Thursday, April 30, 2020

Better Off Finance advice scheme to provide a lifeline for the self employed

A Liverpool City Region wide scheme aimed at helping people improve their finances has been expanded to support the self-employed through the Coronavirus crisis.

While many are now covered by the Government’s COVID-19 financial support packages for the self-employed, there are still huge numbers of entrepreneurs slipping through the cracks and struggling to manage financially.

Liverpool City Region is launching a vital lifeline for local entrepreneurs who need support and guidance in managing their personal finances to weather the current crisis, through the Better Off Finance programme.

Better Off Finance has now been expanded to offer practical support and advice to the self-employed in response to the Coronavirus crisis.

The move comes as £250k funding was made available for the programme by Building Better Opportunities via the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.

Entrepreneurs who have been critically impacted by the pandemic will now be able to access advice from a dedicated Better Off Finance Key Worker who can support them in accessing the best welfare support for them.

This includes advice around Universal Credit and other legacy benefits like tax credits, housing benefits and council tax benefits.

The expert team will also be able to offer practical advice and guidance on negotiating arrangements around other personal finances.

Leading Liverpool-based social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, is lead partner of Better Off Finance which brings together partners from across the City Region, including Citizens Advice and RAISE, to deliver support.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “These are unprecedented times where many self-employed individuals have, understandably, found themselves in a critical financial position. Particularly those who may have fallen through the gaps in the Government’s emergency support packages, for example if they have previously paid themselves through dividends or not yet been able to access the income support scheme.

“Expanding Better Off Finance support to the self-employed will not only be paramount in protecting the livelihoods of hundreds of entrepreneurs across the region, as well as their immediate financial security, but consequently in safe-guarding our local economy as these individuals are able to continue offering their goods and services in the long-term.”

O’Carroll also stresses the importance for those who are already in receipt of benefits to seek advice and check before they apply for Universal Credit.

She added: “It you are considering applying for Universal Credit but are already in receipt of other benefits, then we would urge you to reach out for advice and complete a ‘better off calculation’ first, to see how your current payments might be affected. You might not necessarily be better off.

“Through the Better Off Finance programme our partners - your local Citizen’s Advice – are on hand to help you navigate your way through this process and can also help in negotiating other arrangements around your personal finances.”

The Liverpool City Region Combined Authority also backed the scheme and offered its support in securing the all-important expansion for the region’s entrepreneurs.

Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram

Metro Mayor, Steve Rotheram, says: “After protecting lives and supporting frontline workers, our top priority is to help protect our economy. Whilst this is a huge task, beyond what any city region can achieve acting alone, we are doing all we can to offer targeted advice and support beyond national programmes.

“I applaud the Better Off Finance initiative, that will help self-employed people who are so crucial to our economy.”

Cllr Christine Spriggs, Cabinet Member for Culture, Visitor and Creativity Economy for Wirral Council, says: “It is very worrying that some self-employed people across the Liverpool City Region who have followed Government guidelines to apply for Universal Credit when they cannot work have discovered this hasn't been the best course of action. For example, one woman on low income had all her other benefits immediately stopped and she will be worse off now. This is unacceptable.

“I am very glad that The Women’s Organisation working with the Citizens Advice Bureau here in the Liverpool City Region is now offering a dedicated service for any self -employed person so that they can get a ‘Better Off’ quote about their benefit entitlement before deciding what to do.”

Anyone who is self-employed and registered with HMRC in the Liverpool City Region is able to access the support and should do so by contacting The Women’s Organisation directly via

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Reacting & Adapting: North Liverpool dementia care centre offers valuable support for families

In this blog series we're catching up with entrepreneurs who are 'Reacting & Adapting' to make sure their business can survive and thrive through these unprecedented months. 

Next up, we're speaking to a centre which has revised its services to it can continue offering valuable support for families looking after relatives with dementia.

The Me2U Centre opened in Kirkby, North Liverpool, in April 2018, and provides a range of services to help those with dementia maintain their independence and remain in their own home environments in the care of their families for longer.

