Friday, July 31, 2020

Universal Credit isn’t working: Our contributions to the House of Lords' proposals for reform

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee has launched a new report calling for drastic Government reform of Universal Credit which is failing millions of people.

'Universal Credit isn’t working: proposals for reform' sets out a road map of reforms to make the system fit for purpose, using contributions from our own research and advocacy work here at The Women's Organisation. 

One of the groups facing a barrier with the system is the newly self-employed, and budding entrepreneurs who are dependent on Universal Credit and would like to start their own business. 

This is largely down to the system using an assumed minimum income floor for the newly-self-employed. This assumes that they are earning at least full-time minimum wage - which is not always the case in the early stages of business - placing thousands outside of eligibility for Universal Credit, creating a major issue at start-up level.

We shared our experiences learned from working with women and men across the Liverpool City Region and Greater Manchester, who have faced this barrier in starting their enterprises.

Helen Millne, Deputy CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “The evidence that we provided for this House of Lords Economic Committee report on Universal Credit came from women and men who are looking to start their own businesses while dependent on Universal Credit. It is clear that the current system makes it unnecessarily harder for people to become self-employed.

“The newly self-employed should not be subject to an assumed ‘minimum income floor’ under the system. To assume that self-employed people are earning at least full-time minimum wage, and are therefore not eligible for Universal Credit, causes a major issue at start-up level. This is a very real barrier which prevents people from not only creating their own jobs and improving their own personal and financial circumstances through entrepreneurship, but it also prevents future job creation for others, which is a great loss for our local and national economy.

“We now more than ever need to support business creation, not put barriers in the way. We hope that the Government will take action on the findings as a matter of urgency to enable, not penalise, those taking the imitative to create their own employment, and fundamentally aid the UK’s economic recovery.”

You can download the full report by clicking here

Click here to read our contribution to Liverpool City Council's 'Rethink Universal Credit' report, ahead of its roll out in 2018.

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Client News: Liverpool author encourages local children to share their lockdown experiences for the British Library's ‘digital time capsule’

Children now have the opportunity to be a part of history by sharing their experiences of life during the COVID-19 lockdown. Our Enterprise Hub client and children’s author, Natalie Reeves Billing, says these experiences will be displayed on a dedicated ‘Children of Lockdown’ website to be preserved as a digital time capsule by the British Library in the UK Web Archive.

For this historic project, children aged between 3 and 17 are being asked to reflect on their lockdown experiences and use stories, poems or pictures to share those experiences. By preserving those experiences in the British Library’s UK Web Archive, children of the future will be able to see and understand what life was like during this unprecedented time, through the eyes of the children of today.

There is also a competition to find the most creative response in each age category, to be judged by five children’s authors: Natalie Reeves Billing, Nicola J Rowley, Janey Jones, Sandra Horn and Rhys Brisenden. Winners in each age category will receive National Book Tokens.

Natalie Reeves Billing, author of My Mummy Is A Monster: My Children Are Monsters
Natalie Reeves Billing, author of My Mummy Is A Monster: My Children Are Monsters said: “Having a record of how we lived and how we coped as a nation will inspire generations to come. Our children will become a recorded part of that history. Children have so much to say, and expressing themselves subconsciously via storytelling is the perfect way to unlock that message they wish to deliver. Not every child can find the right way to frame their feelings about lockdown but art and creative writing can give them that outlet and the digital time capsule gives children a platform to share their feelings on the world right now.

“My social enterprise, Split Perspectivz, explores the importance of self-expression via storytelling of all forms. That ability to download information from our heads onto paper helps promote a well-balanced young person. Holding onto our feelings can be damaging, and many people forget that children feel worry, depression and anxiety too. With this project, children have that opportunity to put their experiences in one place, recounting and sharing it, and subconsciously, making sense of things.”

