Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Introducing Our Newest Trustee – Jayne Croft of Brabners

We are delighted to introduce you to the newest member of The Women’s Organisation’s board of directors – Jayne Croft, a solicitor with Brabners LLP.

The Women’s Organisation’s charity and trading arms are both led by voluntary boards of trustees and directors who are drawn from the private, public and social economy sectors. We have always placed a strong emphasis on attracting and retaining a diverse board of trustees with the values, qualifications, skills and experience to set the organisations strategic direction and to oversee the effective stewardship of its resources and activities.

We sat down with the newest member of The WO’s board of directors, Jayne, to find out all about her, her work and how she became involved with The Women’s Organisation.

Our newest Trustee - Jayne Croft
Jayne Croft is a Corporate Solicitor at Brabners, a specialist commercial law firm who advise on all aspects of Corporate Law, and are a Top 100 law firm. Jayne has been with Brabners for nearly a year. Prior to this Jayne studied at Liverpool John Moores University, completing both a law degree and a masters before starting working as a paralegal at a legal aid firm.

‘From there I moved into litigation and it was then that I began training to be a solicitor. As well as my training I took my legal practice course as an evening class, and then qualified as a solicitor at Brabners.’

‘At Brabners, the work that I do is quite varied. I’m on the corporate side of things so this means I mostly deal with mergers and acquisitions (buying and selling businesses), raising funding for investment, setting up companies and giving advice on governance and incorporations.’

But this hasn’t always been Jayne’s career path, despite always having an interest in law. She told us; ‘I’ve always been interested in this topic - Ever since I was about 10 or 11, I was interested in the way that they law can be used to help people.’

Before qualifying as a solicitor, Jayne worked towards opening her own business. After graduating from her undergraduate degree in 2009 she found herself beginning her career in the middle of the credit crunch: ‘Any hope of getting a job was already small, and then it went from small to non-existent. It was then that I decided to do my masters and also looked into self-employment.’

The Women's Organisation Board Members; Jayne Croft, Sue Oshikanlu, Pat Shea-Halson, Gill Moglione and CEO Maggie O'Carroll
‘At that point I wasn’t sure if staying in law was the right things to do, because the corporate and commercial sides of law really hit rock bottom alongside the recession. Lots of firms were closing or had stopped taking on people, so looking into self-employment seemed like a good idea. I found the Enterprise Fellowship Scheme at Liverpool John Moores University over the summer before I was due to start studying for my masters, applied and got a place.’

Jayne worked through the Enterprise Fellowship Scheme on her business idea but it sadly fell through as she struggled find the right premises. ‘To be honest, I spent the next year regretting not doing it, but then I fell back into law and realised that law was what I wanted to do. To try and study for a masters and open a business at the same time would have been really hard, so it probably worked out for the best, but at the time, that realisation was difficult.’

Business acumen must be in Jayne’s blood - not only is it something that she uses in her role at Brabners now, but it’s something that she grew up with - Jayne’s parents were both self-employed. ‘They had a market stall and then started manufacturing before going into retail. I remember my childhood was getting dragged from one market to another so it’s always seemed very normal to me, what with accountants and wholesalers coming round to the house all the time!’

How did Jayne end up becoming our newest board member? Jayne told us that she had been watching the organisation for a while and has always been interested in working with us. She said; ‘I always like to have some things going on outside of my work, and to try to do as much as I can for charities too.  Previously I was on the board of governors’ at The Liverpool Women’s Hospital, so I’ve always tried to have that dimension to me, and subconsciously it’s always leaned towards places that promote equality, but I have a real interest in enterprise so this seemed like a natural move.’

Jayne met our CEO Maggie O’Carroll at the end of last year at a Roscoe Lecture on Eleanor Rathbone and started speaking to Maggie about opportunities within The Women’s Organisation board; ‘I said that I wanted to get involved and help out in any way that I could and that’s how it all came about.’

‘Because of the job that I do, I think that there is probably a lot that I can bring to the table. As well as this, I’ve got experience of being on boards previously, and have also been a service user so can relate to what people want and need from an organisation which I think is important.’