It can also provide respite, giving carers the opportunity to attend to normal home and family routines, safe in the knowledge that their loved ones are in expert hands, as well as advice and support for care givers.

Following the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the introduction of social distancing measures, the centre has had to drastically revise its operations.

Rosie has applied to care watchdog the CQC and is hoping to adapt the business to become an emergency crisis facility, with six hospital beds available for high risk dementia patients.

This would provide specialist care for dementia patients, while freeing up vital capacity within the NHS for coronavirus patients.

Following the switch, the centre, under the guidance of founder Rosie Whittington, is also offering emergency back-up such as a crisis phone line, a shopping service, and a prescription pick-up service for its 60 clients.

Mum of four Rosie is a former mental health nurse with Merseycare, where she supported people living with dementia, their families and carers.

During this time, she realised there was a need to extend support and ensure that dementia care ‘did not stop on a Friday’ due to more and more day care centres closing, through government cuts. She said: “Families were able to go to work, function, have respite, and then care for their love ones of an evening because they were able to balance, so to speak.”

She was inspired to set up her own business due to her passion for caring for people with dementia and to fill the gaps in this sector.

Having remortgaged her own home, and with the help of her best friend Angela she was able to open the Me2U Centre, which was initially chronically under-funded.

Rosie worked seven days a week for two years – doing five on early shifts as a mental health nurse and weekends in the Me2U Centre – to get the service up and running.

It meant she was unable to take a wage, herself, but she explained: “I’ve found my calling in life – I’ve been put on this earth to serve and I want to help as many people as I can who have been affected with dementia, that’s what I’m here for.”

With just an idea in mind, she came to The Women’s Organisation for support in getting started and was quickly enrolled on 1-2-1 support and group training sessions where she was able to create her own business plan to take the Me2U Centre forward.

Jo Mountfort, Programme Manager and Rosie’s Business Adviser at The Women’s Organisation said: “Working with Rosie, Angela, and the team is a pleasure. I have found it inspiring that in a time of crisis, people are working tirelessly to flip their business model with a genuine passion to support the vulnerable people in the community and their loved ones.”

When lockdown is lifted Rosie said she plans to enhance the centre’s services, including keeping the crisis line, and is even considering the purchase of a bungalow to convert to assisted living and respite care.

She said: “I’ve got a fantastic team – I’m the face of Me2u, but it wouldn’t have been possible without the people I’ve got around me. They are so loyal and adaptable.”

Do you need help reacting and adapting your business? For more information about the support available through The Women’s Organisation to help you and your business, please contact us via e-mail at if you're based in the Liverpool City Region.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Reacting & Adapting: Taking Phenomenal Woman Fitness online to keep clients moving

In this blog series we're catching up with entrepreneurs who are 'Reacting & Adapting' to make sure their business can survive and thrive through these unprecedented months. 

As the UK headed into lockdown and gyms across the country closed their doors to the public, founder of Phenomenal Woman Fitness, Ashley Spencer, wasted no time in adapting her business model and taking her services online. 

We spoke to Ashley to find out how business is going and how support from her Business Advisor helped her to innovate and put together a plan of action...

After spending most of her adult life working in the corporate world Ashley founded Phenomenal Woman fitness in Wirral two years ago, offering a combination of 1-2-1 and online health, fitness and lifestyle coaching to women.

Ashley explains that the core values of the business were born out of her own experiences.

She says: “I had a long daily commute, travelled nationally, worked long hours, developed poor eating habits and often felt stressed. I managed to design a training plan to suit that lifestyle and it played a significant role in helping me mentally and physically. From there I started Phenomenal Woman Fitness and made it my mission to help other women like I helped myself.

“We all want to look and feel phenomenal, but for many of us, this doesn't seem attainable when we are trying to grow our career, look after a family, have a social life and maintain a work/ life balance.  As a coach, I get to the root of my client's goals and identify what's preventing them from achieving them. From there, I design their training and nutrition to suit their lifestyle, implementing small changes along the way to replace poor habits with healthy ones.”

