you in the loop of for what’s coming up in 2017.

In January, we will be launching our new Hot-Desking services due to popular demand. If you’re not familiar with hot-desking, it is a flexible and cost-effective service which allows workers to hire a desk-space and worktop computer for a period of time. It’s a no-ties opportunity to pay for only the time you need, whether that’s hours, days or weeks.

Hot Desking Facilities
This can be particularly useful if you are self-employed or travelling for business and crave the office environment but lack the need for a more permanent space. Additionally, you will be based in the light, modern and welcoming environment of 54 St James Street with an onsite café and Wi-Fi. More details will be released in the New Year, so keep an eye on our Twitter and Facebook for updates.

54 St James Street
As well as this, we are delighted to announce that THREE rooms have become available including 2 x 2 person office and 1 x 5/6 person office. 54 St James Street was developed as part of the 'WICED' project to create a Women's International Centre for Economic Development. Our building is a flagship facility for female enterprise and home to many women-led businesses, for this reason we are looking for female-led businesses to fill the available office space.

The first is 12.5 square meters and the second 13.3 square meters - both of the rooms are designed to fit up to two people. The third available room is 25.3 square meters and can fit between five & six people. All rooms come fully unfurnished and look out in the direction of Jamaica Street. Offices do not become available very often in 54 St James Street, so please do not hesitate if you are considering taking up the space!

The Roddick Suite
And finally, along with our on-site café Siren, we’re ensuring that your January doesn’t feel all doom and gloom post-Christmas. You can save 20% on room hire & catering when you make a room booking for January 2017, 03/01/2017 - 31/01/2017 (excluding weekends and evenings). The bookings can be made throughout December 2016 and January 2017 – so book fast to avoid disappointment!

From everyone at 54, we would like to wish all of our tenants, neighbours and friends a very Merry Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

If you would like more information about hot-desking, business incubation or our January offer, please contact our team on 0151 706 8100 or venue@thewo.org.uk.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

It’s Raining Cats (But Not Dogs) For Mersey Cat Nanny Alicia Williams!

Well we would never have guessed that within the space of a few months we would publish interview with not only a luxury doggy day care centre, but also a cat nanny! Meet Alicia Williams, the Birkenhead based Mersey Cat Nanny!

Alicia offers a friendly and professional cat sitting service on the Wirral (But she will also catsit in Liverpool city centre on request too) She told us; ‘I have over 6 years’ experience and have 3 cats myself and to be honest I am cat crazy!’ Alicia is the woman to ring if you need help looking after your furry friends whilst you are away from home. ‘I will feed your cats, change their litter trays, play with them, groom them, let them out if you require and anything else!’ As well as this Alicia also provides home security, opening and closing curtains, and switching lights on and off to give the illusion that the owners are at home. As well as this Alicia will also take out bins, collect mail and water plants. 

Alicia and her cat Pumba
It’s been 6 months since Alicia launched Mersey Cat Nanny and prior to this she was working in childcare as a preschool teacher; ‘I went from kids to cats, so quite a change! I’d been wanting to start this business for quite a few years but I had been living in Ireland and as my husband’s job there wasn’t permanent it wasn’t the right time to start a new business’

When Alicia moved to Birkenhead she thought it was the perfect time to start Mersey Cat Nanny! ‘I went into Birkenhead Library and found a poster from The Women’s Organisation offering business start-up support so got in touch. I was set up with Claire Pedersen and that’s how it started.’ 

Alicia began working with Claire on her business plan and market research and took part in our training courses, learning about tax and national insurance and bookkeeping. It was when Alicia undertook her market research that she found out there was a real need for the service that she wanted to provide and this spurred her on and made her decision to start the business final. ‘It’s been fantastic working with Claire, she’s really helped me to understand the business side of things and it’s great to have this extra support that I can access.’ 

Honey, a customers of Alicia's!
Alicia is an individual who really relishes being self-employed and it suits her lifestyle perfectly. And she says herself, that as a woman who is incredibly passionate about cats 'This is my dream job!'

'I also like being by own boss. Even though I can’t call in sick because I have customers relying on me, it’s nice to know that I’m my own boss and I don’t have to answer to anybody.’

