Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Street Style Surgery’s Sissy is ‘Sole Trader of the Year’ Thanks to Hard Work & an Inspirational Mum

Local entrepreneur Sissy Rooney has taken her inspirational social enterprise from a one woman operation with its headquarters in her bedroom, to a nationally recognised and award winning training provider.  But how did she do it?

Founder of ‘Street Style Surgery’ Sissy reflected “It started with just me delivering t-shirt spray painting workshops now I have a team of over 200 qualified and inspiring trainers delivering many workshops all over the UK.”

Having been nominated for ‘Inspirational Woman of the Year 2014’ and ‘Sole Trader of the Year’ at the EVA awards (Enterprise Vision Awards) Sissy was delighted to be selected as ‘Sole Trader of the year’ 2014.  And it isn’t surprising looking at her journey and what she has achieved.

Sissy Rooney was born in Toxteth in Liverpool where her family lived “on the bread line”.  For Sissy and her family, times got ever tougher when her dad was murdered when she was just 9 years old, leaving her mum with 3 kids to look after.

“I watched my mum really struggle to make ends meet” said Sissy. “She even worked through the night sewing up clothes for a factory to try and make some money to support us.  I learned what strength and courage a woman could have and how inspirational it was to be a woman with a mission.”

Having moved to Manchester aged 21 to study at University, Sissy Rooney took the inspiration her mother had given her and in 2007 established her social enterprise ‘Street Style Surgery’ there.

“The Street Style Surgery is a high quality provider of engaging creative workshops across the UK” explained Sissy.  “We want to give young people an opportunity to be exposed to a vast array of creative subjects from body popping to beatboxing, fashion designing to music production, film-making to business and enterprise, cool science workshops, circus skills workshop, healthy relationship and sexual education to name just a few.  All our sessions can be tailored to schools/youth group’s needs, topics and themes; we can even create bespoke packages.”

Sissy is focussed on continuing to build the Street Style Surgery brand, and recently took advice from The Women’s Organisation, through their ‘Venture Accelerator’ programme.
“I’ve found my meetings with my adviser Mike really useful in helping me focus on my goals and develop a clear strategy for growth” Sissy told us.

And Sissy has seen great success this year even beyond her award win. As well as trebling her turnover, Street Style Surgery have recently been appointed as a partner in Kenco’s rewards scheme to raise the aspirations of young people in UK and Ireland by running a ‘spoken selfies’ project.  

“It allows young people to look at themselves and where they want to be in the future in a creative way and make plans to achieve those dreams! The public can donate their point from a jar of coffee to our projects and have a valuable impact on raising young people aspirations 

Now sporting the title of ‘Sole Trader of the Year’ Sissy has definitely become that “woman with a mission” she saw in her mother those years before.  Looking at her journey she said “I think the key to my success is that I just don’t give up, no matter what is thrown at me I still get back up and try my hardest.  Seeing the results of my workshops and hearing the young people’s feedback spurs me on even more.”

To find out more about why Sissy was chosen as an EVA award winner, check out her website www.streetstylesurgery.co.uk or follow @sssurgery on Twitter.

Women who are running a successful business in Greater Manchester who are inspired by Sissy’s story can contact MikeMarsden@thewo.org.uk to find out more about how The Women’s Organisation can support you to develop a strategy to grow your enterprise. 

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Jackie O’Carroll Knew the Time had Come to Make Space in her Life for her New Business Venture...

Having worked in the public sector and later in consultancy, Jackie O’Carroll knew the time had come in Spring 2014, when she had to focus on her business idea entirely to let it realise its potential.

Jackie O'Carroll

Make Space, a social enterprise, is a developing community of people who are seeking more joy and fulfillment in their lives. People who are committed to a journey of self-discovery, of finding more meaning and more spiritual self.

Jackie says that Make Space is; ‘a reflection of my own spiritual journey – learning to get out of my own way, learning to live from my heart and less from my head.’ With the assistance of a mentor who had set up a similar membership community in London, she was able to focus on her vision and starts to see the possibilities of her ideas.

Holding her back were two aspects, her initial vision for the community and her own self-belief. Realising she wanted to find someone to help her take her first step and start the business, Jackie wrote an ‘intention’ for ‘someone with the right skills to come into her life’. A month later she met Karen at Liverpool’s ‘Soul Full Reading Group’, an events manager with experience in communications and project management. Jackie says; ‘I found it hard to believe she was real.’

