Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Alishia Thomas Launched Her Business, 'Oh Me Oh Mama', After The Birth Of Her First Baby...

We often hear great stories from women who have had their children and gone on to start up their own businesses as an alternative to returning to work. Not often do we hear stories from women, who have their own children, and start their own business pretty much the next day! But that’s exactly what Alishia Thomas did when she had her daughter last year. It’s an amazing story and probably even more amazing if you’ve had children! Everyone understands that when you’ve just given birth, starting your own business might be the last thing on your mind.

Alishia’s business is Oh Me Oh Mama which provides gift hampers for all new, expecting and breast feeding mums. Alishia says; ‘Oh Me Oh Mama is made for mamas by mamas and is a way of providing new mothers with products to help them on their new journey into motherhood…We have hampers for all types of new mamas, whether it’s someone starting out on their breastfeeding journey or for those who simply want to relax at the end of a stressful day.’

After giving birth to her daughter last year, Alishia struggled with breast feeding, and worried constantly that her child was getting enough milk and food, and feeling isolated from other sources of help, Alishia turned to the internet to find ways which she could increase her milk supply and began exploring galactagogue’s, these are natural ways that can help increase milk supply, and it was specifically herbal galactagogue’s that Alishia began to investigate.

‘I found all of these recipes online and a lot of them were Australian, there was nothing from the UK and nothing that you could go out and buy, everything had to be made from scratch. I just thought this was crazy, when you’ve got a baby, you’re tired and exhausted and making cookies that will help to increase your milk supply is stressful!’ It was cookies that Alishia first tried her hand at and she says; ‘I must have tried about 10 times to make these cookies until they were edible!’

Alishia then began to explore other natural ways in which she could help herself breastfeed, increasing her milk supply as well as making herself more comfortable in the process. She came up with a lactation tea by sourcing the ingredients that would benefit her and meeting with Phom, a Liverpool based loose leaf Tea Company who brewed her up her own blend of nursing tea! It was at this point Alishia thought; ‘There is just nothing else out there, so why I don’t I just take matters into my own hands and create something not only for myself but for other Mothers who may be in the same position.’

Alishia began to create hampers with all different types of goodies in them for breastfeeding mama’s and has now branched out and sells hampers for father’s and expecting mamas too. Some of the goodies included in the hampers are the lactation tea and cookies, silicone gel pads for sore breasts, superfoods like chia shots and the best bit in our opinion – the boobie beanie – hand knitted especially by Alishia’s Mother-In-Law, which she says is for Mother’s when they breastfeed out in public, although she’s quick to point out, it’s for the baby’s head, not a cover-up for the women! Alishia says; ‘People often shy away from feeding their children in public, and I have found myself going to the toilet to feed my baby, but now I’ve realised it’s my child and she doesn’t deserve to eat in the toilets.’

When Alishia was at home with her baby and thinking about all the different ways she could help herself and others who were struggling to breastfeed, she began to research online how to set up a business and came across The Women’s Organisation. She got in touch with us and has been working with one of our Senior Business Adviser’s; Claire Pedersen. Alishia says; ‘Claire has been an angel since the very first day that I met her. She’s given me so much advice and pointers, which is great because it’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of, because you can get wider, fresh eyes on what you are up to.’

Last month, Alishia had her official launch party of Oh Me Oh Mama, in partnership with the charity, Kitty at The Liverpool Women’s Hospital. 10% of all Oh Me Oh Mama’s profits are donated to the Kitty fund at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital who say; ‘Kitty is our new friendly face of Liverpool Women’s Charity and from now on she will be the focal point for raising awareness of our work and particularly of the benefits we bring to the patients and families of Liverpool and the surrounding areas.’ – And of course, is inspired by the pioneering Kitty Wilkinson who fought disease and poverty in nineteenth-century Liverpool.

Now with seven different types of hampers available at Oh Me Oh Mama, it’s clear to see that Alishia has taken this opportunity to branch out her business and continue focussing on the clear brand and innovative ideas that she has for Oh Me Oh Mama. With an idea like this, we know her business will go far!

If you’d like to find out more about Oh Me Oh Mama, you can do so by following the links below, and if you’ve been inspired by Alishia’s story and would like to talk to us about starting your own business, whatever stage of your life you are at, then get in touch! Ring us on 0151 706 8111 or email hello@thewo.org.uk


Friday, December 4, 2015

The Women's Organisation Host Enterprise Educators for Erasmus + ACE Project Focus Group

Last week, here at The Women’s Organisation HQ, 54 St James Street, we held a Focus Group to talk about Lifestyle Entrepreneurship as part of the ACE Erasmus + Project, what it means to us, and how we have gone about working with this type of Entrepreneur and how we can think of new and innovative ways in the future to do so.