This project is the brainchild of Charlotte McMillan, founder of the digital scrapbook app Storychest. “It started as a personal project that I asked my three boys to do; they have witnessed a fundamental moment in history, when everything that was predictable about our lives was suspended - the ability to come and go as we please, to see friends and family, and to go to school.

“I thought it was important for them to express their thoughts and reflections about lockdown, almost as a way of putting it into perspective - the negatives but also the positives - and to see what we can take on board for the future. My friends also got involved and I thought how great this would be if we could extend the idea to all children across the UK, for their reflections to be captured in one place.”

Charlotte heard about the British Library’s UK Web Archive, so she approached them with her idea of creating the Children of Lockdown digital time capsule. Head of Contemporary British Publications at the British Library, Ian Cooke, said: “The British Library will be including Children of Lockdown in its collection on COVID-19, as part of the UK Web Archive. This collection covers medical, healthcare, policy and social impacts of the Coronavirus pandemic.
“As part of this, we are preserving a record of personal responses and accounts of life during Coronavirus, through communications made public online and preserved in the UK Web Archive. Children of Lockdown will be an important part of this collection, showing first-hand accounts of how lockdown impacted a generation, through a range of creative and written responses.”

Natalie said: “With lockdown imposing restrictions on our freedom, we must look to all opportunities for life enrichment. Giving children the gift of creativity is perhaps the most important thing we can be doing for mental health now. 

“I am a massive advocate for education. Literacy is the key to a lifelong love of reading which gives us a place to escape to in our minds - our imagination - and it is a place no one can ever take away from us. When we have that, there is nowhere we can't go. When we set our minds free, through reading or being creative, we can forget about the problems of the world, and focus our thoughts on positives.”

Natalie urges all teachers and parents to encourage their children to start creating now, to be a part of this historic Children of Lockdown digital time capsule project. Poems, stories or pictures can be submitted up until 7pm on 31st July and winners will be announced on 31st August on Storychest’s Facebook page and website.

For more information about submitting entries to Children of Lockdown, go to Once winners have been announced, all entries will be accessible to read here. Only the first name, age and location of each child will be made public.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Job Opportunity: We're Recruiting for an experienced Business Adviser!

The Women’s Organisation is expanding our team by seeking to recruit an experienced Business Adviser to support the high quality delivery of women’s economic development services throughout the Liverpool City Region (Merseyside and Halton areas). 

We are committed to flexible working and applicants applying for full time or part time posts will be considered.

Could you be the right candidate? Apply now.

Do you know someone who would be perfect for the role? Help us spread the word!

Closing date for receipt of applications is 12pm, Wednesday 12th August 2020. Interviews for short listed applicants will be held week commencing 17th August 2020.

Find out more or download an application pack here. Alternatively, contact us on 0151 706 8111 or

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Lockdown, Grief and Beyond

With lockdown now easing for most of the UK, it is hard to measure the lasting impact it will have on society. Many of us have dealt with individual struggles, from job loss to decline in mental health. Jenny Wallwork, Training Manager at The Women’s Organisation shared with us her personal journey of dealing with grief, and its implications during lockdown. 

“Where do I start?  Lockdown for me has been a huge mental health rollercoaster for myself and my family. In normal times, the thought of being in isolation, staying and working from home, would seem quite appealing, time to reflect, plan, slow down and have more family time.  

This sadly was not the case for me, my mum passed away during lockdown (not COVID, however the impact of COVID was huge) within a 10 week period my mum had gone from living independently, to hospital/care, to know longer being here. I cannot explain the loss and gaping hole this has left in my life.  

The impact of lockdown and COVID has meant that one of the most difficult and hardest situations to deal with has not being able to hug people or have contact with family and friends, which is our normal human basic instincts, to hug and make better.   

Not being in control, we are being told what we can and cannot do.  We could not visit mum when she was deteriorating rapidly, knowing everyday was precious, the anxiety and desperation this caused is indescribable, I was allowed into the care home in the last few days of mums life, which I am eternally grateful for. Only 10 people were allowed at the funeral, the difficulties of deciding who was attending, how do you make those heart-breaking decisions, grandchildren missing out on attending their nans funeral. 

