Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Civil Society Involvement launches to improve third sector access to European funds

Civil Society Involvement (CSI) will work to help third sector organisations access European Funding ahead of Brexit and to shape future legacy funds.

Led by The Women's Organisation, the new programme has launched to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations across England access European funding for the remaining 2014-2020 programme. The project will also work to influence the shape of future legacy funds post-Brexit, including the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

CSI will work with the third sector to understand the issues within the current European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) programme, which are preventing organisations from accessing the funds.

These findings will be communicated through skilled representation on the national Growth Programme Board and its nine national sub-committees, meaning that the voice of the sector will be heard at a national level.

The dedicated team of CSI representatives include the Vice Chair of the Social Audit Network, Anne Lythgoe, the CEO of The Women’s Organisation, Maggie O’Carroll, and Deputy CEO of the Workers’ Educational Association, Joanna Cain. Representation will also come from Citizens Advice Halton, The National Trust, as well as Network for Europe and VONNE.

A new website launched this month which will act as a vital resource for those wanting to find out more about accessing funding and will also enable colleagues to contact the relevant representatives on the Growth Programme Board.

The CSI team are calling for third sector support organisations to share the resource with colleagues from across the sector. Those wanting to be kept up-to-date with current funding calls and industry news are also been encouraged to sign up to the CSI newsletter.

Helen Millne, Deputy CEO of
The Women's Organisation
Helen Millne, Deputy CEO of The Women’s Organisation, the lead partner of the CSI project, says: “Navigating European funding can be a very complicated and time-consuming process, which can turn many organisations off from the possibilities. We want to make sure that those working in the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector are able to access European funds and make it work for their projects.

“There is still plenty of opportunity to access this pot of European money before the programme comes to an end in 2020. We would encourage anyone working within the third sector to engage with the CSI project, either by sharing your experiences with us to help shape future funds post Brexit, or by signing up to our newsletter to be kept in the loop about the remaining programme”.

The CSI project is receiving funding from the European Social Fund, as part of the 2014-2020 European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme in England, and will run until December 2020

The project is led by Liverpool-based charity, The Women’s Organisation, with the Workers Educational Association (WEA) and Citizens’ Advice Halton working as project partners.

If you would like to find out more about how Civil Society Involvement can help you, please contact info@civilscoietyinvolvement.com. To receive updates from the project and latest news on European Funding, you can join our mailing list via www.civilsocietyinvolvement.com.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Julie Ann Gillespie Joins The Women’s Organisation Board

We are delighted to announce that Julie Ann Gillespie, Relationships Director at HSBC Commercial Banking, has joined our board.

Julie has over 20 years’ experience in various banking roles working at Lloyds, Halifax and HSBC. She was also Chair of Trustees for a North Wales-based charity, Domestic Abuse Safety Unit (DASU), supporting survivors of domestic abuse.

Julie is incredibly passionate about empowering women and we're delighted that she's joined our team.

We sat down with Julie to find out more on why she wanted to be part of The Women’s Organisation and her plans moving forward. Take a read ..

What made you want to join The Women’s Organisation’s board?

You could say, in short, it’s a topic I am passionate about.  My Mum was a strong female role model, juggling work, an education and young children.  I remember sitting at the back of one of her lectures in the early eighties at a very young age!

Being one of 4 daughters provides insight into the many challenges women overcome at different stages of their lives. I’ve observed how education, access to support and a helping hand when things aren’t going so well can be vital ‘enablers’ to empower women, to make positive changes to their lives and where relevant, the lives of their children.

Having worked as a Trustee in the domestic abuse sector for many years, I’m proud to have recently joined The Women’s Organisation and I’m sure my previous experience in the third sector and during my 20 years in banking/the private sector can be put to use to help push forward our agenda.

How do our values around women’s economic empowerment align with your own?

Completely - the role that Maggie and her team play in driving hard the agenda to improve the economic position of women and people from deprived communities is critical to the wider economic success of the Liverpool City region.

They do a fantastic job of voicing what would otherwise be left unheard due to the absence of diversity in many public and private sector organisations. The business case evidences the value inclusion and diversity brings, so for an economy thrive, we must make opportunities accessible for all. This means minimising the barriers that slow down such progress.  Regardless of the economic benefits, it is the right thing to do.

From your skills and experience, what will you bring to the organisation?

I have 20 years experience working in large private organisations, across all manner of roles and functions. I’ve worked (unpaid) in the not for profit sector and I’m an avid reader. Having graduated with a first class honours degree in business only 6 years ago I consider this knowledge fairly fresh and would class strategy and people a particular strength.  Being a mum, sister, friend, daughter and also having worked in a heavily male dominated environments, I’m reasonably informed and use personal experience to add insight, add value and of course, opinion.

What are you most excited about?

The last 24 months has been very eventful; the press regarding equal pay, #metoo movement, exposures on unacceptable practices. I am therefore most excited about what’s yet to unfold and being part of the change I want to see.  As Maya Angelou would have said, ‘all great achievements take time!’

