Thursday, March 27, 2014

Local Business Woman Lucy Antal Scoops An Award For Her Handmade Preserves

Being made redundant after 13 years of working in a Merseyside based Charity, Lucy Antal found it very difficult to find a new job at the age of 45.
Photo: Jessica Lang Photography
With experience in managing a cookery school and office systems for a group of restaurants and bars, this became the recipe for the Liverpool resident to move towards self-employment. ‘People have always told me that I should be making my living through food… It seemed like an opportunity to give it a go. I have nothing to lose!’

Following her redundancy, Lucy attended a ‘Become a More Confident You’ course at The Women’s Organisation. ‘I think it’s fair to say my confidence took a knock following the redundancy after 13 years in my former job.’

A confidence boost is just what she needed to regain her appetite and move forward. This is when she became aware of the free business start-up support The Women’s Organisation also offered.

‘The Women’s Organisation gave me business startup advice and the opportunity to attend a range of relevant courses. They were very supportive generally of what I’m trying to achieve.’ She continued: ‘It’s also been good to meet other women in a similar situation to share advice.’

Photo: William Lyons
‘Grab Your Spoon’ is the name under which food-lover Lucy already tweets and blogs about her passion for food, so it made sense that her business should adopt the same name. Grab Your Spoon produces a range of handmade preserves, jams, chutneys, relishes and marmalades.

‘I have a stall each month at Lark Lane Farmers market and have already got two outlets stocking my preserves – The Liverpool Cheese Shop and HomeBaked Anfield, and I’m currently talking to a third in the City Centre.’

Photo: William Lyons
Lucy and her products have quickly become a big hit, scooping a Gold award in the World’s Original Jam Awards for her Seville Marmalade.

In a recent press release, Awards and Festival organiser Jane Hasell-McCosh commented: ‘Congratulations to Grab Your Spoon on their award. It is one of a growing army of small artisan producers preserving one of our great British traditions.’

The next step for Grab Your Spoon is to launch an online shop and spread her passion for food far and wide. The self-confessed foody also aims to branch out and make additional products, such as handmade fudge and wedding favours. To further compliment her business, she also hopes to develop her writing to provide another income stream into the business.

Photo: Williams Lyons
Lucy was extremely grateful for any assistance she received whilst starting up. Her advice to other budding business women would be to ‘research lots! The information is out there. Accept any free help offered, even if you think you know all there is to know about a particular subject, you always learn something. Be open and kind. Share your knowledge and support other small businesses.’

For Lucy, business is all about the creativity and pleasing customers. ‘I love that the business is mine! No seriously, I love the creativity of cooking and I get great satisfaction from people enjoying my product.’

If you’re ready to ‘Grab Your Spoon’ and taste Lucy’s delicious range of handmade preserves, visit or you can reach her at info@grabyourspoon
Twitter - @grabyourspoon and Facebook - facebook/grabyourspoon

And if Lucy's story has made you hungry to take your idea to the next level, contact The Women's Organisation for more information on the free business start-up advice, training and grant package available. 0151 706 8111 /

Portrait photo by Jessica Lang Photography

By Beckie Kinsella

Thursday, March 20, 2014

New Prescot business wins a shop thanks to One Ark

A new furniture shop will be opening in Prescot Shopping Centre thanks to a local charity’s campaign to support entrepreneurship. Late last year One Ark, part of the First Ark Group, launched a competition to support a local retailer by providing a unit rent-free for a year.

Grace Lea, a furniture upcycling and restoration business, will open its doors on 1st June 2014.  As the brainchild of Knowsley-based owner Cheryl Mullins, Grace Lea will sell a range of high quality restored vintage furniture and bespoke items at affordable prices.  As the furniture will be restored on site, Cheryl will also host workshops from the unit, which will teach others the skills they need to upcycle their own smaller items.

Following a three-stage process, Cheryl beat off competition from 25 other business owners to win the space in the shopping centre.  Her business will now benefit from a 12 month rent-free period, full refurbishment of the premises which will be completed by Vivark, and structured business advice and support from the Merseyside Special Investment Fund, The Women’s Organisation and Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council. Cheryl also wins membership of Knowsley Chamber of Commerce.

During the three-stage process, Cheryl received free business support and training from local women’s enterprise support agency The Women’s Organisation. The Knowsley resident worked closely on a one to one basis with a business advisor to create a competition winning business plan.