This raised anxiety levels to new heights, I have experienced a lot in my lifetime, but this was on another level. I then started to what I call ‘have a word with myself’, this is to challenge my thoughts and realise that I can only do what I can do as this was unprecedented times, do the things that I can and try to park the things that are out of my control, this would happen many times a day, incredibly challenging, but I tried to keep at it.   

My work colleagues at ‘The Women’s Organisation were supportive and caring, you know you have good leaders when your CEO and line manager, message you on the day of mums passing, to send their condolences, I cherish those messages from my colleagues and friends.  The lack of emotional contact with family and friends was and is the hardest, as I write this I have had lots of virtual hugs and hugs from my immediate family (household), but cannot wait for the day when we are allowed to hug whoever we like.  

This blog is not a self-pity ditty, it is about understanding how we all react to adversity, loss, grief a pandemic.  There are not one size fits all, we are all different and that is okay, it is okay not to be okay, when people ask me how I am?  I have stopped saying okay or not bad, I have started being a little bit more honest with myself and saying if today is a better day or not.  I have tried to practice what I preach with clients who attend my training at The WO, it is about changing how I think, to look at what I can do, not what I can’t.  

The thing is, people may look from afar and say how resilient I am, on the whole, over the years with my experiences of being in the forces and dealing with the aftermath of the Hillsborough disaster, I would probably say yes to a point.  Resilience is not about thinking positively with a gung-ho attitude, it is how we deal with adversity, how we react to difficult life events.  It does not mean that you do not experience stress and emotional turmoil.  

Going forward for me, I am on a long journey of change, dealing with grief, I will continue to challenge my thought processes, I will start to live life differently, life with and without mum.  As we can all relate too, life before COVID and lockdown and life after. The positives of lockdown are, that in my opinion, it has brought communities together, we have started speaking to neighbours for the first time, people showing compassion and kindness.  

I am hoping that we all continue to support local independent businesses, many have been a lifeline for offering their services during the pandemic. Opening pop up facilities and home deliveries, thinking outside the box, keeping their business afloat and moving with the times.  

For those independent small businesses, who have struggled during this time, The Women’s Organisation can offer invaluable support with 1:1 support on business advice and training opportunities, we have already supported 300 clients within the 60 day lockdown period, which is an incredible achievement.  Zoom has become the go to tool, for meetings and training which we all seem to have adapted to. 

Life will never be the same, moving forward we can look for different opportunities, maybe life will become a little slower and the world will become a nicer place to be.  

For me personally, I know I am on a journey of huge change, one thing I would say for those looking on, if you know someone who is dealing with grief, don’t be frightened to ask how they are really, check in with those people often and be ready for that huge hug you will get once lockdown has finished, as although we have had at present nearly 40,000 people dying of COVID, within that lockdown period there are on average 1500 additional people dying each day from many different conditions and causes, were COVID has also had a huge impact on their families and friends, due to lockdown. 

What I will say, when this Pandemic has faded, there will be an awful lot of love and hugs to go around, which I am so looking forward to. 

This current climate that we are dealing with is a difficult one, but it can also be a chance to look at what we really want in life.” 

If lockdown has left you struggling, we are here to support you with our programmes Change it: Renew and Managing in a Crisis – Be Resilience 

Change it: Renew is helping women in the Liverpool City Region build their confidence and make a positive changes in their lives that they want, whatever age and background or stage of life you are at, this programme will help build a more positive future.

Change It: Exploring Opportunities booking information below

Enterprise Hub Skills: Managing in a crisis – Be Resilience 2-day session will look at what it means to be resilient, offering you practical tips to strengthen your personal resilience, business resilience, and other areas of your life that have been impacted.

