Thursday, May 17, 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week: How long has it been since you took time for you?

Mental health is just as important as physical health and has a direct impact on the way we think, feel and act in all aspects of life. If we don’t have a good state of mind, how can we truly live our life to the fullest? 

Every day at The Women’s Organisation, we are helping women to start or grow a sustainable business, something which requires determination, self-belief and confidence – three qualities highly dependent on good mental health.

Therefore, we know that only when a woman believes in herself and the possibilities will she have the confidence to make change, and that’s why personal development is such a vital part of our services at The Women’s Organisation.

An environment that takes positive action to ensure that everyone is supported to reach their true potential is one that thrives. When we have high levels of well-being, we are happier, more satisfied and motivated. Therefore, it is in the remit of individuals, organisations and communities to be an advocate for good mental health.

Every year, the Mental Health Foundation run a week-long campaign to raise awareness around mental health, with the current focus looking at ‘stress’ and encouraging us to ask ourselves – ‘are we coping?’ They found that 74% of people have felt so stressed ‘they have been overwhelmed or unable to cope’.

Here in the UK, we work the longest hours in Europe, meaning we often don't spend enough time doing things we really enjoy. The NHS identifies ‘me time’ as an important stress-buster. 

We encourage you to ask yourself, how long has it been since you took time for you?

Our personal development programmes give women the time and space to really think about themselves, begin building a more positive outlook, and as a result start looking to the future with new hope.

When it comes to putting time aside for you, whether it’s a one-day course or a 4-8-week programme, we have something for every woman. This time gives you the opportunity to learn more about yourself and begin making better choices for your future, alongside like-minded women.

The outcome ..

‘I leave feeling fired up. I don’t go back home to bed and pull the quilt over my head, I do something. I’ll say to myself, after the course I’ll go and meet a friend or do something different.’

‘It has helped in all aspects of life, including my family life, my career goals and my self-worth’

‘A fantastic course that has helped me in many ways. I have my bad days, but I now have the strength, confidence and knowledge to deal with it.’

‘Thank you for understanding me. I’ve finally got my confidence back and know that we women DO matter’

If you want to take some time for yourself, find out more about our one-day course Become a More Confident You and Change It over on the website, or by contacting us on 0151 706 8111 or


Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Lets talk about the link between Debt and Mental Health

Opening up about personal finances can be a sore subject, especially when facing money issues or finding yourself spiralling into debt. 6 million Britons believe that they will never be debt free, with the average person in the UK owing up to a whopping £8,000! 

Ok, debt is a financial issue. But it can often lead to someone losing their home, relationship, family, and can potentially affect absolutely anyone. Whether you're employed or claiming benefits, falling behind on bills or being unable to pay back loans can bring you down. And whilst your income may just cover those ‘essential things’ in life, money doesn’t always stretch as far as covering built up debt from payday loans or credit cards.

Whilst worrying about the lack of money has effects on your social life and your ability to splash out on the finer things, it can also cause a fundamental change in your mental health, knocking your confidence and leaving you with the inability to think about your future or set goals and aspirations. One in two adults with debts has mental health problems, leaving people with long term effects such as depression and anxiety.

Research has shown that consumers with mental health problems believe their behaviour changes dramatically during periods of poor mental health. 93% say they spend more when unwell, 71% have put off dealing with creditors and 59% have taken out a loan they wouldn’t have taken out otherwise. The link between mental health and debt isn't something we can ignore.

The Better Off Finance program is here to help. We want to change the taboo of talking about money, support people in making their money go further and be a guiding hand to those who are ready to face their issues head on. So if you or anyone you know is out of work (don't have to be claiming benefits) and needs support, then get in touch and see if we can help.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The WO Team Get 'Learning at Work' with Advice Skills Academy

Building skills and encouraging staff development has been key to the success of The Women's Organisation for the last 22 years, so when the opportunity came up to be part of a new programme supporting just that we jumped at the chance!