So you might be thinking, what is a Lifestyle Entrepreneur? Here is what we found out from one of our Focus Group participants, Carole Buckman, Business Gateway Manager at Liverpool Hope University…

‘A lifestyle entrepreneur tends to be based on the person’s hobbies, passion and skills; they may just like to make things to sell and may not be too concerned or knowledgeable about the finer points of business.’

Our Focus Group was made up of 10 individual from across the enterprise sector in Merseyside and these will go towards helping focus the project’s aims and outcomes!

And as with Focus Groups, we all got our thinking hats on, used big pieces of flip-chart paper and scribbled all of our ideas down! Here’s a few photos from our Focus Group, and keep your ears and eyes peeled for more updates as our Erasmus Plus ACE Project progresses!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

#IAmEnterprising 2015 Winner, Kate Johnson of Gallery Cocoa Starts Her Business As 2016 Competition Commences!

With the return of our #IAmEnterprising competition with City of Liverpool College for the second year running, close on the horizon, what better opportunity was there to catch up with last year’s winner; Kate Johnson! Kate went on a roller coaster journey with us last year and was crowned the first ever winner of the #IAmEnterprising competition, receiving a £3,000 prize package which included £1,000 cash from Morecrofts Solicitors to help her get her business underway. We sat down with Kate to find out what she’s been up to and how she found the #IAmEnterprising competition!

Want to win big like Kate? #IAmEnterprising is for all City of Liverpool College students to enter! If you’ve got the seed of a business idea and want to turn it into a reality, then you’ve got to get involved! You could win a £3,000 prize package, including £1,000 cash from our wonderful headline sponsors, Morecrofts. The journey is starting soon, so if you are a student yourself, or know someone who is, be sure to tell them about #IAmEnterprising. They can find out more using the contact details below!

If there is one woman who can wiggle her way into the Pastry Kitchen of The Savoy Hotel in London whilst there for afternoon tea, it’s the talented Kate Johnson! Kate, the winner of our #IAmEnterprising competition with City of Liverpool College and founder of Gallery Cocoa and maker of fine chocolates and patisserie has such a passion and energy for her craft that we weren’t at all surprised that she wiggled her way into the professional pastry kitchens for a look around!

The Women’s Organisation first met Kate back in February of 2014 when we were part of City of Liverpool College’s Enterprise Club and she was completing her NVQ Level 3 in Patisserie and Confectionary. She then found out about the #IAmEnterprising Competition that we were running with the college, giving students the chance to win a massive £3000 prize bundle to help them start up their own businesses. Following Business Bootcamp, Kate worked closely with Melanie Williams from City of Liverpool College's Enterprise Club. Then followed a nerve-wracking pitch in front of judges, business experts and #IAmEnterprising sponsors, Kate was crowned the winner of the competition, and has been working hard all year on her business, Gallery Cocoa. 

We finally got the chance to sit down and have a chat with her about her journey, the #IAmEnterprising experience and the future of Gallery Cocoa.As well as running her business, Kate also works in museum and gallery education and has done for the past 15 years, at the moment she is splitting her time between this and developing her own business. 
But how did it all start? Where did her passion come from? ‘It started with me just experimenting at home, using cookbooks and TV programmes and I started to do more and more. At that time it was mostly baking, and then I found out about a 6 week course at City of Liverpool College, run by Claire Lara, the winner of MasterChef. I took her 6 week fine dining course, and that’s how my relationship with the college began’. After this she took another 6 week course before signing up to Level 2 ABC Pastry and began thinking about setting up her own business, although she says; ‘The timing was just never right for me to do it at that point.’

Although things began to align when she signed up to complete her Level 3 at City of Liverpool College, a day time session, meaning she dropped one day at her other work and spent one day a week with her tutor; Siobhan Sweet, expanding her knowledge and skills of patisserie and pastry. When Kate saw our signs for the #IAmEnterprising completion, she knew she should just give it a go; ‘The competition just forced me to go and do it. Rather than thinking about it all the time.’ Kate herself admits that she is the type of person who likes to plan and plan rather than dive straight into something. ‘Especially with my own business, I was worried about getting it wrong.’