Another great part of Alicia’s business is the flexibility that it offers for both herself and her customers; ‘There are so many different options available in my business. I can do overnight stays, visit once a day or twice a day. Whatever the customer wants! It’s been proven that pets in general do much better staying at home rather than in kennels or catteries and I am really passionate about that.’ 

Although Alicia acknowledges what some might see as a downside to her business, she rarely sees her human customers and more face to face time is spent with the cats! ‘Some people might see it as a lonely business, but I’m quite happy with it like this. I’m not a hugely sociable person and have a few close friends whom I see. For me if I can be my own boss and make my own hours, it outweighs things like that.’ 

Twiglet the cat. Another customer!
So far Mersey Cat Nanny is going from strength to strength and Alicia is pleased and proud with what she has achieved over the past 6 months. She already has some fantastic testimonials. One customer Beth said; ‘I am so happy with Alicia! She has been cat sitting a couple of times a week whilst I’m at work. I love the daily updates and pictures that she sends me to reassure me that they are being well cared for. I feel happy and content that my 3 cats are being loved and well treated’

If you would like to find out more about Alicia’s services as the Mersey Cat Nanny you can do so by using the contact details below!

And if you’ve been inspired by Alicia’s story and would like our help and support starting your own business, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Mobile Number: 07576 057555
Email Address: merseycatnanny@gmail.com 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Celebrating Those Who Changed It

Here at The Women’s Org we have just wrapped up our fourth and final Change It programme of the year. This blog will look at the feedback from our final project and fill you in about all that happened at our 2016 Change It Celebration.

Change It is an empowering programme for women living in Liverpool with a diagnosed mental health condition and who are looking for support to build a more positive future. Change It began in 2016 and ran four very successful projects across the year and we believed that this called for a Christmas celebration!

Trainer of 'Change It', Bernie Cox

Last week we hosted an event at 54 St James Street inviting all the women who attended our 2016 Change It courses for a chance to ‘catch up’ over a cup of tea and a mince pie, in true festive spirit. The event gave the participating women across all four courses a chance to meet each other, think about just how far they have come and look ahead to the future.

Also in attendance was guest speaker and 54 Tenant Steve Flatt from the Psychological Therapies Unit to deliver an interesting and thought-provoking discussion on positive thinking. Steve introduced us to Solution-Focused Practice which is a highly effective and refreshing way of approaching the job of having ‘helping conversations’ with people. Solution-Focused Practice focuses on what is going right for you and how you want things to be, a progressive therapy that allows you to move forward.

Steve Flatt from The Psychological Therapies Unit

Reflecting on the project and the impact it had, we asked the women what they thought had been the best thing about ‘Change It’, comments included:

 “No pressure to introduce myself”
“Thinking about my achievements”
“An all-female surrounding”
“Doesn’t focus on goals”
“Small group discussions”

We then asked what they felt they had successfully changed, comments included:

“I feel more assertive and confident”
“Reduced my anxiety”
“Self-worth has improved”
“More positive feelings and thinking”

Finally, we asked what difference it has made to their wellbeing, comments included:

“More confident”
“Given structure to my days”
“Made new friends”
“More confident”
“Encouraged me to purse formal education”
“Improved my self-esteem”
“Made me deal with everyday situations better”

Change It Certificate 
The event was a huge success and a great cause for celebration, putting into perspective just how far each ‘Change It’ attendee had come having officially Changed It.

A big thank you to Steve Flatt for providing such great food-for-thought with his expertise in Solution-Focused Practice. If you would like to find out more about The Psychological Therapies Unit and the services they offer, please visit http://www.psychological-therapies-unit.co.uk/  or email info@psychological-therapies-unit.co.uk.

If you are a female living in Liverpool with a diagnosed mental health condition and looking for support to building a positive future, our next Change It programme will commence on Wednesday 11th of January. If you would like to find out more, get in touch with our Engagement team on 0151 706 8111 or email hello@thewo.org.uk.

Women Gathered to Find Out How to 'Make Childcare Your Business'

On Thursday 1st December we held another brilliant session from our 'Make it Your Business' series, this time based on childcare – from independent childminder to nursery care. It was a perfect morning for anyone interested in childcare, whether considering a career change or currently studying 'Early Years’. As is our custom, refreshments started the day with pastry delicacies to get us motivated for the morning.  