Managing in a Crisis – Be Resilience booking below

If you would like more information about Change it: Renew or other upcoming programmes at The Women’s Organisation, you can get in touch on

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Two North West powerhouses ranked in world’s top 10 start-up cities, thanks to world class business support

Both Liverpool and Manchester have been ranked in the top 10 global emerging ecosystems for start-ups, thanks in part to access to start-up and scale-up support.
Jackie Williams, Enterprise Director at The Women's Organisation
Research by Startup Genome – 2020 Global Startup Ecosystem Report – has ranked the two North West powerhouses ninth in the world, ahead of locations including Dubai, Lyon and Chengdu in China.
The report, which assessed 270 ecosystems around the world, scored the region strongly on the performance of start-ups, access to early-stage funding, ability to scale up and the talent locally available.
It ranked the region fifth among emerging ecosystems in Europe and, overall, the number two UK start-ups ecosystem, second only to London.
A key element in the proliferation of start-ups in both regions is the support for budding entrepreneurs from programmes like Enterprise Hub, in the Liverpool City Region, and Excelerate Labs in Greater Manchester, respectively.
North West social enterprise The Women’s Organisation is lead organisation for both support programmes, which have helped thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs get their ventures off the ground and to scale-up.
The entrepreneurial expertise on offer through Enterprise Hub and Excelerate Labs has offered a vital lifeline for the region’s entrepreneurs during the current coronavirus pandemic.
Over 2,000 entrepreneurs have been supported through the two programmes in the last four months alone.
This includes over 550 virtual business advice appointments, helping company owners to sustain or grow their businesses, alongside over 40 training courses, events and webinars which have attracted in excess of 700 people.
Jackie Williams, Enterprise Director at The Women’s Organisation and Programme Manager for Enterprise Hub and Excelerate Labs, said: “It comes as no surprise that Liverpool and Manchester have been ranked among the best places in the world to start and scale-up a business. Entrepreneurial spirit and talent is brimming here. We have seen thousands of budding business women and men come through our doors for support and go on to create viable, sustainable enterprises which add real value to our local economy and communities.
“The support on offer across the region is invaluable and we know that seeking the right advice and guidance in the start-up phase plays a key role in the long-term success of any new enterprise. We would urge anyone in the Liverpool City Region or Greater Manchester area who is thinking about starting a business, or needs advice around growing their current enterprise, to get in touch and see how Enterprise Hub and Excelerate Labs can support you”.
Enterprise Hub and Excelerate Labs’ ongoing support for the region’s business community continues with two upcoming events designed to help the start-up sector across the region.

The first from Enterprise Hub is a free online event for women in Liverpool called ‘Starting a Business During a Pandemic’, taking place at 11am on Thursday, July 23, featuring local entrepreneurs who will share their experiences with the audience. Click here to find out more.

For Greater Manchester, Excelerate Labs in inviting female and male entrepreneurs are invited to take part in the online ‘Kickstarter Manchester –The 7-Day Start-Up Challenge’ event. Kickstarter Manchester starts at 11am on Tuesday 11th August and will offer a week-long series of workshops and webinars culminating in a group mentoring session on Monday 17th August. Click here to find out more.

Both programmes are fully funded thanks to support from the European Regional Development Fund and are free to access (eligibility criteria applies).

For anyone who is thinking about starting a business in these areas, or is looking to grow a new enterprise, they can contact for more information on the support which is available to them.

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Gear up to Grow with Brown Turner Ross: Maintain a Happy Household

Once lockdown was announced, the team at Brown Turner Ross immediately began working remotely, and have continued to see existing and new cases progress.

Sam Bushell Director of Brown Turner Ross

Every year, during the weeks following Christmas, lawyers like myself always see a surge in divorce enquiries, so much so that mid-January has a day labelled as “D Day”. It is apparent that long periods spent locked up at home together during the festive period is the final straw for many couples, who seek a divorce lawyer once the final strips of tinsel are packed away. After 12 weeks of lockdown, the family law team here at Brown Turner Ross is braced for another surge in divorce enquiries, potentially on a larger scale than what we experience post-Christmas.

