Thursday, 17 December 2020

SME Investment readiness during a pandemic: how to access CBILS and funding support before March 31st

As we exit the second national lockdown of the year and enter strengthened Tier 2 restrictions, businesses are continuing to feel the strain of the pandemic. It therefore remains vital to know your options around the financial support that could help your business to recover and prosper post-pandemic, and how best to approach providers of finance.

MSIF Investment Manager, Sue Chambers, discusses the importance of investment readiness and how best to prepare for funding success during a time of elevated uncertainty.

Sue Chambers, MSIF Investment Manager

Knowing your options

When applying for funding, you should ensure that you have explored all opportunities for
financial support during this time.

Firstly, you should be utilising any free resource that is available to you as a small to medium-sized business. We would encourage you to approach your local chambers of commerce and business growth hubs as they have a plethora of connections to best help your business, in addition to the latest advice derived from central government sources. The Liverpool City Region Growth Platform is a great place to start for any businesses situated within the LCR as the site also includes the latest information on any localised grants that may be available. 

Be sure to check what government grants you may be eligible for as a company as well as ensuring you have utilised the Job Retention Scheme where appropriate to help both sustain your business and preserve jobs via the website. 

If government and/or local support is not sufficient to get your business through the winter, you may want to consider a Bounce Back Loan (BBLS) if you are looking for funding up to £50,000 - or alternatively, a Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan (CBILS) if you need more than that.

If you have already taken out a Bounce Back Loan, you may be able to top this up to £50,000 and you should contact your original provider for further information. You can have either a BBL or a CBILS but not both. CBILS can also be applied for and used to repay a BBL. If you want to apply for either of these loans you need to do this before the schemes end on 31st March 2021. 

In the first instance, our best advice is to try your own bank first for CBILS/BBL support. If they are unable to help, then you can apply to other providers. MSIF as an example is able to support businesses with a CBILS loan through both their dedicated Coronavirus Recovery and Resilience Fund in addition to the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund - NPIF Microfinance, jointly managed with GC Business Finance.


Investment readiness

Before you look to access external funding, make sure you have a full business plan ready – including an explanation of how your company has been adversely affected by the Coronavirus pandemic, your plans for recovery and what you intend to use the funds for.

Cash flow forecasts also need to be incorporated and be as realistic as possible. For example, if your business is connected to the hospitality and retail sector, you may want to assume that there could be a further delay before trading is back to normal. It will also be useful for a funder to see a sensitised version of your forecasts that takes account of possible further lockdowns or slower recovery – say reducing revenues (and associated costs) by a prudent percentage per month.

The cash flow forecast will serve to both highlight the amount required, building in some headroom as it is only a forecast, and help to evidence ability to meet the loan repayments. It is also important to detail any assumptions you have made in the cash flow. At a time when funders can’t get together face to face to discuss your financial workings it is crucial that you explain how you have arrived at the amount of loan you are looking for. Communication is key!


Benefits of funding

There are some real benefits of securing funding during this time. It can help create additional headroom and breathing space for your business, but you need to be sure to apply for sufficient funds to get through the next 6 months and beyond.

Additional funding can also help with the retention of staff and could avoid the need to retrain new staff in the future if unnecessary redundancies are made.

Of course some businesses are seeing growth opportunities during the pandemic and as long as they can show they have been adversely impacted by COVID in some way, then BBLs and CBILS can also be used for investment purposes.

Overall, you are best preparing yourself to hit the ground running when Covid restrictions are eventually eased and we can all return to ‘normality’. Now is the time for recovery and resilience.

If you are successful in applying for BBL or CBILS funding the government will cover all fees and interest costs for the next 12 months allowing you breathing space to focus on getting your business back on track. You can also use the funding to repay any delete ‘any’ existing funding if it will help put your business on a more stable financial footing, but lenders do have a limit attached to the amount they can refinance in this way.

Implementing new finance into your business

Only you, as the leader of your business will truly understand what your priorities are and where the extra funding will be needed most. This will vary from business to business, including covering business rates and rent, paying suppliers and, despite best efforts from the government, staff costs.