But she didn’t get it wrong! Kate attended our Business Boot Camp and went away again to develop her business plan further using the templates and guidance from friends and her tutor, Siobhan Sweet who she says; ‘Is an amazing chef and brilliant support.’ Kate then pitched and made chocolates for the judges to try so they could see her work. And what was her reaction when she found out she had won? ‘I was over the moon! It was so reassuring to know that other people thought that my business idea was strong enough and believed I could do it. It was a massive boost! The support from the sponsoring businesses has been brilliant.’

Since the end of the competition, Kate has been working closely with The Women’s Organisation and Senior Business Adviser, Francine Taylor, as well as attending nearly all of Bernie’s Social Media training courses! ‘Francine has been great and the support here has been brilliant.’ As well as this she has been busy developing (and tasting!) her products, sourcing her lovely packaging and starting to think about the brand of Gallery Cocoa. Next year will have even bigger plans in store for Kate as she will soon out-grow the Production Kitchen she’s installed in her own home and will need larger premises to be able to properly store and make her delights! ‘I would also like a retail shop or premises; I think there is a space for that in Liverpool, so that’s something to think about for next year too.’
So is Kate glad that she made the jump and entered the #IAmEnterprising Competition – we think so. She says; ‘The instant support network that it created, of people who are so willing to help, has been brilliant! It’s also made me think about areas that I would not have previously thought about and forced me to actually get on with it and put together my business.’ And getting on, she is! 

We can’t wait to see what the next year holds for Kate and Gallery Cocoa and are delighted that #IAmEnterprising, City of Liverpool College and The Enterprise Club helped to make her plans and ideas into a reality! 

Want to enter #IAmEnterprising?

Email -  iamenterprising@thewo.org.uk

And check out Enterprise Club

And follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram - @IAmEnterprising 

Monday, November 9, 2015

ACE Erasmus Plus International Partners Meet for the First Time in Liverpool

We are always learning and looking for ways to develop our knowledge around entrepreneurship at The Women’s Organisation and we were delighted to be invited to take part in Erasmus+ ACE Project.

The project will focus on Lifestyle Entrepreneurship as a useful alternative to self-employment for adults with fewer opportunities and from disadvantaged backgrounds, and as a whole, the project has a few main aims:

To develop the basic and specific adult educators skills working with disadvantaged learners with a focus on innovative ways of outreach and delivery of learning activities

To provide the necessary knowledge and information to adult learners with fewer opportunities and from disadvantaged backgrounds on access to adult learning services and the possibilities for employment on the basis of their lifestyle, abilities and talents.

And we are joined on the project by a fantastic group of organisations across the world. 

These are…

The Kaunas Region Educational Centre in Lithuania who are the Project Coordinators

Know and Can Association in Bulgaria

Danmar Computers LLC in Poland

SIF (Social Innovation Fund), Kaunes Lithuania 

Centre for Advancement of Research and Development in an Educational Technology from Cyprus

And of course, ourselves, The Women’s Organisation!

It was our pleasure to welcome project partners for our first meeting and project launch at 54 St James Street on 5th November.

And as it was Bonfire Night we had to show them a bit of our tradition, so here is a photo of the group enjoying a bit of firework magic. 

We look forward to continuing to learn from this project and learning more about how our international partners work with 'lifestyle enterpreneurs'. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sarah Williams Conquered Everest And Now Is Conquering Starting Her Own Business - Tough Girl Challenges...

We thought we were supposed to be the inspiring ones? Well wait until you meet Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Challenges, 100 miles per hour, full of energy and passion for life, she might just be one of the most motivational and inspiring women The Women’s Organisation has ever interviewed! Now that’s a lot to live up to…

The story starts off pretty grey though! Sarah used to live and work down in London and spent eight years working in banking which she describes as something that began to frustrate her; ‘It was all about waking up in the morning at 5:45am, getting on the tube, commuting to Canary Wharf, and staying in the office all day. And I just wasn’t very fulfilled in what I was doing.’ Although on the surface of things, Sarah was doing fantastically, she was being promoted, getting pay-rise’s and bonuses, but she knew deep down that it wasn’t what she wanted.