It comes after it emerged from lockdown, China saw a spike in the number of divorce applications, so much so that officials in the Fujian Province of southern China, had to limit the number of divorce appointments to just 10 couples per day after being overwhelmed with the number of couples seeking a separation.

The UN has also recently described the global increase in domestic violence as a “shadow pandemic” alongside the Coronavirus pandemic. The UN believes that cases of domestic abuse have increased by 20% globally during lockdown, where many victims are spending months with no escape from their abusers.

So why does this happen? While being physically marooned 24/7 with your spouse for a long period of time can be a positive experience for some couples, it can lead to amplified frustrations, arguments and conflicts for others, which under normal circumstances rarely surface thanks to personal hobbies and work to keep us independent as individuals - one of the bedrocks of a successful relationship. Of course normal conditions also distracts some couples from having to face the inevitable truth that the relationship had stopped working a long time ago.

The last 12 weeks have been anything but normal. Like no other time, the Covid-19 pandemic presents couples with a unique set of challenges that unfortunately some will not be able to overcome. Concerns about health, finances and employment security are a leading factor when couples start considering a separation.

So how can couples keep calm during this strange and unprecedented time, and maintain a happy household?

Clear communication is vital, so it’s important to talk about what’s on your mind with your spouse. It’s also really important to enjoy activities separately, whether that’s going for your daily exercise alone or enjoying a TV programme without being disturbed.

Couples’ counselling may also be a good idea - many providers are offering online sessions now to tackle relationship problems. Relate, for example, are an organisation providing relationship help and advice, and are operating a range of online or over the phone counselling options here.

If you do find yourself still needing advice on separations and divorce, there’s a number of important things that any good divorce lawyer will guide you with as you go into this process.

Firstly, take advice from a professional, they will guide you without emotion, through what is a life changing decision that will affect the whole family. When getting divorced the practical side of things can be a trigger for frustrations to spill over. In my experience the two most divisive issues are children and the dividing up of assets. You must think of what is best for your children and your future, no matter what kind of partner they may be, they are still dad. Also be mindful not to disregard your pensions. There are many options including pension sharing orders, or offset agreements to consider.

If lockdown has left you considering speaking to a family law expert, know that you’re not alone, and that you will reach a solution with the help of a good divorce lawyer who will fight to protect you and your future.

And if you and/or your children are suffering at the hands of domestic abuse, seek help immediately. There are some useful links below.

Women’s Aid online anonymous chat service
The National Domestic Abuse Helpline is 0808 2000 247
Government advice on how to get help if you are, or know someone who is, a victim of domestic abuse 

Sam Bushell is MD and head of family law at BrownTurner Ross with offices in Liverpool and Southport. 

Looking for help to grow or adapt 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.

Leading social entrepreneur will use new academic role to promote ‘business for good’ agenda

A leading voice in women’s and social enterprise, Maggie O’Carroll, has been appointed as a Visiting Professor at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde, where she hopes to support the development of a more inclusive and socially focused approach to entrepreneurial education and research.

Maggie O’Carroll has taken on the role to promote
the ‘business for good’ agenda 
Liverpool-based social entrepreneur and internationally leading voice on women’s enterprise, Maggie O’Carroll, has accepted the role at the University of Strathclyde Business School (SBS), in the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.

The Centre, which is endowed by the celebrated entrepreneur Sir Tom Hunter, is recognised as Europe’s leading academic centre for research, teaching and engagement in the areas of entrepreneurship, innovation and strategy within the context of SMEs and entrepreneurial ventures.

O’Carroll, a Cambridge graduate, is a co-founder and CEO of The Women’s Organisation, an internationally recognised social enterprise which has supported over 70,000 women to take a more active role in social and economic life and has helped create more than 4,000 businesses since its inception in 1996.

The Women’s Organisation was this year listed in the top 1% of UK Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index, which is the country’s leading source of market intelligence on social enterprise.