The key thing is to ensure that you have explored all options to make the most out of any assistance available.

By having these conversations, you are not only best preparing your business to re-start or continue to operate, but you are putting yourself in the best position possible for success when applying for additional funding. Make sure you have a clear plan of where that money needs to be deployed, to mitigate the risk of asking for too little or too much investment.

Be open and be honest in your conversations with any potential funders, during a time of continued and increased social distancing. It is imperative you include as much detail as you can to supplement your application.

Yes, there is light at the end of the pandemic tunnel but we need to be prepared for the financial challenges 2021 may present as a result.

Thursday, 3 December 2020

Mia’s Cocktails are shaking up the lockdown

For Mia Williamson, the national lockdown in March could not have come at a worse time. Having worked in the bar industry for 5 years, she had decided that 2020 was going to be the year of change for her, and had just packed in her full time job to concentrate on her newly registered business ‘Shaker Shaker’ specialising in a bespoke mobile bar service. She had joined the Enterprise Hub programme at the Wirral Chamber and was busy working on her business plan when the announcement came.

Mia up and running

Mia was faced with two choices, to call last orders on her new business or to take the plunge and adapt to survive. Fortunately she decided on the latter and, realising that her target customers were now confined to their homes and unable to socialise, she took to social media and launched #14CocktailsIn14 Days. “I decided to capitalise on my cocktail-making skills and post a video a day for 14 days showing people how to make a different cocktail each day!” By keeping people’s spirits up – literally – and posting engaging content, Mia soon saw her number of followers increase. She says, “I totally underestimated the power of social media. Initially I found it very daunting taking and posting videos of myself, but I soon realised that my posts were triggering engagements and people wanted to see what I was up to each day!’

Having built up a healthy following on social media, the ease in lockdown restrictions enabled Mia to launch her cocktail delivery service. ‘I announced it on the Wednesday’, says Mia, ‘and by Friday my week was fully booked’. Unlike other competitors, Shaker Shaker’s delivery service provided DIY cocktail kits containing all the ingredients and instructions, so clients were buying the experience as well as the drink – and this quirky twist went down a storm.

The combination of her products and her social media activity soon attracted the attention of other businesses within the catering and events sector and Mia found herself networking and collaborating with other local independents who provided support, cross-referrals, re posts and friendship during the difficult summer months.

Mia’s advice to other start-up businesses would be ‘to focus on the journey and not the destination, move out of your comfort zone – challenge yourself and explore every opportunity!’ She admits that when she first started, she didn’t know how to run a business but through the Enterprise Hub programme she not only enjoyed the workshops that were on offer but felt that she particularly benefitted from bouncing ideas around in the one to one sessions and the encouragement she received from the advisers Heidi and Paul.

So what does the future hold for Mia and Shaker Shaker? Well the support she received over the summer from her client base and fellow independent businesses has left her in no doubt that it is only a matter of time, when restrictions regarding gatherings are lifted, that the full potential of Shaker Shaker will be realised. She already has bookings for next year for her all-inclusive mobile bar package and cocktail making classes, but in the meantime, she’s back to her DIY cocktail deliveries – adding a bit of sparkle and fun to her client’s lives!

For more information on Shaker Shaker you can contact Mia on: / 07708 777 990 or follow her cocktail making antics on or her Instagram page.

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Ellie gets creative with new business Ellie Francesca Design

When the UK lockdown restrictions were announced in March, life and business changed as we know it. For many aspiring entrepreneurs, lockdown gave them the opportunity to knuckle down and work on their enterprise ideas. This was the case for Ellie Francesca Watson who in October launched her e-commerce shop Ellie Francesca Design 

Working as a freelance artist, Ellie was making income through commissions and funding from community projects and workshops whilst working a part-time job at a Chinese takeaway. To gain steady income well into the future, she started to devise a plan to commercialise her work and open her own e-commerce shop.

Instead of taking a step back during the lockdown, Ellie used her time at home to focus on opening her own Etsy shop. Following a recommendation from a fellow artist at the Hazlehurst Studio, she decided to investigate The Women’s Organisation and what support could be offered to her. 