Pre-lockdown Ashley was training all of her 1-2-1 clients in a gym, running three boot camp classes per week in separate studios, as well as coaching clients online.

Along with thousands of others in the leisure and fitness industry when the Government’s Covid-19 response measures meant that gyms had to close, Ashley had to be flexible and innovative. And fast.

She says: “We received the news at 5pm on Friday 20th March ordering all gyms to close that day. After visiting the gym for the last time to say goodbye to the team, I realised I was completely on my own and needed to act. On Saturday, I arranged video calls with my clients and wrote a plan of action. I then spent six hours on Sunday on calls with each client planning their programmes.

“I spent a couple of days adapting everyone’s training programmes to suit them at home and reorganising my diary. I now train a handful of clients virtually via Facetime or Zoom and have transferred others temporarily to full online clients. I have also introduced free live group training sessions with clients to keep them motivated and active and am planning another for my boot camp clients.”

Having already developed a strong online client-base and delivery capability, Ashley was able to make the transition to online speedily and seamlessly.

One of Ashley’s clients explains how she found the process: “Ashley was amazing to adapt to the changing situation so quickly. She was confident, calm and mindful. Despite her own world being turned upside down she made it feel like “Team Phenomenal” were the number one priority. I can’t believe how quick Ashley was to set up video calls with us all and get a new structure in place. It appeared effortless, but I can tell from the programme how much time and effort went in.”

Ashley’s community of clients and followers, or ‘Team Phenomenal’, are clearly at the heart of the business.

Ashley says: “My clients are on their own individual path but together make up Team Phenomenal. Team Phenomenal is my community of clients and followers who I communicate with regularly, and who support and help each other in day-to-day life.”

The strength of the community which Ashley has created has no doubt played a large part in the success of taking Phenomenal Woman Fitness online, which has been key to the business’ survival and success.

“I had already built a strong WhatsApp community within my 1-2-1 and online client base and had recently started a Facebook group for them called Team Phenomenal Community and my boot camp clients to receive useful content and support each other.

“I knew that this news was going to bring down the morale of many people and steer people away from their goals, so, during weekend of the closure, I decided to open up the group to any women who needed help and support. In one day, the group grew from 25 members to over 80, and now has over 130. I post in here daily with workouts, live updates, challenges, links to free classes, and educational content.”

As with any period of change, the transition has not been without its difficulties.

Ashley tells us that with some of her clients unable to work at the moment she has temporarily lost clients, which has impacted on her cash flow.

But she is staying positive and taking time to focus on the future of the business.

“I am spending more time working on growing my business by attending the online seminars run by The Women’s Organisation, through the Enterprise Hub, and I’m having regular calls with my business advisor there, Huda, who is helping me scale and launch the next step in my business.

“This situation has forced me to think more depth about my services and re-route it in a new direction. I have been challenged to communicate more frequently and openly with people, and it has massively boosted my confidence as a coach and a business owner.”

While this has naturally been an uncertain and challenging time, Ashley’s flexibility and ability to innovate, coupled with her rapid response to the situation, has meant that Phenomenal Woman Fitness has not only been able to survive and grow its online presence, with exciting plans in the pipeline for the future.

You can find Ashley and Phenomenal Woman Fitness on Instagram and Facebook (where you can also join the free private group, Team Phenomenal Community).

Do you need help reacting and adapting your business? For more information about the support available through The Women’s Organisation to help you and your business, please contact us via e-mail at if you're based in the Liverpool City Region.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Liverpool City Region must catch up with London in Grant Aid for Small Businesses

Thousands of small businesses across the country are missing out on up to £25,000 in government grants because of how they pay their business rates, but this is not the case for businesses based in the City of London council area. 

The City of London Council has this week made a commitment to include businesses which do not pay their rates directly to their Local Authority, such as those that occupy serviced office spaces, and have so far been missing out on vital Coronavirus business support grant funding due to current government guidance.