Our team full of new ideas and inspiration

Advice Skills Academy is an innovative programme bringing together the Citizen's Advice services from across the city region in partnership with The Women's Organisation to co-ordinate learning and development opportunities specifically for those working in the advice sector. 

Through Advice Skills Academy, which is part funded by European Social Fund, our team have benefited from a number of tailored training sessions, but have also been offered encouragement to take up independent learning and development opportunities.

This 'Learning at Work' week we've added some extra activities and given extra encouragement to the team to ensure we can maximise the opportunity to invest in the great staff we have here.

Maggie John, Cynthia and Laura from our team examine the Business Model Canvas

Learning at Work Week Signage

As part of this our team enjoyed a brilliant session looking at using the 'Business Model Canvas' as a tool for both organisational development and a to offer advice and guidance to those looking to start or grow a business. 

The opportunity was open, not just to those who are directly client facing, but the wider team including those involved in finance, administration, marketing, training and development. This meant that everyone who participated could understand how we could potentially use this tool through our programmes to further improve the level of advice offered to our clients, and how we can use the Business Model Canvas to look at how we work and could work more smartly as an organisation.  

The session was delivered by Amanda Brooks, Enterprise Education Development Manager at Lancaster University, and was a chance to not only hear about how they have used the Business Model Canvas in practice, but an opportunity for our team to take part in an idea's sharing session to compare methodology and experiences.  This helped to strengthen the understanding across the wider team of how our advice services work, and to build best practice models for moving forward.

Our team moving around the space to explore different BMC methods

Some of the comments from our staff following the session included:
"It was great to be given the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of our organisation and the work undertaken by my colleagues. Great for team building as well as building my knowledge"

"I really enjoyed exploring the Business Model Canvas in this session.  It was interesting to see how each of us had used it so far to offer advice, and I think sharing our ideas had helped to strengthen our toolkit for supporting a diverse client base."

"It's always nice to feel like your organisation is investing in you, so having time out from the day to day during Learning at Work week is a real boost on a personal level as well as for professional development."

Also during learning at work week The Women's Organisation are encouraging their team to ensure they are putting time in their diary to focus on personal learning and development.  Some of the team have expressed an interest in taking time to explore Google Digital Garage modules as part of their development, while others are opting to shadow colleagues or join in smaller discussions to further their knowledge.

To find out more about the Advice Skills Academy project please click here. 

Advice Skills Academy

Monday, May 14, 2018

Angelica Makes A Fashion Statement With Incabrit

Angelica Elliot launches Incabrit, a business creating fashion accessories such as wool scarves, jewellery and leather bags. 

Angelica Elliot, The founder of Incabrit approached us seeking business support and was excited about finally starting her own business with support from The Enterprise Hub.

Before starting up, Angelica Elliot had worked a number of different jobs, from working to help the homeless to being a full time special needs teacher in Chile. When asked about venturing into self-employed, Angelica said

“At this stage of my life I wanted, for many years, to create different products from the comfort of my own home but continue being financially independent from my husband.”

Speaking about the barriers to starting up her own business, Angelica spoke of learning everything she knows about running a business from scratch and how being a housewife does give her time to focus on building her business in a sometimes too laid back environment, something that hasn't deterred Angelica from her work. 

When speaking about the support she received from the The Women’s Organisation, Angelica said

“I received support from my business adviser, Francine Taylor. The free courses are also very good in quality and it’s a process of constant learning which is what I need to keep doing”

Incabrit launched in December 2017 and Angelica is starting to focus more on her marketing and gaining social media knowledge. When asked about the advice she would give friends looking to jump into self-employment, she said “Go to The Women’s Organisation and be brave enough to jump into it and give it a good try”

Angelica is confident that her business is now going to grow and wants to reach social areas that help vulnerable people and has recently been in contact with a financial consultancy to work towards starting her own social enterprise, something which Angelica says is her main goal in life, to be able to help others. Speaking about her start-up experience, Angelica spoke of the importance of contacts and business planning