Working on an international scale to ensure that women's interests are represented across communities, business and government policy, O’Carroll supports the agenda of women at the highest levels and speaks widely on issues relating to women’s employment and entrepreneurship.

She was also named as one of the UK’s most influential people in the social enterprise sector, making the top ten in Natwest’s WISE100 list as part of the SE100 Index.

O’Carroll now hopes to pass on this expertise and industry knowledge to the university’s faculty, wider research and policy community and especially to students who will be the business leaders and entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Professor Nigel Lockett, Head of the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship at the University of Strathclyde, says: “We are delighted to welcome Maggie on board as a Visiting Professor to the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship.

“As Europe’s leading academic centre for research, teaching and engagement in the context of SMEs and entrepreneurial ventures we are always looking for ways to develop and enhance our offering. Maggie’s decades of experience in the field of entrepreneurship, particularly in the context of women’s enterprise and social entrepreneurship, will be an invaluable addition to this. We now look forward to welcoming Maggie to the department as she finds innovative ways to contribute to and enrich our academic community.”

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “The University of Strathclyde Business School and the Hunter Centre is a pioneering, internationally renowned academic organisation and I am delighted to be joining the exceptional team there as a Visiting Professor.

“Supporting evidence-based policy development and the next generation of business minds and entrepreneurs is hugely important, not just for the talent pipeline but for the wider economy and society at large. It is so important that our future leaders recognise that business for good is not limited to charities and social enterprises alone, but has a hugely significant role to play in commercial businesses. If I can inspire just one student to go out into the world of business with a socially focused mindset and to take that knowledge forward with them, that will be a great thing.”

O’Carroll will be shortly joined by two new academics, Dr Suzanne Mawason from the University of Stirling and Dr Nadia Zahoor from the University of Central Lancashire, alongside five Enterprise Fellow who will work to support an exceptional student experience.

Change It: Renew is LIVE!

We are excited to announce the release of the latest sessions for our ‘Change It: Renew’ programme.

With support from The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and The National Lottery Community Fund, we are able to extend our offering to support vulnerable women right across the City Region to improve their resilience, coping mechanisms, and mental wellbeing through the current crisis and beyond.

Our aim is for the sessions to create a safe, inclusive space for women to gather, connect and support each other through the current crisis and beyond, connecting vulnerable women from diverse backgrounds and communities across the Liverpool City Region to build a brighter future.

The Change It: Renew sessions will run every 2 weeks, covering a wide range of themes, such as adapting to change, health and well-being and exploring new opportunities.
The events will offer different formats to meet the needs of local women, some with key speakers and others with a panel of experts, all supported by our team who will offer guidance and support along the way.

All events are listed below and you can book on them immediately, and we will be adding further details of our guest experts as we confirm them.

Change It: Adapting To Change 

Wednesday 15th July - 11:00am 

Change It: Exploring new opportunities 

Tuesday 28th July - 11:00am 

Change It: Coping Mechanisms 

Wednesday 12th August - 11:00am 

Change It: Health and Wellbeing 

Wednesday 26th August - 11:00am 

Change It: Be Prepared

Thursday 10th September - 11:00am 

Change it: Renew is open to women from all six boroughs of the Liverpool City Region, including Liverpool, Wirral, Sefton, Halton, St Helens and Knowsley.
Funding from the Coronavirus Community Support Fund, distributed by The National Lottery Community Fund, is supporting ‘Change It: Renew’. Thanks to the Government and The Department for Digital, Culture, Media , and Sport for making this possible.

Those wanting to find out more should contact for more information.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

The Chancellor's Summer Statement: Our Reaction

As we look towards economic recovery post COVID-19 it is essential that businesses are properly supported to start trading and start hiring again. 

In today’s (Wednesday 8 July) Summer Statement we heard The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, announce a package of measures to get our economy moving again, but there are still some sectors left with limited solutions.