The Capital’s Local Authority is also ensuring that businesses there which have not yet successfully applied or qualified for Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR) will be accepted for the schemes, providing they fit the basic grants criteria. In another important move, it has also confirmed that payments will be retrospective and made directly to the small businesses and not their landlords.

City of London Council Member Peter Dunphy, who made representations to secure the commitment for City businesses, points out that this move was made through the Council’s own jurisdiction and that it would be down to each Local Authority as to whether they follow suit.

Business leaders in the Liverpool City Region have been quick to praise this provision put in place to protect London businesses and want to see this support replicated here in the North West.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation

The Women’s Organisation, together with leaders from across the UK, are lobbying government to ensure that serviced office tenants who pay their business rates through landlords can access the grant funding, just as they can in London.

The Liverpool-based social enterprise has already sent its key concerns and recommendations to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with support from Kim Johnson MP.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, said: “By tying the eligibility of these grants to the Business Rate relief schemes, there are unintended consequences which will result in legitimate small businesses that are contributing to the economy through the tax system not being supported through the scheme, as was originally envisaged by the Chancellor. This gap must be addressed as a matter of urgency, as successful and viable businesses are struggling to survive in the interim.

“We have been working directly with a number of government departments to inform them of the feedback we have received from the local business community and have made a number of specific asks from them which are key to addressing this issue. We hope to see these fundamental issues addressed, as has been done in London, as soon as possible here in the North West and nationally to protect SMEs, incomes and jobs.”

Erika Rushton, Creative Economist, said: “The impact of this business rates failure is not just felt by individual businesses, but on whole ecosystems which have been instrumental in creating jobs and value which will also be critical to the economy’s recovery.

“Take for example, a creative community at Islington Mill in Salford which is home to 150 enterprises. They will be lucky to get £10,000 to share, rather than the £1,500,000 they would have received had they required tenants to pay their own rates. Another example in Liverpool is Make CIC, which accommodates 70 enterprises, where some tenants will receive the full £10,000 to sustain their businesses, while those in the studio next door will get nothing because it wasn't rated in the same way, or in time, with a loss across their three venues of over £1,000,000.

“Let’s not allow an unintended consequence of providing business assistance through an historic rates system destroy the very companies that are already proven to deliver both economic and social recovery."

Erika Rushton, Creative Economist, is supporting
The Women's Organisation in its campaign for SMEs
Help is also on hand from other sources, such as the Liverpool City Region’s “one front door” access point for business start-up and growth support, Enterprise Hub.

The programme, which has already supported over 1,700 businesses has made a rapid and effective transition to online support, now offering its services via phone or video conferencing, including a series of real time video training workshops for SMEs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Goldman Sachs 10,000 Women Expands Free Online education for small businesses

As the world changes in response to the global health crisis, leading a small business is more challenging than ever.

The Goldman Sachs Foundation yesterday (20 April) announced that it is making its 10,000 Women online business education course available to more women around the world, free of charge.

As online learning becomes more important that ever, this could be the ideal time to explore the potential learning opportunities available to help sustain and develop your business.

10,000 Women Online offers free virtual business education courses, providing practical training on all aspects of business – from finance and operations to leadership, marketing and negotiation.

The online programme has been divided into ten smaller modules and learners can opt to take any course, or combination of courses, to meet their individual needs.

10,000 Women is open for anyone to enroll and the courses are suitable for any entrepreneur looking to take their business to the next level. The collection was designed to meet the needs of women business owners in emerging economies, however there are no eligibility criteria to take part.

The course can be found at

If you could benefit from additional 1-2-1 support and advice for starting, sustaining or growing your business and are based in the Liverpool City Region, then our team of business advisors could help through the Enterprise Hub programme. 

Get in touch via e-mail on to find out more.

In the Media: We react to the government's latest package of support for start-ups

Our CEO, Maggie O'Carroll, has shared her reaction to the Government's latest package of COVID-19 related support for start-up business, announced yesterday (20 April 2020).