Working together with Karen, Jackie approached The Women’s Organisation and worked with Business Adviser Janine to register Make Space as a Community Interest Company (CIC) – a social enterprise – earlier this year. Launching in 2014, Jackie has begun to enjoy the freedom that comes with working for herself, after nearly 25 years of working for others.

Make Space is growing and developing every day, not just encompassing events, but a whole calendar of exciting workshops, meditation groups, reading groups and speakers taking place in Liverpool and Chester.

As well as this, Make Space is becoming what Jackie hoped it would be; ‘A community for people who are beginning to recognise, or already know, that life can be much more meaningful and want to explore that at a deeper, more spiritual level.’

Make Space is now 8 months old and the community is growing fast in terms of numbers and in commitment. One of the most important things that Jackie has come to realise through launching her business, is to keep focussed and trust your instincts. The self-doubt that she was feeling, just a few months previously, she believes was clouding what her intuition was telling her; ‘take time to focus on your vision – for yourself, your purpose and passion.’

Doubting whether people would ‘get’ what she was trying to accomplish, or making assumptions about whether people would want to hear about Make Space, is a thing of the past. Jackie continues ‘Now I speak to everyone I meet about the possibilities in our lives.’
The plans for 2015 are taking shape, with a full list of all of Make Space’s events on Eventbrite; www.makespaceliverpool.eventbrite.com

Their next events will be on November 27th and 28th, hosting Molly Harvey, a renowned public speaker, at her only open event in the UK this year.

Molly works with CEO’s of top companies and teaches them about working in a different way, leading projects such as taking some of the top 1% of CEO’s to Nepal, and other remote areas of the world, involving them with the local communities to take the learning back to the working environment.

Jackie says; ‘Molly has been an inspiration for me. I have heard her speak on a number of occasions and love that she speaks from the heart, how open she is and how ready she is to offer her wisdom and insight.’

On the 27th November, Make Space will host Molly Harvey, speaking about ‘Making Changes, Not Excuses’, and on the 28th November, there is a day-long workshop, looking at a five step approach to living from the inside out, from the heart, rather than the head.
If you are interested in attending these events, please head over to Make Space’s Eventbrite page to book your tickets!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Mum to be Danielle Smallwood has battled through, and overcame, health issues to start up her own health and safety consultancy business, 3D HSE LTD.

With over 10 years’ experience in the industry and fully qualified, 3D HSE LTD provide concise and relevant advice to ensure businesses are up to date and well informed at all times. Their method of delivery is simple and effective, with a friendly yet informative manner, ensuring health and safety can be engaged in a way that makes it anything but a chore.

Credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography
‘We have vast experience working within a variety of sectors, from construction sites and offices, through to factories and oil refineries. With our thorough and knowledgeable attitude we will provide you with excellent service. We hope to not just become your consultant but a valued member of your team and by doing so creating a positive culture within your workplace. Our skills not only lie with carrying out the work but with engaging others to do so.’

Whilst working as a health and safety consultant, Danielle decided that she wanted to set up her own consultancy that she could use as a platform to change perceptions of health and safety. This would give her the opportunity to run it with the unique style she had developed for communicating health and safety.

When Danielle was unfortunately diagnosed with a range rheumatoid and connective tissue conditions, she decided to use the situation she had found herself in as the catalyst for starting up in business.

‘With everything that was happening with me medically, I decided it was now or never. It had been a struggle for the past few years but finally getting diagnosed actually made me realise just how well I had been doing to hold things together.’

‘Accepting my conditions has been the hardest part as it has meant I have had to make drastic changes to my life as a whole. It set me back a lot but I have always been very determined and I feel like this made me even more so.’

Danielle admits that the initial stages of setting up her business were difficult as she had many hospital appointments. This left her with little time to promote her newly established business but her persistence and dedication to her venture spurred her on.

‘I was slightly disheartened that I haven’t been able to give it the initial care and time it required but feel like now I am turning a corner and am getting things up to scratch. I am however really happy with the standard of the documentation I have been putting together and producing and feel proud to put my name to it.’

In the process of starting up her business, Danielle contacted The Women’s Organisation who she knew offered advice and support workshops to women in Merseyside, as she conducted the fire risk assessment on their building in the construction phase.

