Thursday, November 7, 2013

Ruth Marcella Brings Out The Beauty of Business With Orchid Blush

Starting in 2009, Ruth Marcella wanted to give clients the celebrity experience and since then her business has gone from strength to strength. Now with over 40 fully qualified and highly experienced freelance make-up artists and hair stylists, Orchid Blush is one of the leading providers of make-up and hair services in the North West.

Photo by VGGVART

Before becoming self-employed, Ruth studied Fashion Promotion then moved to the North West to start a family. She was working full time in merchandising when the idea of setting up a business came to her. ‘I wanted more flexibility as a mum, self-employment just made sense.’
The move into self-employment was quite an organic process for the mother of 3. Very few problems were encountered, ‘everything seemed to naturally fall into place.’ Originally a stylist, she later moved to make-up, as she realised that is what she was more passionate about.
‘I always enjoyed doing make up so I did a short course and went from there.’
Ruth looked for any business start-up support available and came across Train 2000, now The Women’s Organisation. She attended a range of courses including business planning, bookkeeping and understanding tax & national insurance to help her get Orchid Blush up and running.

Orchid Blush provides a mobile service for all occasions that will travel to any location in the North West. They also have a professional media team who specialise in commercial events such as television, red carpet and photo-shoots.

The business has attracted a number of high profile clients, including EMI Records, Sky 1, Kellogs, Honda, Channel 4, Peroni and Microsoft. Despite this, she still finds it surreal when a big client calls her up.

Ruth recently attended a series of EBEL master classes run by The Women’s Organisation, including ‘Using Linked in for business’ and ‘Marketing planning’. Although she has a background in marketing, she still found the courses very helpful and informative. She explained: ‘You have to appreciate the opportunities given to you on your journey, like courses and networking opportunities.’
For her, the best thing about being self-employed is that she enjoys her job. ‘I never dread going to work. I get to be creative and find the beauty on someone’s face, instead of putting a look on them. I really enjoy finding their look and seeing their reaction when they see how beautiful they are. I love giving people confidence, especially for special events like weddings.’

Another perk of being self-employed is having her own identity. ‘I feel fortunate to be able to be at home with my children, but then go to work and have an identity away from being a mother.’
Currently, Orchid Blush covers the whole of the North West but Ruth aims to expand the business in the future and break into the Midlands. With the business going strong and continuing to attract high profile clients, she hopes this will be sooner rather than later.

To see the amazing work Ruth and her team do, visit or contact them at  
You can also find Orchid Blush on Twitter: @OrchidBlush

And if like Ruth the flexibility and control of self-employment appeals to you, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or for free business start-up advice and support.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Business Psychologist and Coach Sarah Connell Proves That A Positive Attitude Can Be Life Changing

Sarah Connell is a Business Psychologist and Coach. In 2013 she founded MindingMe Psychologists with the support of The Women's Organisation.

After finishing her degree in Psychology, Sarah Connell was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) at the age of 22, a neurological condition affecting the nervous system.

Before receiving the news, Sarah was considering doing a Masters degree and despite having doubts she decided that the condition was not going to get in her way. The following year she moved to Liverpool and completed her Master of Science (MSc) in Occupational Psychology.

At first her symptoms were limited, making it possible for her to take a full time consultancy job in Manchester. Unfortunately over the 5 years her symptoms progressed and although her employer was very supportive, Sarah began to question how much longer she could continue in full time employment.

‘My symptoms were getting worse and I was starting to feel anxious about the future. Would I be able to continue working in a full time job? One of the things it is important to ensure with MS is that you manage your symptoms by following a healthy lifestyle, which includes getting enough rest… I was finding it harder and that’s when I started to think about starting my own business.’

It was the flexibility that self-employment allows that appealed to her the most and although the idea was daunting, her friends and family were very supportive of the idea. However, she felt that she didn’t know where to start and needed more help.

By chance, the Liverpool resident came across a leaflet in LEAF on Bold Street about the services The Women’s Organisation can offer to women in Merseyside wanting to start up their own business.

‘It was scary at the start… It took me a long time to accept myself as a business woman. I felt like I needed to make more connections so contacted The Women’s Organisation. I thought that it looked exactly like the kind of thing I was looking for… They provided me with a business advisor who gave me lots of helpful advice. I also attended a number of helpful workshops about Tax and NI, marketing using a social media strategy etc.’

She continued: ‘At first I didn’t understand why a business plan was necessary but it helped to give me a structure, recognise and articulate my strengths and weaknesses and gave me a sense of being a proper business.’