She was set up with business advisor Jo Mountfort who got straight to work helping Ellie reinvent herself and her work as a brand. 

She told us: “Every time I spoke to Jo, she really engaged and involved herself with my concept and vision. She fully understood who I was marketing my products at and has been a crucial step in both promoting and expanding my range at the shop. She was also really great at suggesting webinars and programmes that would be beneficial to me”

The Women’s Organisation gave her the opportunity to attend a range of webinars and business training – something that Ellie took advantage of during the initial stages of lockdown. 

She continued “The Women’s Organisation really helped the process become less overwhelming, the webinars gave me a reason to get up and focus, at a time when it would have been easy to lose motivation. I’ve really enjoyed the networking and hearing stories from other Liverpool based entrepreneurs, especially the ones nearer my age group”

Ellie Francesca Design officially launched in October, selling hand drawn portrait prints and greetings cards of iconic and well-loved musicians through an e-commerce shop on Esty. A self-confessed old soul, Ellie has used her love of music and record collecting to inspire the artwork she creates.

Starting a business during a pandemic is not the only hurdle Ellie has had to overcome, making it all the sweeter that she can now call herself a business owner. In 2018, she faced the most challenging year of her life when her health began to decline, resulting in her having to drop out of university and take a step away from her art. 

The physical challenges from her health condition left her suffering with the performance in both of her hands - every creatives worst nightmare. After a diagnosis Rheumatoid Arthritis in the spring of 2019, and time out to recoup, things started to look up. 

Ellie told us “I’m actually thankful that my personal circumstances were a little rocky for a while, in the long term it has driven me forward and taught me to become more resilient!”

With sales and commissions rolling in, Ellie is now thinking about new ventures such as series for pioneering women and work to pay tribute to NHS workers across the country.

What has Ellie learned from starting her business?

“The business is still very new and it’s very much a learning process, but I’ve learned now to fixate and worry about the small details that can always be resolved. I have probably written enough names down in my notebook to keep me sketching away till I am 80! Thanks to the Women’s Organisation, who’ve helped me get my business up and running, I’m now in a position where I feel the possibilities are endless and the skies the limit.”

To find out more about Ellie Francesca Design you can check out her Etsy, Instagram & Facebook

If you have been inspired by Ellie’s story and are interested in starting or growing a business of your own, then Enterprise Hub can help!

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Wednesday, 11 November 2020

Search launched for LCR Tech Climbers 2021

The search is on to find the stars of Liverpool City Region’s digital sector for inclusion in the LCR Tech Climbers 2021 list.

Following the success of the inaugural list in 2019, the second list promises to be even bigger and better and will showcase the top performing technology-led businesses that make Liverpool City Region one of the UK’s most exciting tech destinations.

The list is being run in association with BusinessCloud and will be unveiled at an exclusive event in 2021 and published online.

Entries to the 2021 list will be judged on:

  • The impact of the technology or service;
  • Innovation and IP development potential; and
  • Investment potential of the technology.

Entries close on December 14th and will be revealed at an exclusive launch event on January 28th, 2021.

The partners for LCR Tech Climbers 2021 are Growth Platform, Brabners; MSIF; Invest Liverpool; ZUT Media; and Gather.

Piers Dryden, partner at Brabners, said: “Brabners Technology Sector Group is passionate about supporting the region’s innovative businesses and is delighted to be part of LCR Tech Climbers 2021.

“The region has a vibrant technology ecosystem and it’s exciting to see so many smart and innovative businesses developing solutions and services that fuel economic, social and commercial growth. They will shape our collective future as the region emerges from the shadow of the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.”

Helen Cross, digital and creative champion at Growth Platform said: “We set Tech Climbers up to showcase the brilliant people and products behind the growth and resilience in the region. There are so many great stories of leadership and tenacity emerging from the technology community at the moment, and I’m really proud that with our partners we’ve made this happen again in 2021.”

David Walters, investment manager at MSIF, said: “We are thrilled to be part of this year’s LCR Tech Climbers – celebrating the best of the region’s scale-up and early stage technology talent.