 We are delighted to welcome Jayne Croft to the board of The Women’s Organisation and know that she is going to be a fantastic addition to a great team of board members. Thank you Jayne for taking the time to speak to us, and welcome to the family! 

Friday, July 15, 2016

The Women's Organisation hosts first Successful Enterprise Hub Start-up Conference with Startup Direct

This week The Women's Organisation opened the doors of 54 St. James Street to local men and women who were thinking of starting a business, to celebrate the launch of the new Enterprise Hub programme for Liverpool City Region.  The Enterprise Hub Start-up conference run in partnership between The Women's Organisation and Startup Direct gave attendees opportunity to hear from business owners who have recently been through the process of starting a business themselves, and chance to reflect on the practicalities of self-employment. 

The conference starting with 20 minutes to network and get to know each other, with conference host Jo Austin encouraging the attendees "the first thing to learn is business is to take every opportunity to promote who you are and what you do". One guest said "it’s great to be able to network so easily". 

Nick Bell from event sponsors Startup Direct, told us about Startup Direct’s loan scheme for businesses. Startup Direct is a delivery partner of the Governments Start Up Loans Scheme that provides up to £25,000 in start-up funding for entrepreneurs wanting to start a business. Nick gave some great examples of how Startup loans can be used to finance big or small start up projects, and are a great option for those who may have struggled in the past to access finance through more traditional routes. 

Next we heard from Tom Rogers who left his secure teaching role-as a history teacher, to set up his own business, in his words, in the pursuit of "freedom". Tom set up Rogers History, a business which uses the internet to tutor teachers and students. Tom gave an interesting, animated speech sharing the realities of needing to adapt his business idea to suit the market place and preparing to build it slowly and methodicly. 

Nick Bell from Startup Direct pictured with Tom Rogers

Following a quick break to stretch our legs and grab another pastry we heard from another business owner, Jenn Appleton. Jenn is the owner and an instructor at Kumon Woolton, which is part of a franchise that provides study programmes for maths and English, in order to build children’s confidence and inspire a passion for learning. Jenn went on to tell us how life changing experiences forced her to take action and remember how life’s too short so she must seize the opportunity to do something she loves. Jenn received support from The Women's Organisation to start her business earlier this year and raved saying it is the best thing she has ever done. A guest said that it was good "hearing the experiences of other business start ups".

Jenn Appleton from Kumon Woolton
Once Jenn’s inspiring talk had concluded, all the guests introduced themselves to the group, showing bravery, which is needed to be self-employed. There was a range of different backgrounds, but there was an underlying theme of an education background showing through, perhaps highlighting the stress that the teaching industry is under at present and the urge many teachers feel to look for a change in career.

Those attending were led in a dicussion by Jo Austin from The Women's Organisation to think about the pros and cons of being self-employed. Some examples of cons were that you need to be self-disciplined and flexible. However on the other side of the argument there were ideas mentioned such as having higher aspiration and more freedom to experiment with ideas. There were positives thoughts on the pros and cons exercise with one attendee saying "it was a good exercise to make more aware of what you’re buying into".

The conference received great feedback with attendees saying "it was very informative", "inspiring" and "useful for someone looking for a starting point". Many of the attendees are going to continue to pursue their dream of owning their own successful business with support from the Enterprise Hub programme following the event.

If you have an idea for a business then contact Enterprise Hub to find out about the free advice and support available to men and women in the Liverpool City Region on 0151 706 8113 or enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk

We'd like to say a massive thank you to Nick and Startup Direct for sponsoring the event and helping to make it possible. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Women's Organisation are Proud to be Part of New Enterprise Hub

Thousands of budding entrepreneurs are set to benefit from a new European-funded Enterprise Hub that is aiming to help fledgling businesses get off the ground across the Liverpool City Region.

Maggie O'Carroll, Julia Sweeney & Elaine Bowker

With a mission to support more than 6000 people who are considering setting up their own enterprises and, in the process, help 1,200 businesses to start-up, the Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub officially launched on 30th June at The City of Liverpool College.