“When I can’t go any further I always ask for help, even though I haven’t been living in Liverpool for long I have already got some good contacts that are willing to assist me. I want to say thank you to Francine, who helped me a lot and pushed me to finally complete my business plan”

You can contact Angelica and keep updated with Incabrit on Facebook here

If you have an idea for a business and would like to receive advice and support we can help you get started! Contact our team on or 0151 706 8113.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Surely Not ‘Everyone’ Needs To Be Enterprising? 💡🤔

The question as to whether entrepreneurs (like leaders) are “born or made” is often asked.  But after some years of debate, this discussion is finally settled as UK Universities and Colleges embrace enterprise education into their teaching to support the future ambitions of their students. The next question is then, who is this for? Surely not every student needs to be enterprising?

Alison Price, Principal Consultant at “Enterprise Evolution” the consultancy arm of The Women’s Organisation, feels that her work in China answers this question clearly, having been asked to share her approach to staff development with the Shanghai Customs College.

With 2000 students focused on their ambition to work in customs, the Shanghai Customs College invited Enterprise Evolution to develop a staff workshop that would help staff develop an entrepreneurial mindset within their learners.

Shanghai Customs College – Uniformed staff and Alison

Graduates from Shanghai Customs College typically work in airports and commercial shipping, but with many supporting private companies with trade and export, recognition of the need to be enterprising is clear, and the opportunities to set up consultancy services are increasing.
Staff welcomed the opportunity to work with Enterprise Evolution to experience entrepreneurial approaches to teaching and consider how to adapt these for their own teaching.

With strong links between The Women’s Organisation and partners in Shanghai (and Liverpool and Shanghai being “twin” cities) this work deepens the connections between the two cities and supports the enterprising spirit.

Alison was also invited to open the 2nd International Conference ICEEE (International Conference Entrepreneurship Education Ecosystem) speaking to 200 educators about the need to embed entrepreneurial teaching methods into their subjects.  Sharing case examples and practical experience, Alison shared the latest approaches from UK and Europe, such as QAA (2018) Guidance (translated into Chinese) as well as Entrecomp before providing support and resources to delegates by showcasing ETCToolkit

She was joined from the UK by keynote speaker, Emma Robinson, Head of the Centre for Entrepreneurship at Liverpool John Moores University who provided an overview of their institutional growth and experience of supporting students to start, followed by a 2-hour workshop, that shared the realities of LJMU practice. 

Emma said “As my second opportunity to address this conference, I was delighted to seek the progress made in creating a clear direction for enterprise education.  It is brilliant to share the LJMU story in order to support others as develop their own approach and I applaud the organisers for their focus and vision in supporting colleagues on this journey”.

There was also an opportunity to run the CEO course “Creating Entrepreneurial Outcomes” providing a 2 day structured programme of staff development and support.  Working directly with staff to change their teaching is one of Enterprise Evolution’s specialisms.

“It is great to share “tried and tested” approaches with colleagues around the world and see how they can bring entrepreneurial teaching techniques into their own teaching.  I have worked with a whole new range of subjects since working in China (Maoism and Customs to name two! and I thought I had worked with them ALL before that!) so it is great to see how enterprise can be embraced by educators to help all learners” said Alison Price

For more information about Enterprise Evolution and the work Alison and Lisa are doing be sure to follow the Twitter, and check out the Enterprise Evolution website. You can read our previous blog about all things EntreComp here

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

In the Media: Why We Disagree with Dr Christian on using Porn in the Classroom

Should we introduce Pornography in education? The Telegraph cited Dr Christian Jessen well known for his role in Embarrassing Bodies as saying this week “I think it’d be very helpful in sex education to show the distinction between porn and sex as you have it…”. A debate has arisen as it is believed- if our young people are viewing porn anyway, should it be a part of the curriculum?

Our Engagement and Marketing Manager Jo Austin was interviewed by BBC Radio Wales this morning to give her opinion on why we would advise against this strategy.  Here is what she said on facebook following the discussion.