‘I received so much valuable support from The Women’s Organisation. The business templates they sent me were so useful as I needed to try and catch up on things I missed out on early on. My adviser was amazing and the training workshops offered were great for business.’

Despite being held back initially, business is steadily building and 3D HSE LTD is eager to assist small to medium sized businesses in becoming compliant with their health and safety legislative requirements. The business will be resuming normal operation throughout and after Danielle’s pregnancy.

Danielle is a shining example of what can be achieved if you are dedicated and determined enough to work through any barriers that present themselves, medical or otherwise. If you would like to contact her regarding any health and safety matters, you can find out more about the services 3D HSE LTD provide on the website www.3dhse.com. You can also contact directly on 07540 800 535 or email danielle@3dhse.com.

And if you would like to become your own boss, why not explore the idea you've been considering with The Women's Organisation - 0151 706 8111 / hello@thewo.org.uk www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk 

By Beckie Kinsella

Portrait photo credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography

Friday, November 7, 2014

For Interior Designer Cynthia Brown, ‘Success is Doing Ordinary Things, Extraordinarily Well.’

After graduating from Liverpool John Moores University with an Interior Design degree, Cynthia Brown found it very difficult to find paid employment.  She began to feel like the interior design world has a very limited opportunities for an aspiring designers looking to work, especially for an architectural practice.

Photo Credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography
"I thought the best way to overcome this barrier would be to create a job for myself by setting up my own upcycling furniture business" Cynthia told us, "now I can enjoy giving design advice as well as furniture restoration, not to mention, meeting brilliant clients."

Housed in her very own premises on Smithdown Road, Crafted Interiors sells and upcycles furniture and offers a quality interior design service.

"I found the idea of starting up really daunting, I had the skills but had never run my own business before, so after hearing about The Women’s Organisation at a job fair, I booked a meeting to get some support."

Cynthia was paired up with her own qualified business adviser and offered a place on a range of relevant business workshops that she greatfully took up.

Liverpool resident Cynthia  said "My adviser was very helpful. I had one to one support and went on all the great free workshops, including Understanding Tax and National Insurance, Selling Online and Basic Bookkeeping. I came to feel that I wasn’t alone; I wanted to hear other women’s stories and those courses allowed me to do that. It gave me a lot of confidence."

She continued "I found the business planning workshop [Planning For Success] particularly useful as having the business plan really helped me to identify how much funding I would actually need and how much income to expect over the coming months. I had some funds to put into the business but you never know quite how much you need, the business plan was perfect for that."

Despite Cynthia not being able to promote her business as well as she would've liked in the early stages, it took off within the first month.  At the rate her products were selling and commission works, it allowed her to turn her focus to marketing and actually pay for adverts on Facebook, website and other marketing materials.

Cynthia is very passionate about her work, which adds to the uniqueness of Crafted Interiors. Furniture is never resold in the condition it is bought, she is dedicated to spend as much time on each piece as it needs to make it perfect, from mixing colours to experimenting finishes.

The interior designer is now to develop her business by looking for commercial premises and a potential investment to allow her to expand and upmarket her products.

"I believe success is doing ordinary things, extraordinarily well" she told us. 

To find out more about Crafted Interiors you can visit their facebook page

If like Cynthia you are looking to create your own job by utlising your skills to start a business, get in touch with The Women's Organisation today via 0151 706 8111 or hello@thewo.org.uk 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Gemma Scattergood Turned Her Passion for Crafting into a Thriving Business

University of Liverpool graduate Gemma Scattergood quickly realised that job opportunities were scarce, especially in her desired field. Whilst struggling to work full time and volunteer for a drugs support agency, she made the bold decision to turn her passion for crafting into a business. 
Credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography
After graduating with a Psychology degree, Gemma found herself struggling financially. Noticing that she was receiving quite a few requests for crafted items from family, friends and co-workers, her boyfriend suggested that she should turn it into a job as it made her happy, when the minimum wage jobs didn’t.

‘First step for me was to design, design and design. I saved my holidays in work to take bulk time off to work on things and that started a few years ago now. I think only a handful of the original designs have made it to now as they were, a lot have either been modified or scrapped completely.’