Andrea's Story: "It was very exciting discovering the change in myself step by step"

When Andrea was recommended 'Change it: Progress to Success' by The Women's Organisation's Engagement Team member Sabah, her first thought was 'How does she know that I really need it?' After moving to Liverpool and losing her way, she decided to give it a try. 

"I have been in Liverpool for five years and somehow became completely lost. My partner got a job here, his dream job, and it was time to follow his aspirations (the previous ten years were about my passions). However, as a Hungarian journalist I didn’t know what was next for me. I still kept writing articles about my experiences, great and amusing British traditions and other cultural topics in my mother tongue, although the time and distance worked against me. My previous network was thinning out and I couldn’t find my new place.

This course promised a lot, identification of the positive achievements in my life and setting achievable targets on my action plan for example. I wondered how they would be able to do so, because my clouds lost their silver lining completely…

It started with a kind of magic. I never knew how difficult it could be to find positive adjectives (relating to myself) with the letters of my name. Or at all, at that time. Finally, I found six words which felt mine, and a journey started on which the brilliant and understanding Victoria guided us. We learnt a great deal about ourselves and more crucially about each other, that we are not alone with our struggles. We came to comprehend the importance of change, and more importantly how to appreciate it, and studied assertiveness, what is a very useful skill in an impatient and (passive) aggressive world.

It was very exciting discovering the change in myself step by step, to see the world through a different filter. Somehow everything got a warmer shade, just like when the sun suddenly shines through the clouds. However, the biggest surprise came after the third week, when I got my first ever English blog entry published. Honestly, it is a big deal for me, who thought that I just had to let my ‘writing thingy’ go…

Without the Change It program I would never have the courage to offer my writing skills in English, but by now I have learnt my favourite lesson: there is no such a thing like fail, it is only an abbreviation for First Attempt In Learning. Valuable message for a perfectionist. And the best part, they asked me for some more articles.

I have to thank Victoria Hart, Sabah Shams and Cynthia Bosafola (my business advisor), who introduced me and led me on my journey. I still have a lot to do, but now I am less afraid than how excited I am. All in all, I recommend this course for anyone and everyone who ever felt being under a bad spell or simply curious about themselves. Have I mentioned that it is fun too?"

Thanks very much to Andrea for sharing her story, we wish you all the best for the future

We have new dates available for Change it!

54 St James Street - Monday 14th January 2018, 10-3 (4 Sessions)

Wavertree Childrens's Centre - Tuesday 15th January 2018, 12:30-15:30 (5 Sessions)

Kensington Childrens Centre - Wednesday 16th January, 1-3 (8 Sessions with half term break in February)

Speke Childrens Centre - Thursday 17th January 2018, 9:15-12:15 (5 Sessions)

Belle Vale Childrens Centre - Thursday 24th January, 1-3 (8 Sessions)

If you’d like to find out more information about the programme or book a place, contact us on 0151 706 8111 or hello@thewo.org.uk and find out how we can support you.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Finding the best care for your child

In this post Anna Hampson, Director of Little Foxes, a family run childcare and education group of nurseries since 1996, addresses the dilemma faced by many parents who wish to find the right childcare for their young child but are confused by the myriad of choices available. 

Besides running a successful early years business, as a mother Anna also has first-hand experience of the pressure that today’s working parents are under to be successful professionals and perfect parents! Read Anna’s post below to find out more:

Many of you who confidently manage your own business, may be surprised to find the process of choosing the right care for your child is a challenge. Suddenly a child, rather than your business, is at the centre of your universe. You know your business inside out but how do you give yourself the peace of mind by ensuring that your child is cared for and enabled to learn and develop in your absence?

What are the range of options that are available to you? 

Choosing the right care for your young child takes time and energy but you also need to be armed with as much knowledge as you can about the options available to you. Therefore, it is important for you to know what quality early years provision really looks like, whether in someone else’s home, your home or a day care setting.

What is good quality early years provision?

When choosing a childcare provider, the best way is to visit potential options more than once before making your decision. You may need to make an appointment if you are visiting a nursery as they should work on an adult to child ratio basis and it may not be possible for a member of staff to leave the children to show you around.

There may be some areas of the setting that you cannot see whilst the children are there such as toilet/nappy changing facilities (a child may be having their nappy changed at this time and a good setting will want to protect children’s privacy during this time) or the sleep area where children sleeping need the privacy to rest.

Whilst good quality early learning should take place in an organised environment, it will sometimes be messy because your child can learn by covering their hands in paint, from dressing up in adult clothes, creating structures from cardboard boxes and drawing on large sheets of paper on the floor.

If you go outside, the space might not look like a playground with a range of brightly coloured plastic slides and swings. Instead you should see lots of natural areas where children can explore, make dens, socialise, solve problems, grow vegetables and even play in a mud kitchen.

