Wednesday, January 28, 2015

When there wasn’t the work for Gemma Longworth after she graduated from University, she created her own work and business; ‘The Button Boutique’

The Button Boutique was launched by textile artist, Gemma Longworth in early 2011. Gemma is a highly qualified textile artist, having completed many years of training. Aged 17 she attended the City of Liverpool College, where she completed her AVCE (Advanced Vocational Certificate of Education) in Art & Design, before continuing and completing her Foundation Diploma in Art and Design.
Gemma credits the City of Liverpool College in helping her learn her craft, and decide which direction she wanted to take. The College has a large and varied range of courses, whether these are vocational, educational or apprenticeship based and it was the perfect place for Gemma to learn more about the art and design industry and become accomplished at many different skills.

‘I loved being at the Myrtle Street campus studying Art and Design. It was great, because I’d come straight from school but it was a completely different environment and a lot freer, where we were able to explore and discover the different disciplines and see which ones suited us the most.’

‘The teachers and tutors were all fantastic and you could go to them with any problems or issues that you had, whatever they were.’

It was here that Gemma realised that textiles was her favourite discipline and it was this that helped her decide to continue her education and training at University. Following on from the City of Liverpool College, she studied for her BA in Drawing and Applied Arts, in Bristol, and then completed her Masters in Textiles, in Manchester.

After completing all of this training and higher education, Gemma found it hard to find work in her field, even though she was a highly talented individual, there wasn’t the work out there for her, in the area that she wanted. It was during this time that she began to volunteer and at Alder Hey Hospital, running arts and crafts workshops twice a week.
As the interest in her workshops grew and she was working on a freelance basis, she began taking them outside of the hospital, to cafĂ©’s in city, holding more and more classes. It became clear to Gemma then, that she needed a base. She chose the Baltic Creative to be this base, renting out two large sheds in their building, and running her workshops from there. She says, even at this time, it wasn’t clear to her that she was ‘starting’ her own business, she was just supplying the demand for her work and the nature of the business growth was organic.

By 2014, Gemma had outgrown her space in the Baltic Creative, and started to look around for larger properties, before finding a building on Brick Street which she describes as a ‘hidden gem’ The space took a lot of work to get it up to the beautiful standard that it is today, but Gemma says; ‘I’ve always been used to not having a lot of money, and having to work with what I’ve got, so I didn’t find it too difficult to work with the space’. The Button Boutique looks fantastic which Gemma says is down to, white emulsion, lots of fabric and a fair amount of skip diving!

The Button Boutique is doing incredibly well, and the business is growing steadily with every month. Gemma is quick to point out that it is a huge amount of work, and it can sometimes be a struggle to balance her work life with her home and social life.

‘Getting the balance right is very difficult. There are days when I go home, and say to myself that I won’t open my laptop, or check my emails but the temptation is always there. Because it’s ‘my baby’, there is always the pressure to be pushing the business forward and working all the time.’

‘There are good and bad aspects to running your own business and being your own boss. Of course there is more freedom, but at the same time, there is a pressure because you have to depend on yourself to bring an income in. Some days I do wish that I was going to work and being paid for being there, but at the same time, it is worthwhile in the end.’ 

‘If a friend of mine told me they wanted to start their own business, I would definitely tell them to seriously think about it. Make sure it is absolutely what you want because it’s a lot of hard work to begin with and you will have to put a lot into it. It takes up a lot of your time, and you will have to make sacrifices, but it will be worth it in the end. And if you need any support, I would recommend going to see the team at The Women’s Organisation’

Gemma also found a few difficulties in the business aspects of The Button Boutique. Like many individuals, the idea of understanding tax, registering as a company and working out pay rolls was a daunting one, and something that she found, and still does find difficult.

‘I don’t find that this side of the business gets any easier. In fact in gets harder as the business grows, because there is always something else to do, another form to fill out and something new to get my head around. But The Women’s Organisation helped enormously with this, and I would recommend any woman with their own business to seek advice and support from them.’

Gemma attended many of The Women’s Organisation’s free courses which helped her understand the technical side of running a business, and is also a member of our Business Club which she is a big fan of. Networking at The Women’s Organisation has been something that Gemma has enjoyed as well; ‘I’ve always hated the idea of ‘networking’, but at The Women’s Organisation it’s a lot more enjoyable because it’s informal and everyone there is in similar situations so it isn’t intimidating.’