‘I didn’t know where to start with business plans, finances, workspaces, legal requirements etc. It was terrifying. It got to the point where I realised I was only doing things for myself and talking about it, so I decided to look for direction.

The self-taught crafter contact The Women’s Organisation to help support her in setting up her own business.

‘I’d gotten myself stuck in a position where I didn’t know what the next step was and if I’d covered everything I needed to. They took all my ideas on board and helped me make sense of everything. The fact that this service is free is outstanding!’

‘My advisor Francine was my lifeline through all stages of my business plan and the workshops are tailored in such a way that they apply to all yet feel very personal. Everything from confidence building to tax is covered, and for the first time it made it feel exciting rather than daunting and that feeling has stayed with me. They also made it painless, I had my first meeting in January and launched by April after 3 years of trying to do this on my own. I could not have done this without them.’

Through her business Girl on Purl Action, Gemma celebrates everything to do with the wool and craft world. GOPA provides high quality, hand-made knitted and crocheted items that are sold through the online store, as well as custom bespoke services for that extra personal touch or special occasion.

Expanding on this, the Liverpool resident is now hosting weekly craft groups in various locations across Liverpool, as well as workshops and classes for all skill levels, currently in partnership with The Crosby Tea Rooms.

When asked what she likes best about self-employment, Gemma replied: ‘The freedom of it all. I am my own boss. I can create what I am in the mood to create (most of the time) which makes working so enjoyable! Having worked in so many minimum wage jobs over the years always answering to some faceless companies’ expectations and goals it’s wonderful when you achieve your own.’

Gemma does not have any ‘take over the world’ style plans, as she put it, but would really like Girl on Purl Action to be such a success that she is able to leave her day job. She is also aiming to branch out more into clothing, but I’m told those plans are top secret which is exciting.

‘I’m really proud because I felt like I was never going to get here. I feel that out of all my life achievements; learning to drive, moving out of my parents’ house, getting my degree, above all else, this is my biggest so far.’

To have a look at GOPA’s items, or to find out more about the groups and workshops that are running, visit www.girlonpurlaction.co.uk. You can also contact Gemma directly enquiries@girlonpurlaction.com

Why not follow Gemma’s adventure on social media. Twitter: @GOnPurlAction & Facebook: www.facebook.com/GirlOnPurl - She’s always happy to chat craft! 

If you have an idea or a passion you would like to make into a career, contact The Women's Organisation to find out how they can help you do so on 0151 706 8111 / hello@thewo.org.uk www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk 

By Beckie Kinsella

Portrait Photo Credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography

Friday, October 24, 2014

Egg Freezing is Not the Way to Break the Glass Ceiling

“This is not the path to positive progress” said Maggie O’Carroll CEO of The Women’s Organisation in response to reports that Facebook and Apple are offering to support female employees to freeze their eggs in order to attract more women.

It has been suggested that the perks offered by Apple and Facebook could be seen as an attempt to rectify the gender imbalance. Apple said in its diversity report this year that its workforce was 70% male, while Facebook reported its workforce was 69% male.

It is often suggested that the gender pay gap and ‘glass ceiling’ women encounter when trying to progress their careers can be attributed to the idea that women are more likely to take time out to start a family.  In response Facebook now apparently offers up to $20,000 (£13,000) for egg freezing for female employees.

Maggie O’Carroll challenged this idea saying “Instead of this bizarre proposal it would surely be better for the likes of Facebook and Apple to provide proper family leave, flexible working patterns rather than this offer, which is frankly rather offensive! Supporting families is the key to fairness in the workplace, not messing with women’s biological clocks.”

The Women’s Organisation themselves have supported staff to manage their working patterns offering flexible working to those trying to juggle a number of commitments.  Their tailored programmes for women to start out in business are also focussed on the key challenges that effect women trying to pursue business while managing family responsibilities.

Gender bias is rife in the workplace with women in the Northwest of England recently being reported to be earning as much as 17.6% less than their male counterparts, and women still vastly underrepresented in business. 

The Women’s Organisation would challenge business owners world over to think more carefully about their policies relating to growing families and ensure that real solutions are on offer. 

Speaking to Sky News at the weekend Maggie explained that she is not against women making the choice to freeze eggs, simply companies using this as a way to shy away from supporting flexible working practices for families. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Social Media Wiz Ann is Hoping her Business Success Will Make her the 'Talk of Manchester'

 Manchester’s Ann Davies, founder of social media training and consultancy business Bizwizuk, is feeling “Very humble, proud and excited!” upon discovering she has been shortlisted for an award.