Although Sarah considered her MS as a weakness at the start, she now feels that it has helped give her a different outlook on life…

‘Having a condition like MS is scary but I have overcome big barriers myself and that gives me the confidence to work with others doing the same thing. I am passionate about this and want to help other people to get the most out of their lives’

It was that confidence and optimism that allowed her to open MindingMe Psychologists as a Business Psychologist & Coach. Her unique selling point is that she has over 10 years’ experience working with high profile clients from the private, public and voluntary sectors, including NHS and Macmillan.

Sarah understands the psychology of coaching from a cognitive-behavioural perspective and applies a range of advanced coaching techniques to business, health, performance and life coaching. MindingMe offers clients an objective, supportive and non-judgemental way to help them overcome challenges and achieve their goals, which is completely tailored to the individual’s needs.

‘I work with people to help them reach their potential. I can help to improve their self-awareness, identify when their thinking is impacting on their performance and their ability to move forward in their lives, offering suggestions and strategies to help challenge any negative or unhelpful thinking.’

The most common issues MindingMe deal with include confidence building, overcoming procrastination, dealing with anxiety and stress, clarifying where people are going in their lives and their career.

The main message Sarah aims to get across is that ‘we are sometimes faced with big challenges in life that can feel overwhelming, but we don’t have to let them take over. We can take steps that will allow us to move forward in a positive way. People have the answers within themselves; I’m here to hold up a mirror to help find them.’

With these beliefs, MindingMe is currently going strong with a steady stream of clients and a very impressive 100% return rate. The long term aim is to grow the business further by opening up her own office and employing staff to help more people across Liverpool and the North West of England.

Sarah is a great example of what people can do when they work to keep a positive outlook and are open to the opportunities that arise from both positive and negative situations.

If you are looking to change an aspect of your life that you’re unhappy with, or would just like to find out more, you can visit or contact Sarah directly at or 07784 574 482.

And if you feel it's the right time to move forward with that idea you've had for a while, there is free support available from The Women's Organisation. Call 0151 706 8111 or email for more information.

By Beckie Kinsella

Monday, October 28, 2013

24 Year Old Ciara Turns Her Passion For Equines and Photography Into A Full Time Business

At the age of just 23, Ciara Doone Rush took a leap of faith by starting up her own photography business, specialising in Equestrian photography and videography.

Photo by VGGVART


‘I have always had a huge interest in photography and got my first decent camera whilst travelling. Following on from that, having worked for Canon and gaining a huge amount of experience I started setting up projects and building up a portfolio… Horses are another passion of mine and so there were so many ticked boxes, I couldn't not look to set up my own business specialising in Equestrian photography!’

Using a combination of video and photography, Doone Rush Photography offers tailor made shoots for Equines and their Humans, both at competitions and at home. She uses the close bond between the pair to capture and document dynamic and powerful action moments, as well as producing stand alone pieces of art.

Prior to starting up her business, Ciara worked in theatre, film and TV and had always been involved in the creative industry. She went on to work for Canon, further expanding her knowledge and expertise in her chosen field.

With a strong desire not to be tied down to the Monday to Friday routine, she had always wanted to become self-employed.

‘I started talking to people, explaining my idea and constantly brain storming. It was suggested to me that I ought to write a business plan but having no background in business I had little idea as to what that would entail.’

A friend told her about a ‘Meet the Advisor’ drop-in morning The Women’s Organisation was holding in LEAF on Bold Street. Ciara popped in to find out what free start-up support and advice was available to her.

She explained: ‘I was given a one-to-one business advisor who helped me right the way through writing my business plan and helped me to secure some finances through a credit union start up scheme. I attended several courses…including ‘Planning for Success,’ ‘E-marketing,’ ‘Book Keeping’ and ‘Tax and NI.’ I also received a £200 start-up grant,’

‘The Women’s Organisation has been such a positive influence over the past 9 months and I don’t know where I would be without all the lovely ladies! Even now that the business planning is all over, their Business club offers that space and support where you can connect with other like-minded women and share inspiration, advice and learn from people with more experience.’

Doone Rush Photography has gotten off to such a good start that Ciara has been able to leave her part-time job to focus completely on her business. She is now working full time as a photographer, both through her business and freelance. After working endlessly to gain contacts in the North West Equestrian industry, with just moving to Liverpool 18 months ago, the hard work is paying off.

