Thursday, December 15, 2016

It’s Raining Cats (But Not Dogs) For Mersey Cat Nanny Alicia Williams!

Well we would never have guessed that within the space of a few months we would publish interview with not only a luxury doggy day care centre, but also a cat nanny! Meet Alicia Williams, the Birkenhead based Mersey Cat Nanny!

Alicia offers a friendly and professional cat sitting service on the Wirral (But she will also catsit in Liverpool city centre on request too) She told us; ‘I have over 6 years’ experience and have 3 cats myself and to be honest I am cat crazy!’ Alicia is the woman to ring if you need help looking after your furry friends whilst you are away from home. ‘I will feed your cats, change their litter trays, play with them, groom them, let them out if you require and anything else!’ As well as this Alicia also provides home security, opening and closing curtains, and switching lights on and off to give the illusion that the owners are at home. As well as this Alicia will also take out bins, collect mail and water plants. 

Alicia and her cat Pumba
It’s been 6 months since Alicia launched Mersey Cat Nanny and prior to this she was working in childcare as a preschool teacher; ‘I went from kids to cats, so quite a change! I’d been wanting to start this business for quite a few years but I had been living in Ireland and as my husband’s job there wasn’t permanent it wasn’t the right time to start a new business’

When Alicia moved to Birkenhead she thought it was the perfect time to start Mersey Cat Nanny! ‘I went into Birkenhead Library and found a poster from The Women’s Organisation offering business start-up support so got in touch. I was set up with Claire Pedersen and that’s how it started.’ 

Alicia began working with Claire on her business plan and market research and took part in our training courses, learning about tax and national insurance and bookkeeping. It was when Alicia undertook her market research that she found out there was a real need for the service that she wanted to provide and this spurred her on and made her decision to start the business final. ‘It’s been fantastic working with Claire, she’s really helped me to understand the business side of things and it’s great to have this extra support that I can access.’ 

Honey, a customers of Alicia's!
Alicia is an individual who really relishes being self-employed and it suits her lifestyle perfectly. And she says herself, that as a woman who is incredibly passionate about cats 'This is my dream job!'

'I also like being by own boss. Even though I can’t call in sick because I have customers relying on me, it’s nice to know that I’m my own boss and I don’t have to answer to anybody.’

Another great part of Alicia’s business is the flexibility that it offers for both herself and her customers; ‘There are so many different options available in my business. I can do overnight stays, visit once a day or twice a day. Whatever the customer wants! It’s been proven that pets in general do much better staying at home rather than in kennels or catteries and I am really passionate about that.’ 

Although Alicia acknowledges what some might see as a downside to her business, she rarely sees her human customers and more face to face time is spent with the cats! ‘Some people might see it as a lonely business, but I’m quite happy with it like this. I’m not a hugely sociable person and have a few close friends whom I see. For me if I can be my own boss and make my own hours, it outweighs things like that.’ 

Twiglet the cat. Another customer!
So far Mersey Cat Nanny is going from strength to strength and Alicia is pleased and proud with what she has achieved over the past 6 months. She already has some fantastic testimonials. One customer Beth said; ‘I am so happy with Alicia! She has been cat sitting a couple of times a week whilst I’m at work. I love the daily updates and pictures that she sends me to reassure me that they are being well cared for. I feel happy and content that my 3 cats are being loved and well treated’

If you would like to find out more about Alicia’s services as the Mersey Cat Nanny you can do so by using the contact details below!

And if you’ve been inspired by Alicia’s story and would like our help and support starting your own business, then don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. Email us on or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Mobile Number: 07576 057555
Email Address: 

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Celebrating Those Who Changed It

Here at The Women’s Org we have just wrapped up our fourth and final Change It programme of the year. This blog will look at the feedback from our final project and fill you in about all that happened at our 2016 Change It Celebration.

Change It is an empowering programme for women living in Liverpool with a diagnosed mental health condition and who are looking for support to build a more positive future. Change It began in 2016 and ran four very successful projects across the year and we believed that this called for a Christmas celebration!

Trainer of 'Change It', Bernie Cox

Last week we hosted an event at 54 St James Street inviting all the women who attended our 2016 Change It courses for a chance to ‘catch up’ over a cup of tea and a mince pie, in true festive spirit. The event gave the participating women across all four courses a chance to meet each other, think about just how far they have come and look ahead to the future.

Also in attendance was guest speaker and 54 Tenant Steve Flatt from the Psychological Therapies Unit to deliver an interesting and thought-provoking discussion on positive thinking. Steve introduced us to Solution-Focused Practice which is a highly effective and refreshing way of approaching the job of having ‘helping conversations’ with people. Solution-Focused Practice focuses on what is going right for you and how you want things to be, a progressive therapy that allows you to move forward.

Steve Flatt from The Psychological Therapies Unit

Reflecting on the project and the impact it had, we asked the women what they thought had been the best thing about ‘Change It’, comments included:

 “No pressure to introduce myself”
“Thinking about my achievements”
“An all-female surrounding”
“Doesn’t focus on goals”
“Small group discussions”

We then asked what they felt they had successfully changed, comments included:

“I feel more assertive and confident”
“Reduced my anxiety”
“Self-worth has improved”
“More positive feelings and thinking”

Finally, we asked what difference it has made to their wellbeing, comments included:

“More confident”
“Given structure to my days”
“Made new friends”
“More confident”
“Encouraged me to purse formal education”
“Improved my self-esteem”
“Made me deal with everyday situations better”

Change It Certificate 
The event was a huge success and a great cause for celebration, putting into perspective just how far each ‘Change It’ attendee had come having officially Changed It.

A big thank you to Steve Flatt for providing such great food-for-thought with his expertise in Solution-Focused Practice. If you would like to find out more about The Psychological Therapies Unit and the services they offer, please visit  or email

If you are a female living in Liverpool with a diagnosed mental health condition and looking for support to building a positive future, our next Change It programme will commence on Wednesday 11th of January. If you would like to find out more, get in touch with our Engagement team on 0151 706 8111 or email

Women Gathered to Find Out How to 'Make Childcare Your Business'

On Thursday 1st December we held another brilliant session from our 'Make it Your Business' series, this time based on childcare – from independent childminder to nursery care. It was a perfect morning for anyone interested in childcare, whether considering a career change or currently studying 'Early Years’. As is our custom, refreshments started the day with pastry delicacies to get us motivated for the morning.  

Our guest speakers Saeeda & Sarah with Sabah from The WO

The event began with a brief introduction from Jo Austin, marketing and engagement coordinator, about The Women’s Organisation, the free services we provide to start-ups through the Enterprise Hub programme (part funded by European Regional Development Fund) and the support you can expect from us.

We were very lucky to have hosted Saeeda Aslam from 'Happy Children Nursery' and Sarah Higginson from ‘Liverpool City Council’, both experts in the field. First up Saeeda gave a brief introduction to the unique nursery she helped set up in L15. She shared her experiences, highlighting the challenges including managing turnover of staff and rewards of setting up a childcare business. Saeeda told us that childcare is a demanding yet a rewarding field as long as you are truly passionate.

Following this Sarah educated our attendees on the qualifications required and the legal aspects of setting up a childcare business. She also offered top tips of how to succeed in obtaining a registration from OFSTED. Reflecting on her own experience of running a nursery and then retraining in business to offer advice, Sarah advised that a good mix of knowing what you are doing in terms of childcare and building your business skills is a good mix if you are looking to go self-employed in this field.

Along with this, we held a question and answer session. This was a great opportunity for attendees to ask questions from our experts and find out a bit more. Thank you very much to both, our attendees really valued the tips you gave them!

After a quick break to grab another pastry, Sabah Shams, from the engagement team delivered the rest of the session. This included: a quick tour of the qualifications required to set up a business may that be childminding or nursery or after school club. Further, covering the legislation, insurance cover – basically everything you need to know! The most important message Sabah gave to our attendees was the significance of business planning and market research – as these really do determine the success of your business.

We had fantastic feedback and attendees thoroughly enjoyed the day. Below are some of the fabulous feedback we received:  

·        “Question answer sessions were really beneficial, really enjoyed the relaxed and informal session which was delivered in a professional friendly way. I have learnt really useful tips.”
·        “A really helpful session, coming away with more confidence and insight to setting up my own business.”
·        “So happy I attended this session today, made me think about lots of aspects of running a business.”

Do not worry if you missed out, we will be holding many other events next year – so be sure to keep an eye out!

An in the meantime if you would like to speak to one of our business advisers to look closely at your business idea on a one to one basis then contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or drop a line to

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

From The Television World To The World Of Healing, With Simply Angels Founder, Samantha Foley

Samantha Foley, a Plus Dane tenant from Halton made massive changes in her life after her daughter began school and decided to start her own business, doing what she had always been passionate about; healing others.

‘I have worked in television for 17 years on shows such as Hollyoaks, Brookside and Grange Hill as a Script Supervisor and also working with continuity. But once my daughter, Angel, started school, I found that filming 60 hours each week was very difficult!’

Samantha had always had an interest in different types of Holistic Therapies and it was at this time that she began to try and juggle both her television work and also her alternative therapies. ‘I began to train as a Script Supervisor back in 2001 and at the same time began to train in Reiki. I was finding both quite tough. But I was really encouraged by the reception from those that I worked with. I would be asked why I hadn’t started my own business and I realised that this was my calling and it was time for me to learn about how to start my own business.’

Simply Angels is Samantha’s all-encompassing business and she has many different types of Holistic treatments that she can offer including; Angelic Reiki, Ursui Reiki, Reflexology, Massage, Crystal Healing and Sound Therapy. And as well as all of this Samantha also teaches Yoga classes around her local area.

‘When I decided to start my business I was excited, scared and also clueless! I knew what I wanted to do but I wasn’t sure how to market myself as something a little bit different to your usual Holistic Therapist. My boyfriend pointed me in the direction of The Women’s Organisation and I went from there!’

Samantha met one of our Engagement Team at West Kirby library and was able to then arrange to meet our Halton based business adviser Mike Marsden at a location nearer to her home. Mike helped Samantha with her premises as the location that she had previously been in wasn’t attracting much passing trade and soon after Samantha moved to a local garden centre and hired a unit there. She was also able to continue having one to one meetings with Mike and attend training and courses with us to help develop her business.

'The advice from The Women’s Organisation is the best advice I’ve been given so far. It’s excellent and professional and it’s great to have that insight and see the potential for you as a business. Also the encouragement and kindness given by the advisors is priceless, that will stay with me forever.’

After launching her business, Simply Angels, Samantha is delighted to report; ‘It’s going really, really well!’ After working in television for many years she had a large network of people and a community that she could tell about the work that she was doing. Samantha told us; ‘It’s only the beginning of my journey but I feel really satisfied with the service I offer my clients. But there is so much more I would like to offer in the future! Whilst I’m building my foundations now I am like a little acorn and one day I hope to be a mighty oak!’

And self-employment is definitely the right choice for Samantha, as not only does it mean that she can now work around the school hours, but it also seems a great fit for her personality. ‘People who go into business alone are different, they have uniqueness and individuality. It’s an adrenaline rush, striving to get a decent income and fighting through the doubt. But believing in yourself is key!’

We wish Samantha all the best of luck with her business; Simply Angels! If you would like to find out more about the work that Samantha is doing you can use the contact details below!

If you’ve been inspired by Samantha’s story and would like some advice on how to start up your own business, then get in touch with us! Email us on or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Mobile Number: 07967634208

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Mindfulness Changed Nicola Forshaw's Life And Helped Her Start Her Own Business; Mindfit

Mindfulness has become something of a buzzword over the last few years, but very few people actually know what it is! Or the benefits that it can bring to your life. One woman who does is Nicola Forshaw, founder of Mindfit, a provider of Mindfulness and Emotional Intelligence training to schools, businesses and individuals.

Nicola says; ‘Mindfulness is a practice. It is a way of being. Mindfulness is not a religion, doesn’t take a lot of time and can be practiced anywhere, sitting on a bus, walking to work, at your desk, cooking at home or even socialising with your friends. Mindfulness is the practice of paying attention to your thoughts, emotions and body sensations in the present moment non-judgementally and with compassion.’

‘When we do this it allows us to create some space in the mind to respond skilfully rather than habitually. This can lead us to making wiser decisions. Mindfulness is a way of being that can help us to build up emotional intelligence skills such as resilience, focus and compassion for our self and others.’

At Mindfit, Nicola works with CEO’s, executive teams and staff to improve wellbeing, performance and company culture. She also works with schools, colleges and universities teaching both teachers and pupils mindfulness to improve their emotional wellbeing, focus and attention, teaching ‘how to live in the present moment’ and cultivate attitudes of positivity and kindness.

Prior to setting up her own business Nicola worked for 15 years in corporate sales and business development in telecommunications, advertising and sports marketing. But it wasn’t until 2008 that Nicola found mindfulness after she began meditating to help her cope with stress and depression that she was facing. ‘The practice was key in transforming my mind set, and my life!’ Ever since then Nicola has been studying meditation, personal development and mindfulness, and in 2010 she decided that she wanted a career change. ‘I had two objectives, it had to be something I was passionate about and it had to be something that would help others. Ironically, the idea came to me whilst meditating! I wanted to teach others how to find peace and happiness, which lead to me becoming an accredited mindfulness teacher.’

Nicola got in contact with her local growth hub broker The Women's Organisation and was directed to tailored business growth support through our programme; New Markets 2 and began working with Business Adviser; Janine Hyland. ‘ I benefited enormously from my one to one mentoring with Janine who has shown genuine interest in the growth of my business and has been brilliant to work with!’ Nicola worked with Janine and had one to one meetings as well as an away morning with her to help her plan her growth strategy.

For Nicola one of the biggest barriers when starting her business was the lack of start-up capital. To solve this problem Nicola decided to continue working full-time whilst she started her business simultaneously. ‘For the first couple of years I had to continue working whilst studying and practicing mindfulness during evenings and weekends. This was very tiring, especially with a young baby, thinking back it was such hard work but definitely worth it!’

Mindfulness in the workplace
Nicola has always juggled many different things and is dedicated to finding the perfect work/life balance. ‘I’m a working mum so I have to fit my business around my young daughter. So like most working mums there can be a lot of juggling. But when it’s your passion, it doesn’t feel like work!’ And even within the business Nicola admits that there are a lot of different areas to contend with; ‘There’s so much to think about when you’re running your business; marketing, social media, accounts, networking, business development – and that’s on top of the most important work of all which is the teaching!’ – But Nicola says that her own mindfulness practice has helped her enormously to cope and also achieve her goals, she sets aside 30-40 minutes each day for this.

Now Mindfit is going from strength. Nicola says; ‘We are working with national as well as local businesses and the number of clients we have has quadrupled since last year with 98% of the attendees rating our sessions as excellent! We are now working with larger groups, I recently taught a session at Liverpool Hope University that was attended by 140 people! I am excited about taking the business forward in 2017 and have lots of plans to continue to bring mindfulness and meditation to a wider audience and help people lead happier, healthier lives.’

If you would like to find out more about Mindfit, you can do so by using the contact details below!

Feb 2018 update...

Since working on the New Markets 2 Programme Nicola's business has continued to grow, seeing significant increase in her turnover, and building an impressive client portfolio.
Over the last 12 months Nicola has been implementing a mindfulness programme at Merseyside Police.  
Nicola told us "It's a great opportunity to work with an organisation under immense pressure to change mindset and culture in a positive way". 
Thanks to unbelievable feedback Nicola currently has a further 5 courses commissioned with Merseyside Police and she is finding waiting lists are often needed as the staff can see what a positive impact the programme is having.  
Nicola commented "As the police officers are learning how to let worry and tension go, they are not only improving their health and well being, but their productivity is increasing."
On the back of the success in Merseyside, Nicola is due to start working on a similar project with West Yorkshire Police, and is positive about the direction her business is going in.

And if you’ve been inspired by Nicola’s story and would like to find out how we can help you start or grow your business through our programmes part funded by European Regional Development Fund, then get in touch with us!  We operate as a broker for the local growth hub meaning we are available to give advice and guidance whatever stage your business. Email us on or ring us on 0151 706 8111


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Are You Ready To Grow? | Planning For Business Growth With Excelerate Labs

Planning is the key to success in any business. It’s sensible to review your performance on a regular basis and identify the most likely strategies so you can grow your business. Here are some of our tips on planning for business growth: 

Look Back to Look Forward
Study the past successes of your company and use this to create new ideas for future achievements. By regularly assessing your performance against the plan that you began with, you are more likely to reach your goals. By doing this you can highlight where and why you have gone astray. By choosing to reassess every three to six months, this will show direction and commitment to employees, customers and suppliers as well as keeping you focused

Look Around
Also study your competition, the trends of your target market, and economic trends to forecast your growth plan. Looking over the business plans of various other companies that have seen great recent success, both in your industry and in other industries, you can use their ideas as motivations to create your own strategy. 

Look Closely
When you are reviewing your business plan, it's important to be clear on how you will allocate your resources to make your strategy work. The business plan for growth should allocate sufficient resources to achieve it's goals. You should assess your companies efficiency in terms of employees abilities and adaptability, as well as your own. This will help you to realise what you can or cannot do without your current staff, and if you need to hire new staff, or hire your existing staff in with new skills or training. 

Look for Friends
Another good way to plan for business growth, is to collaborate with a business owner that has successfully expanded their business, as you are trying to do. Gaining advice from someone who has been in your position is invaluable. 

Is your business growing? The Women's Organisation would like to offer support and advice to those who's business is growing and accelerating...

Exclerate Labs is part funded by European Regional Development Fund and offers FREE business growth consultancy to businesses registered in Greater Manchester who are operating in a business to business sector and ready to grow.

Excelerate Labs expert Business Growth Advisers can support you with:

• Developing Growth Strategy

• Accessing Markets

• Building Strategic Sales & Marketing Plans

• Developing Effective Leadership

• Gaining Support with Financial Management, Procurement, Bids & Tenders

• Linking to Networks & Developing Strategic Partnerships

• Measuring & Understanding Corporate Social Responsibility

Or building your business in another way.

If you are interested in receiving support contact our team via