Such provision will have a range of resources for children to choose from that are challenging and tactile, encouraging them to explore on their own and with other children, always supported by experienced adults.

There will be places for children to enjoy books, use technology, mark make and use a range of materials such as paint, clay, wood and fabric. Of course, you will see children using iPads and other devices but most young children already have a range of exposure to technology in their lives and any setting will ensure that technology is used only to enhance each child’s learning experiences.

You will hopefully see a range of children’s learning documented on the walls throughout the setting with examples of their work or activity engaged in, photos of the process, their comments recorded by themselves or an adult and the next stages of their learning indicated. Finally, you will want to see adults who are respectful of each child and appear to really enjoy their work.

By choosing a setting that has a range of these play experiences both indoors and outdoors, your child will start to develop the skills they will need in an increasingly challenging world including resilience, the confidence to take risks and of course to build relationships.

Communication is key

When at work you need to be able to also feel connected to your child and know about their day. Providers use different ways to communicate with parents, but it is important to feel informed and have a good bond with your child’s key worker.

At Little Foxes we use Parentzone, and a Facebook page to keep families up to date with nursery life on a daily basis. Parentzone gives a personal insight to individual children’s learning and development whilst at nursery. It is also updated daily with their routine of the day, so you can check in with their meals, sleeps and nappy changes. Parents can post pictures, like and comment on posts which all formulate their child’s learning journal. It also offers up to date account information.

Facebook posts offer daily updates for parents that frequently use social media, an insight to what is happening on a daily basis. Both Parentzone and Facebook are used by Little Foxes because we have carried out research with families that concluded that parents tend to look at Parentzone in the evening when they have more time, yet they are likely to peruse Facebook whilst they have a few minutes throughout the day.

Settling children in

High quality providers of child care will want to work closely in partnership with you to settle your child in to the setting. Settling your child should be a priority and key to ensuring your child will have a happy time during their stay. At Little Foxes we urge families to attend 6 hours settling in sessions so your family can build a relationship with our team. Further settling in sessions will be encouraged at no extra charge for children who struggle with the transition to nursery. Our priority is that the whole family feels part of the nursery community.

At Little Foxes we are also keen to help families who need flexible childcare and we encourage parents who want to increase or change their child’s sessions to discuss flexible options with us.

Childcare funding information 

There is 15 hours of term time only funding that is available to some families for 2-year olds. Contact your local council to check if you are eligible as so many children are missing out on what they are entitled to.

All 3-year olds are entitled to 15 hours funded sessions. Some parents are eligible for 30 hours if they work more than 16 hours and earn less than £100,000 per year. Funding is only available for 38 weeks per year so if you intend to work all year round discuss these options with your childcare provider.

At Little Foxes we do not have a restriction on the number of 30 hour funded places we offer although some providers do.

Check out www.gov.uk/help-with-childcare-costs/free-childcare-and-education-for-2-to-4-year-olds for the most up to date information about funding.

The tax-free childcare voucher options are also a great help for parents in managing costs.

What are the key questions that you should ask?  

Prepare all the questions you would like to ask beforehand as when you visit the setting you can often go ‘mind blank’ and forget to ask one of your key questions.

Don’t be afraid to make notes, ask for clarification or to further explore answers that you may receive. Ensure that you don’t take any photos when you are visiting the setting as this will be seen as a breach of the children’s safety.
You should also ask for access to the setting’s latest Ofsted report.

Here are some key questions for you to consider:

1. What are the qualifications of the adults in the setting? 

You will want to ensure that the adults have level 3 qualifications/degrees and a range of experience.

2. How do you retain your staff? 

You want to know that the staff are valued and receive a range of professional learning.

3. How will you ensure that my child settles in to the nursery? 

You will want to know that each child has a key person who will communicate directly with, lead your child’s care routines and observations of learning.

4. What will my child eat and drink and how will they sleep?

If the setting is providing food you will want to know that it is balanced and nutritious and that you will be able to see menus in advance. If you provide their food ensure that you are given the expected guidelines for contents, including allergies etc (all settings will ask that no food a child brings in has nuts or traces of nuts). You will want to know that your child has an individual sleep routine in a calm area where they have individual bedding and familiar object such as comforters or a soft toy as needed.

5. How will I know what my child is learning?

You will want to know that the setting is working within the Early Years Foundation Stage Framework (EYFS) and offers a play-based approach to learning. You will want this communicated to you through an ongoing online platform or a regular Learning Journal that documents all aspects of their learning through the observations made by the adults in the setting.