‘I have continually been inspired throughout the year by other photographers and their work as well as other people, women in particular setting up their own businesses... I feel a great deal of pride that I am now self-employed and look forward to everything that is to come with my business.’

The now 24 year old is enjoying the creative freedom and control of being her own boss. Being able to create her own work and decide which projects to embark on, as well as how to go about them, is one of her favourite things about running her own business.

‘It’s empowering, if not a little daunting, that I am in control of my business and the potential that goes with it. I always look forward to ‘going to work’ and love the people and animals I meet and work with on a constant basis.’

With her business in full stride (no pun intended), Ciara’s advice to people considering starting up a business is to ‘write a business plan and to get some support from an organisation like The Women’s Organisation… Getting the right advice from day 1 is essential… You have to be 200% committed if you’re going to make it work.’

If you would like to view Ciara’s work you can visit
Or to enquire about her services, contact her directly at or 07857823296

‘I love to hear from people – whether it’s for advice, opinions, talking about what I offer or just having a good old natter about horses or cameras!’

If you'd like to take control of your career and turn a hobby or passion into a business, contact The Women's Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or for free start-up support and training. 

By Beckie Kinsella

Monday, October 21, 2013

Liverpool's Francesca Shows 'Baby + Woman = Business, No Problem'

For Francesca Aiken, creativity has always been an essential part of her day to day life. She enjoys anything from sewing and dressmaking to knitting and crochet. She had, however, never felt confident enough to make clothes. This all changed with the birth of her first child.
Photo by Sane Seven
After Scarlett was born, the first time mum found herself increasingly conscious of the divide between the clothes and toys of young boys and girls.

She explained: ‘Why do boys get Space, Dinosaurs, Aeroplanes and Bugs?! All the fun things, all those great starting points for enjoying Science and History. Why for girls do we fill every birthday and Christmas with pink, princesses and smug unicorns? Ultimately I didn't want Scarlett to think being passive and looking good was important.’

Francesca quickly began addressing the issue by making her own baby clothes.  These included ‘dinosaur skirts, space bunting for her room, patchwork quilts covered in woodland animals rather than fluffy kittens and vacant princesses.’ This consequently led to the idea behind Sewing Circus, making comfortable unisex play-wear, and specialising in clothes for girls in themes and prints that the high street only sells to boys. However, the road to self-employment was not an easy one.

She had worked in Museums for almost 10 years and was responsible for curating the exhibition on Liverpool's Chinese community in the Global City Gallery – part of the new Museum of Liverpool. Only 2 weeks after the museum opened in 2011, Francesca was made redundant.

‘Despite a steady stream of applications and interviews I eventually ended up on JSA. For the first time in my life I had no direction.’

The Liverpool woman used her redundancy money to fund her passion for sewing. She bought a new sewing machine and various materials to experiment with, along with instructional books. Her intention was to make gifts for her friends and family, not feeling she had the confidence to take it any further.

The mother of 2 told us: ‘By January 2013 I was starting to feel like I'd lost control of my future - my career had totally disappeared and I wanted to move forward my way, my ideas, my work. I worried about how Gareth and my girls would come to view me - I felt like a shell of my former self. ‘

That was when Francesca decided it was time to progress with her idea and beliefs, so joined Liverpool based social enterprise The Women’s Organisation's Accelerating Women's Enterprise programme which is part funded by European Regional Development Fund.

‘I knew what I wanted Sewing Circus to be about, what I wanted to make – the look and feel, but for the business side I was clueless. Bookkeeping, pricing, tax, marketing – where to start? The Women's Organisation changed all of this and gave me the confidence to take my ideas forward.'

She continued: ‘The Women's Organisation has been integral to the building of Sewing Circus as a viable business. Two years ago I had no direction, just an idea and this insurmountable feeling that I would never be able to start my own business. With the Women's Organisation there was no waiting around, it was clear attainable steps towards building my plan, and making Sewing Circus a reality.’

A few months on, Francesca is now working to a waiting list and is receiving interest from as far as Australia. Furthermore, she has achieved all of this whilst juggling her business with her family.

‘I am Mum to two girls – Scarlett 5, and Evie 6 months. It is HARD. I work all the time and have very little “me” time – but I love it! I cut fabric during naps, sew only in the evening when I know I won't be interrupted and I’ve found breast feeding my youngest has been fantastic. It has allowed me a lot more freedom and time to grow my business.’