Initially she combated this feeling though running; she completed the London Marathon five times (YES! Five times!), but still wasn’t feeling the sense of satisfaction inside. And here is where the story gets really interesting. Sarah begins to make change after change in her life. Doing more charity work, working with UN Women and Women for Women International, and it was here she finally found what she was looking for, that personal enjoyment that she was after. It came from motivating, and inspiring others, especially women and girls, in tough situations. Sarah says; ‘It all sort of came to a head about then, I knew I had wanted a change for a while. So when I was 31 I quit my job and decided to go travelling for a year.’ Sarah headed off to Australia, South America, did a Ski Season for 6 months in Switzerland, and…Wait for it…Climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!

At this point Sarah realised that she could return home and would be in the position of explaining to future employers what she had spent the year doing and how it would impact would the future could hold. ‘I couldn’t turn round to employers and say; “I’ve had an amazing twelve months travelling the world” I needed to have done something productive. So I ended up writing a book about climbing Kilimanjaro’ after writing this book, she went on to write another one about her time spent as a Chalet Host. ‘So many people were asking me what it was like, so I wanted to share my experiences.’

And what was it like? For anyone who has ever done Chalet Hosting, knows as well as Sarah does, that it is one tough job! ‘It’s possibly one of the most physically demanding jobs I’ve ever done. You’re up at 7am and you go up to the chalet and cook breakfast for 10 people before tidying the whole chalet and then cook afternoon tea. At that point you are free between 12 and 6, and it’s a choice between sleeping and skiing. Of course, I generally choose skiing! Then you come back and would cook a four course meal. It’s very demanding.’ 
So when Sarah returned home, what was the next step for her? For the woman who has so much under her belt, loves adventures and is passionate about motivating and inspiring, her own business seemed the best option. ‘I’d been thinking for a while that I wanted to start my own company, well I thought let’s start Tough Girl Challenges, which is basically all of my passions and all of my loves combined. I love adventure, I love travel, I love pushing myself both physically and mentally, so that’s where Tough Girl Challenges came from.’
Tough Girl Challenges is a multi-layered business and is ever expanding as Sarah finds more opportunities to get involved with. There’s the blogging, the fitness, the book-writing and so much more. 

One aspect of the business is Sarah going to visit schools, specifically girl’s schools to speak to them and give motivational talks about challenging yourself, pushing yourself and stepping out of your comfort zones. And if there is anymore more apt to speak on this topics, then we’d struggle to think of them! Sarah has run marathons, travelled the world, bungee jumped, sky dived, climbed a live volcano and cycled down the world’s most dangerous road. 

‘Talking to the girls is really interesting, because some of them might tell me that they want to be a pastry chef in France, which is great and really interesting! But then you might have a few from the other end of the spectrum who will say that they want to be a reality TV star, or the wife of a footballer. And it’s almost as if it’s down to the lack of belief that they can do so much better with their lives. And sometimes all it takes is for someone to come in, and something might click in their heads and they can understand how much more they can do.’

A lot of Sarah’s success comes down to the way she prioritises her time, and for her, one thing that works really well, is to set herself goals. When Tough Girl Challenges website launched in December she wanted to become more connected with her local community and set herself the challenge of doing 100 motivational talks in schools. To help her on her way, she knew she needed to start networking more, and that’s how she found out about The Women’s Organisation and began to attending our networking events. From there she met with Senior Business Adviser, John Jones, who she works with to focus on the business aspects of the business. 

The best thing about working with John, for Sarah, is that it gives her another goal, using her meetings with him as targets to get things done by. ‘Working for myself, that’s one of the things that I struggled with, because when something comes up, it’s too easy to push another thing back and reallocate. Having a Business Adviser meant I had accountability, and having a meeting meant I had a firm deadline to get things done by.’ 

So what does the future hold for Tough Girl Challenges? Most recently Sarah has been storming the internet with her Tough Girl Podcasts which she started this summer. These podcasts came from a frustration that she found at opening the sports pages and continually seeing no women there. 
Whereas on Twitter she could see incredible women doing incredible things, that nobody really knew about. ‘I know of a woman cycling across Australia, there’s a 92 year old woman who has just run a marathon, a woman who is skating across Amsterdam. There are all of these women doing fantastic challenges and they never get the publicity’

So Tough Girl Tuesday’s is born! Sarah will be interviewing some of these great women facing great challenges, and she hopes to expand these into bi-weekly podcasts too. The Tough Girl Podcast got to the Number 1 Slot in iTunes for New & Noteworthy for Sports & Hobbies, and Personal Journals.