You can find more information about the EYFS by clicking the link below

6. How will you keep my child safe?

You will want to know that

  • the setting has a robust Safeguarding Framework that is readily available to everybody
  • that all staff working in the setting, have criminal record checks and, whatever their role, receive regular safeguarding training
  • that your child is only picked up by an adult who is approved by you and that there are procedures in place for this
  • that all visitors are identified and accompanied when on the premises
  • that children are protected from social media and that there is clear guidance for both employees, parents and visitors in the use of images and social media.
  • that children are guided from a young age in how to keep themselves safe and in the importance of digital safety
  • that clear procedures are in place to keep your child safe if they make any visits outside of the setting

Little Foxes is a family run business established in 1996 that has grown from 4 employees to 50. We offer childcare, out of school and holiday clubs for 0-12-year olds across the North West with sites in Maghull, Wigan, Garston and Newton le Willows. 

Little Foxes has recently launched our Little Foxes Little Learners Academy with sessions that we run daily for young children with a play-based approach. Parents can attend these sessions to start to build the first steps in learning through play and meeting new friends. We offer a variety of classes from 5 alive sensory time a fun sensory class for babies under 1, to Curious Cubs a chance for children to explore the great outdoors with fun activities available, to Little Yogis try some baby yoga with your Little ones to help them with digestion and physical development and many more available. Click to have a look what we have with times and prices.

The Little Foxes ethos is for children to have access to natural and unlimited play experiences. 
As parents and business owners we understand that families need support, flexibility and the knowledge that their child is happy and stimulated. Please visit us at http://www.little-foxes-nursery.co.uk/

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

‘Concept Corner’ Creates a Home for Wirral’s Artists and Artisans

Shopping local this Christmas has never been easier. Found in New Brighton, Concept Corner is home to a number of local independent businesses led by artists and artisans. Under this roof, you’ll discover an eclectic mix of luxury homemade jams and fudges to bespoke real wood plaques and vegan candles.

Hayley Matthews is the mastermind behind this new unique concept of high street store. After a lengthy career in the police force, Hayley was faced with redundancy and took the opportunity for a new beginning: “I was a police officer for 26 years and the job started to take its toll. I have children at home and I decided that the lifestyle that comes with being a police officer wasn’t for me anymore.”

After speaking to local creatives across Wirral, Hayley decided that area needed a space for makers to showcase their work. She dreamed of creating a supportive environment for quality local independent artists and artisans to trade and grow together under one roof in the heart of New Brighton.

With 25 years in the public service, Hayley didn’t know the first thing about starting a business: “as a police officer, I may be able to oversee football fans up and down the country, but writing a business plan felt like a whole different game – I didn’t know where to start!” 

Hayley sought business advice from The Women’s Organisation where she was supported under Enterprise Hub business start-up programme to begin working with Senior Business Adviser, Claire Pedersen. Claire helped Hayley create a business plan and apply for funding which would allow her to purchase a building in New Brighton to home Concept Corner – a big ask for a newly established business.

On supporting the campaign to ‘shop local’, Hayley said: “We have tried to create a welcoming space where there is something for everyone.  I think people are slowly going back to shopping local and appreciating the time and care independent artists put into their designs.”

Concept Corner currently has over 20 independent businesses working out of the space and has now expanded to deliver workshops. The shop boasts a busy diary offering everything from How to Boost Your Teenagers Confidence, Enhance your photography skills, Basic Sewing, Crochet and various upholstery Courses through to a yoga class for beginners and even business and marketing concepts.

Hayley is a Wirral-proud woman with a vested interest in supporting the local economy of New Brighton, Wirral’s seaside resort which has undergone a £60 million redevelopment scheme in more recent times. Hayley said: “I’m really proud to be based in New Brighton. It’s very cosmopolitan – you can feel the buzz in the area and the footfall coming through. When you shop at Concept Corner, it goes straight back into the local economy and that’s important for me.” 

Recognising the difficulties older people face in getting out to complete their Christmas shopping, Concept Corner now takes its art to the community running craft fairs and coffee mornings across Wirral making sure art is accessible for everyone.

And to mark a year of success, Hayley was awarded ‘Retail Business of the Year’ at The Women’s Organisation’s awards, Celebrating Enterprising Women. Nearly a year into her new business, Hayley said: “I love the building, the concept of the shop and meeting new people every day. I really believe in what I’m trying to do. I feel so proud coming to work every day. The shop is exactly how I envisioned it when I met with my business adviser all those months ago.”

To find out more about Concept Corner, head to the website or Facebook page.

If you’re thinking about starting a business, contact The Women’s Organisation on 0151 706 8111 or hello@thewo.org.uk to find out how we can support you.

Monday, November 26, 2018

LCR 4.0 supports almost 200 SMEs and creates over 20 jobs since launching two years ago

Business support programme LCR 4.0 has helped 197 SMEs in the manufacturing space and created over 22 new high value jobs across Liverpool City Region, since launching two years ago.

LCR 4.0 – which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) – enables manufacturers and SME’s to explore the opportunities and challenges of Industry 4.0 (4IR) technologies, such as big data, systems integration, Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR).

More than a quarter of companies supported through the programme have been startups, surpassing the target of 41 with a further 10 months to go until the project comes to an end.