‘My oldest Scarlett is really supportive… I regularly tell her to go and see what is hanging up in the lounge and hear her scream “THANK YOU!” at the new skirt or dress I've made her. I love telling her – look what you can make if you put your mind to it.’
With the success of her business, the mother of two is now enjoying the financial stability and is keen to continue expanding her business.

‘I love my business. Sewing Circus is something I am incredibly proud of and has given me back my place in the world.’
Due to the amount of requests Sewing Circus has had, it is now providing adults clothing and is offering to work with community groups, museums and campaign groups that share her passion for giving all children the same opportunities and choices.

To treat your little ones and make their wardrobe more adventurous, contact Sewing Circus on Facebook: or Twitter: @SewingCircus
You can also follow the wider campaign here:

If like Francesca you have a strong belief that you feel you could turn into a business, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / or visit

By Beckie Kinsella

Friday, October 4, 2013

Wirral's Deborah Alfa Transforms Beautiful Brides and Looks To Inspire Future Stylists

With over 10 years’ experience in the hair industry, Mother of 3 Deborah Alfa decided it was time to make the most of her expertise and create hairpieces for women who would otherwise struggle with getting the style they desired.
‘Working with ladies with a variation of hair types wanting to achieve a style they would be unable to achieve as their hair was fine or too thick, I decided to design my own pieces to accommodate these ladies for them to be able to have what they wanted on their special day.’

Deborah designs bespoke hairpieces for blushing brides who want their hair looking perfect on their special day. She also creates hair designs for all occasions and provides an array of half wigs, extensions, buns and ponytails to help create that ideal finish.

On her journey to self-employment, Deborah and her family have had to come through some testing times. She is first and foremost a mother of 3 and often finds herself working in the middle of the night as it is the only free time that she has.

‘I recognise that although I want the business to succeed I will not do it to the detriment of my children so try and do as much as I can whilst they are at school or in bed.’

However, the thing that held her back the most was her finances. With the banks unable to help, Deborah had to finance the business herself, which put a huge strain on her family’s finances and meant that the business took longer to set up. This left her feeling deflated at times and questioning the future of her business.

The mother of 3 contacted The Women’s Organisation who offered her business start-up support and a small grant to help towards her financial situation.

‘I was lucky enough to gain a grant from The Women’s Organisation of £200… I think the business advice was priceless and the on-going support is really good as I am aware that if I need advice on something I can speak to my business advisor… The support has been amazing and has helped so much… The network events (Business Club) are great as you get to meet with likeminded people and share ideas and support for each other.’

The Wirral woman began her journey 10 years ago when she first attended Wirral Metropolitan College and achieved a level 2 in hairdressing. She told us: ‘I chose hairdressing as I have always loved doing it and I had two boys and wanted a profession that I could use to work around my boys. It was a one year intensive course but I enjoyed the learning and the tutors where very supportive.’

She then went on to achieve her level three hairdressing and during this time also attended some of Wirral Met’s extra evening classes in creative colouring, creative cutting and hair up workshops to help her progress in the industry.

With the desire to further extend her knowledge, Deborah started a certificate in education in hairdressing 4 years ago, also at Wirral Met. She had a fabulous mentor that offered great support and guidance.

‘The work load was hard, I was studying till early hours of the morning just to get assignments completed. I qualified in my a1 assessors so I was able to assess the learners complete their units. During my time teacher training and getting to know some of the girls I realised I wanted to try and do more for some of these learners.’

This is when Deborah decided to do a life coaching diploma and attend high schools, speaking with young girls and getting them focused on what they want to do, as opposed to what others want them to do.

‘I was so inspired by this and focused on achieving my dream of sharing my knowledge to inspire and motivate stylists, to grow within the industry confidently, that I wrote my program. Combining my expertise of hair design, teaching and training with that of life coaching, I have created an all-round innovative salon training day.’

The workshop coaches stylists through their fears and limits, using life coaching skills to aid in overcoming all of those and break each design down into easy manageable steps. By encouraging, inspiring and motivating, the workshop develops confidence and leaves stylists assured in creating stunning hair designs. 

Deborah’s advice to anyone considering starting up a business is: ‘Do thorough background research, secure a really good business plan… be flexible and patient… allow yourself time to breathe and get as much financial backing in the beginning as you can… It doesn’t happen overnight, people work at different paces and there are some great people in the world you just need to talk to them.’

If you’re planning for your special day, or have an important occasion coming up and would like a high quality hair piece to complete your look, visit or find Deborah Alfa on Facebook / Twitter @DebsAlfa
And if like Deborah you are a woman who would like to turn something you enjoy into a business, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / to find out about the free services we can offer.