The £1.25bn rescue package will allow UK-registered companies that have raised at least £250,000 in equity investment the past five years to receive loans of £125,000 to £5m, provided they can find matching private investment.

While this is a welcome intervention for the country's young businesses, there are some factors which we would urge the Government to consider on how this should work in practice.

You can get the full story with our reaction in the press, via:


Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, welcomes the move
but highlights a number of key factors which we would urge the Government to consider

Here is the full statement: 

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “This package of support is positive news for Britain’s start-ups, particularly those which are not yet profitable, and is welcome recognition of the importance of those young businesses which are driving innovation across the country and shaping the future business landscape.

“We would caution that the requirement for business to secure match funding from private investors could prove to be a potential barrier to accessing the Fund, due to the natural element of risk associated with untested start-ups. For this reason, appraisers who are market savvy should not rely on the numbers alone. There needs to be a more fluid approach to assessing the future potential of businesses to succeed and, more importantly, grow into enterprises of real substance.

“The scheme needs to be localised to ensure that businesses can connect with investment and support locally. Business support programmes, like Enterprise Hub here in the Liverpool City Region, have so far been critical in making sure businesses of all sizes have the tools, resources, and knowledge to weather the current crisis.

“Speed is critical here. We must now see the roll-out of a straightforward application and approval process for this scheme to be truly impactful.”

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Chancellor Challenged: Supermarkets Don’t Need Billions in Aid, Charities Do!

The Government should get its priorities right when it comes to coronavirus crisis support, a social enterprise leader has blasted.

Maggie O’Carroll, co-founder and chief executive of Liverpool-based charity and business support agency The Women’s Organisation, believes Chancellor Rishi Sunak should rein in financial backing for national supermarket chains and reallocate vitally-needed funding for the nation’s charities.

CEO of The Women's Organisation, Maggie O'Carroll

Mr Sunak announced proposals on April 8 to provide charities with £750m, roughly £4,400 each, leaving many within the third sector puzzled as to how this balances the relief to other thriving businesses.  Supermarket chain Tesco, for example, has reportedly benefitted from £585mil in rate relief while still open for business, boasting queues to get in and generous dividends to shareholders.

Meanwhile, many in the charitable sector have seen funding sources wither and dry up as countless fund-raising events have been cancelled, shops closed and services reduced due to social-distancing restrictions, costing the charitable sector billions of pounds in vital support.

Charities such as hospices, who support the NHS in providing beds, specialist clinician care and staff, who, in turn, will relieve pressure on the NHS, as well as the St John Ambulance service, which supports the NHS, and victims’ charities, who provide vital support for domestic abuse victims who are in heightened danger of physical and mental damage during the current lockdown period.

Organisations helping vulnerable children, and the Citizens Advice Bureau which will be a main source of support for people in danger of losing their jobs, or their homes because of the unprecedented measures necessary during the lockdown, will also be among those expected to survive on just over £4,400 each from the Government’s coffers.

Ms O’Carroll, whose organisation has helped countless thousands of entrepreneurs and small businesses since its formation in 1996, says this makes no sense, and many millions of pounds-worth of business rates relief for retailers who are still trading and seeing record revenues during lockdown, should be redirected to more deserving causes.

Using the market leader as an example, she said: “Tesco’s get effectively a £585m grant from Government through the business rates relief support package and their shareholders are cashing in on the current crisis with a huge dividend payout.

“Meanwhile, over 170,000 charities get to share £750m. That equates to over £4,400 per charity.
“Surely these large corporate companies don’t need this kind of taxpayer windfall when their tills continue to ring and cash is rolling in and where charities are also working on the front line are left with such limited support, and where their income sources have plummeted to zero in many cases.”

She added: “It begs the question, why on earth did the Chancellor include supermarkets, whose stores remain open and popular, in his business rates holiday? There was no need to do so.”