Having built a successful business for someone else for 10 years Ann Davies decided it was time to do something for herself and launched ‘Bizwizuk’ in October 2011.  Starting from scratch was a challenge Ann was ready to face head on and has since built up a client base of over 100 businesses  ranging from SME’s to banks and hotel chains, linking with an additional social media manager allowing her to focus on the consultancy side of the business.

Feeling ready to expand Bizwizuk this year Ann approached The Women’s Organisation upon hearing that they could offer free support to women in Greater Manchester with ambition for business growth.

Ann said “I have found the support incredible. My mentor has helped me to understand and create a clear vision for the growth of my business.”

Ann who also runs The Working Mothers networking group in Manchester while juggling her life as a working mum of two teenage daughters was excited to learn that her hard work had been recognised being shortlisted for ‘Best Social Media Company’ at the ‘Talk of Manchester’ awards.

Showing why she deserves to win Ann told us her top 3 tips for businesses thinking about using social media are:

1 – Choose your platforms carefully; think about where your business sits in the social media space.

2 – Set the right tone, your on-line voice should reflect the business voice that your clients hear when face to face. 

3 - Keep track of your impact.  Once your social media strategy is up and running you will want to know what impact it is having, which involves measuring what is working and what isn’t - of course changing what isn’t working

If you appreciate Ann’s tips and have enjoyed reading a bit about her journey then she would greatly appreciate your votes for best social media company. 
Voting for Talk of Manchester Awards closes Friday 31st October at 5pm so click here to vote for Ann:

Now celebrating her 3rd business birthday Ann’s advice to other women who are trying to grow their own business is “If you feel passionately about your products or services and genuinely enjoy what you do then don’t let anyone put you off”.

To find out more about the services Ann and BizWizuk offer to support businesses to succeed on social media visit www.bizwizuk.co.uk and follow @bizwizuk on twitter.

If like Ann you are a woman who has built a successful business in Greater Manchester which you are now ready to expand, contact The Women’s Organisation to find out how the Venture Accelerator programme can offer you FREE advice to build a strategy for growth.  Email project manager Mike on MikeMarsden@thewo.org.uk and follow @TheWomenOrgManc on twitter. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Women's Organisation Named Digital Champions @SENTogether Awards!

"Being short listed for an award is a great privilege. We were thankful for that. We are over the moon and still in shock that we actually went on to win!" said Jo Austin Digital Marketing Coordinator at The Women's Organisation in the wake of their victory at SEN 'Powerful Together' Awards.

The Women's Organisation were among a number of local social enterprises nominated as Digital Champions at the prestigious event held at the Town Hall, and were shortlisted alongside Sandbox Digital. 

The organisation have worked hard to build digital inclusion not only into their support programmes, but throughout their staff development and everything they do.

Through The Women's Organisation's business start-up programme women are invited to take advantage of free training around 'Selling Online - From Ebay to Etsy', shown how to use Excel for 'Basic Book Keeping' and introduced to the idea of using Social Media for business with 'Building a Social Media Strategy'.  Upon launch of their business they are invited to further build their confidence through master classes on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Mailchimp, Hootsuite and Blogging. 

Jo said "Digital literacy is crucial for businesses.  The fear of social media and online trading can be a massive barrier for people.  We have worked hard over the last few years to develop a full training programme to show people that e-marketing, social media and ICT practices don't have to be terrifying and complicated."

Maggie O'Carroll, Helen Millne &
Jo Austin collecting their award
And removing the fear of digital doesn't just translate to the clients of The Women's Organisation. Jo and team have been regularly supporting the staff at the organisation to grow in digital confidence and they now are awarding 'Social Media Star of the Week' for the member of staff who has boldly put some of their new found digital courage into practice. 

"From our front of house admin team right through to senior management, everyone is working to keep developing their skills so we can all be confident ambassadors of digital practices, and in turn offer brilliant support to the women who approach us for help" said Jo.

Over the last few years The Women's Organisation's digital reach has gone international, as they worked alongside partners from Slovenia, Ireland and Norway to develop a range of training modules through 'E-Business Enterprise Learning' (E-BEL) Project. Through E-BEL The Women's Organisation took the lead on developing a number of training resources and webinars that can be used by women entrepreneurs across the world to develop their e-marketing skills and understand key principles of Social Media Marketing.