Dr Andy Levers, technical director at the Virtual Engineering Centre and LCR 4.0 lead, said: “LCR 4.0 has helped a raft of start-ups across Liverpool City Region increase productivity, reduce costs, and pioneer first-of-its-kind innovations.”

For the second year running, systems integration has been identified as the most popular technology amongst manufacturers, with 26 per cent deploying it through LCR 4.0. Systems integration enables businesses to combine digital and physical assets to increase connectivity, ensuring that maximum value is achieved in the manufacturing process.

The project has seen 24 per cent of businesses combining 4IR technologies, such as AR and simulation equipment, to increase efficiencies and assess production challenges. A total of 13 new products have gone to market over the past two years, and an additional 36 new products have been introduced to firms.

LCR 4.0 provides fully-funded support to SMEs within Liverpool City Region, which includes Halton, Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, Knowsley and St Helens. The project is now calling for more sub-regional businesses to get in touch to find out how they can benefit from LCR 4.0 before it ends next year.

“It’s vital that traditional manufacturers across the city region are aware of industry 4.0 technologies, so they can reap these benefits and stay ahead one step ahead of their competitors. That’s where LCR 4.0 comes in,” Andy Levers continued.

The LCR 4.0 programme was hailed an ‘exemplar project’ by last year’s Made Smarter report, helping to shape the Made Smarter Pilot. The £20 million initiative – designed to embed advanced digital technology across the North West’s manufacturing sector - was launched at Digital Manufacturing Week , which brought together 6,000 manufacturing executives to the Liverpool City Region.

Simon Reid, Head of Advanced Manufacturing at the Liverpool City Region Liverpool Enterprise Partnership, said: “The work that we’ve seen from the LCR 4.0 programme to date is extremely encouraging. It proves that there is more awareness, and integration, of emerging technology in the SME community.

With the Made Smarter Pilot up and running as a vital part of the government’s Industrial Strategy, we’re now calling for more businesses to get involved with the LCR 4.0 programme to take advantage of the support on offer, before the project ends in September 2019.”

LCR 4.0 is delivered in partnership by the University of Liverpools Virtual Engineering Centre (VEC), Liverpool John Moores University, Sensor City, STFC Hartree Centre and the Liverpool City Region LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership).

If you want to find out how LCR 4.0 can help your business, get in touch via its website: http://lcr4.uk.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Ensure your startup survives - write a successful business plan

The following is a guest blog written by Emily Wilson: 

Writing a well-thought out business plan is an essential step for any startup. It’s a crucial strategic document that will help you to transform your business idea into practice – and an opportunity to think about every aspect of your business. It’s a way to articulate your vision and demonstrate your credentials to investors, shareholders, suppliers and staff members. It’s also a document that you, the business owner, can continually refer back to, to ensure you’re staying on course, whilst also adapting it to meet your changing circumstances.

Academic research shows having a business plan can double your chances of success. However, many start-ups and established businesses neglect this undertaking, instead heading straight into operations without a plan to guide them. “Perhaps they’re scared by shows like the Apprentice, where the business plan is this huge weighty document, ripped apart by Lord Sugar and his interview team,” says Darren Nicholls, Product Manager of business advice website, Informi.

Sure, a business plan is important but don’t worry too much about what it looks like, it’s what it means to you. “If you’re passionate about your business venture, a lot of the content should come naturally,” adds Darren. “The dreaded numbers bit should flow a lot easier once you’ve spent a bit of time formulating your idea, outlining your vision and demonstrating your tactics.”


The first section of your business plan should articulate what the business will actually do. A neat way to do this is to present your ‘elevator pitch’. This should be a concise and memorable overview of your business idea that is simple to understand and compelling. Your pitch should aim to answer these three fundamental questions:
  1. What problem do you solve?
  2. How are you different? 
  3. Why are you the right persona to solve this problem? 
Getting an answer to these questions written down and sharpened into a compelling elevator pitch will help you focus on the finer details of your business plan. (And, of course, comes in handy if you find yourself stuck in an elevator explaining what you do!)


Before you can go into the finer details of your business plan in the next section, it helps to strengthen your idea with supporting research. This can incorporate a whole host of considerations but should say to the reader that you understand the external landscape and the business you’re launching. To do this, you might include the following:
  • Market research – what is the appetite for your product or service?  
  • Competitor research – who are you competitors and what are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • Economic data – what do you need to consider in terms of the national and local economy?
  • Trends – are there changing consumer habits that you can capitalise on?

Now it’s time to go into the finer details of how you’re going to execute your idea. The research you’ve presented in the last section should feed into the logistics and tactics behind your business idea.

This section should include information on:
  • the products and services that you intend to offer
  • your costs and profit margins
  • your business operations – where you’ll be based, staff, launch dates etc.
These are probably the most important details you’ll need to include in this section but you can go into more detail and cover things like marketing, suppliers and equipment if you wish. Remember, the more robust your business plan, the more useful it will be to you.