As well as this Sarah spoke on Bay TV’s show; 52% with another speaker from the This Girl Can campaign, on motivation and inspiration and says; ‘Even if just one person watched that and thought, do you know what, I’m going to go for a walk today, or I’m going to turn off the TV and read a book, then I’ll be really pleased!’ You can watch Sarah speak on 52% here, and she is now a regular panelist on the show! 

All in all, Sarah Williams is one tough cookie, and it’s great to see her inspiring women and girls to face their challenges and step outside their comfort zones. We can tell you that even after interviewing her, we felt that little bit more powered up to go out there and do something great! 

Twitter - @_TOUGH_GIRLS
Facebook - ToughGirlChallenges
Email - sarah@toughgirlchallenges.com
Bay TV Interview

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rosie Jamieson Faced Adversity And Overcame Obstacles To Support Her Family

Rosie Jamieson has had an interesting year, and her story is different to the stories that we are often told. This story is an incredible one of perseverance in the face of difficult circumstances. 

Rosie had, as she says herself, her dream job working as a Footwear Designer for twenty years; ‘There are very few jobs where you can travel the world, shop the world and draw pretty pictures for a living, so that was really lovely!’  Rosie ended up as Design Director for that company, working with a team of six designers, doing what she really loved best. When her husband, Phill, received the offer of a new job in Amsterdam, this was the point where things began to change. Rosie and her husband, with their young son and daughter decided to give it a shot, move to Amsterdam and try out ‘A European experience.’

Phill was to start working for MEXX, the fashion company similar to Zara and Mango, becoming their Head of Marketing. ‘We moved over there in the last week of July, and started finding our feet in the school holidays with my daughter starting school at the end of August.’ – And then the unthinkable happened. Rosie’s husband suffered from a serious stroke which resulted in his speech and language become severely blocked, and the family returning to England after only 2 months. 

Rosie and her family decided to move to Liverpool, as this is where her husband was born and grew up, and where the rest of his family still live; ‘He’s got a big family, so that support network was obviously important to us at that point in time.’ Their original plan for Amsterdam was that Phill would work and Rosie would take a break to settle their family into their new way of life, before pursuing one of her interests like upholstery and soft furnishings to bring some income in, but not be the main bread-winner as she had been previously. 

Now that so much had changed, there were many choices to be made, and at first one of self-employment and starting a business seemed the right thing for Rosie and her family. Rosie came to The Women’s Organisation to gain support and advice in starting up her new business venture; Social Media Mama, which would provide Social Media Marketing support and training for small businesses and sole traders. 

But yet another twist was to happen in Rosie’s year … as she prepared to get started with Social Media Mama, in which she would be supported by Phill, the marketing expert, a new opportunity arose here in Liverpool. Rosie found a job in Footwear Design! ‘I was very fortunate to find out that the footwear brand, Hotter, were considering advertising for a Designer and that the Design Director, Ian Spedding, was actually my very first boss from my first Footwear Design job at Hush Puppies – he employed me exactly 20 years ago when I was straight out of university, and did so again this summer!’ 

Hotter’s Head Office is based at their factory site in Skelmersdale, which manufactures more pairs of shoes per year than any other shoe maker. Hotter now have 70 stores around the UK and a huge catalogue and website business in the UK, America and Germany, and Rosie is delighted to have found something so perfect for her, so close to her new home here in Liverpool! ‘It’s a really exciting challenge for me to work for a brand like this, using my existing 20 years footwear experience and skills but learning new areas of manufacture and target market and styling at the same time.’

At the moment, Rosie has been working for Hotter for over a month and is enjoying her time there, and one of the best parts about it is that there will be much less overseas work and travel then there was in her previous job, giving her more time to spend with her family and have a better work/life balance.

Although Social Media Mama is on hold for now, in her short time running the business, Rosie wrote a double page spread for LINK magazine, worked on a website for author Tracy Bloom and worked on the Social Media presence for Spa Rose Lane Beauty Clinic, and hopes in the future that it can make an appearance again. 

Rosie says; ‘Hopefully the financial stability that this job brings for our family will allow Phill to fully access all the support that he needs to make as full a recovery as possible from his stroke. Stroke recovery is a slow and often frustrating process for the survivors as well as the surrounding family, but we are fortunate that Phill continues to show encouraging progress. My children are adjusting well to my working full-time and are forging stronger bonds with Phill again which is lovely for us all.’