The Social Enterprise Network's Awards event held on Friday 3rd October and gave recognition to the amazing work carried out by local Social Enterprises with 16 awards being presented on the night.  Host Paul Corcoran of Agent Marketing told the audience they were at the "best party in town" and the rapturous applause showed they were in complete agreement. 

The Women's Organisation would like to thank Social Enterprise Network for this award and their ongoing encouragement. 

To find out more about the work of The Women's Organisation and why they are 'Digital Champions' please visit www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Hester Cox’s Business is Cruising Along Nicely with the Addition of a Second Boat to Star Narrowboat Holidays

Many people work from home, but successful business woman Hester Cox decided to take that one step further by turning her home into a business.

Credit: Jessica Lang Photography
A 57ft narrowboat called Gloria was home for Hester but with growing frustration of often being mis-managed and undervalued, and a long term desire to run her own business, she realised to set it up as a holiday hire boat was a reasonably low cost, low risk way to start-up.

‘I have always had an inkling to run my own business, often I would see how businesses were run and I thought why are they doing it like that? I would do it like this. So coupled with the want to be in control of my own work, career, day to day life, as well as realise my own ideas, I got started with my own business.’

Star Narrowboat Holidays offers excellent quality and reasonably priced canal boat hire. Now with 2 lovely boats to choose from, Gloria and Queenie, Hester and her business aim to create a memorable experience to all who stay aboard.

Bridgewater Marina at Sunset
Based at the Bridgewater Marina just outside of Manchester City Centre, near Manchester Airport, it is a perfect location for people across the UK and abroad. The marina offers a rural retreat that often feels like it is a world away from city life.

Since setting her sails in 2012, the business has been hugely successful which has allowed for the purchase of a second boat and further growth. It is now at the point that people are having to be turned away because the dates wanted are already booked and the boats are receiving excellent reviews from guests.

‘I feel proud of my efforts so far, I have the press coming to me asking if they can include my business in their latest article or review which is amazing. I have learnt so much about business, decision making and myself.’

‘I like that it has given me so much more confidence, I love that I am in control of my own life, and I love it when my hirer's cruise into the marina on return from their holiday and I can see in their faces that they have loved their time aboard. That’s when I know I’m doing my business well.’

In the beginning, many people questioned what Hester was trying to do and didn’t believe it would work. However, now with 2 boats, her business is sailing along nicely.

Hester believes part of this success is down to surrounding herself with a network of strong business women, via The Women’s Organisation’s Business Club. This helped to balance the negativity received by the people who doubted she could achieve a successful business.

‘I was nervous to attend my first business club event, but felt quite at ease and cared for afterwards because The Women’s Organisation staff and other business women in the club are relaxed and helpful. I came away buzzing and feeling far less isolated than I did to begin with.’

She continued: ‘Their support is invaluable and has saved me hundreds of pounds. I have received on-going business support from The Women’s Organisation, it has been really useful. They have helped me decide what direction to take and allowed me to identify my strengths and weaknesses to move forward. Ruth gives me business advice sessions in my caravan, the one I bought to use as my office, it really helps to have someone connected to the organisation that has seen behind the scenes of my business. ’

If you would like to know more about what Star Narrowboats has to offer, the website has all the details, including more lovely pictures and specifics of each boat – www.starnarrowboatholidays.co.uk and if you fancy having a look in person,  Hester is happy to give a personal tour.

And if you would like to gain support to grow your own business, you can speak to The Women's Organisation about the help available via 0151 706 8111 / hello@thewo.org.uk or visit http://www.thewomensorganisation.org.uk/ for more information.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Just Months After Launching, Mercer Travel Has Really Taken Off

As the holiday season comes to a close, it’s about that time of year when most of us are already thinking ahead to next year. If you’re anything like me, you probably get stressed even at the thought of planning a holiday that suits everyone and would much rather someone else organise it for you. Lucky for us, long time banker turned travel consultant Ann Mercer recognised that need and has opened up her own bespoke travel business.

Mercer Travel offers fully protected long and short haul holidays, trips and cruises, and the best bit about it is that it’s all based around what you, your partner, friends or family want!