One of the last sections is to outline how the business will be set up and your financial requirements and projections. Unsurprisingly, this is a really important part of the business plan as it will significantly impact on the day-to-day running of your business.
  • The proposed structure of your business. One of the biggest early decisions you’ll take is whether you set up as a sole trader, partnership or limited company. This decision will have various tax and accounting implications amongst other things. You’ll also want to factor in the equipment you’ll need, IT, and staffing roles (if any).
  • The financial plans for your business. Probably the most detailed requirements of a business plan, this should include details of your initial startup costs, projected sales and cash flow forecasts.   


Everything you’ve detailed so far should lead you nicely to the final section: the bit where you outline how you intend to fund your business. At this point, you’ll have a good idea how much money you’re going to need to launch and your operating costs, plus how much revenue you expect to generate. You’ll explain how you, the owner, intend to source your funds. For example, this might be through personal savings or a loan from family and friends. If you’re seeking funding from investors you’ll set out the possible sources of those funds, for example, grants, bank loans, or bringing in additional shareholders.

One section we’ve left out but you might want to include is a section outlining your experience and qualifications. This can be important if you’re using your business plan to seek investment, as it will reassure investors that you have the right attributes to make the business a success.

Before we leave you, here are some common sense tips that will increase your chances of writing a successful business plan. 
  • Don’t do it all in one go. Instead tackle it in chunks, one section at a time.  
  • Don’t assume. Provide context and assume the reader knows nothing about your venture or industry.  
  • Avoid jargon. Just because it’s a business document it doesn’t mean you can’t use everyday language. 
  • Get help. Don’t just keep it to yourself, gather feedback from friends and family – and get them to proofread it for typos! 
  • Be professional. It doesn’t have to be an elaborately designed document but it should be formatted in an engaging and accessible way. Maybe avoid Comic Sans! 
Still Struggling?

When starting your business, there are many supporting organisations available that are in place to assist you throughout the start-up phase and beyond. Gaining support from these external organisations and charities will prove to be invaluable throughout your start-up phase as you will be able to utilise their expertise and services to help you create your business plan and assist with your organisations next steps.

When you ask your professional network for advice with your business, you’re actually expanding your network. You’re either interacting with new people or strengthening existing relationships. Furthermore, knowing that someone else is willing to take the time to help your business out can heighten your sense of purpose and give you the drive to keep pushing through.

If you live in the Liverpool City Region and are thinking about starting a business and need help putting together a business plan, contact us on hello@thewo.org.uk or 0151 706 8111 and discover what support is available to you. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

How bringing a new approach to the table supercharged business growth for Willows Financial Planning

Since leaving the fast-paced world of banking to set up his own financial advice service, Jonathan Causey hasn’t looked back. We worked with Jonathan under our New Markets 2 programme to set Willows Financial Planning on the path to business growth.

We sat down with Jonathan to find out how business is going and why surrounding himself with mentors has been key to his success.

Willows Financial Planning is an independent financial advice service modelled around good old-fashioned honesty. “Bespoke, honest, personalised service that always puts the client first, no matter what”, that’s what director Jonathan Causey says makes his business unique.

Having worked for some of the UK’s biggest banks for several years, Jonathan was growing tired of big corporates in an unrelenting industry. When he was made redundant in 2016 (along with 250 other colleagues), the time seemed right to set up his own business.

Using his own savings, Jonathan took the plunge and Willows Financial Planning Ltd was born. Adjusting from regular monthly pay cheques, to putting all his time, money and energy into making a self-sustaining business was one of the biggest challenges for Jonathan. But all a challenge that has all been worth it.

Today, Jonathan is responsible for over £12 million of client money.

The last two years has certainly seen an impressive level of growth for Willows Financial Planning and this can be put down to Jonathan’s stellar work ethic, staunch values and watertight business planning.

Working with our expert advisor Francine Taylor under the business growth programme, Jonathan was able to identity the strengths and weaknesses within his business. The pair worked closely to map them down and come up with a plan to build and improve on the business model moving forward.

Jonathan says that one of the main takeaways from his time with Francine was around his marketing and social media. He explains: “Francine helped me to understand how putting proper strategies in place is not only essential to attracting new clients and helping the business to grow, but also to reinforce what we do and build our brand values.”

Since working on our business growth programme, Jonathan has received regular, ongoing support and mentoring from our Enterprise Enabler, Ali McGrath.

Talking about the support he receives from Ali, Jonathan says: “We sit down every few months or so and discuss what is happening in the business and look at other things which I could be doing. The support I receive from Ali is amazing - she is such a massive asset to me.

“I think mentors are key to any business, whether you’re a start-up or established business. They can bring things to the table that you've never even thought of before but can totally turn your business around.”

Speaking to Jonathan its clear to see how proud he is of Willows Financial Planning and how far he’s come with the business. And with good reason.