Looking back at the year that Rosie and her family have had, it’s safe to say that nothing is ever certain and your whole life can change in the blink of an eye. From moving across Europe, to starting the journey of self-employment to finding your perfect job right under your nose, all the while supporting your family when they needed support most – we think Rosie is an incredible woman with an incredible story to tell, and we wish her all the best for her future…

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jayne Thistlewood Jumped At The Chance To Make A Life-Altering Change With R&R Safety Systems Ltd

Jayne Thistlewood is a highly experienced individual, in fact so experienced that when she sits down and tells us her background, the ream of letters after her name last for quite a while! Jayne is currently a partner in R&R Safety Systems Ltd, a Health and Safety Training and Consultancy Company. The centre is accredited to provide examinations in IOSH, NEBOSH, CIEH and Fire Safety (See, those where the letters we were talking about!) and 

Jayne became a partner in the company in April 2014 alongside Dave Fanning who as an ex fire fighters brings the fire specialism to the company in the form of Fire Risk Assessments and also his passion with Fire Safety Training from his Fire Brigade Training Centre Role.
Jayne’s background is as a Health & Safety Executive which she worked as for 18 years, calling herself; ‘Civil Service through and through’, she then took a career break to have children and when she returned found it difficult to travel with work and moved to an Online Risk Management Company where she was for 12 years.

‘Then the opportunity came about 18 months ago for me to make a career change. I was hot-desking from R&R Safety System’s offices and there was a retiring partner. It was then that they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse so I bought into the company. I took a massive gamble, resigning from my well-paid job, but it’s definitely paid off!’
Going from working in large organisations and being supported with holiday pay and a steady monthly income, to becoming the boss of a company is a big change but Jayne says; ‘When the opportunity came about, I did jump at it. Everything was pointing in the right direction and it felt right, although I must admit that I was nervous. I’d worked for the Civil Service for 18 years, had a career break to raise a family and then gone into another job where I was managed and had company and staff around me. So to actually take that step into self-employment and be responsible for paying bills, paying staff and managing reports and finance, was quite difficult.’
Although luckily Jayne seems to be a natural at it, citing her strengths as her social skills and abilities, enjoying working closely with her clients and the different activities that each day can bring, as the partner of the company. ‘I love the fact that one minute I can have my hard hat and high-vis jacket on, and I’m onsite and the next minute I can be invigilating an exam or running training. One day is never the same, and I can plan my diary which is great.’

And Jayne has already making big plans for the future of R&R, looking to introduce e-learning into the company. She has a background in Online Risk Management so introduced an online learning perspective to her clients and to new contacts that she has worked on making. ‘I’ve worked closely with schools and written a programme of training, where I go into the schools and speak to Year 11’s or Sixth Form students who are about to go out and do Work Experience. I’ll speak to them about their roles and responsibilities in the workplace, their rights and what they are entitled to from employers.’

Jayne is passionate about making people understand that their own safety is not someone else’s responsibility and she says; ‘You do have a voice, you can positively engage, actively question and challenge unsafe practices.’ And by going into schools she is hoping to engage young people early on, and make them see if everybody works and acts safely then it can have a big effect. She is currently working with four of the biggest schools in Merseyside and two junior schools also.

From someone so experienced you might be thinking what help did she gain from The Women’s Organisation? Jayne met Ali McGrath, our Enterprise Enabler and John Jones, Senior Business Adviser many years ago when she was on Maternity Leave and we were called; Train 2000. At that point, Jayne had a wildly different business idea; she wanted to start a sweet shop! But this didn’t come to fruition as she had another child and later went back to work. Then about 12 months ago Jayne attended a networking event and met Ali again, both remembering each other and striking up a rapport again. ‘She said that she always knew I would do something on my own, and it was then that I came to The Women’s Organisation for some help and support when I bought into R&R. And it’s been great, the information and the help that I’ve had, has been great! John chatted with me on the accountancy side of things and Ali is very motivational.’

Looking back on the journey and transition that she has made, Jayne feels proud of herself and so she should do! ‘I’m a firm believer in that I never say no to anything. I did take that gamble and my friends and family thought I was crazy. I was on a good salary, had a nice car and was comfortable, and I walked away from it all, but now I sleep better at night. I can manage my own diary and I’m able to see direct results. When things happen, I can say to myself – well done. It’s nice to know that you are making a difference, we help people with that we do, and we have a relationship, and at the end of it they come back and say thank you…’
Before meeting Jayne we might have been guilty of considering Health and Safety as something of a dry topic, but when we got the chance to meet and talk to her, we were happy to be proved wrong! Her passion, enthusiasm and love for her job and the sector that she works in was catching and we found ourselves becoming enthused about all the things that she is passionate about.