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

Maggie O’Carroll, CEO of The Women’s Organisation, says: “As we heard today, the hospitality and tourism industries employ over £2 million people across the UK, with women, BAME and young people accounting for a disproportionate amount of these workers. While we of course welcome the Chancellor’s support of these sectors and the protection that this should offer these groups, there is a real risk that other sectors, particularly SME’s, are being left behind in the Chancellor’s plan.

“We urgently need to see more financial support in place for SME’s which are viable in the long-term but are facing an immediate cash flow problem. These are the very businesses which would stand to benefit most from schemes like the re-employment bonus but might not have the financial capacity to operate even with this support. Without the right financial injection now, we risk losing these enterprises altogether, along with the creation of decent jobs down the line.

“When it comes to the Chancellor’s plan for jobs, supporting start-ups will be crucial in creating new quality employment opportunities. Programmes like Enterprise Hub here in the Liverpool City Region offer an incredibly valuable resource in equipping aspiring entrepreneurs with the skills, knowledge, and support to successfully launch and grow new enterprises. This not only enables entrepreneurs to create quality employment for themselves, but also serves to support and nurture the employers of the future. A major scale up of investment into small business support schemes like this will be essential to aiding long-term economic recovery.”

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Networking - Embracing New Thinking

The following is a guest blog by Johanna King

The morning commute from your bedroom to the living room has become somewhat of a routine and you’ve managed to master an array of genius lunch recipes to compete with the likes of Pret and EAT so finally this permanently working from home lark is beginning to feel normal!

But how about networking? The global pandemic has forced everyone to limit their interaction with others and ultimately rethink the way we operate on a day to day basis and unfortunately this means no scrumptious networking breakfasts in swanky crowded conference rooms for a while!

So how do you continue to grow your business using networking throughout the current Covid-19 restrictions?

Here’s some handy tools and tips to get you back on track with networking for your business!

Start the conversation..

Don’t be afraid to start the conversation, if the global pandemic has taught us anything, it’s how to think outside the box when communicating with others! Reaching out to companies or organisations that you would like to potentially collaborate with is a great way to open up the lines of communication and working on skills share basis, can create opportunities for you and other businesses with no major costs attached.

Befriend Zoom

Zoom - If you hadn’t heard of the video conferencing before lockdown you certainly would have now! From the weekly pub quiz to catch up calls with friends and relatives, it feels as if the Zoom platform has been a crucial life line to many throughout the Covid-19 crisis.

Zoom is an ideal space to arrange a ‘virtual coffee’ or for team meetings with colleagues. With the ability to screen share, all attendees can give input and a clear visual ensures that discussions flow in a conference call setting.

If you’re currently on furlough or unable to work for various reasons, now is the ideal opportunity to improve your zoom skills and build your confidence using video conferencing.

Share ideas on social and networking platforms

Reports show that the general use of social media platforms increased by 23% at the peak of lockdown, so upping your game on social is key when communicating your business updates and brand messaging. Sharing ideas or even simply opening a conversation on a current topic, can lead to new connections and business leads. Business platforms such as LinkedIn are the ideal space to provide interesting industry content and connect with like minded professionals.

Virtual communities

This is the perfect time to explore the array of virtual communities via their various platforms! A number of individuals have turned to local projects and businesses throughout lockdown and have been able to seek solace in staying connected through this incredibly uncertain time.

Virtual communities can vary, from action communities that are campaigning for social change, to professional communities who are doing similar work. No matter the community, each gives you the opportunity to share advice and experience which can be invaluable within business. The feedback and sense of community spirit can also be empowering and help when growing your brand.

Create a podcast

Creating a podcast is a brilliant way to help tap into another audience, as the popularity of your podcast grows, its reach will increase, helping to gather interest in your business.

If starting a podcast feels a bit daunting, start off by selecting a theme. When promoting your business, you want to strike a good balance between informative and interesting, so keeping the narrative engaging is key and a lighter approach can be favoured to encourage listeners to tune in.