Laura McCumiskey from One Ark was one of the first to congratulate Cheryl: “When Cheryl met with the panel of judges she blew us away with her enthusiasm and entrepreneurship. 

“We were searching for a unique, independent retailer to add value to our high street, and Cheryl’s business plan was robust and showed talent.  Grace Lea, which will occupy a unit that’s been empty for three years, will be a welcome addition to the shopping centre.”

Owner Cheryl Mullins adds: “This is an amazing opportunity for me to be able to get my business up and running and provide for my family. 

“To be able to operate rent-free for a year will enable me to focus on establishing and growing the business rather than worrying about covering such a large overhead.  I’m looking forward to learning from the self-employment support and developing my business, while at the same time being able to give something back to the community too.” 

One Ark’s ‘Win a Shop’ project supports the regeneration of local high streets through championing new enterprise and supporting the journey into self-employment. The project was initiated by One Ark in partnership with Knowsley Chamber of Commerce, Vivark, CBRE, Knowsley Metropolitan Borough Council, The Women’s Organisation, Prescot Town Team, Poco Coffee and Sergeants Accountants.

One Ark was launched in August 2013 to change the lives of people in Knowsley through generating investment which will be channeled into increasing wealth and creating stronger communities.  To find out more about One Ark, please visit

Venture Accelerator Supports Merseyside Businesses to Grow

The Women's Organisation are delighted to be supporting local women led businesses to expand, offering free support via the Venture Accelerator Programme. 

The Venture Accelerator brings together a dynamic partnership of The Women’s Organisation, Downtown in Business, Agent Marketing and High Performance Consultancy to deliver a highly innovative and effective business growth and business incubation Programme, it is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

The programme is aimed at enterprises that have the potential to grow by bringing innovative products and processes to market, scaling up, and internationalising, whilst also addressing the key attribute of the knowledge economy which is the virtualisation of labour.

The programme will provide a range of services to businesses including:

•             Support to develop a clear growth strategy for their business aligned to their needs
•             Access to markets – research, business plan/business, pitch preparation
•             Strategic marketing and selling, social media/E-commerce
•             Effective leadership – human resources and talent development
•             Financial Management, raising finance, bid preparation, procurement
•             Talent/People – Networking opportunities locally and globally, referrals to professional partners
•             Developing strategic partnerships
•             Corporate Social Responsibility

The programme is available to SME's across Merseyside and provides funded consultancy to enable businesses to prepare for growth and runs to June 2015. 

Eligibility Criteria (for The Women’s Organisation)

•             Female* led SMEs with that over three years have the potential to increase employment by at least 5 employees or generate additional turnover of £0.5million
•             The business qualifies as an SME under ERDF guidelines

Although The Women’s Organisation will work with women led businesses only, Downtown in Business, Agent Marketing and High Performance Consultancy will work with both male and female led businesses.  Venture Accelerator is part funded by European Regional Development Fund. 

Enquiries for the programme can be made via 0151 706 8111 or

Monday, March 10, 2014

Success for @54StJamesStreet Tenant Constructing Equality (@ConstructingEq) as Founder Chrissi McCarthy is Shortlisted for Award

Chrissi McCarthy founded Constructing Equality in 2007. Since then, the business has grown to employ seven full time and four part time members of staff, whilst remaining debt free.   Not surprisingly Chrissi's success has put her in the limelight of the local economy as she has been shortlisted for Downtown Liverpool's Women in Business Awards 2014, sponsored by The Women's Organisation.
The business which is based at 54 St James Street, a new development in the thriving Baltic Triangle area of Liverpool,  takes a different approach to consultancy, creating centralised products with industry partners that are tailored to the needs of the construction sector.  Constructing Equality therefore allow companies to get one on one highly specialised consultancy expertise, at achievable costs.
Constructing Equality’s three main products are the creation and delivery of the CITB Be Fair framework, online equality training and the Community value project. All of these products have struck a chord with the sector and have received immense support. So much so, that major construction clients such as Crossrail and HS2 have independently contacted Constructing Equality after receiving outstanding response to the CITB Be Fair framework and training courses, from major contractors such as: Vinci, BAM, Murphy, ISG, Morgan Sindall and Wates.
Before starting Constructing Equality Ltd. Chrissi spent more than 10 years in the Construction Industry, firstly as a Setting-Out Engineer and then as a Site Manager. A Construction Management Graduate and Member of The Chartered Institute of Building she played an integral role in the delivery of numerous projects, including Peckham Library, Manchester Interchange, a range of BSF Schemes, and a school in Uganda for charity.  Together, these projects helped Chrissi to develop a deep understanding of the day-to-day practical challenges faced by teams on site and at head offices around the country.
Passionate about the social and emotional effects of the Construction Industry, Chrissi went on to complete a PGDip in Equality and Diversity, and is now studying for her PhD, which is sponsored by global construction organisation Vinci, in Mainstreaming Equality in the UK construction industry.  Considered one of the field’s leading exponents, she is part of the Fairness Inclusion and Respect Strategic Group that leads the Construction Industry on Diversity.  She imparts lectures on Equality and Diversity at Universities and Conferences, writes for leading Construction Publications, contributes to Government Papers, influences key Industry Figures, and has even spoken at the House of Lords.