“We are going to witness catastrophic effects on vital charitable services that offer support to the most vulnerable in our community unless we offer a proper safety net of support to the sector.”

“That decision needs to be urgently reviewed and those resources reallocated to the charitable sector.”

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

UPDATED: Thousands of businesses missing out on Government support due to Business Rates failure

*Since this intervention, The Business Secretary Alok Sharma has added a discretionary £600 million fund to support local small businesses which have so far fallen through the cracks and missed out on emergency business grant funds because of how they pay their business rates, for example businesses in shared spaces, regular market traders, small charity properties.

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “Having worked directly with a number of government departments to inform them of the feedback we received from our local business community, we are delighted to see that the Business Secretary Alok Sharma has now put a discretionary fund in place to address these fundamental issues.
“This will prove to be a vital lifeline for those legitimate and viable small businesses that previously fell through the cracks in the financial support available. What we must see now is the swift and urgent allocation of this funding by our Local Authorities so that businesses across the Liverpool City Region have the immediate cash injection that they need to survive, ensuring that we can protect incomes, jobs and the local economy.”

Catch up with the original story:

Thousands of legitimate small businesses are missing out on vital financial support packages because of how they pay their business rates.

Leading social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, is urging national and local government to work together and simplify rules to stop small firms falling through the cracks in the Chancellor’s COVID-19 financial support package.

Rishi Sunak has introduced wide-ranging measures to provide a safety net for businesses during the current social-distancing lockdown in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

While the majority of employers and self-employed are covered by the emergency packages now in place, thousands of legitimate small businesses are missing out on this vital support according to The Women’s Organisation.

Deputy CEO of The Women’s Organisation, Helen Millne (left), 
sits on the Government’s National Growth Programme Board 
and is currently in talks around this issue, along with CEO Maggie O'Carroll (right)

The Liverpool-based social enterprise is drawing attention to the plight of small firms that are still missing out on financial support because of how they pay their Business Rates.

It is now calling on national and local government to work together to address anomalies in the Chancellor’s aid package for entrepreneurs.

It points out that, by tying the eligibility of support grants to Business Rate relief schemes, some SMEs will be excluded from grant funding of up to £10,000.

The current guidance declares that “the Government will provide additional Small Business Grant Scheme funding for local authorities to support small businesses that already pay little or no Business Rates because of the Small Business Rate Relief (SBRR), Rural Rate Relief (RRR) and Tapered Relief. This will provide a one-off grant of £10,000 to eligible businesses to help meet their ongoing business costs.”

However, The Women’s Organisation says this determination means some SMEs will not receive support, unless the Government instructs local authorities of additional eligibility criteria.

It says this includes businesses that occupy separate designated office space and within their tenancy/licence agreement pay a contribution to shared business rates in managed workspace/incubators, where one rateable value is applied to the whole building.

This is often advised as the most appropriate method for Business Rates collection by the Business Rates Office when tenancy agreements are ‘easy in and out’ and would mean a lot of change in billing.

The Women’s Organisation suggests that, on receipt of appropriate evidence, the grant is paid to businesses with tenancies in properties with shared Business Rates. However, to prevent fraud, the local authority could verify claims by asking managing agents/landlords to provide a declaration including lists of all legitimate tenants, including the company name, size of space occupied, and confirmation that they have been paying a contribution to the Business Rates prior to March 11, 2020. Businesses can also provide their most recent tax return showing their address, and a copy of their license or tenancy agreement.

Another issue identified by The Women’s Organisation is that social enterprises can have many structures, including charitable status. It has been suggested that, as these SMEs receive mandatory relief for charities and not SBRR, they will not be eligible for the £10,000 grant.

A simple solution would be to confirm that social enterprises with the appropriate rateable value receiving mandatory relief for charities will be eligible for this grant.

Helen Millne, deputy chief executive of The Women’s Organisation and National Growth Programme Board member, said: “While the package of support announced by the Chancellor, alongside the response from local authorities, are certainly very helpful interventions which will go a long way in ensuring that small businesses and, consequently, our economy are protected at this critical time, there are still clear gaps which urgently need to be addressed.