The Hub will provide support to residents of Sefton, Knowsley, Liverpool, St Helens, Wirral and Halton over the next three years. Business start-up services on offer via the Hub will be delivered by a network of ten experienced enterprise partners, of which The Women's Organisation are the managing agent with the City of Liverpool College lead Enterprise Hub as the accountable body.

Around 200 influencers from the Liverpool City Region joined the Enterprise Hub partners to launch the project, including some of the region’s leading accountants and legal advisers, who specialise in start-up advice, along with local councillors and support services.   Keynote speaker at the event Julia Sweeney, Director, European Programmes & Local Growth Delivery DCLG emphasised the importance of investing in enterprise to sustain our economny.  CEO of The Women's Organisation Maggie O'Carroll declared the Liverpool City Region "Open for Business". 

Enterprise Hub which will be part funded by European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and will draw together expertise of 10 delivery partners along with  5 local strategic partners who will be supporting the programme’s engagement strategy, ensuring Enterprise Hub delivery teams are connecting with diverse communities.  

Elaine Bowker, Principal and Chief Executive of The City of Liverpool College said, “Start-up businesses are an essential economic driver for the region and a vibrant entrepreneurial sector is a key indicator of a healthy regional economy. We have long supported future entrepreneurs at The City of Liverpool College, delivering a range of business course that equip students with the skills required to run successful enterprises of their own. We already work in partnership with The Women’s Organisation to offer student enterprise services, where students with business ideas can access support and advice to set up their own companies. Leading the Enterprise Hub programme was, therefore, an obvious choice for us and we are hugely excited about the potential it has to help bring thousands of innovative business plans to fruition. By linking our students to the programmewe will channel a pipeline of Further Education graduates into the Enterprise Hub, ensuring that this valuable source of entrepreneurial talent is not missed.”

 CEO of The Women’s Organisation Maggie O’Carroll said:
“We are thrilled to be helping to steer forward this exciting new enterprise initiative for Liverpool City Region. The creation of new businesses is vital to keep our local and national economy afloat. We hope Enterprise Hub evidences how investment in enterprise services can reduce unemployment, raise aspirations and give people a chance to pursue their dream of business ownership with expert and strategic support. The Enterprise Hub partnership brings together organisations with a variety of expertise ensuring that those interested in getting advice can link with experts who can offer them quality services.  We urge anyone who has an idea for a business to get in touch and let Enterprise Hub guide you to getting started.”

Enterprise Hub will offer support to:

• Understand the process of starting a business

• Complete a business plan 

• Research a business idea 

• Create a marketing plan 

• Develop financial forecasts 

• Raise finance

Anyone interested in taking up support from Enterprise Hub should contact 0151 706 8113 orEnterprisehub@thewo.org.uk

Colette McKenna Uses Her Many Years of Employment Experience To Launch Consultancy Business

Colette McKenna has many skills to her name that she has accumulated throughout her career which helped to launch her business Colette McKenna Etc...(Employability/Education & Training Consultancy)

Prior to diving into self-employment Colette was Head of Employability for The City of Liverpool College for 8 years but had worked at the college since 1995 in various teaching and then management roles which were often employment and skills focussed too, and has many qualifications ranging from CIM Management to CIPD.

After deciding to leave The City of Liverpool College last autumn, Colette says; ‘I felt that I had more to give and wanted to use the skills and experience I had to work with businesses and organisations in supporting the communities they serve. I truly loved my work at the college and working with employment and skills is still my passion and I bring that passion to the stakeholders I work with.

Colette’s specialisms range from project management in employability, education and training to curriculum training design and stakeholder and employer relationships. It’s clear to see that from her career she has gained an incredible amount of knowledge and skills that will help her on her way to making her business a success.

After Colette had decided that she would start her own business, she got in contact with The Women’s Organisation pretty quickly as she knew about our organisation through working with us during her previous roles. ‘From that moment on, I was on my way to getting the support and guidance that I needed. I had already started setting up everything but wasn’t quite sure if I had covered all bases. My Business Adviser, Yan Miao, really guided me in the right direction and made me feel like the business could work. It was so reassuring that my model had potential and she believed that my business had a future and also in what I was trying to achieve but her approach was always in a realistic and practical manner.’