But she says; ‘There are still very few females in this male dominated sector although we are becoming more and more. It’s had its moments in the past, where I’ve gone to meetings and been seen as the PA or Receptionist, and it’s only when I’ve taken my place at the front to start the meeting or presentation, you see everyone’s eyes in the room change. But I’m confident in what I’m doing, and I know that the guidance I’m giving is competent and effective, I can’t help how other people feel about it.’

Jayne is clearly a woman who knows where her strengths and weaknesses lie and works with them every step of the way. The future looks great for R&R Safety Systems Ltd and with the work that Jayne is doing, we know it will grow and grow…

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Story of Coffee and Love - Bean Burst Ltd & The Women's Organisation...

Here at The Women’s Organisation, we have spoken to a lot of women, we have interviewed a lot of businesses and we have heard a lot of stories, but none of them perhaps as excitable and cheery as Bean Burst who we had the pleasure of meeting a few months back! Jill Dermott, Sarah McGuiness and Samantha Walters are the women who make up Bean Burst Ltd. and it was a joy to get to chat to them and find out about their business, their journey and their plans for the future!
Bean Burst is an all-natural coffee scrub, created by Jill, Sarah and Samantha and was inspired by what they say was; ‘A Mother’s Curiosity’ after Jill’s son Fin developed eczema which was becoming more and more inflamed and agitated through use of the modern medications that were being prescribed. 

Jill says; ‘I began researching articles surrounding natural remedies for eczema. Himalayan salt was widely being used in scrubs, but the surprising ingredient being used more and more in treatments for eczema was coffee. Research showed that coffee, which is full of antioxidants can help to reduce the inflammation by constricting the cells beneath the skin, however anyone with eczema knows that the main frustration is with the dry angry, agitated skin, therefore I needed to add an element of moisture to the formula to help rehydrate Fin’s skin. It was at this point that I started making my own coffee scrub with coconut oil & pink Himalayan salt. His skin started to improve so I used it on myself and my skin seriously felt amazing – I cant explain how soft it felt!'

Once Sarah and Samantha saw the improvements in Fin’s skin and the softness of Jill’s, they began to use it too and it was at that point they knew that they wanted to start making their own scrubs and turn this idea into a business reality. Jill says; ‘There was really nothing out there like this and we thought it could be a good business venture for us. The benefits of coffee on the skin were just starting to be known at that point, so it was the right time to do it. We worked hard together to formulate a coffee scrub that contained only the finest ingredients - ingredients that would benefit the skin’

Bean Burst is the product of much experimenting. The team are proud to say that this product contains NO preservatives and is 100% natural. They now have their three signature blends of coffee scrub; Sweet Orange, Peppermint and Grapefruit and The Women’s Organisation can tell you that they smell…Incredible!

Jill, Sarah and Samantha, all close friends and now business partners blend perfectly as a team too with each individual bringing a different skill and unique take on the business to the mixture. Jill is a doting mum of 2 little boys and also a fully qualified physiotherapist with a background in chemistry and biology. Therefore researching and formulating the products came natural and easy to her. ‘Since having children I have become interested in both researching and sourcing natural products which are free from toxins / nasty chemicals, I’m a believer that nature can cure all’

Whereas on the other side of the coin, Sarah is a trained actress and lives in London, Sarah now splits her time between there and Liverpool and is having a great time experiencing being a business woman as well as continuing to act. ‘I feel really proud of what we’ve created, It’s a fun brand and you can see bits of all of us in it.’

And Samantha considers herself to be more business minded, having 5 years field Sales and Account Management experience, her most recent role working in Medical Device Sales as a Territory Manager. Her interest in Health and Fitness developed after her First Class Honours Degree in Sports Development and Physical Education. Samantha is able to bring acumen to both the team and Bean Burst Ltd. Sam’s passion for travelling has opened her eyes to the difficulties in ethical trading, she is now interested in helping to ethically source the majority of Bean Burst’s ingredients, ensuring Bean Burst use only fair traded goods where possible.