Our guest speakers Saeeda & Sarah with Sabah from The WO

The event began with a brief introduction from Jo Austin, marketing and engagement coordinator, about The Women’s Organisation, the free services we provide to start-ups through the Enterprise Hub programme (part funded by European Regional Development Fund) and the support you can expect from us.

We were very lucky to have hosted Saeeda Aslam from 'Happy Children Nursery' and Sarah Higginson from ‘Liverpool City Council’, both experts in the field. First up Saeeda gave a brief introduction to the unique nursery she helped set up in L15. She shared her experiences, highlighting the challenges including managing turnover of staff and rewards of setting up a childcare business. Saeeda told us that childcare is a demanding yet a rewarding field as long as you are truly passionate.

Following this Sarah educated our attendees on the qualifications required and the legal aspects of setting up a childcare business. She also offered top tips of how to succeed in obtaining a registration from OFSTED. Reflecting on her own experience of running a nursery and then retraining in business to offer advice, Sarah advised that a good mix of knowing what you are doing in terms of childcare and building your business skills is a good mix if you are looking to go self-employed in this field.

Along with this, we held a question and answer session. This was a great opportunity for attendees to ask questions from our experts and find out a bit more. Thank you very much to both, our attendees really valued the tips you gave them!

After a quick break to grab another pastry, Sabah Shams, from the engagement team delivered the rest of the session. This included: a quick tour of the qualifications required to set up a business may that be childminding or nursery or after school club. Further, covering the legislation, insurance cover – basically everything you need to know! The most important message Sabah gave to our attendees was the significance of business planning and market research – as these really do determine the success of your business.

We had fantastic feedback and attendees thoroughly enjoyed the day. Below are some of the fabulous feedback we received:  

·        “Question answer sessions were really beneficial, really enjoyed the relaxed and informal session which was delivered in a professional friendly way. I have learnt really useful tips.”
·        “A really helpful session, coming away with more confidence and insight to setting up my own business.”
·        “So happy I attended this session today, made me think about lots of aspects of running a business.”

Do not worry if you missed out, we will be holding many other events next year – so be sure to keep an eye out!

An in the meantime if you would like to speak to one of our business advisers to look closely at your business idea on a one to one basis then contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or drop a line to hello@thewo.org.uk

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

From The Television World To The World Of Healing, With Simply Angels Founder, Samantha Foley

Samantha Foley, a Plus Dane tenant from Halton made massive changes in her life after her daughter began school and decided to start her own business, doing what she had always been passionate about; healing others.

‘I have worked in television for 17 years on shows such as Hollyoaks, Brookside and Grange Hill as a Script Supervisor and also working with continuity. But once my daughter, Angel, started school, I found that filming 60 hours each week was very difficult!’

Samantha had always had an interest in different types of Holistic Therapies and it was at this time that she began to try and juggle both her television work and also her alternative therapies. ‘I began to train as a Script Supervisor back in 2001 and at the same time began to train in Reiki. I was finding both quite tough. But I was really encouraged by the reception from those that I worked with. I would be asked why I hadn’t started my own business and I realised that this was my calling and it was time for me to learn about how to start my own business.’

Simply Angels is Samantha’s all-encompassing business and she has many different types of Holistic treatments that she can offer including; Angelic Reiki, Ursui Reiki, Reflexology, Massage, Crystal Healing and Sound Therapy. And as well as all of this Samantha also teaches Yoga classes around her local area.

‘When I decided to start my business I was excited, scared and also clueless! I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to market myself as something a little bit different to your usual Holistic Therapist. My boyfriend pointed me in the direction of The Women’s Organisation and I went from there!’

Samantha met one of our Engagement Team at West Kirby library and was able to then arrange to meet our Halton based business adviser Mike Marsden at a location nearer to her home. Mike helped Samantha with her premises as the location that she had previously been in wasn’t attracting much passing trade and soon after Samantha moved to a local garden centre and hired a unit there. She was also able to continue having one to one meetings with Mike and attend training and courses with us to help develop her business.

'The advice from The Women’s Organisation is the best advice I’ve been given so far. It’s excellent and professional and it’s great to have that insight and see the potential for you as a business. Also the encouragement and kindness given by the advisors is priceless, that will stay with me forever.’