But of course, when starting up a new business there are always going to be challenges that a business owner has to face and Colette has realised a few things about self-employment on her journey; ‘Actually finding the work was a bit daunting at first and I realised how much work I had to put into actually setting up the business! I hadn’t realised just what needed to be done before you even start working on the business. Also I had to get used to the isolation of working alone and begin learning different skills to boost the business. But luckily I found it all very exciting!’

Now that the business is up and running, things are going really well for Colette and something that she has found particularly valuable has been networking and relationship building. Colette is receiving great support from an ex-colleague who has also branched out into running her own business, and has worked closely with her to signpost work back and forth. 

Colette told us; ‘I’m also working really hard on networking and developing relationships, by basing it on my skills and knowledge. And thanks to this I now have a few really exciting projects that I’m working on!’

And what advice would Colette give to someone who was thinking about starting their own business? ‘I would tell them to think about what they want from their business and whether there is a market need for their skills and expertise…And then of course, get yourself along to The Women’s Organisation!

Looking towards the future of the business, Colette is hoping to become a Ltd. Company this year and also develop an associate arm of the business at some point too! So with all this to look forward to, and Colette’s experience and positive attitude – we just know that the business is going to be a success!

If you would like to find out more information about Colette McKenna Etc… you can use the contact details below!

Colette McKenna Etc 
Employability/Education & Training Consultancy

54 St James Street
L1 0AB

07468 414 683

And if you’ve been inspired by Colette’s story and are thinking about starting your own business, The Women’s Organisation can support you! Email us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111 to see how we can help!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Meet Our New Team Member - Suzanne Allen

We’ve had an exciting few months here at The Women’s Organisation, and have taken on 2 new team members in our Administration staff! We’d like you to get to know them, so we’ve sat them down and had a chat to find out all about them. First, of all we met Sue Phillips, who you can read about here, and now we had the chance to meet Suzanne Allen, the second of our new team members who joined the organisation as an Administrator. 

What’s your full name and where are you from?

Suzanne Allen, from Sheffield but I’ve been an honorary Scouser for nearly 11 years

Tell me how you first found out about The Women’s Organisation and become part of our team?

I’ve known about the WO for a while, following their social media accounts and being interested in women’s issues in the workplace and creative industries. I saw the job advertised online and decided to go for it!

What kind of things have you done prior to coming to The Women’s Organisation?

I studied History of Art and Museum Studies at LJMU, and my previous work experience is in administration and events/venue hire. Mainly in arts and cultural organisations, most recently a well-known city centre art gallery and cinema!

What has surprised you about working at The Women’s Organisation?

The huge amount of women in the Liverpool City region who are setting up their own businesses and using our advice service! There’s also so much going on in the building every day from meetings, conferences, tenant offices, to The WO’s own events, courses and adviser sessions.

What’s the best thing about working at The Women’s Organisation?

Working for an organisation with such focused values and aims, and lovely people of course! The day-to-day variety of activities and events, and the 4th floor balcony is pretty great on a sunny day!

Could you describe one of your typical workdays?

Providing reception services there’s always phone enquiries and visitors coming in. At my desk I’ll be doing admin for the engagement and business advisor team, as well as building and venue hire enquiries and bookings. I’ll also be away from the desk looking after the current days meeting and conferencing clients and setting up for the next day’s events and bookings. So it’s generally non-stop!

What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?

I’ve never learnt to drive but I did learn to hula hoop last year.

What do you do when you aren’t working? 

I’m a regular cinema goer, bit of a bookworm, also bit of a gym bod. I try to go back to Sheffield as often as I can to visit friends and family. Otherwise generally hanging out with friends and making the most of Liverpool’s thriving independent bar/restaurant scene. 

Thanks so much to Suzanne for answering all of our questions, it already feels like she is part of the WO Family!