Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Women’s Organisation steps up support for female entrepreneurs in lockdown


While its no longer “business as usual” for thousands across the City Region, The Women’s Organisation is offering entrepreneurs and SMEs a vital lifeline through its programme of online and virtual business advice, training, and webinars.

Since lockdown began nearly 60 days ago the Liverpool-based social enterprise wasted no time in re-designing its services to fully operate on an online and telephone basis, with its programme of training and events as active as ever.

Read on to find out what The Women’s Organisation has been doing so far to support women in business and how you can tap into the support on offer, plus, how to catch up with anything you might have missed…



1-2-1 business advice through the Enterprise Hub programme

The Women’s Organisation is the lead partner of the Enterprise Hub programme, which coordinates and simplifies the business start-up and growth support available across the Liverpool City Region into a “one front door” access point.

As part of this offering for aspiring entrepreneurs and growing businesses The Women’s Organisation offers 1-2-1 advice with a dedicated business advisor, either by video link or over the telephone, alongside a programme of business training.

The support on offer is fully-funded and aimed at women across the City Region who are currently thinking of starting a business, as well as new businesses which need support in navigating through the current crisis and those which are experiencing growth due to increased demand for their product or services.

Clients can now instantly book a slot online via The Women’s Organisation’s Eventbrite page, or by getting in touch via hello@thewo.org.uk.


Online business training with Enterprise Hub

As part of the Enterprise Hub programme, those eligible can also access The Hub’s full range of fully funded online training. This includes business planning course ‘Planning for Success’, ‘Building a Social Media Strategy’, ‘Basic Bookkeeping’ and ‘Understanding Tax and National Insurance’.
For anyone interested in accessing these courses, The Women’s Organisation recommends getting a business advisor as a first step before enrolling on the training.


Entrepreneurial training with Enterprise Hub Skills

In a new addition to The Women’s Organisation’s programme of training comes a special two-day ‘Managing in a Crisis: Be Resilient’ course from Enterprise Hub Skills.

This entrepreneurial training will look at what it means to be resilient, offering practical tips to strengthen personal resilience, business resilience, and other areas of life which might have been impacted.

Managing in a Crisis is free to access for women in the Liverpool City Region who are running a business or working in a business and are finding it difficult to manage under current circumstances.

The first cohort will be taking place on Thursday 28th May and Thursday 4st June, 10.30am – 12.30pm, with the following session happening the same time on Wednesday 17th June and Wednesday 24th June.

Book your place via Eventbrite or by getting in touch via hello@thewo.org.uk.



Introducing ‘Rapid Response’: expert-led online webinars

In response to the crisis, the organisation has also launched a special series of free ‘Rapid Response’ events and online webinars designed to equip the local business community with specialised entrepreneurial skills to survive, maintain momentum and thrive through the pandemic.

Led by industry experts, the series has already covered topics including accessing finance, promotion and marketing, innovation, and well-being.

The first ‘Meet the Media: Promoting your Business During a Pandemic’ session welcomed the expertise of Nazia Parveen, North of England Correspondent at The Guardian and Tony McDonough, Journalist at LBN Daily.

Life coach Claire Morton led a ‘Master Your Mindset’ session to help entrepreneurs stay positive and motivated in challenging times, also looking at how to think outside the box for business opportunities.

A special finance and legal Business Resilience Clinic Q&A looked at approaches to securing additional financial support from funders, what steps to take to ensure a surviving and viable business, as well as practical advice on the legal impacts of Coronavirus on businesses.

The Women’s Organisation’s marketing manager, Joanne Austin, led the latest session ‘Keeping Connected with Customers’ which put a focus on how businesses can use PR and social media to make sure your business stays visible.

Sessions which have already streamed are all available to watch back. Those interested should contact The Women’s Organisation directly to access a play back link.


Upcoming ‘Rapid Response’ webinars:

Following the success of the ‘Rapid Response’ series so far, The Women’s Organisation has committed to running webinars throughout the crisis tackling core business themes.

The next session, ‘SEO to Stop Google Forgetting You’ is taking place on Tuesday 26th May at 11am.