By Beckie Kinsella

Friday, September 13, 2013

Inspired By Her Daughter, Former Hollyoaks Actress Kelly-Marie Stewart Turns Her Love For Fashion Into a Business

‘Fashion has always played a huge part in my life and I love sourcing unusual pieces. When I had my own daughter I decided I would love to do this for children too.’

Her passion for fashion has led to the opening of Kelly-Marie Designer Children's Boutique. The shop finds and supplies unique children’s clothing, shoes and accessories by the best designers from around the world in one fabulous store based in Cherry Tree Shopping Centre, Wallasey.

Kelly-Marie has had to overcome a lot of barriers on her journey to opening her own business. Prior to her role as Hayley Ramsey in Channel 4’s Hollyoak’s, she faced various issues with applying for jobs because of her disability.

She explained: ‘I am disabled and I know only too well the barriers that a disability can have when looking for work as I lost my first job with a huge company as a result of becoming disabled and could not even seem to get past the application process with employers after ticking the disabled box.’

The Liverpool resident has managed to overcome these problems by passing by application forms and interviews, and creating her own job doing what she loves.

Another barrier Kelly-Marie has managed to overcome is that of childcare. ‘I am juggling being a mummy and family life with work…one of the beauties of my business is that I can do this quite easily as most of my customers are mums too they don't mind Daisie my daughter being here with me on the odd occasion I'm very thankful for that.’

When the idea initially arose to become self-employed, Kelly-Marie began searching online for help in moving her idea forward. This was when she discovered the free support The Women’s Organisation can offer to women who wish to start up their own business.

‘The first thing I needed to set my business up was a business plan and if I'm honest it was all new to me so I found The Women's Organisation and they guided me every step of the way, from placing me with my own amazing business advisor to putting me on lots of great courses from marketing to social media. I have opened my business without any fears due to the support I received which is great.’

Kelly-Marie’s main fear was her finances. She worried that she would not be able to make them add up. However, after working with her advisor at The Women’s Organisation, she quickly realised that there was every chance of her business being successful. She said: ‘I realised that things really could work and I soon realised that I could start my business with confidence.’

She continued: ‘the service I received from the women's organisation has been life changing looking back at an idea in January and here I am now with my business going from strength to strength. I really cannot praise the women's organisation enough.’

When asked what her favourite part of being self-employed is, the former Hollyoak’s star answered: ‘The best thing about running my own business is knowing that when my customers leave happy my hard work has finally paid off… I'm really proud of how far I have come…and with continued support from The Women's Organisation the only way is up.’

Moving forward with her newly found confidence, Kelly-Marie is proving with the growing success of her business that no barrier is too big when you really wish to achieve something.

If you want to dress your children up in style this winter, Kelly-Marie Designer Children’s Boutique can be found on Facebook or you can follow on twitter @KellyMarieKids

If like Kelly-Marie you would like to turn an idea into a business, contact The Women’s Organisation to find out what FREE services and advice we can offer – 0151 706 8111 /

By Beckie Kinsella

Friday, September 6, 2013

Serial Entrepreneur Siobhan Noble Tells us How She ‘Caught the Bug’ of Starting a Business

For Liverpool resident Siobhan Noble, the idea of being stuck in a corporate office job forever just didn’t appeal to her creative flare. 

“I worked at a bank,” remembered Siobhan “and I absolutely hated it. It just wasn’t me. I had a wardrobe full of vintage clothes and would regularly be at vintage fairs, my biggest love was bohemian 70’s vintage. As I would look around I would think ‘I could do this’.  A former colleague from the bank introduced me to The Women’s Organisation and let me know I could get help with a business plan. I also discovered I could get a grant to help me buy stock. Within a year of discovering them I had left my job at the bank and gone self-employed.”

In 2011 Siobhan (then just 25) launched not one but two new businesses, ‘Tatties Vintage’, running vintage fairs and retailing imported vintage clothing and ‘The Lantern Theatre’ which she set up in partnership with her creative mum Margaret.

“When I started Tatties I had a friend who had moved to L.A. who introduced me to a supplier. Since then things have changed with vintage becoming a massive craze, and tons of ‘vintage clothing’ businesses started popping up.    Tatties is different from the norm as everything I sell is really high quality and true vintage, but I am always looking at ways to develop the business further and stand out from the crowd, so now I am working on a new project to expand into teaching people about reworking clothes. I can link this nicely with my other business holding classes at The Lantern Theatre.”