Importantly, while her achievements are diverse, they share a common thread – to improve the reality of working within Construction and its reputation among the public. 
Delighted to be shortlisted for an award Chrissi said: "Thank you to everyone who voted for us and as always the brilliant support that we have received from The Women's Organisation and 54 St James street, not only do they support and encourage us but they also provide the modern, professional and friendly roof over our head!"

The Downtown Liverpool Women in Business Awards take place on Friday 14th March at Hilton Liverpool when the overall winners will be announced.  We at 54 St James Street would like to wish Chrissi best of luck!

To find out more about Constructing Equality visit

If you would like to enjoy a stylish, professional office setting for your business please contact 54 St James Street via or 0151 706 8100 to discuss availability of reasonably priced office space in L1, Liverpool City Centre.  

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Setting Up In Business Was The Right Fit For Personal Trainer Emma Grogan

Being a very active person, attending classes, going to exercise in the gym and eating healthy has always been a way of life for Emma Grogan. It was only natural that her passion for keeping fit would creep into her work life.

Photo: VGGVart

‘Someone told me that I should become a personal trainer, I laughed it off at first. However, the idea stuck in my mind and I eventually decided to go for it. I did a 2 month intensive course and qualified last year. I haven’t looked back since. I love choosing my own hours.’

Before starting up Emma Grogan Fitness and Nutrition, Emma worked in finance for 12 years. She would work for 6 months then travel for 6 months, only returning to work to earn the money to go travelling again. She told us ‘I was sick of 9-5 lifestyle, it was just a means to an end.’

When Emma decided that self-employment was something she wanted to pursue, she contacted The Women’s Organisation to get business start-up advice and training through their business start-up programme.

‘The Women’s Organisation have been really helpful, I have always worked for someone else so didn’t quite know how to go about starting up my own business. The best bit of help was the business planning, it helped me to focus. The £200 grant boost at the end was great, as it helped towards the equipment I needed.’

‘I also found the Business Club networking events helpful. It gave me the opportunity to meet women who are at different stages that could offer their advice and point me in the right direction.’

The first few months of self-employment were quite difficult for Emma due to the amount of competition, but the Liverpool resident persevered and now her business is going from strength to strength.

‘I do a lot of home training. Working with people who for whatever reason cannot make it to a gym - either mothers with young children or people who work from home and don't have time to travel out but can fit a session in at home. It’s working really well for me!’

As well as supporting people at home, Emma also trains Somali women from a dedicated centre.
‘I find running classes really rewarding. I have been working with the Somali women for 5 months now, most of who are women who wouldn't exercise anywhere else.’

Although the classes are now going well and the women are getting a lot out of them, the cultural differences made it very difficult at the beginning. Emma had to work hard to gain their trust and overcome the language barrier, but her persistence and ‘can do’ attitude has paid off.

After working with such groups, she is now determined to secure more funding to work with the Somali women and other groups that may not naturally feel comfortable with the traditional environment of many exercise classes. ‘I want to help underprivileged people as much as I can.’

Furthermore, Emma is still very keen to continue her 1-2-1 sessions with clients and expand her business in the future, as well as focusing on those harder to reach groups that she is so passionate about supporting.
‘I want to build a business of variety incorporating personal training, classes and nutrition.’

If you would like to know more about the services Emma provides, you can contact her directly on 07414 781 316 / or find Emma Grogan Fitness and Nutrition on Facebook.

And if you are ready to take your first steps into self-employment and would like some further advice, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 / or visit

By Beckie Kinsella