Jo Austin, Marketing Manager at The Women’s Organisation, will be sharing her tips and tricks on improving your SEO to make sure your business remains visible and help you grow your brand.

This will be followed by ‘Reacting & Adapting During a Pandemic’ on Wednesday 27th May at 11am, where you can hear from the women whose businesses have survived and thrived during the coronavirus pandemic.

We will dig deeper to understand why their transitions have been so successful, find out what worked for them and what business practices they will carry forward in the future.

As businesses start to look towards the post-lockdown world, ‘Rapid Recovery – Returning to a Better Workplace’ happening on Thursday 28th May at 11am, will explore how businesses can manage a smooth transition back to the workplace.

This Live Q&A will bring together a panel of business experts to offer their advice and tips on how to minimise risks in your working environment, how to build confidence in your team and how to adapt your strategy.

All upcoming Rapid Response sessions are free to attend and are open to business women across the City Region and can be booked directly through The Women’s Organisation’s Eventbrite page.

The message from the Organisation is clear: we are here for you and your business.


Business Adviser Co-Ordinator, Francine Taylor, says: “We understand that this is a worrying and uncertain time for entrepreneurs and businesses and so we would like to assure you that The Women's Organisation is, as always, here to support you in any way we can.

“Whether this be through our team of expert business advisers who are on hand to help guide you through these difficult times and continue to thrive, or through our programme of business training and events. We’re here for you.”

To find out more about upcoming events, or to instantly book a 1-2-1 business advice session, you can visit The Women’s Organisation’s Eventbrite page:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/the-womens-organisation-1282675313

Those wanting to find out more can also contact the team directly via hello@thewo.org.uk, where an engagement specialist can talk you through the support available.



Monday, 18 May 2020

Natalie Reeves-Billing: Author to Social Entrepreneur with help from Enterprise Hub

Starting a business in an unfamiliar industry can be a tough step to take. It might feel like a risk to begin with, but many entrepreneurs have come out on the other side shining.


Author and founder of Split Perspectivz – Natalie Reeves-Billing has just released her debut children’s book ‘My Mummy Is A Monster’, the first in the series of her Monstrous Me collection. With books published on Amazon, her online store and a following of over 27,000 people on social media, you might find it hard to believe that just a couple of years ago she was a newbie to the industry. 

Natalie Reeves-Billing

A jack of all trades – Natalie began her career as the lead singer of a signed touring band before moving on to run an electronics and textiles recycling plant. She also spent her time working on a slew of projects that got her entrepreneurial cogs turning. 

Her light bulb moment came when she realised there was one part of those projects she loved doing.

She told us: “I had many projects on the go, from developing soundtracks to creating new bands. I finally had a revelation when I realised it was the writing part of it, I loved, coming up with ideas and the creativity – that really charged me up”

She began her journey into Children’s writing after having her two children – and although she had been a songwriter and poet for many years, she still felt like she had a lot to learn about children’s publishing.

Struggling with structure and planning, she decided it was time to seek out business support to push herself further.

Approaching the Business Clinic at Liverpool Central Library, Natalie had the opportunity to present her Bubs book collection, a series about furry creatures with magic powers, who help children learn how to read. There she met Ali McGrath from The Women’s Organisation.

Natalie told us: “As soon as I met Ali, I knew I was in safe hands. Before discovering The Women’s Organisation, I was still trying to find my feet in a new industry”

Working with The Women’s Organisation, she was able to make huge leaps in her self-confidence as a new author by formulating long term goals and asking the right questions to the right people.

Natalie explains that by having her business advisor, Ali, to meet up with, she was able to build connections through a network of new people. 

She said: “I like the informal manner of conversation and advice. I feel like you are spending time with a wise friend. That dynamic allowed me to open up and admit my vulnerabilities, revealing the weak spots in my business model

“I found the sessions on SMART very useful and have recently applied it to a PR company I engaged with to do some work on my behalf. It meant that at briefings, I was asking the right questions and setting joint monthly goals”

Together with the programme of support from the The Women’s Organisation and Writing on the Wall, Natalie has gone on to debut her first children’s book and start a new social enterprise with an aim to provide free, enriched education.