Ann told The Women’s Organisation: ‘After over 25 years in banking, I wanted the freedom and opportunity of doing things my way, be my own boss and do something different.'

Global Travel presented Ann with the opportunity she was looking for. They offered her the chance to buy a franchise and provided all training prior to the business launching, culminating in an intense certified two week training course.

‘This was an exciting prospect as I had wanted to leave the Bank for a while and was just looking for the right opportunity and timing. I started progressing the purchase of the travel franchise before I left, so because I already knew about the role and work of The Women’s Organisation through local networking, I decided to arrange an appointment to get the ball rolling.’

As part of their business start-up programme, through the Big Enterprise in Communities (BEiC) initiative funded by European Regional Development Fund, Ann was paired up with a business advisor who she met with regularly. She also accessed free business workshops including Basic Bookkeeping, Tax and National Insurance, Building a Social Media Strategy and a 2 day business planning workshop, Planning For Success.

‘The business courses were invaluable and certainly helped to put the business on the right track. I received help with my business plan, which was really useful, and supported with a small grant package.’

Now further down the line, Mercer Travel is in full flight. Ann has quickly increased her client base through networking and referrals, and is providing regular quotes, recommendations and bookings for customers.

‘I have recently partnered with The Wirral Wedding House to provide overseas weddings and honeymoons. In fact I have just booked a honeymoon for one of my colleagues who attended the same courses as me with The Women’s Organisation!’

After changing direction from Retail Banking and Wealth Management to travel, there is no looking back for the travel consultant who is enjoying the flexibility, freedom and challenge of working for herself.

Thinking about her journey, Ann commented: ‘I feel proud, accomplished, invigorated and ready to look forward to the regular monthly income again.’

Ann’s advice to those considering a change of career would be: ‘Do something you love, with me it was travel. Your passion will shine through and you will want it to work. Get advice from the right places and people, networking and persevere!’

So, if you’re ready to plan that dream holiday and would like the support of an expert, contact Ann on 0151 722 2286 or 07446 943838 or e-mail – ann@mercertravel.co.uk and you can also search 'Mercer Travel' on Facebook to keep up to date with what's on offer.

If you feel you're ready to start your journey to self-employment, call The Women's Organisation for a chat about how they can support you 0151 706 8111 / hello@thewo.org.uk 

By Beckie Kinsella

Portrait photo by Magical Moments Photography 

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Diamonds are Not Just Orit’s Best Friend, They are a Booming Business!

For Greater Manchester resident Orit Adiri-Niemogha, Diamonds are proving to be a profitable best friend, as she has grown her business and increased turnover by 63% in the last year with help from The Women’sOrganisation’s Business Growth programme.

Having put her passion for sparkle into developing her business H & D Diamonds back in 2011, Orit was ready to take her business to the next level.

Orit arrived in England in the late 1990’s coming to London to study for an MBA degree.  It was there her relationship with diamonds blossomed as she found work in Hatton Garden, London’s diamond quarter. Orit reflected back on her journey.

“I worked in the diamond quarter in London for nearly eight years. In my first year, my role was to travel around the midlands area and sell loose diamonds to jewellers. Interacting with jewellers I realised very quickly how little did most of them know about diamonds.”
Having met the other love of her life, her husband, Orit decided for her family it was time to move on from the bustle of London and find better quality of life up north.  From there “it was only a natural progression to set up my own business and offer my expertise as a diamond grader to the public” she said.

Orit went on to set up H &D Diamonds Ltd., naming the business after the first letters of her children’s names, Havana and Dakota who she calls her “true diamonds”.

When Orit moved to the North West from London, she knew it could be a gamble setting up a business where no one knew her background and expertise, and she would have to build her networks almost from scratch.  The country was in the middle of a recession so it wasn’t going to be easy.  But setting up her online store, keeping overheads low, Orit was pleasantly surprised by the positive response to her hard work.

“A few years down the line I am now being approached by customers as well as suppliers. I have a circle of clientele that not only use me as their personal jeweller but also recommend me to their friends. There are times where I get to business events and meet people I never saw before who seem to know that I am ‘the diamond lady’ just by recognising me from my online visibility.”

Orit contacted The Women’s Organisation upon hearing about their Venture Accelerator Programme offering bespoke business growth support to local women. 