As the market became more flooded she decided to adapt her business to have a more online focus, exploring social media marketing.

“I have managed to get over 6000 likes for ‘Tatties Vintage’ on facebook.  I find that people who have come to events at the Theatre were aware of Tatties which is great to see how the one supports the other. We had over 1500 visitors turnout for our Christmas Fair last year, which I think was mainly down to our online advertising.”

Like Tatties, taking over at the Lantern Theatre, a fringe venue for theatre, music and comedy, came at the right time for both Siobhan and Margaret

“When mum was made redundant from her previous job we heard that the Lantern Theatre was for sale, so it seemed like perfect timing. We took over the Lantern Theatre nearly 2 years ago now. My mum has always been in theatre so I grew up in rehearsal rooms. We love that Lantern is one of the only springboard theatres in Liverpool, a place for upcoming artists.”

Working with family isn’t always easy as Siobhan has found out. “We have our moments. Because I’ve got a business brain I’ll interrupt her creative flow and make sure she is thinking about making money. The great thing is that you can say a lot more to family. We get things out in the open and can be honest with each other.”

Lantern Theatre is based on Blundell Street in the heart of Liverpool’s up and coming creative quarter the Baltic Triangle. Siobhan told us “I just love the Baltic Triangle. It is becoming a real creative hub.  An area that was dying has had a resurgence which is fantastic.  I think it is great to have an area bringing all creatives together.  We need creative people. Without them it’s hard to market, and they are really great at networking.”

Through running both businesses Siobhan has learned a lot of important lessons and would offer this advice to those considering going self-employed:

“I’d say getting advice is very important when setting up your business. Without advice I don’t think I would be doing well enough to have left my job at the bank. Self-employment can keep you awake at night, but it is more rewarding I think. I think people have more respect for me knowing that I am a business owner. I’m proud of what we have achieved, I would definitely do it again.”

Siobhan is now expanding her fashion reach as fashion editor for Collective Magazine. She says “I think once you branch out and do one thing that you enjoy you get a bug for it. Doing one thing leads to another, and if you are anything like me you will find you end up with your fingers in loads of pies.”

To find out more about Lantern Theatre and how they are supporting emerging performing artists visit To link with Tatties Vintage head over to facebook and ‘like’ their page

If like Siobhan you have a burning desire to branch out and follow your business dream, then contact The Women’s Organisation today for FREE advice and support on 0151 706 8111 or

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Wirral Mother of 2 Turns Redundancy into Opportunity

‘After being made redundant it became very apparent that getting back into my chosen career was very difficult, therefore I took a part time job that would help support my family’ described Helen Powell, mother of 2 young children, on her experience of redundancy and battling to break back into her chosen field.

Helen had worked for various photographic companies and suppliers, including 6 years as a photographer with Cheshire Constabulary based within the Forensic Investigation Department, which she really enjoyed. Unfortunately, after being made redundant, the Wirral woman was forced to take a part time job as a toll officer in order to help support her 2 young children, both of whom are under 5.

Being a very experienced photographer, Helen began to notice a gap in the newborn photography market. She recognised that the style used in the USA and other parts of Britain was lacking in the North West. She told us: ‘Before I was made redundant I began exploring this area and started to build a portfolio of work and self-funded myself on a Newborn Safety & Posing Workshop.’

So after her husband, who had also been made redundant, had opened up his own successful graphic design business with family, Helen began moving forward with her own idea.

The biggest barrier for the mother of 2 was her confidence and self-belief in her abilities. The prospect of becoming her own boss was very daunting, especially the idea of being completely responsible for every aspect of the business. However, with the help of The Women’s Organisation, who was suggested to her by a friend, Helen talks about how it helped her to 'get her act together' and ‘focus on exactly what it takes to build and create a business.’

She explained: ‘The Women's Org have been amazing! From the one to one business advisor meetings…to the courses run…all the help and advice has been invaluable. I have attended the business start-up course and book keeping…the social media course [and the] HMRC & Tax course. All were really well presented and delivered in a very user friendly way, no jargon, no complicated ideas, just clear and easy to understand.’

Although she struggled with her confidence earlier on, Helen is now in a position where she is proud to say that: ‘I am what makes my business unique. There are other baby and newborn photographers out there, but not many with the creative expertise and background as I have… [And] the highest level of security checks. In the North West, particularly Merseyside, there are not many who specialise in Maternity & Newborn… Therefore being a master of this trade rather than a jack of all trades.’