“Split Perspectivz will use storytelling as a tool for healing and growth, and empower youngsters by discovering who they really are, through story.

I decided to set up a social enterprise after speaking to a dear friend who is also a social entrepreneur, I realised this was my way of giving back – I wanted to make a real difference”

In the future, Natalie hopes to visit schools in Merseyside to deliver workshops on creativity, emotional wellbeing, and literacy.

“Having this pause has allowed me to take stock of the advice I have been given, and to start putting them together into solid plans and strategies. The team at Women’s Organisation have been a great help to me at this challenging time.


The Monstrous Me Collection is now available on on Amazon or through Natalie's online store. 





For more information about the support available to help start or grow your new business through Enterprise Hub, please contact enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk.




Thursday, 14 May 2020

Reacting and adapting – the new business normal


Lockdown has changed the whole dynamic of business, but here in the Liverpool City Region business support agency, Enterprise Hub, is helping local entrepreneurs react and adapt to the new business normal.

With workplaces and venues forced to close to ensure social distancing, many ventures have had to rapidly reassess their whole way of working.
Here, we meet four Liverpool City Region businesses that have successfully transitioned to maintain a valuable service for their clients by ‘reacting and adapting’ to the current crisis.
All have received guidance and support through Liverpool City Region’s “one front door” access point for business support, Enterprise Hub, led by Liverpool social enterprise The Women’s Organisation.


Enterprise Hub helped freelance art educator Jennie Keegan set up her Outline Arts business two years ago.

Initially she provided courses and workshops in visual communications and worked with organisations including National Trust Formby, Tate Liverpool, Alder Hey and Aintree Hospitals, as well as schools and festivals.
Jennie works with youngsters, and adults.
Since social distancing was introduced she now reaches her classes digitally through an Online Arts Club, posting daily creative art prompts on social media, with more exciting projects in the pipeline.
Jennie said: “My sessions are planned around experimenting with materials and techniques, encouraging exploration of ideas and confidence so you switch off, be creative and enjoy the session. This aim has not changed. It is the way I do it which has.”

Recently, she was approached by Grow Liverpool and other Liverpool businesses to launch #streetgallery #frommywindow – inspired by the movement in Spain and Ireland – to encourage children, and adults, to create artwork and share it in their window to give passers-by something positive to look at.
And last month Jennie launched a free eight-week Online Art Club for children and adults which has been a resounding success.
She said: “The idea is you have an art session every day of the ‘working week. It's completely flexible so you can do as much, or as little, as you like, when you like.
“Each Monday subscribers receive a video for that day’s session, along with a handout of resources for Tuesday to Friday. There are also research activities included so students can start to gain a wider understanding of artists, organisations and galleries.”
Jennie set out with the aim of signing up 20 people, but there are now more than 90 taking part, which has inspired her to continue the programme after lockdown is lifted.
She has also been awarded a bursary from Curious Minds, the Arts Council England bridge organisation for the North West, to develop her work and adjust her teaching in response to COVID-19.
Jennie said: “Don't get me wrong, it's been a tough, uncertain time and I have moments when the thought of the future scares me, but focusing on my online courses, creating videos and positive social media content has been good for my business with my followers increasing by 15% for both Instagram and Facebook.”

Crosby-born yoga teacher Megan Halewood has been running virtual yoga retreats since the start of lockdown to help support people’s mental health during the pandemic.


Enterprise Hub helped develop her venture, Megan Marcelle Yoga & Retreats, last year.



Megan’s passion for sharing yoga stems from supporting mental health and wellbeing, having graduated with a Psychology degree in 2012.

She believes that getting on the mat to practice yoga can help people manage their everyday stress and anxiety.

So, when the UK went into lockdown, Megan knew that her classes, workshops and retreats could provide an all-important escape and support system to help people through the difficult months ahead.

Having set up a virtual yoga retreat Megan offered classes seven days a week, from 7am through to early evening.