But why was Jo voting ‘no’ on this initiative? Psychology graduate and The Women’s Organisation volunteer Lexine explored this further.

There are many issues raised with pornography over the years, widely accessed and mostly unrestricted, through smart phones or most internet linked devices. With increased access to porn, society has also witnessed an increase in psychological and physical issues: porn addictions, self-esteem issues, normalised sexualised behaviour, sexualised exploration starting younger, and incompetence issues. These are just a starting point, and while some argue that we can’t attribute all of these issues to porn, studies indicate that regular access to porn has educated young people to see porn as an example of normal sexual relationships.

Until March 2017 sex education was not compulsory, only within council-run schools. We have seen movement in recent year in terms of updating sex education for young people, but how effective can be porn be used as a tool to learn?

Those arguing for the benefits of using porn within sex ed tend to present the case for helping young people to visually understand of the act of sex, supporting those who visually learn. With guidance, could showing porn help teach what is wrong with sexual behaviours such as aggressive acts or sexual violence – they argue? However, we'd ask do children really need to be shown this visually through the use of pornography in order to start that discussion?

This argument assumes that every child in the classroom will have been exposed to pornography anyway, so why not use that as a starting point? But consider those who may not have yet.  We may be exposing children and adolescents to visual images that may be quite overwhelming and traumatising, particularly to individuals who are not emotionally prepared. Plus, could showing porn desensitise children to acts of violence or even worse possibly triggering individuals who have suffered sexual abuse themselves? 

Pornography does not typically offer a realistic representation of women and men’s bodies and using this as the measuring tool of education within schools could impact on normalising unrealistic body ideals potentially impacting on self-esteem.

Showing adolescents pornography is a greater risk to addiction as their brains are still developing shows a study by Riemersma & Sytsma, 2013, if not amplifying the risk of condoning young people to access porn from a young age by displaying in schools. One particular study showed that pornography consumption is significantly associated with stronger gender-stereotypical sexual beliefs, earlier sexual interaction, increased casual sex behaviour, and increased sexual aggression both as perpetrators and victims (Peter & Valkenburg, 2016). This normalising of sexually violent behaviour could send complete mixed message on what is and isn’t consent and continue the desensitisation or traumatic triggers in our young people. The average age of first perpetration of sexual violence is 15 -16 years old and can be associated with exposure to pornography (Prevention Science, 2017).

Jo told BBC Radio Wales that the week prior to interview she had spent time with trained counselors who noted their fastest growing client group was university students coping with sexual assault.  This, she felt, was indicative of the fact that lack of consent is portrayed as 'sexy' in the porn industry, and building a generation of young people who no longer understand what consent means. 

While we appreciate that the current sex education curriculum could use an update, the evidence is clear that exposing young people to pornography isn't a helpful step forward. Instead we would recommend considering involving young people in more frank discussion.  The discussion should look at sex and sexual relationships from health and legal perspectives, emotional intelligence, and delivered from a place of unbias and body empowerment with consent at the heart of it. Sex is an aspect of all individuals lives that children will eventually go on to explore themselves. However, we need to empower young people when the time comes to understand sex from a point of consent, emotional capabilities, boundaries, and physical health. These factors should be prioritised over showing pornography which is certainly not the best example of any of these. It is these conversations and dialogues that will give individuals freedom to speak out against violence, to know where their boundaries lay and feel confident to talk about their sexual health and image in a frank and respectful way. 

Fiona Hull Shares Construction Q's Key To Success 🗝️📈

Last week we celebrated our 'Celebration of Success' awards, allowing us to share the fantastic achievements of some of the businesses we have supported with growth. Excelerate Labs continues to support men and women running B2B businesses in the Greater Manchester area looking to innovate, diversify and grow creating new jobs. 