Helen’s business, Topetones, specialises in Maternity & Newborn photography, but she also does a lot of family photography. Now in a new studio, located close to beautiful parks and the beach, Topetones is starting outdoor lifestyle shoots and ‘Family in a Box’ shoots. 

Despite having to find the time to run a household, look after 2 young children and work 20 hours a week, the Wirral woman is looking forward to growing her business steadily. She hopes to eventually go full time with her business, to focus entirely on what she is truly passionate about.

With an article featured in ‘Mummy & Me’ magazine and a newly acquired Jacqueline Gold twitter WOW award, Helen is excited about the future of Topetones as she makes her dream, reality.

If you are interested in booking a newborn or maternity shoot, or would just like to find out more, visit or contact Helen directly at  You can also follow Topetones on Twitter: @topetones and Facebook 

And if like Helen you would like to improve your situation or turn something you love doing into a business, feel free to contact The Women’s Organisation today on 0151 706 8111 or

By Beckie Kinsella

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Cynthia's Business Helps Victims of Domestic Violence Find 'BetterDays' @BetterDaysHomes

Having seen the effects of domestic violence on families and children throughout her career, the passion to do something positive and make a change drove dynamic Cynthia Monteverde to take action.  With financial support from a friend she worked to set up ‘Betterdays Homes’ a shelter for women who are victims of domestic violence and their families.

Cynthia reflected “I have been through domestic violence myself in my early years. Then working at a children’s home in 1993 I realised it was not just the woman effected by domestic violence. The more I worked with children the more I realised it was families I needed to work with to deal with the issues and to see change.” She said “After that experience I think I always knew this is what I would do, and since I started Betterdays I saw a child I worked with in the children’s home in 1993 come to the home as an adult. This confirmed it for me and gave me insight into where the problems start.”
Cynthia hadn’t always settled in Liverpool before setting up Betterdays, having gone to school in Canada and the U.S., but when considering her idea she could think of nowhere else she wanted to be.

“I returned to Liverpool in June 2010 from living in L.A.” Cynthia smiled “I love Liverpool. I wanted to do something for Liverpool and for myself. Liverpool has been good to me.  I have lived in Birmingham, Germany, Canada, L.A. lots of places. There is something about the people of Liverpool. If people like you, you are friends who become family. I don’t feel like I am away from my family because of the people I have around me. So setting up this home is what I wanted to do to give something back to Liverpool.  I had a friend who had finance to invest which was fantastic. With the exception of the help from The Women’s Organisation we have done everything ourselves.”

Cynthia knew what she wanted to achieve and found she could receive free advice and guidance from The Women’s Organisation to get her idea off the ground, as part of the Big Enterprise in Communities (BEiC) project funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).
“I did the [Women’s Organisation’s] start-up business course which was very informative and helpful. Whatever I wasn’t sharp on it tightened up for me. I was also put with a business adviser. She was marvellous! I know I can call her if I have a problem. That is priceless.” Cynthia advised “We all like to think we know what we are doing, but two heads really are better than one.  I believe that if we have 2nd, 3rd and 4th opinions to weigh up then mistakes become less. That advice and second opinion was the best thing The Women’s Organisation gave to me.  It reassured me and showed me I was on the right path.”

Cynthia knew there would be a demand for what she was offering and wanted to make sure she got it right.
“This is an idea I have had for years, and something I have always wanted to do. There is such a great need for homes focussing on domestic violence.” She said “Previously to running my business I was working for a housing support agency.  This gave me insight into what was going on.  I got to the point where I had worked in every shelter and could see the need outweighed the provision available. There were never enough beds to offer.  Local police seem so glad that we are open. They were taking local people to Wales as there just wasn’t enough provision locally. This was such a shame for local women to be moved so far form their community. I think it is important for them to be near family.”

Betterdays homes have a 4 bedroom family orientated house based in Liverpool for victims of domestic violence. The house accommodates both women and their children and has CCTV, 24 hour service calls and CRB checked staff.
Cynthia told us “Women tend to stay with us between 1 and 3 months. It really depends on the needs of the person, we are flexible, but it is really a transitional place.  The most rewarding thing is watching how the ladies change.  They start coming into themselves.  What we do is very important. It is saving families, saving lives. With other services I had worked in I saw women in individual units, isolated.  What I love is that this is a house, which means conversations happen in the kitchen or the living room. It has a home feeling.  Our clients don’t feel institutionalised or left alone as can happen. Community leads to healing and that is what we encourage here.”