After launching her business, Simply Angels, Samantha is delighted to report; ‘It’s going really, really well!’ After working in television for many years she had a large network of people and a community that she could tell about the work that she was doing. Samantha told us; ‘It’s only the beginning of my journey but I feel really satisfied with the service I offer my clients. But there is so much more I would like to offer in the future! Whilst I’m building my foundations now I am like a little acorn and one day I hope to be a mighty oak!’

And self-employment is definitely the right choice for Samantha, as not only does it mean that she can now work around the school hours, but it also seems a great fit for her personality. ‘People who go into business alone are different, they have uniqueness and individuality. It’s an adrenaline rush, striving to get a decent income and fighting through the doubt. But believing in yourself is key!’

We wish Samantha all the best of luck with her business; Simply Angels! If you would like to find out more about the work that Samantha is doing you can use the contact details below!

If you’ve been inspired by Samantha’s story and would like some advice on how to start up your own business, then get in touch with us! Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Mobile Number: 07967634208

Monday, December 12, 2016

Managing Your Business Finances Doesn’t Have To Be Complicated

Guest Blog – By Senior Business Adviser John Jones

Okay, we know that sometimes life gets on top of us all and it can be easy to let things spiral and get out of control. But we also all know how important it is for that not to happen when it comes to your business finances! That’s why we’ve asked our Senior Business Adviser, John Jones to draw on his previous years of accounting experience, and put together his top tips for keeping your business books in order! These tips are great for young people in business that haven't had any formal training and also young businesses that are just starting out, so you can keep everything in order from day dot!

So here we go…

Chose the HMRC option for ‘Simplified Expenses’. For example, you can use the 45p per business mile for any business journeys, using your own, personal car. This is so much simpler than keeping all your petrol receipts and then having to adjust them for personal mileage.
  • Keep an hour or so aside every week to take a look at and keep on top of your bookkeeping records. If you keep a weekly, or even monthly summary of your receipts and expenses, this is much better than trying to sort everything out at the end of the year.
  • Make sure that you get an invoice or receipt for everything that is bought for your business. Even if you haven’t yet started your business, you can claim these against your business income as and when you start the business.
  • Make sure that you keep a record every time you sell goods or services to a client. This way, you will be covered if you ever have to provide proof to HMRC.
  • And finally, ensure that you claim all your expenses (to set against your business income) For example, even if you use a room in your house, HMRC allows you to claim a monthly amount as a legitimate business cost. This is explained over on the HMRC website.
  • So there you have it, a few tips that you might not have known about and a few handy ways to keep your business books in order. If you are starting from scratch and want to learn great ways of keeping your book properly as well as resources for this, then you should check out of Basic Bookkeeping course.

This course runs every month, from 10-1pm and costs just £25 – You can check out the upcoming dates here! 

The Women's Organisation is supported in part by The Skills and Opportunities Fund. This fund is one of the many ways that the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) is contributing to the communities they live and work in. In 2015, they committed £2.5m to fund projects in charities, social enterprises, community groups, state-funded schools and colleges across the UK and Ireland, and they have allocated at further £2.5m to be split across two rounds in 2016.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mindfulness Changed Nicola Forshaw's Life And Helped Her Start Her Own Business; Mindfit

Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, but very few people actually know what it is! Or the benefits that it can bring to your life. One woman who does is Nicola Forshaw, founder of Mindfit, a provider of Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence training to schools, businesses and individuals.

Nicola says; ‘Mindfulness is a practice. It is a way of being. Mindfulness is not a religion, doesn’t take a lot of time and can be practiced anywhere, sitting on a bus, walking to work, at your desk, cooking at home or even socialising with your friends. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your thoughts, emotions and body sensations in the present moment non-judgementally and with compassion.’

‘When we do this it allows us to create some space in the mind to respond skilfully rather than habitually. This can lead us to making wiser decisions. Mindfulness is a way of being that can help us to build up emotional intelligence skills such as resilience, focus and compassion for our self and others.’

At Mindfit, Nicola works with CEO’s, executive teams and staff to improve wellbeing, performance and company culture. She also works with schools, colleges and universities teaching both teachers and pupils mindfulness to improve their emotional wellbeing, focus and attention, teaching ‘how to live in the present moment’ and cultivate attitudes of positivity and kindness.