“By tying the eligibility of these grants to the Business Rate relief schemes, there are unintended consequences which will result in legitimate small businesses that are contributing to the economy through the tax system not being supported through the scheme, as was originally envisaged by the Chancellor.

“As such, we have been working directly with a number of government departments to inform them of the feedback we have received from the local business community and have made a number of specific asks from them which are key to protecting small businesses, incomes and jobs.

“We hope to see these fundamental issues addressed as soon as possible.”
Help is also on hand from other sources, such as the Liverpool City Region’s “one front door” access point for business start-up and growth support, Enterprise Hub, which is providing a comprehensive support package to the region’s new and early phase businesses which will evolve as the crisis unfolds.

UPDATE: Following our lobbying around this issue, Kim Johnson MP for Liverpool Riverside, along with Mick Whitley MP for Birkenhead, have added their support and written to RT Hon Alok Sharma MP, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, with our concerns and recommendations.

You can read the full letter (April 21 2020), below:

We thank Kim Johnson for her intervention and hope that the recommendations are acted upon to help protect and sustain jobs, SMEs and Social Businesses.

For more information on the support available through The Women's Organisation please contact 

Award Success for Jennifer's Mini Interior Design Company

Home decor enthusiast, Jennifer Kay, is ensuring that interior design is an affordable luxury for all through her business, The Mini Interior Design Company. 

Now trading for over two years, The Mini Interior Design Company has gone from strength to strength, fuelled by Jennifer’s passion for design and creativity and a commitment to low-cost, accessible makeovers.

Recently, Jennifer was awarded a ‘Best of Houzz 2020’ badge by Best of Houzz awards, recognising her above-and-beyond customer service.

The Mini Interior Design Company offers an online service that shapes a shopping list based on a particular room and space. Customers can fill out a questionnaire to specify their likes, dislikes and overall style, of which Jennifer can build a mood board around.

Whilst working a full-time job, Jennifer grew her skills by supporting her friends and family with home renovations to build up a portfolio and valuable experience.

Following maternity leave, Jennifer returned to her role whilst clear in her mind that she wanted to start a business. She contacted The Women’s Organisation and began accessing various funded training around marketing, bookkeeping and personal development.

Jennifer also worked alongside our Business Adviser, Francine Taylor. Jennifer said: “she [Francine] was amazing and, over the next few months, she helped me put my business plan together. I had no idea how detailed that would be. There is so much involved and Francine’s assistance was invaluable.”

Read the full story on Jennifer’s business journey on Liverpool Business News.

Monday, April 6, 2020

Wellbeing Tips for Working from Home

Right now, more people are working from home than ever before.  For most of us, this is something new: we’re used to going in to work in the morning, having coffee breaks and meetings with our colleagues, and signing off for the day when we leave the office. Maintaining a routine and looking after our wellbeing becomes even more important when our home and work lives become intermingled; here are some tips on how to make working from home as easy as possible.

Create a routine

Rule 101 of working from home – don’t work from your bed! If you can, carve out a permanent workspace in your home where you work from every day, creating a separation in space of your home and work life. Where you can, pretend as though you are actually going into work: get up, showered and dressed, have a cup of coffee, whatever you usually do on a normal workday. Most importantly, once you have finished work for the day, you really want to feel as though you have finished. Put the laptop away, sign out from your emails, and switch off. Keep to your regular work hours, and be sure to take regular breaks away from the screen, and take a proper lunch break. Sticking to as much of a routine as possible will do wonders for both your wellbeing and your productivity!

Keep communicating

Everyone enjoys a catch up with our colleagues over the course of the day. As working from home is not usual practice for most of us, try and keep a semblance of normality by still chatting to your colleagues where you can. Maybe schedule in a video chat once a day before you start working, or have an instant messaging platform that allows you to exchange messages throughout the day. Staying connected is more important than ever at the moment, so try and keep in contact with those around you.