We caught up with one of our award winners Fiona Hull, Director of Construction Q, a quantity surveying practice based in Bramhall, Stockport about how they've gone from strength to strength with 6 members of staff and an increased turnover of 750% since their first-year trading. Founded in 2010, Construction Q carry out quantity surveying services on projects from £100,000 to the largest currently at £30,000,000. 

After being employed as Quantity Surveyor by a main contractor, The flexible working life and her love for contributing to the professional world of construction persuaded Fiona into self employment. 

Fiona told us “After having 2 children I found the juggle between childcare and a full-time job to be impossible. By working for myself I could have flexible working.” 

Never destined for a typical female role, Fiona describes her younger self as a “bit of a tomboy” citing her main drive behind her success as her family, her husband, 2 children and golden retriever, Silva. Turning 40 this year, she plans to celebrate by carrying out 40 acts of kindness, including sponsored runs and helping out at local food banks, she also isn't shy when it comes to helping the local community, and most recently spent the day helping out St Anne's hospice by collecting Christmas trees in her van. 

Speaking about the support from The Women’s Organisation through Excelerate Labs, Fiona spoke fondly of Business Growth adviser Mike Marsden: “Mike has been fantastic. A great sounding board for ideas but also supportive and full of suggestions. A key strength for me has been the contacts that The Women’s Organisation have and the connections that they have made for me.”

On building links with key brands, Construction Q have several contractors on retainer contracts and repeat business from 12 different architect practices. Speaking about her clients, Fiona comments “These regular clients are hugely important when looking at business growth and the value of the company”

Fiona Hull, Director of Construction Q
Speaking proudly of their Pro Bono work, Construction Q believes it sets them apart from their competitors by putting charity before profit and feel great to be able to contribute

"Despite our expansion and extremely busy office we have carried out 3 Pro Bono projects this year for local charities. One of these, The Joshua Tree Foundation, we continue to support, and all Quantity Surveyor services will be provided free of charge over the next 18 months for this £2m respite centre. These are the projects that excite me. It feels great to have become so successful that we can do this. It’s not all about the bottom line for us.”  

And Construction Q’s key to success?

 “A lot of our success comes from repeat business and word of mouth. I spent a lot of time networking in the early years, so brand awareness was crucial. We also sponsor local football and cricket teams and support the local schools. If you give time generously to your community then it will come back.”

Construction Q has dealt with issues including clients going into administration whilst owing substantial sums of money, and when asked about the lessons learned during Construction Q's journey, Fiona comments

“Always be straight, trust your instincts and treat others as you wish to be treated, There have been a few battles along the way, but everything happens for a reason and we have come out stronger”

Alongside Construction Q, Fiona also runs another business whilst bringing up her 2 children. Being her own boss allows Fiona to also help with local charity events, coach a under 9 football team and sit on the school PTA. “It’s exhausting but extremely rewarding, my biggest achievement to date is growing a successful award-winning business whilst still being a mum!”

of course, we couldn't not ask who her role models were... "Pep Guadiola, for his drive and ambition, but also managing to remain calm and dignified at all times, I also have a lot of time for many of the individuals involved with the charities I work with"

Construction Q's future looks bright, securing several large commercial projects in recent months and are currently recruiting for 2 new Quantity Surveyor’s. “What is hugely important to me is that we continue to have values and be an ethical business."

and Fiona's last words of advice:

“Work hard, Play hard! It’s been tough, lot more wrinkles and grey hair than when I set out 8 years ago but if you believe in your product, are fully committed, and always put your customer first then you will succeed.”

Thanks Fiona, sounds like there is nothing slowing you down! and so great to hear about the growth and achievements of Construction Q! 

Fiona also recently accepted the award at our Excelerate Lab ‘Celebration of Success’ Dinner for Women in Construction Business which you can read all about here 

Jackie Williams, Fiona Hull and Mike Marsden at the 'Celebration of Success' awards

If you would like to find more out about Construction Q then you can contact them on their 

You can find out more about our Excelerate Labs programme here 
Keep posted with all things Excelerate Labs over on our Twitter