Prior to setting up her own business Nicola worked for 15 years in corporate sales and business development in telecommunications, advertising and sports marketing. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Nicola found mindfulness after she began meditating to help her cope with stress and depression that she was facing. ‘The practice was key in transforming my mind set, and my life!’ Ever since then Nicola has been studying meditation, personal development and mindfulness, and in 2010 she decided that she wanted a career change. ‘I had two objectives, it had to be something I was passionate about and it had to be something that would help others. Ironically, the idea came to me whilst meditating! I wanted to teach others how to find peace and happiness, which lead to me becoming an accredited mindfulness teacher.’

Nicola got in contact with her local growth hub broker The Women's Organisation and was directed to tailored business growth support through our programme; New Markets 2 and began working with Business Adviser; Janine Hyland. ‘ I benefited enormously from my one to one mentoring with Janine who has shown genuine interest in the growth of my business and has been brilliant to work with!’ Nicola worked with Janine and had one to one meetings as well as an away morning with her to help her plan her growth strategy.

For Nicola one of the biggest barriers when starting her business was the lack of start-up capital. To solve this problem Nicola decided to continue working full-time whilst she started her business simultaneously. ‘For the first couple of years I had to continue working whilst studying and practicing mindfulness during evenings and weekends. This was very tiring, especially with a young baby, thinking back it was such hard work but definitely worth it!’

Mindfulness in the workplace
Nicola has always juggled many different things and is dedicated to finding the perfect work/life balance. ‘I’m a working mum so I have to fit my business around my young daughter. So like most working mums there can be a lot of juggling. But when it’s your passion, it doesn’t feel like work!’ And even within the business Nicola admits that there are a lot of different areas to contend with; ‘There’s so much to think about when you’re running your business; marketing, social media, accounts, networking, business development – and that’s on top of the most important work of all which is the teaching!’ – But Nicola says that her own mindfulness practice has helped her enormously to cope and also achieve her goals, she sets aside 30-40 minutes each day for this.

Now Mindfit is going from strength. Nicola says; ‘We are working with national as well as local businesses and the number of clients we have has quadrupled since last year with 98% of the attendees rating our sessions as excellent! We are now working with larger groups, I recently taught a session at Liverpool Hope University that was attended by 140 people! I am excited about taking the business forward in 2017 and have lots of plans to continue to bring mindfulness and meditation to a wider audience and help people lead happier, healthier lives.’

If you would like to find out more about Mindfit, you can do so by using the contact details below!


Feb 2018 update...

Since working on the New Markets 2 Programme Nicola's business has continued to grow, seeing significant increase in her turnover, and building an impressive client portfolio.
Over the last 12 months Nicola has been implementing a mindfulness programme at Merseyside Police.  
Nicola told us "It's a great opportunity to work with an organisation under immense pressure to change mindset and culture in a positive way". 
Thanks to unbelievable feedback Nicola currently has a further 5 courses commissioned with Merseyside Police and she is finding waiting lists are often needed as the staff can see what a positive impact the programme is having.  
Nicola commented "As the police officers are learning how to let worry and tension go, they are not only improving their health and well being, but their productivity is increasing."
On the back of the success in Merseyside, Nicola is due to start working on a similar project with West Yorkshire Police, and is positive about the direction her business is going in.

And if you’ve been inspired by Nicola’s story and would like to find out how we can help you start or grow your business through our programmes part funded by European Regional Development Fund, then get in touch with us!  We operate as a broker for the local growth hub meaning we are available to give advice and guidance whatever stage your business. Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Are You Ready To Grow? | Planning For Business Growth With Excelerate Labs

Planning is the key to success in any business. It’s sensible to review your performance on a regular basis and identify the most likely strategies so you can grow your business. Here are some of our tips on planning for business growth: 

Look Back to Look Forward
Study the past successes of your company and use this to create new ideas for future achievements. By regularly assessing your performance against the plan that you began with, you are more likely to reach your goals. By doing this you can highlight where and why you have gone astray. By choosing to reassess every three to six months, this will show direction and commitment to employees, customers and suppliers as well as keeping you focused

Look Around
Also study your competition, the trends of your target market, and economic trends to forecast your growth plan. Looking over the business plans of various other companies that have seen great recent success, both in your industry and in other industries, you can use their ideas as motivations to create your own strategy. 