“In 2021 the investment teams at MSIF are becoming even more focussed on supporting tech in the region through equity and loan vehicles as well as our extensive eco-system of technology thought leaders.

 “The LCR is becoming a beacon for rich IP and product-led tech whether that is AI, digital or increasingly Immersive technology companies.

“Tech Climbers is a great way to further showcase the remit of talent the LCR holds and will further demonstrate why Liverpool is one of the UK’s best tech destinations.”

For more and to enter details go to

Friday, 30 October 2020

Paul’s New Business Is Standing Tall!

Is there anything more annoying than having nowhere convenient to hang your belongings close-by when out at a venue, particularly if you have to use the floor?  Well, Paul Morris’s new business, Small Stands, now offers a simple and attractive solution to this age-old problem.

Paul Morris, founder of Small Stands

But before his dream of becoming his own boss came true, Paul worked in the education sector, the NHS and finally, Lever Brothers, where he worked as an IT manager.  What started as a 4-year plan ended up as 20 years of service, and once he’d achieved all that he could and with IT work slowing down, he decided to leave employment and start up his own business - right in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic!  

Not great timing for some, but Paul was determined to make a living out of a hobby of making things and doing something he enjoyed.  And it was during a trip to Mexico City that Paul kept seeing these curious, but very popular, pieces of table-side furniture in the restaurants, and this became the inspiration for Small Stands!

So, what is “Small Stands” and its products? Well, imagine individual smaller-scale coat stands, tailor-made in a variety of attractive finishes and colours, ideal for any commercial business that operates from premises.  Then imagine that with these products, the business is then able to offer its customers a secure, clean and convenient close-by alternative to the traditional tall coat stand, back of a chair or dirty floor that they would normally have to use!  And with the current pandemic in everybody’s mind, there’s the added benefit that these small stands, if regularly sanitised, can prevent cross-contamination from other people’s belongings.  

Paul will initially be looking to establish a market for ‘Small Stands’ on Wirral, but with three models on offer already and with more product ideas to follow, he has every intention of expanding his business further afield.  In addition, Paul is keen to eventually have his own premises with a view to taking on some additional staff should the business grow sufficiently enough for him to do this.

And as someone who has never started his own business before, Paul’s advice is very practical: “Put a timeline against your start-up plans, then double it!  Then stick to that!”

And having gone through the Enterprise Hub programme at Wirral Chamber, how did he find the experience? 

His response is very positive: 

“The Enterprise Hub has helped me enormously and I wouldn’t be at the stage I am without them. They have a wide range of knowledge which helped me understand the whole start-up process. They also have a huge network to draw upon, helping me source suppliers and reaching out to experts in the field. I also joined many webinars such as finance, website design and social media (which I needed!). But mostly the one-to-ones where invaluable, the team at Enterprise Hub are fantastic at giving guidance and helping you to make your own decisions and giving you direction.” 

So if you’re a business that operates from a venue and would like to know more about how Small Stands can improve your customers’ experience, ring Paul Morris on 07434 641 927, e-mail him at or visit his website at 

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Thursday, 29 October 2020

Debbie Helps People Train and Develop with Purpose at Nurture Training

Debbie Richards, Owner of Nurture Training LTD, is providing vital training to people all across the region. After falling into the role of Assessor, Debbie decided she had enough experience to set up her own business, and hasn’t looked back since taking the leap into self-employment over a year ago.

Debbie explained: “I ended up falling into the role of assessor and worked through to management roles. While I was working in various educational roles,  I just fell in love with the sector. I loved everything about it; enrolments, the admin, the processes – everything!

"I’d worked with a number of providers so I had quite a lot of experience, and I thought I could go this alone and have my own training company. So, I approached the Chamber to find out more about how I could go about starting up.”

Debbie approached St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team, who can provide support for people looking to start their own business; with everything from writing a business plan to accessing funding.

Debbie continued: “Once I had it in my mind to set up my business, I called the Start Up team and booked an appointment with Steve to start putting everything in motion. 

