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