Gemma has put the hard work, determination and effort into starting up her own business. After realising when she had finished her education and degree that the jobs she wanted were not out there, she has managed to create her own lifestyle and business which suits her and is a success. She says; ‘I am proud of myself, especially when I look back and think about everything that I have put into The Button Boutique, and how I have started it from literally nothing. I’m doing what I set out to do.’

If you would like help starting up your business, get in contact with us!
Phone: 0151 706 8111

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Sue Morgan’s thriving business ‘Jessica Rose Beauty’ is launching its newest venture this week - Hot Yoga

Sue Morgan has been developing her passion for yoga for the last 16 years, and in particular hot yoga, which she is now launching as part of her beauty empire (Jessica Rose Beauty) in her salon in Huyton, Knowsley this week. ‘Yoga For The People’ launches on Friday.

She is convinced of both the physical and mental health benefits of hot yoga and lists them on her website. Hot yoga refers to yoga exercises performed under humid conditions, and the heat is used to increase an individual’s flexibility in performing the poses. One of the most popular styles of hot yoga is Bikram which was first brought to the USA in the early 1970’s, and is performed at 105 degrees.

Sue believes that yoga and in particular hot yoga:

·         Revitalises the body and mind
·         Helps with flexibility and balance
·         Builds longer, leaner muscles and increases your core strength
·         Calms the mind and reduces stress and anxiety
·         Helps to detoxify your system
·         Improves the function of internal organs
·         Balances your muscular system
·         Increases your metabolism and energy levels
·         Helps with weight loss
·         Can help reduce depression and insomnia
·         Increase your will-power, self-control, concentration and determination

It is clear that many others agree with Sue, as her first 2 classes launching hot yoga at her salon, this Friday, are fully booked. Although a full schedule is complete, people can book onto the sessions through the salons, with contact details shown below.

Sue has built fantastic connections within the yoga world, and has a great group of experienced teachers running the sessions, including her cousin Rachel Currie who trained in Bikram when in Los Angeles, and Mohan, who she says; ‘needs no introduction and has taught many of the city’s yoga teachers his Shiva style yoga’

The Women’s Organisation are happy to have been a part of Sue’s journey, with business advisors, Ali and Francine helping her secure funding for the changes that were necessary for the changes to the building, through Barclays, and receiving advice and support from our business team.

If you want to find out more about Yoga For The People, book onto one of their sessions, or have a look at treatments that the Jessica Rose Beauty Salon’s offer, then use the details below!

Huyton Salon: 16 Childwall Parade, Off Pilch Lane, Huyton, Liverpool, L14 6TT

Phone: 0151 480 9252

Childwall Salon: 142 Queens Drive, Childwall Fiveways, Liverpool, L15 6XX

Phone: 0151 737 1930

Friday, January 16, 2015

Full time Mum and nutrition specialist Kim Sowah has teamed up with her childhood friend and interior designer Keeley McKenzie to open up a unique coffee shop in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle

Coffee & Fandisha offers a fresh addition to Liverpool’s growing appetite for artisan and specialist coffee. Sourced entirely from local and cooperative farms in Ethiopia, the Brick Street Coffee shop takes inspiration from the traditional ways of an Ethiopian coffee ceremony: serving their coffee alongside complimentary baskets or bowls of spiced popcorn (known as fandisha)

The coffee shop also has a fantastic array of food on offer. Toasted sandwiches on malted bread from a local bakery, and packed with adventurous fillings are a staple at the shop, alongside super food salads and mouth-watering cakes. There is also a focus on health foods at Coffee & Fandisha, an influence from Kim who studied a higher diploma in Nutrition and has a passion for eating well. The shop offers freshly pressed juices and home-made smoothies alongside cakes and sandwiches.

‘I’ve always wanted my own coffee shop because I am passionate about the coffee, and also working with the public. I have a little girl and felt it was time to regain my independence by creating something of my own.’

Inspired by her partner’s Ethiopian roots, Kim wanted to bring this culture of coffee bringing families together, to Liverpool’s coffee scene. ‘Once Keeley and I decided we were going to start the business, we spent a lot of time in various coffee shops to start gathering inspiration. With an idea of what we wanted, the search for a suitable venue began.’ They quickly found the perfect space in the Baltic Triangle in November of 2013, before moving in by January 2014.

‘When we moved in, the shop was a shell. Over time, we designed everything ourselves. We didn’t compromise on anything, all of our equipment is excellent quality, and finishing it was an amazing feeling.’