She told us “I received tremendous support from Mike Marsden, my business coach.  He supported me to find leads, to look at business collaborations, told me about free services available through the local university and other local training providers as well as linking me in to specialist social media support.  Put simply he offered suggestions of business growth in areas I did not operate much before and regular guidance when venturing into new direction.”

Since receiving help to grow her business Orit has not only seen an increase in her turnover, but she is now on her way to securing her first premises and is looking to recruit additional ‘H & D Ladies’ to help her promote the brand and work with customers.

Explaining the H & D Diamonds brand Orit told us “Although the shop is online, it is our aim to also give a face and a direct contact to the consumer. Each area of the UK will have a ‘H&D Lady’ assigned as a contact person, so you are assured of a personal service.  What makes us different is that not only do we offer bespoke services through a Bond Street jeweller, at the moment we are also the only suppliers in the UK of an Italian jewellery line that will be sold only in a handful of shops in the UK”.

Organisation and Social Media have proven essential to Orit’s business, and she credits her social profile for helping build her business presence online.  Reflecting on her success Orit told us that the key has been “persistence to my target and strong urge to learn from everyone I come in contact with.  I have also developed the ability to review and act upon trends in the market and positive attitude. I’ve learnt along the way not to mourn the adversities as they usually happen for a reason. They either teach you a lesson or pave the way to take your business to a better deserved place.”

To find out more about the bespoke service offered by H & D Diamonds Ltd. visit www.handddiamonds.co.ukOrit’s company can also be found on Facebook, Linkedin and Twitter where you can follow @HandDDiamonds.

If you are a woman in Greater Manchester who has a business that is ready to grow, why not contact Venture Accelerator Programme Manager Mike Marsden via MikeMarsden@thewo.org.uk to find out more about how The Women’s Organisation can support you. 

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Mother of 2 Hayley Patterson Is a Perfect Example of How Self-Employment Can Compliment Family Life With Her Business ‘Hayley’s Flowers and Cart Hire’

After having her second child, Hayley Patterson found it impossible to manage the work hours she had been given and was forced to leave. This left the Liverpool resident looking for other avenues that allowed for more flexibility around her family. She found this flexibility in self-employment.
Credit: Lucy Hannah Photography
Blessed with a creative streak and prior experience in floristry, Hayley decided to combine floral arrangements with a cart hire for parties and events. ‘I started by posting a few pictures on my Facebook and Instagram. I got really good feedback and as interest started to grow I started up a business page on Facebook and Twitter.’

In the early stages of starting up Hayley’s Flowers and Cart Hire, Hayley spotted an advert for free business start-up support for women in Merseyside with The Women’s Organisation. After getting in touch, she started meeting with a business advisor and booked herself onto free workshops including basic bookkeeping and tax and national insurance.

‘My advisor Jo was brilliant. It was great to have someone to help me look at things from a different point of view and talk about them. She helped me with the different aspects of setting up a business, especially the business plan, which helped me a lot. The workshops were also really good.’

‘When I first set up my business, I felt nervous and unsure but with the response I have had from people and the help from The Women’s Organisation, it has helped me be more confident and move forward.’
Hayley is very pleased with the benefits going self-employed has provided. Her business is based from home meaning that there are no overheads and no commute to work. Despite her commenting that it can get a bit hectic, it works for her because it allows for quality time with her children.

‘Being a mum of two young children makes it hard to juggle both sometimes, as I do work most weekends and evenings, but I am lucky that my friends and family are all so supportive in what I am doing.’

Things are going really well and the business is quickly growing in popularity. What makes Hayley’s Flowers and Cart Hire unique is the new addition of an ice cream car available for hire. Decorated in a walls ice cream theme, it serves Cornetto ice cream which has made it very popular.

‘The best thing about running your own business is the sense of pride and achievement you have in doing something you love doing and seeing the customer happy. I would recommend it to anyone who is really passionate about what they do.’

If you’d like to impress at your party or you would like a tasteful floral arrangement for a special occasion, contact Hayley on 07875 742535. You can also find Hayley’s Flowers and Cart Hire on Facebook.

If you would like more time to spend with your family whilst earning an income doing something you enjoy, contact The Women's Organisation for free start-up advice and support on 0151 706 8111 / hello@thewo.org.uk 

Portrait photo by Lucy Hannah Photography

By Beckie Kinsella