She said: “My aim was to inspire people to get up early and make an active start to their day, giving them purpose and establishing a routine. Each day I provided tips and tools people could take off the mat to help manage stress, anxiety and fear – emotions many people are currently experiencing.”

Her online community has attracted a wide audience, extending from local clients in Liverpool to India, the US and Australia.

Megan said: “It has been a journey adapting to ways of doing business in the current crisis, and not always a smooth one, but I always come back to my intention to support others, and it is this which keeps me going.

“We are very lucky to have access to online platforms which can help us reach our clients and I highly recommend trying it out, it can be a rather strange transition for those in a customer-facing business, but people needed your business before the crisis, and will need it after, if not now.”

Payment is on a donation basis, but all sessions are free for NHS workers.


Ashley Spencer found herself in a similar situation to Megan.


The founder of Phenomenal Woman Fitness, she wasted no time in adapting her business model and taking her services online.

Having spent most of her adult working life in the corporate world, and the associated negatives of long commuting times, long hours and poor eating habits, she designed a healthier training plan that suited her lifestyle, then founded Phenomenal Woman Fitness in Wirral two years ago, offering a combination of 1-2-1 and online health, fitness and lifestyle coaching for women.

She said: “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.”

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

She said: “We received the news at 5pm on Friday, March 20, 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.”
The following day she arranged video calls with all her clients and over the weekend planned programmes for them.
She said: “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.

“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 the 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.”
Since lockdown, Ashley has attended online seminars run by The Women’s Organisation, through Enterprise Hub, to scale and launch the next stage of her business. She said: “This situation has forced me to think more 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.”


Lockdown presented more complex problems for Rosie Whittington when social distancing was introduced.

She launched The Me2U Centre in Kirkby two years ago to provide valuable support for families looking after relatives with dementia, helping them maintain their independence and remain in their own home environments, with their families, for longer.
It also provides respite, giving family carers the chance to take on normal work, home and family routines safe in the knowledge that their loved ones are in expert hands.

Once the Government’s response was launched Rosie applied to care watchdog, the CQC, to become an emergency crisis facility, offering six hospital beds for high risk dementia patients, which provides specialist dementia care, while freeing up vital capacity in NHS wards for coronavirus patients.
The centre 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.
Rosie intends to retain these services once lockdown is eased.
Jo Mountford, Rosie’s business advisor at The Women’s Organisation, said: “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.”

Rosie responded: “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.”
Throughout the upheaval caused by lockdown, Rosie and all the other businesses supported and coached by Enterprise Hub, through The Women’s Organisation, continue to receive help and advice from their business mentors.

Whether you are thinking of starting a business, sustaining your business through the current climate, or even growing your business, we have a team of expert business advisors who are here to help you through the practicalities.

Contact us via hello@thewo.org.uk to find out more or to book your 1-2-1 telephone or video appointment.  




Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Gina Dobson styles her own future as a Colour and Style Consultant


As a Colour and Style Consultant, Gina Dobson is in the business of making people look and feel their best. Having worked with people throughout her career, Gina combined her love of fashion and styling and her past experience to set up her own business.

Gina Dobson


Gina explained: “I worked in many different roles in local authorities in Greater Manchester, including libraries and information services but I was made redundant after government cuts.

“I’d already come across the Colour Me Beautiful books when I first started working in libraries which really sparked my interest in colour and style.”  

Gina decided, after her own colour consultation to train with Colour Me Beautiful and use their expertise combined with her own passion to set up her own business; she attended St Helens Chamber’s Be Your Own Boss event to find out what support was available to her.

Gina explained: “I went along and listened to all the support available and I enrolled on the Understanding Enterprise course to learn more about starting a business- Be Your Own Boss gave me the chance to find out about one on one support too. I thought it would be daft not to take advantage of it!”

Gina worked closely with St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team to formulate a business plan and to discuss her ideas on taking the business forward.

Gina said: “It was great working with Steve as he helped me put together a plan. Speaking to Steve was the first time I spoke to someone who didn’t know me about my business and it was great to use him as a sounding board for my ideas and to talk to someone externally who can help with costing, marketing and more. He really helped give me the impetus to keep going.”

