Thursday, January 16, 2014

Mother of 3 Fowzia Makes Modest Clothing for Women Fashionable

Prior to starting up her business, Mother of 3 Fowzia Suleman was a youth worker for 15 years. Although she really enjoyed this, the time came when she felt that a change was needed.

Photo: VGGVart

‘I always wanted to have my own business, I just didn't know what. All I knew was that I wanted to be self employed.’

After having her children, she found it increasingly difficult to find modest yet fashionable clothing. Finally, Fowzia found a niche gap in the market for modest clothing, this became her idea for a business that she was genuinely passionate about. The result of this is Maryan.

Currently Maryan offers bespoke, fashionable and modest clothing for women, handmade by Fowzia herself. However, the business is looking to have designs manufactured due to the overwhelming demand. 

The Liverpool resident sat on the idea of self-employment for over a year, giving her time to do ‘lots of research and connections with individuals in the industry because it is vital to the success of your business.’

‘After years of watching my mother sewing, I discovered that I had unknowingly been absorbing those same skills when I started taking classes.’   

These natural skills, a supportive family and lots of market research made the journey into self-employment very smooth. Knowing her market inside out meant that she didn't encounter any barriers whilst starting up. Fowzia also received further support and advice from The Women’s Organisation to ensure that the journey was as smooth as possible, 

‘My business advisor was really helpful. She gave me so much information and it was all relevant to my business. I also sat on the courses, Business Planning, Tax & National Insurance, E-marketing and Basic Book Keeping, which were so easy to understand and made things simple.’

Almost a year on, Fowzia is really pleased with the progress her business has made and is excited for the coming year. She has already been part of a few fashion shows and at present is working on showcasing her latest designs online, as well as plans to do more work in London.

‘There is a very big Muslim community in Liverpool and they are very loyal customers of my business. I am really enjoying it, it’s so rewarding to do something you’re so passionate about.’

When asked what advice she would give to someone considering starting up their own business, Fowzia replied: ‘Go for it! Do plenty of research and make sure that you learn your market inside and out. I can’t tell you how much those months of research helped me.’

The mother of 3 one day hopes to expand her business and open up a shop here in Liverpool, and later on in London, where she already has an established customer base. For now she is working on a website to showcase her work for next year.

To find out more about Maryan, email Fowzia directly on

And if you'd like to move forward with an idea you've been working on for a while or would like to know more, contact The Women's Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / or visit

By Beckie Kinsella

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Bollyfit UK: Three Years On

Three years after starting her Bollyfitness business, Pooja Saini tells us how her first few years as a business woman have been and what she hopes for the years to come.

Photo: VGGVart

Bollyfitness is a Bollywood dance based work out, combining the artistic elements of Bollywood film dances with classical styles, designed to keep you fit.

Inspired by the dance moves seen in Bollywood movies and shows, Pooja has always been very passionate about dance. When unable to find a place that ran Bollywood dance classes, she saw the opportunity to do it for herself. She trained as a choreographer and fitness dance instructor, equipping her with the tools to move forward with her vision. She also received help from The Women’s Organisation in the initial stages of setting up her business.

‘The Women’s Organisation helped me to put a business plan together and allowed me to focus on my marketing and run a business.’

The mother of 3 began running the classes by herself, but the business has since expanded and is now offering Bollyfitness training and licences to instructors across the UK. 

‘I approached gyms across the country and took the criticism and positive feedback on board and worked on it. As it was a new business, I was in a learning process and there is still so much to learn.’

Bollyfitness now has 5 licenced Bollyfitness instructors, both independent and gym based, who Pooja has personally trained up. Anyone who attends a training workshop and passes the assessment will receive full brand training, choreography, music and a starter pack. So far, the licenced instructors include Francesca MacDuff-Varley, from BBC’s hit show The Apprentice.

‘I offer on-going support for all of my instructors who did pass the assessment, but also for the ones who didn’t. I plan to bring all of the instructors together and do a giant master class session to build the brand and offer further support where I can.’

For those who are interested but unsure on whether or not to start the training, Pooja runs regional master classes which allow those interested to find out everything about Bollyfitness first hand. It is also a great opportunity to meet other potential and current instructors, to ask for advice and share experiences.

‘I’m aware that Bollyfitness isn’t for everyone, so I designed these master classes as a taster to help instructors make an informed decision. I try to support new instructors as much as I can, by helping them find venues and giving them access to branding and merchandise.’

BollyFit UK is expanding every day and Pooja has now introduced 4 other areas to the company: Bollykids, Bollymoves, Bollyoga and Bollyhealth. The company is a sponsor and will be exhibiting at the MOVE IT 2014 dance event this year. You can pop along and try out the Bollyfitness master classes which will be running twice daily and learn more about the dance moves and props used in these unique classes.

On International Women’s Day 2013, Pooja attended a Business Club Networking event at The Women’s Organisation and left feeling inspired by the guest speakers. ‘I left thinking that I want to be one of those women presenting. Since then, I have done 6 presentations, including one at The Women’s Organisation.’

Along with growing her own role, Pooja has managed to expand her business whilst working full time in health research and raising a family. She explained: ‘It can be hard to balance both at times. I am a mum with 3 children so I have to be really organised. I have very good support from my family and husband, and it also helps that my job is flexible.’ Surprisingly, she is most relaxed when working on her business. ‘It is still my hobby and passion, I love what I do so for me that is relaxing.’

However, after feeling like she has taken on too many things at once, the Liverpool resident hopes to include all things under one umbrella, by including her business into her research. She plans to incorporate Bollyfitness into a government project to improve health and well-being in ethnic minority communities. For this she has received a £10,000 project grant from The Big Lottery Fund.

‘I want to use my own cultural identity and education to empower and educate others. I want to find out why Asian people in particular don’t come forward to get health treatment and take part in exercise activities on offer to them. Most of all, I want to do good through my work and make a difference to people’s health and well-being.’

If you are interested in taking part in Bollyfitness classes, or would like to know more about becoming a licenced instructor, visit for more information. You can also contact Pooja directly on or 07946 169 335

And if you'd like to take your first steps into self-employment, contact The Women's Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / or visit for more information on the FREE business support, training and £200 grant available to women in Merseyside