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 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

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 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:

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 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 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 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 You can also connect with Anna on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Monday, November 5, 2018

Meet the Team: Victoria Hart!

Meet Victoria Hart! One of our newest recruits to the ever-growing training team. You may have already had the pleasure of meeting her on one of our courses. If not, take a read of this get-to-know blog. From Italian food to Batman, read on to find out more about our Victoria – and be sure to say hello next time you see her ..

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

My name is Victoria Hart. I was born in Scotland and I have lived in Birkenhead since I was a teenager.

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

I first heard about The Women’s Organisation through a general chat about women-focussed organisations within the North West with the operations manager at Tomorrows Women Wirral. After researching the organisation, I decided this was the place I wanted to work and kept an eye out for available jobs - this was in 2015! I applied for the training jobs as they became available over the years and it was in March 2018 that I was fortunate enough to get an interview. When I found out I had been successful, I was sitting in a restaurant with my family and I stood up and did a happy dance whilst emphatically accepting the position.

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

After graduating from Edge Hill university with my PGCE in Post Compulsory Education and Training, I went to work in the Justice sector in offender learning with Novus (formerly The Manchester College). I delivered personal social development courses and functional skills English and maths to offenders in the community throughout the North West. Within this role, I also had the opportunity to work at Save the Family in Chester and Tomorrows Women Wirral delivering courses to vulnerable families and women that ranged from parenting classes to gardening to retail.

Unfortunately, due to redundancy this came to an end and I took on a new challenge at PeoplePlus as part of the Group Work clinical trial for the DWP. This role involved delivering an employability intervention to long term unemployed people in Liverpool. It was challenging due to the restrictions of the trial, but also very rewarding. The intervention was motivational and gave the participants a new perspective on returning to work. At the end of this contract I moved into Further Education, delivering BTEC Business Level 2 and ILM Level 2 and 3 to 16 – 18 years olds.

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

I have really been surprised by the range of amazing business ideas. I have heard so many original, forward-looking and eco-friendly ideas from speaking to the women who attend the business support, training and networking events. Each time I have attended an event I am always blown away by the creativeness, passion and energy of the business owners. The entrepreneurs that attend are an inspiration and have really got me thinking about my own ideas.

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

I have a list as long as my arm for the best reasons to work at The Women’s Organisation. I love the autonomy, trust and freedom from the management. The people who work here are so friendly and everyone believes in what they do. The atmosphere is one of positivity with everyone on the same team! Also, the comradery of the women on the courses – everyone is so supportive of each other, its brilliant.

Could you describe one of your typical workdays?

If it is a training day then I will head straight to the venue where the course is being delivered and set up the room ready for the day. When the learners arrive, we will go through the running order of the course and then start our learning journey. At the end of the day I will spend some time touching base with the keyworkers of the project. On an engagement day I will be meeting other organisations in the community and promoting the Women’s Org courses, making contacts and finding ways of working with others. Or I may be based in the office where I work on creating resources, checking emails and catching up on paperwork.

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

That I have two Batman tattoos.

What do you do when you aren’t working? 

When I’m not working I enjoy spending time with my husband, two children and the dog! I like to go to Yoga a couple of times a week. I have always enjoyed going to watch live music and can’t wait to see my absolute favourite, Florence and the Machine, in November. As a family we love eating out, with Italian food a firm favourite. I also love to go to the cinema or watch films at home, my favourite era being films produced pre-1960 and the film noir genre.  

Thanks Victoria! We love have you in our W.O family. 

Helping EasyTots take its first steps to international growth

Helen Davies, founder of EasyTots needed help to secure funding to take her product to the international stage. Since approaching The Women’s Organisation, Helen has secured £80k in funding and taken her product worldwide, from Europe to South Korea, Australia and beyond.

We caught up with Helen to find out how business is going and what’s in store for 2019…

Anyone who has experienced feeding time with a little one will know that it can be a messy business. This is where EasyTots’ unique range of baby feeding products come in.

Designed to make it easier for babies to feed independently throughout the weaning process (that’s the transition from milk to solid foods), the EasyMat has quickly become a must-have in the baby feeding world.

Helen’s flagship product, the EasyMat is the world’s first compact and foldable suction plate. It’s designed to make the weaning process easier for little ones aged between 3 months to three years. The placemat encourages exploration and independence at meal times, helping to foster a lifelong love of food.

Since launching her first product in March 2016, Easy Tots now carries 21 products in its range with even more in the pipeline for the New Year.

Helen explains that the aim is to carry a full range of weaning-led dinner ware products, adding to the current range of placemats, spoons, cutlery and bibs. All EasyTots products are designed to be complimentary to create a complete dining set, with a range of colours available.

As a proud mum to two girls, Helen first developed the idea of a range of products dedicated to the weaning journey whilst on maternity leave with her youngest daughter.

Helen tells us how meal times often ended up with more food on the floor than on the plate. After discovering this was a common problem for parents, she decided to see what products were on the market but couldn’t find the right solution for her family.

She explains that developers in America had made some headway, but there was still a major gap in the UK market. And so, the EasyMat was born.

Keen to develop the idea, Helen went on an e-commerce course where she learned about the practicalities of selling using online platforms such as Amazon.

After 12 years building up a commercial window cleaning business as Managing Director, Helen decided it was time to pursue EasyTots and dedicate herself to growing the product.

She says: “I just had a gut feeling that I needed to run with it and work to make the product reach its full potential.”

She sold the commercial cleaning business and launched herself into EasyTots full time.

After a whirlwind start to the business, quickly building momentum on social media, EasyTots soon entered an exciting stage of business growth. Helen was referred to The Women’s Organisation where she received support under the New Markets 2 programme.

In order to secure the funding needed to take the business to the next level, Helen needed a watertight cash flow forecast for the next two years.

Working with business advisor Claire Pedersen, Helen received “fantastic support” over a number of sessions to put the forecast together. This enabled Helen to secure £80k in funding from Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF) to fund the growth of her business into international trade.

What started in St Helens, is now a worldwide product. EasyTots is exporting across Europe, with a large customer base in South Korea and now Australia and New Zealand.

International success is not without its challenges, though. Helen explains that managing shipping and cash flow require tight management, alongside striking the balance in exporting in the B2B market, whilst continuing sales directly to consumers.

At the tender age of two, the business has seen a lot of traction. This year alone, Helen is celebrating two prestigious award wins. Winning Retail Business of the Year at the MIB awards just last week, Helen also picked up a WeAreTheCity Top 100 Rising Stars Award earlier this year.

It’s certainly been an exciting couple of years for Helen and we’re sure we’re going to be seeing a lot more of EasyTots over the next few years. With ongoing talks taking place with some big names, watch this space…

If you would like to find out more about EasyTots you can visit:

Helen 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 or ring us on 0151 706 8111.