His advice to anyone considering self-employment? “Never rest on your laurels. It’s harder than anyone will ever tell you, but it will also be the best thing you ever do! Calculate the risks, keep looking forward, work hard and make sure you’re structured.”
To find out more about Willows Financial Planning, visit the website here.

Jonathan received growth support through our New Markets 2 Programme, which is aimed at women who are running a business focussing on business to business activity in the Liverpool City Region (Liverpool, Sefton, Wirral, St Helens, Knowsley and Halton) and who are ready to take their business to the next level, either by expanding their team or significantly increasing turnover.

For more information, contact us on hello@thewo.org.uk or ring us on 0151 706 8111.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Sophie's Change it Story: "Go for it, it's life changing"

Over here at The Women’s Organisation we love nothing more than hearing the uplifting stories from the women we’ve helped through our ‘Change it: Progress to Success’ programme. If you’re feeling like your confidence could do with a boost but you’re struggling to set the wheels in motion then hear from Sophie, a recent change it graduate who after lacking self-belief for so long decided to do something about it…

"If you could have seen me a few years ago, I was a very different mum with a very different mindset. Negative thinking was keeping me in a place that I didn’t want to be in. I knew I wanted to become a beauty therapist, but I genuinely lacked the belief system and motivation to do anything about it. There I was, a single mum with a dream just coasting through my life and then out of the blue the Change it programme appeared at the Stoney Croft Children’s Centre and the line worker insisted that I go on to it after seeing a lot of women transform their lives after completing it.

I moved to Liverpool with my children after falling in love with the city but at first, I felt isolated. Someone in my local shop suggested trying the Stoney Croft Children’s Centre and the kids loved it! There was really no excuse for me to start following my dreams, but the self-belief demon had a hold, telling me “you’re not clever enough, you aren’t good enough” and because I knew it a year had passed without me even trying to ring the college.

Then change it happened and I have never looked back.

The first session I met the trainer Mandy, I knew I was in safe hands. I felt like I was in the right place at the right time and of course having childcare meant that I wasn’t worried about my kids.
After the first session I began to realise that I was not alone, there were lots of mothers who felt stuck in their lives and I wasn’t the only one. Most of the mums wanted to do something with their lives, they wanted more but just lacked the confidence to do it. We’re not lazy, we don’t sit around watching daytime TV all day, that’s a misconception.

I had no idea that we could alter our thinking and as Mandy says, “Stinking thinking needs a shrinking”. We can change our thought patterns and I didn’t realise that not being assertive stops us from becoming who we are meant to become… it was a real eye opener to say the least.

I have changed for the better, I am more confident and after the course I applied for the Level 2 in Beauty Therapy at Liverpool Community College and guess what, I got in! I used to go over everything in my head all the things that could go wrong in the interview until I changed my thinking to “What could go right?”

The advice I would give to any mum thinking of doing the Change it course in any Children’s Centre is “Go for it as it’s life changing”. It’s like having a tool kit for your life, Challenge limiting beliefs, change your thinking, access your values and lots more. I would probably be still sitting there only dreaming of going to college and look at me now getting my life ready and on the path to becoming a proper beauty therapist. Stop dreaming, start doing and enroll for Change it!"

Thank Sophie for sharing your fantastic story, we wish you all the best for your future! Join us over on Twitter and Facebook to keep updated with all things Change it!

We're about to announce a number of Change it sessions around Liverpool within the next couple of weeks, so stay tuned!

If you'd like to find out more information about the programme contact us on 0151 706 8111 or email us on hello@thewo.org.uk and find out how we can support you.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

#GEW2018: In Conversation with Nisha Katona

Global Entrepreneurship Week is a time of international appreciation for the innovators and job creators who bring ideas to life.  

During our annual celebration, we’ll be hosting an interview with true local entrepreneur turned celebrity chef, Nisha Katona. This will be followed by a panel discussion with more inspiring local women in business, to discuss their journey to success and advice.

Back in 2014, Nisha Katona was a child protection Barrister who chose to risk the roof over her head and all her security in pursuit of launching the first Mowgli on Bold Street. Nisha said: “We opened on a road that just had Leaf trading 4 years ago and my view was that even if we took the crumbs from Leaf's table, that would do. But this city of mine is a kingmaker. Liverpool with her open mind and open arms took this food and ran with it.”

Now, Nisha is the proud owner of six restaurants, has released three books, regularly films for BBC, ITV & Channel 4 and oversees a food-empire that just keeps growing.

Join us for this interesting event in partnership with Natwest when we will be quizzing Nisha on how she has built her food empire. If you are a reluctant business owner, suffering from imposter syndrome or buzzing with a passion for business and just wanting to know how to keep growing and developing – then this is one not to miss!

Join us on Wednesday 14th November aka 'Women's Entrepreneurship Day' 1.30-4pm at 54 St James Street.

Tickets are £5 for business club members and £10 for non-members. Your ticket cost will go back to supporting the valuable work of The Women's Organisation to support women's economic development.