“I’d actually approached the Start Up team the year before, but I decided I wasn’t ready at that point. But, this time I knew I was ready to take the leap!”

With the support from St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team, Debbie set up Nurture Training. Nurture Training have an extensive list of training courses, with the aim to “Train & Develop with Purpose” and allow people to gain deep insights into the areas they are studying in.

Debbie explained: “I’m extremely passionate about the adult education sector, so setting up Nurture Training has allowed me to pass on this passion.

“I’ve always been committed to my own professional development, so this combined with my passion for education means I can deliver a range of professional and industry qualifications.”

St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team worked closely with Debbie to help her become more business-minded, and have continued to support her as her business grows.

Debbie commented: “The Support was fantastic, Stella and Steve were both very informative and even now they still get in touch to check in on me and see how I’m doing. They are really invested my success - Steve is getting in touch to help me with growth and marketing soon too which is great.

“It’s nice to have that followed up and know the support is still available even after I’ve set up. The support is outstanding - I’m really pleased it’s there.”

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

To find out more about Business Start Up Support visit

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Changing the way we learn with Talk Twenties

Whilst school education is a crucial part of every young person’s life, many argue that some essential skills are left out of the curriculum. Noticing the lack of life skills being taught to help the transition into adulthood, award-winning blogger and former teacher Gaby Mendes has decided to change the way we learn with her business Talk Twenties

Gaby Mendes

Navigating her way through her twenties, Gaby soon discovered that there were still a lot of life skills she did not know about. When it came to renting for the first time, starting a new job, or saving for your first home – it was obvious to her that there was a lack of support for young people to access.

She decided to set up a blog to write about the challenges young professionals face in their twenties. It was through this blog that she started to hear back from others in the same boat as her – confused and unsure about who to turn to for advice. 

This feedback got her thinking about the benefits of building a community of twenty-somethings to support each other – and just like that, Talk Twenties was born!

Ready to make her idea a reality, Gaby reached out to The Women’s Organisation after hearing about the support from a colleague. 

She told us: “I was feeling really overwhelmed by the finance and marketing side of starting up and I really didn’t know where to start.”

She was able to access training sessions on business planning, marketing, and business finance. The sessions helped her to start building her creative content and stay up to date with the latest HMRC regulations for self-employment. 

She was also able to attend regular 1-2-1 meetings with her business adviser Jo Mountfort. 

“Jo helped me with putting together agreements for my contributors, this helped me set boundaries with others supporting my business. She also helped me work on a cash flow document to manage my finance”

Talk Twenties officially launched in 2020, upskilling people with a range of content that is not taught in schools. The one-stop shop produces a regular podcast, online resources, webinars, courses, and topical blogs from members of the community. 

The original concept for the business was to create festival style events with expert guest speakers, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaby had to act fast to adapt the business to run online. During the outbreak, the business launched their first podcast that now boasts over 26 episodes and has had special guests including Girls in marketing and Less Waste Laura. 

Gaby recently monetised the business by launching an online shop selling colourful prints and online courses, with the first courses supporting first-time buyers to understand the house buying process.

So, what plans does Gaby have next for Talk Twenties?

“We hope to launch physical events when it’s safe to do so! It is still early days, but I have been able to monetise my business, bring in contributors and increase my exposure with the support of enterprise hub. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without The Women’s Organisation!”

To find out more about Talk Twenties you can check out their Website, Twitter, Instagram & Facebook

If you have been inspired by Gaby’s story and are interested in starting or growing a business of your own, then Enterprise Hub could help!

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Sarah Evans Jewellery is a Hidden Gem!

Well, they do say:  “What goes around, comes around!”  And this is certainly the case for Sarah Evans and her partner, Ian, the co-owners of Sarah Evans Jewellery.  

Having lived opposite each other and dating as teenagers in Dorset, their paths diverged significantly into very different trajectories.  But 33 years later, they are back together again with a shared passion for being creative and running their own business – Sarah Evans Jewellery! 