Look Closely
When you are reviewing your business plan, it's important to be clear on how you will allocate your resources to make your strategy work. The business plan for growth should allocate sufficient resources to achieve it's goals. You should assess your companies efficiency in terms of employees abilities and adaptability, as well as your own. This will help you to realise what you can or cannot do without your current staff, and if you need to hire new staff, or hire your existing staff in with new skills or training. 

Look for Friends
Another good way to plan for business growth, is to collaborate with a business owner that has successfully expanded their business, as you are trying to do. Gaining advice from someone who has been in your position is invaluable. 

Is your business growing? The Women's Organisation would like to offer support and advice to those who's business is growing and accelerating...

Exclerate Labs is part funded by European Regional Development Fund and offers FREE business growth consultancy to businesses registered in Greater Manchester who are operating in a business to business sector and ready to grow.

Excelerate Labs expert Business Growth Advisers can support you with:

• Developing Growth Strategy

• Accessing Markets

• Building Strategic Sales & Marketing Plans

• Developing Effective Leadership

• Gaining Support with Financial Management, Procurement, Bids & Tenders

• Linking to Networks & Developing Strategic Partnerships

• Measuring & Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility

Or building your business in another way.

If you are interested in receiving support contact our team via exceleratelabs@thewo.org.uk 

Social Media Top Tips: What Are The Best Times To Post On Social Media?

Time and time again we are asked in our Social Media courses, when exactly is the best time to post on Social Media? And it’s always a really tricky question to answer! Because not only does it depend on your customer and your target audience but it also depends on the Social Media platform that you are using!

But we’ve found some great top tips from QuickSprout about the most effective times for posting on your chosen Social Media platform…


The best days overall to post are on Thursdays and Fridays, with 86% of posts being published during the work week and engagement peaking on Thursday and Friday
But engagement rates fall 3.5% below average for posts published on Monday through to Wednesday!

The best time of the day to post on Facebook is in the early afternoon!


Twitter Download PNG

For B2B’s the best days to tweet are weekdays which provide 14% more engagement than weekends. But for B2C’s engagement is highest on weekends and Wednesday’s

Tweet at 5pm to get the most retweets! This could be due to people looking for something to keep them occupied on their commute home from work


According to LinkedIn, weekdays during business hours are the best times to post and the best days to post are Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

LinkedIn consist primarily of a B2B audience, that’s probably the reason why the highest engagement rates are during weekdays and business hours.

Check out the rest of QuickSprout's great tips on the best time for posting including more on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and also Instagram, Pinterest and Google +

Monday, December 5, 2016

‘In An Effort To Heal Myself, I’ve Ended Up Spreading Healing Magic To Women Across The UK’ – Shirley Razbully & Muse Retreats

Shirley Razbully’s story of how she came to set up her business, Muse Retreats, is an incredibly inspiring one. When we spoke to Shirley we were overwhelmed by her positivity and it was surprising to learn that things hadn’t always been so easy for her, as Shirley decided to set up her business as a result of a breakdown that she suffered a couple of years ago. We think the Shirley’s journey of overcoming adversity and setting up a business that can help people is a fantastic one and we wanted to share it…

Shirley Razbully
Muse Retreats is a monthly subscription box service for ‘the creative soul’. Instead of delivering beauty products or food products like other subscription services, Shirley delivers a creative retreat for people to explore at home at a time to suit them. It includes sweet treats, organic herbal teas, step by step retreat guidelines and art/craft gifts as well as other surprises based on the month’s theme. Shirley says; ‘It’s a great way for us to reclaim a bit of ‘me time’ by taking time out, just for ourselves, to get creative and reflect on what we think and feel.’

Each month Shirley chooses a different theme and creates the box around that and although it is a subscription box service there are one-off boxes available which make great gifts! ‘The main purpose of these creative retreats is for women to reconnect with themselves and their joy.’

An Alice in Wonderland Box - Photo from Lola De Vil
It’s incredible to think that something as positive as Muse Retreats was borne out of such a dark period of Shirley’s life. She told us; ‘I decided to set up my business as a result of a breakdown. After working in an extremely pressured environment for so many years, I burnt out. I was also dealing with multiple family bereavements. The combination of burnout, bereavement and breakdown let to me being off work desperately ill for six months. During that period I had a lot of time to reflect, and I realised I wasn’t really living; I was just about surviving my life.’