Gina’s business is growing quickly, helping people look and feel great by providing insights into which colours and clothing styles work best for them.

Gina explained: “I’m a personal stylist and image consultant, a lot of people come to me for colour analysis which is where I look at someone’s colouring in good daylight in my studio and then use coloured drapes to see how the colours are reflecting onto the face – so for a few hours people are pampered in my studio and it’s all about them.

“I also do makeup lessons, so people can practice doing their makeup themselves and they know which colours to buy and what suits them. When you wear colours which work for you, you look more confident and this is what I try and achieve with every client – it’s a great job to do, making sure everyone leaves happy.”

Gina is now making the most of Chamber Membership and is attending networking events and using all the Chamber Member Benefits available to her.

 “I’ve found the Chamber Membership really useful for networking and getting support from other businesses, and for helping me find out about everything going on in the area. I’ve recently run a style and confidence workshop with Sandra Edwards Consulting who I met through the Chamber.

“My Start Up adviser Steve encouraged me to start going to the business breakfast when I launched and I’ve made some great connections in a short time, thanks to my Chamber Membership.”

St Helens Chamber is part of Enterprise Hub, the enterprise gateway for business start-up support in Merseyside.  Offering expert advice and support to anyone thinking about starting a business, including help to:

• Understand the process of starting a business
• Research a business idea
• Build a comprehensive business plan
• Develop a marketing plan
• Create financial forecasts to understand the costs of running your business and potential income
• Identify sources of finance to get started

Enterprise Hub is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

If you’d like to know more about Gina’s work, visit https://www.ginadobsoncolour.co.uk/ or call on 07598 367 552

Friday, 1 May 2020

JourneyMEN CIC - Making New Roads to Recovery!

With mental health being such an important issue, you’d be surprised to hear that it has been difficult to access mental health provision for men on Wirral – until now!  Phil Roberts has known this for some time and that is why he set up JourneyMEN CIC, to fulfill a need that was not being met.
However, it all started for Phil when he was working for the police.  It was during this time that he realised that many people he was dealing with day-in, day-out needed mental health support, not a night in the cells.  That was when he became aware there was brilliant support out there, just needing to be joined up and men guided towards it.

Phil Roberts


In 2018 Phil became part of Wirral’s Early Help Team.  From there, Phil started to engage with his contacts and organisations in the health support sector and drew these together under an early intervention “Mental Health Umbrella.”

Not being someone to hang around, Phil invited local organisations, professionals and potential beneficiaries to an ‘Open Day’ and the response was overwhelming. One of those was the Neo Community CafĂ© who offered Phil premises on Chester Street, Birkenhead.  The need was clearly there, the integrated support required was identified and JourneyMEN CIC was born.

So, what does JourneyMEN CIC do?  It is aimed at local men in need of mental health support and involves a ‘Journey Plan’ tailored to each person. This plan goes from initial assessment, ongoing support such as counselling, training and social interaction, right through to helping men become job-ready, be able to volunteer, or upskill with further training.  

Phil is particularly proud of the narrow boat which allows for a ‘floating counselling’ facility.  The guys can have a relaxing trip up the canal, meet new people, get trained and even gain an accredited qualification to become a skipper!
Phil is all about community and he is seeking to develop JourneyMEN CIC further.  For example, Phil is developing a ‘Man Cave’ – a safe space - where there’ll be the opportunity for men to network with others with similar issues, partake in various fun activities and ‘get out of the house.’  This will need money, so Phil will be exploring what funding might be available.

And what has Phil learned after being on his own ‘journey?’ 

“One important piece of advice is to surround yourself with the right people as you cannot do everything yourself no matter how good you think you are!  And do not struggle as there is a lot of help out there and you will learn from your mistakes. The Enterprise Hub and Community Action Wirral are worth their weight in gold so get in touch with them!  Both Paul and Zel worked together to give me the belief to go forward, and without their help, JourneyMEN CIC would not have happened.”



To find out more about JourneyMEN CIC or if you are a man with mental health issues needing support, you can contact Phil on 0151 792 9159 or e-mail enquiries@journeymencic.com or visit www.journeymencic.com