Coffee & Fandisha’s interior comprises mostly of dark, warm woods and oversized hanging light bulbs which hang from the beamed ceiling. Kim and Keeley were savvy with their designing, and up cycled the majority of their furniture- finishing key pieces with varnish, amongst many other details which mirror the industrial feeling of the Baltic Triangle but with much added warmth. 

Although the passion and talent was apparent, opening a business was a new venture for the pair, and Kim contacted The Women’s Organisation for start-up support. ‘Francine helped me further develop my business plan and cash flow forecast. She was really supportive and a great mentor. Even after we opened the shop, she was there to give me marketing advice and ideas.’

Coffee & Fandisha is going from strength to strength and is bustling with customers throughout the day. Kim says; ‘Things are going great at the moment. We are busy with a mixture of regulars and new customers discovering us for the first time.’ For Kim, The Baltic Triangle is a great place for a business as it benefits from the creative industries who work in the surrounding areas, with offices being situated in the adjoining building to Coffee & Fandisha.

With Coffee & Fandisha proving to be a hit, Kim has this advice to offer those thinking of starting their own business; ‘Be completely open-minded, know your market and remain positive. But one of the most important things is that you need to have complete confidence in your product.’

Kim and Keeley are working to continue the success of Coffee & Fandisha, and in the future hope to open another shop. If you want to experience the combination of coffee and popcorn, or grab a bite to eat, Coffee & Fandisha can be found on Brick Street. You can also find them on Facebook and Twitter: @Coffeefandisha. To contact the directly – 0151 708 6492 /

Do you have an idea that you want to explore? The Women’s Organisation’s business start-up support is free to women in Merseyside looking to start a business. 0151 706 8111 /

Photo Credit: Barbara Idasiak Photography

Friday, January 9, 2015

Jan Woolley took the brave step to give up teaching business and launch her own business...

I spent 15 years teaching students how to set up a business, and always wanted to do it myself. When the opportunity came about, I thought I would have a go!’

Jan Woolley worked as a business teacher for 15 years, before that she worked in The City, the Sydney stock exchange, insurance companies and building societies. When voluntary redundancy was offered to her, she took the huge leap of taking it, using it to start her own business.

The Painted Chair, Jan’s retail space which she rents in the world famous Bluecoat, city centre location, houses restored furniture and is the only stockist of Chalk Paint TM decorative paint by Annie Sloan in the city. The retail space specialises in home accessories and Chalk Painted furniture which are locally sourced close to Liverpool.

Taking a huge leap after over 15 years of working for others to launch her own business was bound to be slightly daunting, but Jan says that she sought advice from as many people as possible before taking the plunge. 

She continues; ‘I gained the relevant knowledge by attending courses and doing lots of research’ stressing the importance of gaining the experience and information before giving up your day job. But ‘definitely do it’, is her advice to others!

Having taught business for many years, Jan may have felt ahead of the game when starting her own venture, but like many others was still daunted by aspects such as tax and legal issues, as well as the all important factor of finding the right location for her business.

Housed in the historical Bluecoat which holds other independent and creative focussed businesses such as Landbaby, Kernaghan Books and Lalligrass was the right space for Jan. With help from The Women’s Organisation, she received mentoring, a space on courses and support with her business plan, which has meant she is now running the business successfully.

The Painted Chair has been such a success that Jan is now ‘bursting at the seams’ and has taken her sister into the business and is training her. The original plan for Jan and her sister was for them to begin developing a business back in September 2012 when Jan left teaching, but her sister returned to her original job as a teacher also. In September 2014 she re-joined The Painted Chair, and they are now having ‘a fabulous time pushing it forward together.’

Jan has indeed pushed the business forward within the past year, but still always feels like there is so much more to do; ‘Some days I wonder if I will ever get to a position when I feel like I can let things tick over. My friends and family think I’ve achieved an enormous amount and they are all very proud of me, but I feel like I’m just getting started’

With even bigger plans for the future, The Painted Chair is looking to expand with Jan developing a business working with artists and disability groups and thinking about working with people who are painting furniture as a method of therapy. Jan has been trained by Annie Sloan and now offers courses on painting furniture and decorative effects.

‘I love what we do, as we help, guide and encourage people to improve and enjoy their most important place – their home.’

The Women’s Organisation thinks Jan has done a fantastic job with setting up The Painted Chair. If you would like to have a look at their beautiful stock or take a course, then head down to The Bluecoat, or check out the website, with all the details below!  

Address: School Lane, Liverpool L1