Betterdays homes work with other agencies to offer a well-rounded support to the women resident there including support around mental health, domestic violence, drug and alcohol abuse.  Betterdays also run their own group sessions looking at issues such as diet, self-esteem and confidence.  
“The clients we work with gel and support each other. That shows me I’ve made a good choice. And since opening everyone has been pitching in. We had so many donations of baby clothes and food donations. That has been great support. It would be difficult without support. The women need support and I need support.”

Looking back on her decision to set up her own business Cynthia feels she has made the right decision for her.
“I look forward to work every day. It doesn’t feel like work. I don’t know anywhere I would rather be. My dream is to expand, and we have got our eye on the next space. I don’t have much time to think about what I have achieved. It is not a glory thing, it is a necessity. I was just the vessel to make that happen.”

If you would like to find out more about Betterdays Homes and the great work they do contact Cynthia on or 07904857654.
If like Cynthia you have a passion that you would like to turn into a business or social enterprise then contact The Women’s Organisation for free support today on 0151 706 8111 or

Monday, July 29, 2013

"A Day at a Time We Can Achieve Anything" Katie's Story Setting up The Gordon Café

Katie as pictured by ST84Photogrpahy
For mum of 2 Katie Adams, surviving a turbulent few years only made her more determined to achieve her goals. With 20 years in the catering industry, setting up her own café and catering service seemed like the obvious next step for Katie.
“I knew it wouldn’t be easy,” said Katie, “It’s hard being a single mum and running a business, but it all just comes together, especially if you have the help of a supportive family.”

With ideas buzzing around her head Katie knew she would need some advice to make sure she started her business off on the right foot. Her first stop was the local community centre.

Katie said “I got in touch with Kirkdale Community Centre, because I was looking for advice around funding. The woman there mentioned that they had an empty kitchen there fully fitted ready for someone to take on.  The centre is right by my house, by my daughter’s school so it felt like ‘maybe this is where I am meant to be’.”

Katie was keen to ensure she was making sounds decisions, and wanted to look at any help she could get with getting her business up and running.

“Someone told me about The Women’s Organisation, so I went along to get some advice. My adviser gave me loads of help to put me in the right direction. With that support and having found the right place, setting up the business, although it was a hard slog, has not been a stress to me, I’m in a groove with it.”

Being a local resident, Katie had watched businesses start and fail on the site, and she felt she could see where they went wrong and how to learn from their mistakes.

“The café premises has been there for years. I’d seen it open and close a few times.  I knew it just needed someone to be consistent, so I dedicated to open every Monday to Friday. That way people know exactly when we are there, and I get to spend the weekends with my kids.”

“I am local myself," reflected the LMH resident, "so I am glad that local people are my customers – without customers I wouldn’t have a business. I like chatting to the young kids that come in. I want to instil goodness in them and let them know I’m not there to judge. We also have local pensioners pop in, and I am glad to be there to check on them and give them their scouse to take home for their tea. It’s not just a café, it’s a part of the community.”

Having faced real lows in her personal life, Katie knew the timing had to be right and told us:

“I opened the café when I was ready, and it was what I wanted. I wanted to achieve my goals. I’d had a very unhappy few years, I’d been in a bad place, but I have come out the other end and know now if I give my best to everything I can achieve. The things I have been through have made me the strong woman I am.”

Things are going well so far for Katie and her business ‘The Gordon Café’ which offers outside catering as well as a community café.

The mum of two told us “I love working for myself. It’s hard work, but everything is falling into place. I work with great girls, there are two part time staff (one is my cousin) and me. I enjoy it that much it’s like work is my social life. Saying that, I am a perfectionist. A business is like your baby. So I take it seriously and make sure everything is how I want it to be.”

Since opening the doors of the café Katie has felt the real life changing effect of taking charge and working for herself.

“Time has flown. Every day that a problem comes up, I just get on and deal with it. It makes you stronger and you can learn from those experiences. My kids are really proud of me”

To experience The Gordon Café for yourself pop in Monday-Friday at Kirkdale Community Centre on Stanley Road, Liverpool.

Katie’s motto is “A day at a time, we can achieve anything”.

If like Katie you feel the time is right to achieve your goal of running your own business, why not contact The Women’s Organisation for advice, grants and support on 0151 706 8111 or

From building confidence to developing a business plan and accessing business start-up grants, The Women’s Organisation offer a friendly FREE and supportive service to help you make your dream a reality.