Researching popular podcasts and successful formats can help too, navigating through the world of podcasts can be overwhelming so as a beginner, find what you like and engages you and then work from there.

Take your events to the virtual side

As traditional networking events are not possible at the moment, consider taking your events online! Creating a workshop style event that can streamed, is a brilliant way to get your business out to the masses. The popularity of online exercise programmes such as yoga and dance classes has dramatically increased since gyms and studios have been closed and many leisure based brands have found providing online offerings have kept their brand current and accessible within a difficult climate.

You can also create watchable content by demonstrating a brand new product, running an online session or interviewing an industry influencer to help create new connections.

Business Support

If you’re a woman based in the Liverpool City Region or Greater Manchester and you’re looking for support to grow your business, contact us on to find out more about the support available.

‘Why can't the Chancellor do the right thing by women entrepreneurs?’ ask leading women’s groups

The government has announced a partial U-turn on Covid-19 financial support for the self-employed which left new mothers at a significant financial disadvantage. But leading women’s enterprise groups say there is still more to be done.  

Co-Chair of the WEPG and Professor of Entrepreneurship
at Manchester Metropolitan University, Julia Rouse

New mothers who had taken maternity leave in the last three years were previously being unfairly disadvantaged under the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS), according to campaigners.

Under the Self Employment Income Support Scheme, the government will pay self-employed people grants of 80% of their average profits, up to £2,500, for three months.
These average profits are calculated based on the last three years of tax returns, but these calculations did not previously consider any time taken off for maternity leave in that period, which substantially brought down the average for thousands of self-employed women.

Campaigners estimated that this was set to potentially impact around 80,000 women in the UK who took leave during this time.

The Women’s Enterprise Policy Group (WEPG), which represents leading experts from business support and academia across the UK, launched a lobbying campaign on the issue together with leading social enterprise, The Women’s Organisation, last month.

This came alongside work from the Pregnant Then Screwed campaign group, which is expected to launch a legal case against the Chancellor on the grounds of sex discrimination this week.

Following these lobbying efforts, two groups of parents who were previously excluded from the SEISS are now set to benefit from updated HMRC guidance.

The extension now means that self-employed parents who did not submit a tax return for 2018-2019, or those for whom self-employment was not their main job, will now be able to claim under the scheme, as long as they meet the other required eligibility criteria.

These groups will now be able to submit a claim using either their 2017-18 or both their 2016-17 and 2017-18 self-assessment returns as the basis for their eligibility and grant calculation.

Those who are now eligible under the amendment will be able to make a claim for both the first and the second SEISS grants, depending on when their businesses may have been adversely affected by Covid-19, when applications for the second grant open in August. 

However, the leading women enterprise groups who lead the lobbying campaign say that this support does not go far enough and still fails to properly recognise the value of female entrepreneurs.

Campaigners from the WEPG say that the extended support still fails to help new parents overcome the disadvantage of having a reduced self-employment income due to having a child in 2016-17 or 2017-18.

Likewise, those who took parental leave between 2018-19 and were previously eligible for the SEISS will still not have any reduced self-employment income taken into account.
This means that thousands of self-employed parents still stand to take a substantial financial hit under the scheme.

Professor of Entrepreneurship at Manchester Metropolitan University and Co-Chair of the WEPG, Julia Rouse, says: "We welcome HMRC moves to make new parents eligible for the Self-employment Income Support Scheme. However, we still consider it to be a real injustice that HMRC is not taking periods of low income caused by taking maternity into account across the 3-year period over which payment is assessed.

“Sustaining a business while having a baby is a huge challenge and mothers are now battling for business survival amid the business disruption caused by Covid-19. For instance, we know that women typically find themselves as primary care givers in their households, add to this the disruption of nursery and school closures, alongside reduced access to family help with infant and childcare.

“Why can't the Chancellor do the right thing by women entrepreneurs by properly recognising the value of their businesses and their mothering? We support Pregnant Then Screwed in their legal case to get proper justice for new mothers who are self-employed.”