The Bean Burst Team were informed about The Women’s Organisation after going to open the business bank account. Jill, Sarah and Samantha then went for a meeting at The Women’s Organisation and were paired with with Senior Business Adviser, Huda Mamoun who they say is ‘an angel in disguise’. When The Women’s Organisation interview Bean Burst, it is clear that it was a match made in heaven because they have nothing but praise to pile on Huda. Samantha says; ‘She has been absolutely phenomenal since our first encounter.’ And they’ve had a great time with Training Co-Ordinator Bernie Cox taking part in all our courses including ‘Building a Social Media Strategy’ and ‘Understanding Tax and National Insurance’.
Jill says Huda has helped them countless times and to understand things that otherwise, they would just not have known about. ‘It was little things like getting our trademark sorted out. We had no clue how to do it. We thought you had to go through a solicitor because that’s the route it takes you through on the website. We were getting quoted thousands of pounds. But we went to Huda and she gave us a link which saved us £1500! It was that kind of thing, because it’s been a massive learning curve for all of us, we are learning as we go along.’

Bean Burst Ltd is now up, running and raring to go with an incredible website courtesy of the super talented guys at Deerhound creative. The girls have found the perfect words to sum up what they hope the future will hold for them…

‘This is just the start, we are passionate and committed to continually evolve, through research and development, to bring you new and exciting natural products that will #BringYourSkinToLife’

A big thank you to the Bean Burst team for bringing a burst of joy into our day, to find out more about Jill, Samantha and Sarah and their fantastic product, use the contact details below! If you have a business idea that you would like help with, then get in touch with The Women’s Organisation by emailing us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ringing 0151 706 8111

Bean Burst Contact Details
Email: info@beanburst.com
Phone: 07793018799

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Nicole Konigs Balfry Launches Zest After Many Years Managing Events Across Liverpool...

Nicole is the woman to go to if you want to talk about events. With over 5 solid years working on events and festivals across the city before setting up her own business, Zest, she knows her stuff when it comes to putting on fantastic events.

Nicole says; ‘My background is project management and Zest is an events consultancy business. I provide a raft of services ranging from giving advice over managing projects to the actual delivery of events; whatever level of support you are looking for, really!’ Among Zest’s core values are opening good communication channels and allowing her clients to be as little or as much involved as they want. As Nicole knows well; ‘You might have organised a fabulous event but won’t be able to enjoy it fully because you always need to have your eye on the ball. I have the expertise to take the effort and stress off the client so they can sit back and enjoy their own event.’

Prior to setting up Zest in April 2014, Nicole worked for Orb Events managing a range of interesting projects. She was part of the team who organised Liverpool Pride in 2010, her first event: ‘Seeing the work of the past months come to fruition and thousands of happy people celebrating as a result was an incredible feeling and I never looked back.’ Current clients include The Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and the British Association of Hand Therapists. 

Over the last few years, Nicole has worked as a project manager for local events, different companies and community arts charities. Thus, she formed relationships with numerous organisations, building a great network which supported her when she launched Zest last year. One of these organisations was ourselves: Nicole had known about The Women’s Organisation for a few years, having attended our events including our launch of our building of 54 St James Street.

Nicole says; ‘When I started up Zest, I was looking for expert advice and contacted The Women’s Organisation. I was put in touch with one of the Senior Business Advisers, John Jones. One of the great things about working with John is that he asks me strategic questions about my business, which make me stop and think. Once you sit back and talk to someone, you can look at your business from the outside, which has been really useful!’
With experience in business development when she was setting up Zest, Nicole runs her business herself with an accountant on “stand-by” for tricky questions and the annual return. She has been building on her skills steadily, but says ‘I don’t think I would have got my head around setting up the business without the help I’ve received.’ Now that her business is up and running and she is working on her social media skills and her website, she says; ‘I’m quite proud of this and I’m still learning every day, which is great.’

Listening is key to Zest’s core values: ‘Listening to clients and making sure their visions and objectives are being realised is extremely important.’ And the business is now at an exciting stage of growing: with the ground work being done, Nicole is keen to meet new clients, expand her business and continue to put on fantastic events across the city. ‘My objectives are to do a great job every time and to grow my portfolio and client base. I am looking to expand the network of organisations and people that I work with, as feedback, input and mutual support improve work in every respect.’

If you would like to find out more about Nicole and Zest, or if you are putting on an event and would like to see how Nicole can help you with this, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with her using the contact details below!

As well as running and planning events, Nicole is teaching a new course at 54 St James Street to share her knowledge about events! You can contact her for more information using the details below or register for a place on the course on September 24th here! 

 And if you are setting up your own business, The Women’s Organisation are here to help you! Contact hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111 to find out what we can do to support you…

Nicole Konigs Balfry – Zest