It was during this time that an Occupational Therapist suggested that Shirley visit an art gallery, and although she wasn’t initially well enough to do this, she did begin to make an effort to ‘reclaim a sense of joy’, devising creative activities that she could do at home. Shirley, a naturally creative individual, did things like made aromatherapy bath salts, gift hampers, and collages and painting. ‘When I was feeling a little better I created a few little retreat boxes for friends of mine. They were intended as ‘thank-you’ gifts for the support they had given me but the feedback was glowing and they commented on how so many other people they knew would benefit from these little retreat boxes.’ And so, Muse Retreats was born!

Shirley is the type of business woman who wants to cover every single eventuality and be entirely prepared before launching a business, so it was no surprise to us to hear that even before contacting ourselves she spoke to three different women who work for themselves and got advice on the pros and cons of running a business because; ‘I wanted to move forward with my eyes wide open.’

One of the women that Shirley talked to mentioned The Women’s Organisation so Shirley gave us a ring and booked an appointment with our Business Adviser; Yan Miao and began to attend our courses. In fact, Shirley has completed nearly all of our training courses! ‘I found the experience of attending courses very valuable, the content was excellent and they gave me a sense that this business goal was achievable. Although I love learning anyway, it was the practical approach to the courses which I found most helpful. After each course, I left with a little more confidence, that yes I could do this!’

And as Shirley’s confidence grew, so did her business too! Although it wasn’t without its difficulties, as well as finding bookkeeping and tax and national insurance requirements daunting, Shirley was also managing her mental health issues including anxiety and symptoms of PTSD. She told us; ‘Ironically it was from within my deepest vulnerability that my business was born. In an effort to heal myself I’ve ended up spreading a little healing magic to women across the UK.’

A Creative Space Muse Retreats Box
Shirley launched Muse Retreats in September and received her first subscriber within one minute of launching! So far she has had subscribers from across the UK and received fantastic feedback. ‘To date, I’ve received a review from a clinical psychologist who is a columnist for Psychologies magazine; she reviewed my first box and actively advocates my retreats as an integral part of her own self-care. I’ve also had three video reviews on YouTube and a business spotlight on a blog too!’

‘People seem to resonate with my story because it’s the story of so many women. Although having a breakdown might be a bit extreme, feeling out of touch with yourself or frustrated and sad as a result of spending time caring for others and not enough time for yourself seems to be quite a common theme among women, so my creative retreats have addressed that.’

Now the benefits of being in business are beginning to show in Shirley’s life! ‘I get to make the rules and change the rules and break the rules too. I love having free reign to be creative and create the life I want. I feel really proud of what I have achieved so far. One of the last things my Mum said to me was ‘Shirley, life’s so short. You’ve got to live every moment.’ I intend to follow her advice and make each moment count, changing the world with my little boxes, one creative soul at a time.’

If you would like to find out more about Muse Retreats you can do so by using the contact details below!

And Shirley has kindly given our WO readers a special offer for Muse Retreats! Please use the promo code: worg1

This is exclusive to The Women's Organisation and gives you £2.50 off any one-off retreat box, reducing them from £15 to £12.50 each including free UK P&P. If anyone would like to purchase more than one box they will receive a £2.50 discount on every one-off box in their basket. Valid from now until 17th December while stocks last!

And if you’ve been inspired by Shirley’s story and would like to find out how we can help you start or grow your business, then get in touch with us! Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 811

Friday, December 2, 2016

Christmas at 54 St James Street

It’s officially December and the festivities have well and truly begun at 54 St James Street.

This week you may have came across two Christmas elves roaming the building - they were set a mission to turn 54 St James Street into a winter wonderland.

If you’re a 54 tenant you may now notice that we have a 7 meter tall tree standing proudly in our reception area, and if you haven’t yet saw, pop in and take a look for yourself. A big thanks to the Christmas elves for their hard work!

54’s onsite café, Siren is offering a seasonal menu of winter warmers to add to your festive 54 spirit. Drinks start from £2.00 and include a Chai Latte, Gingerbread Latte, Apple and Cranberry Spiced Tea or of course, everyone's favourite Mulled Wine/Cider.

We are thrilled to have our festivities underway and wish all of our 54 tenants, neighbours and friends a joyful run up to Christmas!