This event is brought to you in partnership with NatWest!

Free NatWest business Accelerator programme lands in Liverpool

The NatWest Entrepreneur Accelerator gives businesses the power to start, scale and succeed via 12 hubs and other satellite locations across the UK. More than 5,000 have already passed through the fully-funded programmes and as of 2017 more than 80% were still trading.

Liverpool is to become the first satellite location to host a bespoke Pre-Accelerator programme. The Pre-Accelerator is aimed at early stage businesses and entrepreneurs looking to validate their businesses or grow a customer base. The NatWest Pre-Accelerator is being run with the support of the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership.

The programme focuses on the key driver to success – the entrepreneur themselves – guidance, support and challenge are provided by the bank’s trained coaches at a kick off ‘Ignition’ event to be held at First Ark in Liverpool on Tuesday 20 November 2018. Entrepreneurs then follow a rigorous but informative eight-week online eLearning journey.

The Pre-Accelerator is fully funded by NatWest, and the bank takes no equity in any business, so it’s free to any entrepreneur that wishes to apply, and they don’t have to be NatWest customers.
To find out more, head to the website: 

Jeane sets her designs on tackling pickpocketing

After becoming victim of pickpocketing while away on holiday, Jeane Melbourne is on “mission invisible” to combat the crime through her innovative new clothing line. Jeane designs and sells anti-digital pickpocket clothing online, specifically designed to combat the problem when visiting large cities.

Entrepreneur Jeane has developed a solution to this growing problem with her unique clothing range. Her answer comes in the form of invisible pockets with multi-layers of security. This means that that it is impossible to access the pocket from one side and two hands are needed to access the secure inner pouch. Creating a handy, safe-space to keep your money, credit card or mobile phone.

Wanting to find out how to take her new business, Tarsius Creations Ltd, to the next level, Jeane joined us for our ‘Boost Your New Business’ course. We caught up with her to find out more about the business and how things have changed since we last saw her…

5 steps to creating a happy workforce in your business

Taking on new employees is an exciting time for a business. As a business owner, you will want to create an environment where employees feel supported and equipped to thrive and develop. Employee happiness is a key factor in this, and happier employees are more creative, dedicated, innovative and loyal. Research has consistently demonstrated that workplace happiness has a direct correlation with the success of your business.

Anna Wells, director of Liverpool HR, has rounded up five simple and research-supported ways to create a happier workforce.

1. Strive for more day-to-day happiness

As an employer, you are setting the tone for relationships and behaviours in your organisation, so make sure you model courteous and respectful behaviour, better listening, being empathetic, displaying gratitude, keeping interactions mostly positive, showing interest in others, and creating a sense of security and comfort in the work environment. 

If you can, also organise social events so employees can connect on a personal level outside of work this will strengthen bonds between employees and develop a sense of team spirit.

2. Encourage personal development 

Helping employees become better personally can help them become better employees professionally. Not only show an interest in their personal development, but offer training and development in areas such as like personal empowerment, conflict resolution, communication, emotional intelligence, assertiveness, stress management, and time management. 

Reaching one's potential and thriving at work are predictors of success and happiness. You can create opportunities for employees to grow and develop and eventually reach their full potential by helping them become more actively involved in their work, providing them with challenging work, allowing them to work on important and difficult business problems, and shaping/supporting their career path. Give them the opportunity to develop into their roles and avoid micro-managing.

3. Make work fulfilling

Meaning is strongly correlated to happiness. Employees want to make an important impact on the world around them and accomplish meaningful work. Creating a culture and an environment with a deeper sense of mission and purpose can help drive more happiness within your team. People want to feel like they are part of something bigger than themselveswhether it is the team, the company or the community at large. For many employees, meaning is as simple as a desire to be aligned with the company goals and mission, and to feel like a valued member of a team.  

4. Make work-life balance and health a priority

Happy employees are healthier and more energetic. For this reason, help employees become healthier by promoting healthy lifestyle behaviours such as good nutrition, exercise, stress management, and adequate sleep, and by providing the resources, time, and support to help them become healthier. 

Companies who report high levels of employee happiness are those who, among other things, emphasize great work-life balance. Promote flexible working when you can and recognise that your employees have a life outside of work and accommodate this whenever possible.

5. Create trust

One of the single biggest contributors to employee happiness is simply creating a culture of trust within your organisation. This means not only your employees trust in you, but also in one another. Enhancing trust and employee commitment creates an environment that fosters happy, committed and productive team members. 

Maintain an open, multilateral dialogue within your team, help employees to understand and contribute to the big picture, and above all, be sure that you are honest and accountable for your decisions.

Anna Wells runs Liverpool HR, which provides HR support and advice to small businesses and start-ups. Anna is an associate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development who is passionate about empowering small businesses to be great employers, enabling their employees to grow and thrive.

To find out more, you can visit www.liverpoolhr.co.uk/. You can also connect with Anna on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.