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