Minimise distractions

There are so many more distractions at home than there are at work. The temptation lies there to have a scroll through social media, or quickly put a load of laundry on while you’re working, and then suddenly it’s the end of the day and you haven’t done anything. Obviously, distractions are unavoidable sometimes, especially if you also have children at home, but wherever you can, try to keep them to a minimum. Try putting your phone in a different room for the day, schedule in breaks where you can check social media, and keep your household tasks to outside of work time where you can. It makes the working day much smoother and easier!

Look after yourself

This is a testing time for everyone: the circumstances we find ourselves in are unlike anything most of us have ever experienced. Be sure to make some time for yourself, doing something you like doing. Go for a walk, read a book, do some yoga or meditate – whatever it is that allows you to practice mindfulness and feel grounded. We aren’t machines, and we need to nourish both our minds and our bodies in order to keep ourselves feeling well, both physically and mentally. We’re allowed to have bad days, and remember – everyone is in this together.

Create whilst you isolate.

The following is a guest blog from Catherine Rogers – Cut Out Collage

Whether you’re an art scene regular, a curious creative or stuck at home looking for things to do, making art during this period of isolation is a sure-fire way to positively impact your mental wellbeing and escape the worldwide conversation of these strange times!

Hi, I’m Catherine, the founder of Cut Out Collage. Before everything changed, I was running creative workshops across Liverpool, giving artist talks, exhibiting alongside collectives and selling original artworks at markets and events, so this current climate has had a huge impact on my business. Despite the curveball I’m committed to focusing on adaptation and how I can creatively respond to the current crisis. So, I’m going to share with my top tips for staying motivated amongst the mayhem.

Artists are still working, we’re just online

Art has not ceased, just the physical places we congregate and share it are closed. Creativity is very much alive in people’s homes, minds and spirits. Therefore, there is a ton you can still get involved with. I would suggest following local and international artists on social media so the content you are browsing each day can motivate and inspire you. I find new and exciting creatives everyday who are hosting online chats, workshops, all kinds of creative spaces and offerings. Following artists can feed your soul and help you discover things you may want to try at home.

Get making, keep making

Don’t know where to start, why not start a sketchbook? What an amazing time to experiment in this way. You can buy one online or use a spare notepad you may already have at home and give it a new lease of life.

Sketchbooks are great for scribbling down ideas, cutting and pasting old magazines into, sketching your garden or your family or to capture your work as you follow online tutorials. Also, when normality returns you will have a record of your creativity and productivity to show for it!  Who knows you may get hooked on sketch booking – it’s the best!

Share your masterpieces, inspire others

Artworks can have a huge impact upon those who view them. Never underestimate the transformational power of making art and sharing it with other people. The offering of something you have created to another person can have a profound effect on their day, so if you make something that lifts your spirits, let someone else be lifted by it to! I am loving the art being sent to my inbox, its inspiring and lets me know people are thinking of me, very encouraging indeed.

Support one another and say thank you

If people share images that move you and or you enjoy in some way, comment on them, let people know that their work has encouraged you. This wave of paying encouragement forward is hugely impactful, it can create a chain reaction of kindness from such a small gesture.

For me and my business, I want to say thank you to the Women’s Organisation and The Common Zine. I want to thank them for believing in my dreams, even before I completely did. They have encouraged me every step of the way and I have taken leaps I likely would not have if it hadn’t been for their support. If confidence is your barrier, I couldn’t recommend them both enough.

Join the Collage Revolution

Obviously, I’m a little bias about this one, but if you’re unsure about where to start I couldn’t recommend collage highly enough. I release weekly Cut Out Collage bitesize workshops on our YouTube channel and top tip videos on a Tuesday! It’s a new platform for Cut Out Collage, so we’re all in it together and learning as we go. There are also collage packs available on our Etsy store, so you have plenty of images to work with!

Thank you Catherine! If you would like to find out more about Cut Out Collage you can find them on: