Thursday, October 26, 2017

Caz’s Kitchen Cooks Up Recipe For Success At Merseyside Independent Business Awards

Cake baker extraordinaire Caroline Hill can now add the title ‘award-winning’ to her menu of business achievements.

Caz’s Kitchen, in Waterloo’s St John’s Road, received the very first Special Judges’ Award in the latest Merseyside Independent Business Awards, organised by Liverpool law firm Morecrofts.

Caz was nominated in both the Retailer of the Year and Community Impact categories, but was presented with the inaugural Judges’ Award after the panel declared it was “unanimously impressed” by her business model.

They said: “For the first time we are introducing the Judges’ Award, which is for one outstanding candidate in the room. Judges on both panels were so taken with one finalist’s entry that they wanted to ensure they are given special recognition. Of this finalist, judges said they showed exceptional social value, demonstrated a great background and an inspiring and delightful business.”

For Caz, it was recognition of years of hard graft to realise her business dream, helped more recently by specialist coaching from The Women’s Organisation, which has supported thousands of female entrepreneurs across Liverpool and Manchester.

Caz admitted: “The judges’ award was better than winning the awards we were nominated for. We’re still a bit gob-smacked. It is the first award we have won.”

Photo Credit: Mark McNulty
Being part of, and supporting, the local community is paramount to Caz, who said: “We’re very aware of our support locally, but to be recognised at one of the most prestigious events on Merseyside is fantastic. It’s also great recognition for our locality, which is really important to us.”

Caz’s Kitchen opened for business in 2014 and is more than just a cake shop.

She and her team create exquisite cakes, desserts, tartes, tortes, cheesecakes and puddings, but her extensive range is also one of the healthiest you will find.

Quality and ethics are paramount. She favours butter over margarine due to the associated palm oils and trans fats, she doesn’t over-sweeten or frost her cakes, and flavours come from in-house roasted nuts, Belgian couverture chocolate and fruits from her allotment.

Caz has also developed a range of special treats, her Happy Healthy Yum lines which are gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, refined sugar-free treats designed to fill you up and satisfy with slow-releasing energy, and are a great way of providing essential vitamins and minerals.

She began her career with a degree in Food Science & Nutrition and worked in product development for most of the major retailers.

Photo Credit - Matt Wilkinson Photography
However, she became disillusioned: “When I started in product development I was developing 10 products over six months. By the end I was juggling 200 products with a three-week turnaround from concept to launch.”

She was also unhappy with the process: “I was developing healthy-eating products and would take out fat and sugar, but then would have to put in E numbers to replace the functionality they represented. In my opinion it’s healthier to just have a bit of butter.”
So, 10 years ago she decided to set up her own coffee shop and deli.

She approached The Women’s Organisation who advised her on a business plan.

But finding the perfect premises proved elusive, so, she split her time working for a Liverpool restaurant, and baking for friends and clients at home until she found her ideal location in St John’s Road in 2014.

Recently she returned to The Women’s Organisation’s St James Street headquarters to hone her business skills even more.

“A couple of years into my business I thought, where do I go from here? I asked The Women’s Organisation if there was any support for people who are a few years in, and they put me on the growth programme, New Markets 2.”

She said the programme helped her “grow up, rather than grow” and look at improving some systems and procedures with specialist help through members of the Women’s Organisation.

“When you first start up you have to do everything yourself, I feel one of the reasons I’ve done so well is that I haven’t shied away from things I wasn’t good at or didn’t like. You have to make yourself an expert in all aspects of your business – I was concreting a floor in the shop a few weeks ago.

“I’m now three years in and can afford a bit more help – it’s the time to hand some things over to the professionals as they can do aspects of my business better and faster than I ever could.

“The Women’s Organisation have helped facilitate improvements to my accountancy systems and website. For example, we have just launched an online system where people can order cakes through our website.

"My focus now is to get back to what I am good at and what I enjoy – that’s what I believe will push my business forward.”

The shop has built up a strong customer base of regulars popping in for tea and a slice of cake and has become an established part of the community, illustrated by one testimonial Caz received which read: “For about 2-3 years I have been coming to your wonderful cake shop and been buying raw vegan goodies. However, this week I am being admitted to a mental health ward to help with my eating disorder recovery.

“Although this may not seem like a positive message, it truly is meant to be, I may not have been strong enough to beat the voices on my own, but your cakes were a large part of my own trial at recovering.

“Your shop has such a positive vibe towards food and loving yourself. I go in there and I feel safe and happy, and there are almost no food places I ever felt like that, but you have managed to create a safe space, and for that I couldn’t thank you enough.”

Caz is also keen to expand her wholesale operation on the back of the growing appetite for her products: “Healthy for me is about proper wholefoods that don’t come from a manufactured packet. If you want a treat, have a real homemade piece of cake, not a ‘chemical’ cake from the supermarkets,” she said.

And she admitted: “When we opened we were the first in Liverpool to do the raw/vegan cakes. I believe if I had opened a shop just selling the healthy cakes three years ago I don’t think people would have come.”

She said people’s tastes have slowly changed: “A lot of regulars would not normally have tried that sort of thing, but they have now added them to their favourites’ list. I do feel that we have positively impacted a lot of people by providing an alternative to a normal cake.
“We don’t make nearly as much margin on the healthy cakes, but I feel that is my good deed to our community and I can afford to have my business model work like that as they sit alongside our standard lines.”

Her best sellers are traditional cakes like Victoria Sponge, but people also love the variety in her seasonal range: “At the moment we’re making things like Sticky Toffee Apple cake and Chocolate Gingerbread – and we’re baking our Christmas cakes now, too, so they are super-matured for the festive season.”

Looking to the future, Caz said: “I just want to keep doing what we are doing.

“We are looking to take on a few more contracts, but slowly, slowly. It’s important to me to ensure great quality and customer service to our existing customer base first.

“People have offered to fund another shop, but I would rather do something well, than take on the world.”

So, if you would like to visit Caz and try some of her cakes, and believe us, they are INCREDIBLE, you can find all of Caz's details over on her website and by following the links below.

And if you've been inspired by Caz's story and would like to find out how we can help you start or grow your business, get in touch with us! Email us on or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Email -  
Address - 47 St John's Road, Waterloo, Liverpool, L22 9QB

University Graduate Ellie Ruddy Turned Her Hobby Into A Business Success!

Graduating university and entering the job market can be an incredibly scary process! 

With increased intensity on finding the perfect job and making a good wage, long and complex interview processes and just trying to stay afloat, it isn’t easy for graduates leaving university to figure out what they want to do and the best way to do it.

That is possibly why the number of recent graduates choosing to start their own businesses, rather than become employees, has nearly doubled over the past 12 months, according to new research conducted by PeoplePerHour

Speaking to 670,000 freelancers and small business owners, they found the number of graduates registering as businesses within a year of finishing university had risen by 97% with a 94% increase on recent female graduates.

And 23-year-old, Ellie Ruddy is just one of those graduates who is taking the leap, jumping from university life to that of a business owner!

Wirral based Ellie started her business; The Mixing Bowl just a few months ago after graduating from University, where she studied Food and Consumer Studies, in June 2016.

Ellie told us; ‘The Mixing Bowl provides celebration cakes for all occasions! But we specialise in buttercream cakes, brownies and dessert platters, using only the best quality ingredients.’

After graduating from University and beginning to look at graduate jobs Ellie soon realised that she didn’t want to go down the traditional graduate path; ‘I decided whilst I was still young that I was going to pursue my passion for baking and turn my hobby into a career.’

Baking was a hobby that Ellie had done for years, baking with her grandmother when she was little and continuing to bake throughout secondary schools where she revealed her entrepreneurial talents early, selling cupcakes to teachers and providing her school with raffle prizes!

She continued down the path of everything food related and went on to undertake her degree in Food and Consumer Studies at University continuing to expand her wealth of knowledge and her passion for food, baking and cookery.

After graduating and once she had decided that she would like to set up her own business, Ellie’s next step was to get in touch with The Women’s Organisation, and it was in fact her own Mum that told her all about the support we offer!

‘My Mum actually runs her own business and had worked with The Women’s Organisation herself, so she put me in contact with them and I went for an initial meeting with Senior Business Adviser; Claire Pedersen. We then had weekly meetings and I attended all of the courses such as Planning for Success, Basic Bookkeeping, Understanding Tax and National Insurance and Building a Social Media Strategy.’

‘Although nervous I was very excited to get up and running!’

Ellie admits that it wasn’t all easy going and the main barrier that she faced was the daunting prospect of starting a business straight after leaving university, and not having any prior knowledge of business processes or skills.

‘But weekly meetings with Claire, access to all courses as well as templates and documents that are needed for running your own business, was so helpful! Without The Women’s Organisation, I don’t think my idea would have been anymore than just that!’

And how is The Mixing Bowl doing now? Ellie says that business is going well!

‘I’ve just finished a busy summer season of events and food festivals, so now I’m turning my attention towards my Christmas range alongside completing cake orders and attending my regular farmers markets!’

Ellie took a massive leap of faith, and bucked the trend of finding a job, instead choosing to start her own business! And she’s enjoying every single part of it but says; ‘The best thing about running my own business is being a part of people’s special occasions and receiving great feedback afterwards – That always puts a smile on my face!’

‘I’m really proud of what I’ve achieved over the last 12 months! Being a young business owner has been nerve wracking, but many other business owners that I have met along the way have been supportive and given me advice about moving forward.’

And what are Ellie’s hopes and plans for the future of The Mixing Bowl?

‘I’m excited to continue to grow my business and explore the different directions I can take it in. A shop is definitely my next goal!’

We’ll watch this space Ellie!

If you’d like to find out more about The Mixing Bowl, you can do so using the contact details below.

Email -
Phone Number - 07805 804342

And if you’d like support starting your own business, like Ellie then get in touch with us today! Email or ring us on 0151 706 8111

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Back On Track Are...On The Right Track With Excelerate Labs Support!

We just love getting reports from our Manchester Business Advisers and this latest case study about Back on Track is no different! Back on Track were supported by Business Adviser; Ameena Ahmed under our Manchester growth programme; Excelerate Labs and here’s what they have to say…

‘Back on Track is a Manchester charity that enables disadvantaged adults to make lasting positive changes in their lives.’

It was formed in 1977 and is based in Manchester’s Northern Quarter where they work with adults who are going through a process of recovery or rehabilitation, having been through problems with alcohol or drugs, offending, homelessness and mental health.

Sioban Pollitt, their Chief Executive and Services Manager said; ‘Our projects at Back on Track enable people to build the skills they need to lead meaningful and fulfilling lives.’
Ameena worked with Siobhan and also, Kate Downes, who is responsible for the development and direction of the café at Back on Track, as the organisation celebrated its 40th birthday!

Back on Track operates through delivering training courses either at their training centre or on outreach courses, it also offers clients volunteering opportunities and work experience. As well as this they have an amazing on site café; Swan Kitchens – which is staffed by volunteers and service users.

‘Back on Track is our in house café – staffed by those who are rebuilding their lives after problems with homelessness, substance misuse, mental health and offending. Swan Kitchen offers real work experience opportunities and a chance to explore a career in catering.’

Ameena worked with Back on Track to explore planning for a new food outlet in Manchester City Centre, building on the experience that they had with Swan Kitchens. She worked with them to produce a three year business plan that would specifically focus on this social enterprise project and fit into their wider plan as a charity too!

Siobhan and Kate hoped to create this food outlet which would target the health and wellbeing of shoppers and tourists in the city as well as becoming a trainer and employer to the adults that received support from Back on Track – A great plan for the growth of this business!

Siobhan told us; ‘The help we received from Ameena was fantastic! It enabled us to articulate our plans for our catering social enterprise. Already now we have implemented the first stage of our expansion by employing two catering assistants, both of whom have lived experience of some of the issues we address at Back on Track.’

So it’s great to see that the plans are in place for Siobhan, Kate and the rest of the team at Back on Track, to expand in the very near future!

If you’d like to find out more about Back on Track, you can do so by using the contact details below!

Phone Number: 0161 834 1661
And if you’d like to find out how we can support your Manchester based business – then get in touch with us today! For more information about the project please contact

The Women’s Organisation is proud to lead the way in innovative business growth support through our new programme 'Excelerate Labs'.  The programme open to men and women running a business in a B2B sector will enable businesses in Greater Manchester to innovate, diversify and grow creating new jobs.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Meet Our Not-So-New Team Member, Mandy Meaghan!

Mandy joined our team last November and we’ve only just managed to tie her down for a ‘Welcome to the Team’ blog. Mandy has been super busy delivering our Progress to Success programme in the community working out in Kensington, Fountains and Granby and helping the women of Liverpool to ‘Change It’. Mandy has made quite an impression on the office and has us laughing all day. She is definitely part of The Women's Organisation family, and if you haven't already met her, we'd like you to get to know her too.

What's your name and where are you from?

Amanda Louisa Meaghan and I am born and bred in Huyton Liverpool but have not lived there since I was 18 years old.

How did you find out about The Women's Organisation? 

I first met Maggie 21 years ago at Train 2000 when I was setting up my Health awareness through Comedy programs which ran for 14 years and yes a lot has happened since then.

I suppose if you are interested in Women focused initiatives in Liverpool or Merseyside then you are going to know about the WO so I always knew about what they did but had never had any direct dealings with them. Then a post came up for Women Development Training Officer and I applied and got the job.

What kind of things have you done prior to coming to the WO?

I set up a very successful Theatre In Health UK touring company called Alltalk Productions producing award winning health presentations using drama and comedy to highlight awareness of for cervical, breast and testicular cancers. I left the stage for a more quiet life and set up my own personal development training company running programs for the NHS, Community Organisations, Workers Educational, Adult Learning Services, Connexions and other public organisations. I have in-fact always worked for myself until my job here at the Women’s Org and after being here for eight months I absolutely love it here.

What has surprised you about working at the Women’s Org?

As a Training and Development Specialist I suppose what surprised me most was the different types of training I would be delivering from personal development teaching on the Change It program for women, to building a social media strategy for those women who are developing their own businesses. I also train Business planning, Be a more confident you and Start up business conferences. There is so much going on here it’s full of new ideas and initiatives and if you are a woman with a business idea then this is where it’s at. When you work for the Women’s Org you really do feel like you are part of the family they are just so nice.

Could you describe one of your workdays?

As my job is varied (as I like it) I can be chocker block on business training days generally starting at 8:30 am to plan the sessions which are generally full to the brim and on other days I can be delivering in the Change It course in the Children’s Centres, this is a personal development program that gives women the skills to change their lives and gain the confidence to become what they want to become. I love it.

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

Well when I was young about 15 years old I used to block ballet and tap dance and also I’ve had 102 driving lessons so hence I don’t have a car.

What do you do when you aren’t working?

As a mother of three kids (oldest is now travelling in Australia) I spend a lot of time bossing them about and sorting their lives out. I am a new fan of Game OF Thrones so lately I’ve been indulging in Box set mania. I love to swim and walk around Liverpool’s exceptional parks and am now considering a new physical activity …Salsa so watch this dance space. 

Thanks Mandy! We love having you here at The W.O. 

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

‘Just Leap!’ – How Emma Started Her Own Business; Sweet Pea & Little Wolf

Sweet Pea & Little Wolf – this business name conjures up all sorts of lovely images in your mind, and meeting Emma Purchase, you’d think just the same thing! Emma, the founder of Sweet Pea & Little Wolf, who recently gave an inspiring speech at our Summer Social Business Club, is just that – inspiring and a breath of fresh air!

Just look at how she describes her business!

‘Sweet Pea brings the delicious range of herbal tea, Little Wolf brings the neat range of wanderlust themed enamel mugs, clothing and accessories. Together they make the ultimate team.’
Emma and her girls! 
But we all know being self-employed and running your own business is A LOT of hard work, but for Emma she faced challenges, some bigger than other head on, and her story of how she set up Sweet Pea & Little Wolf, is a truly motivational one!

Emma told us; ‘I decided to start up my own business for a few reasons. I am a single mother to 4 beautiful strong girls, and I have a need to show them that with a lot of determination and hard work you can achieve something amazing! And I also needed to be more financially independent and this is one of the reasons that spurs me on when I’m working away into the early hours!’

Some of Emma's lovely stock! 
But there were other even deeper reasons which motivated Emma to start her own business. When her Father became ill with Motor Neurone Disease she felt even more motivated; ‘It really did shock me into realising that time is very limited!’ And she came up with some rules for herself;

‘You have to use your time sensibility, push boundaries, get outside your comfort zone and take risks!’

And take risks she did! For Emma even setting up her business was a big risk! And she told us; ‘One of my big struggles was having absolutely no capital. None! I’m a single mum and a student, so I had to think smart, use the resources that I did have and work harder than most, never giving up!’
Emma's clothing modelled
These challenges lead to Emma getting in touch with The Women’s Organisation where she was paired up with Senior Business Adviser; Claire Pedersen, and she had some lovely things to say about the work she did with Claire!

‘For every no I got from every other avenue, Claire said yes! She said ‘Yes, we can do this, there has to be away around this’ I now consider Claire a friend and her support and advice has been priceless. It was so nerve racking trying to always push forward, but having Claire’s support was amazing.’

So, whilst working alongside The Women’s Organisation, Emma was continually striving to build her business more and more, and her tenacity and determination is unparalleled, facing all barriers head on! 

Emma told us; ‘One problem I found was not having a car, so I usually try and hump most of my bags and stock on the bus which is quite comical! And I’ll walk for miles with my stock to save money too!’

More of some of Emma's lovely gifts
Now things are going well with her business, and Emma is able to rent out spaces in four different shops to sell her stock in! (Gifts For Me & You, Practical Magic Vintage, Red Brick Vintage and Siren) and spend her days doing what she loves!

Emma told us; ‘The best thing about starting up my own business is being a bit more in control of my time so I can spend it with my daughters! Also, it’s about having that pride in my work, when I see someone wearing my t-shirt, it is so rewarding!’

AND – What advice can she offer anyone else who is thinking about taking a leap, and starting their own business?

‘Just make the start! We all put things off. Sometimes we are too scared to make the first step, but seriously…Life is way too short – Just leap!’

You heard Emma…Just leap!

And if you’d like extra support taking the leap, we are here to help you! If you’d like to access our advice and training for starting your own business then email us on or ring us on 0151 706 8111

We Are Proud To Be A Disability Confident Employer!

This week we are delighted to announce that The Women’s Organisation has been awarded the Disability Confident Employer Award, and we wanted to take a little bit of time to tell you all about this important scheme…

The Disability Confident Employer scheme is helping thousands of employees across the United Kingdom, and is designed to help employers recruit and retain disabled people and people with health conditions for their skills and talents, and they say; ‘Being Disability Confident could help you discover someone your business just can’t do without.’

We 100% agree with this sentiment, and are proud to have been awarded this certification. Diversity and inclusivity is at the heart of The Women’s Organisation vision and values and we work hard to input these into our everyday working life and culture.

Through the Disability Confident scheme, thousands of employers are…

Challenging attitudes towards disability

Increasing understanding of disability

Removing barriers to disabled people and those with long-term health conditions

Ensuring that disabled people have the opportunities to fulfil their potential and realise their aspirations

So as a Disability Confident Employer we have…

Undertaken and successfully completed a Disability Confident self-assessment

Are taking all of the core actions to be a Disability Confident employer

Are offering at least one activity to get the right people for our business and at least one activity to keep and develop our people

IF you’d like to find out more about this scheme as an employer and employee – then you can do so here! We are proud to be a Disability Confident employer and we are always looking for ways to continue developing our core values of diversity and inclusivity.