Sarah Evans and her partner, Ian

Sarah has over 25 years’ experience, knowledge and skills of working in the jewellery trade, having cut her teeth at a prestigious jeweller’s in London’s West End.  She then moved on to teaching at local schools and at the Royal College of Art.  Ian, on the other hand, developed his people and organisational skills working for the Civil Service and local government.  But like Sarah, Ian reached that stage where he wanted to be part of something more creatively fulfilling, so starting their own business made perfect sense.

Now when it comes to quality, bespoke jewellery, Sarah Evans Jewellery certainly shines!  As well as remodelling and repairing existing jewellery, they can produce wedding and engagement rings, necklaces and other jewellery items that are fabulous, of great quality and that can be treasured for many years to come.  And all are hand-crafted to your individual requirements using materials of the highest quality.  Not sure what you want?  Well Sarah is well-qualified to give you the best impartial advice.  Sarah Evans Jewellery has also had to adapt to Covid-19 and has done so by offering Zoom and Skype consultations with customers, along with safe, socially-distanced meetings when appropriate.

And what’s the future for Sarah Evans Jewellery?  Well they are looking to exhibit at jewellery fairs in the UK and overseas and will be hoping to attend Covid-secure events over the coming year.  Sarah would also like to teach customers how to make their own wedding rings along with delivering autism-friendly work-experience opportunities for young people.

And any words of wisdom from Sarah and Ian for anyone starting their own business?  “I’ve always felt that it’s important to follow your heart and to keep creativity in your life,” Sarah replies.  Ian comments further, “It’s what makes us both tick and sometimes you have to have the courage to follow your heart, try something new and believe in yourself!”

Sarah and Ian also acknowledge the support received from Enterprise Hub at Wirral Chamber.  Both are quick to point out that Enterprise Hub has helped them both formulate their ideas into a coherent plan and given them the tools and knowledge they didn’t know they needed, to help them develop their business further!

If you’re looking for a fantastic piece of bespoke, high-quality jewellery and would like to contact Sarah Evans Jewellery, then either ring Sarah on 07941 227 757, e-mail her at or visit their website at

If you have been inspired by Sarah's story and would like to see how Enterprise Hub can help you start your own business, then get in touch with us. Email 

Wednesday, 7 October 2020

Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs Join Launchpad Event

Budding Merseyside entrepreneurs are invited to find out how to plan to launch a new business during a Pandemic at a special 'Launchpad' event. 

Led by The Women's Organisation in partnership with BIPC Liverpool this Launchpad event will outline the practicalities of getting started as well as connecting aspiring business owners with entrepreneurs who have been there, done it and even re-adapted in the face of Covid 19.

The panel:

Sharron Crawford - Objet Dahlia

Objet Dahlia sells faux florals and Homeware. Sharron used to run a wedding floristry business but due to having an unexpected rare type of cancer took a couple of years out and that business folded. Sharron was then working freelance when Covid hit and that work stopped almost immediately. Sharron launched Objet Dahlia just before the Covid lockdown, so not what many would suggest is an ideal time to start anything new but lockdown gave Sharron the free time to put all her efforts into her new business, which is doing pretty well considering the current financial climate. Objet Dahlia is based online only and has just partnered with Not on the high street.

Gaby Mendes - Talk Twenties

Leaving the teaching profession at 23 Gaby wanted to expand her skillset and explore her business idea for Talk Twenties. Gaby felt overwhelmed by the finance and marketing side of things and didn’t know where to start, so reached out to The Women's Organisation for support. Gaby launched Talk Twenties in January of this year to cover all the things that school never teaches you ranging from figuring out how to buy your first home, navigating a career change to prioritising your mental health. Talk Twenties are basically a one-stop-shop for any question you may feel silly for asking in your twenties! They have a popular podcast, online resources, webinars and courses and blogs for our twenty-something community.

This event is part of our Enterprise Hub programme, part funded by European Regional Development Fund and offering FREE advice and guidance to those living in the Liverpool City Region thinking of starting a business.

To book a free place click here.

Friday, 2 October 2020

Self Assessment customers to benefit from enhanced payment plans

Self Assessment customers can apply online for additional support to help spread the cost of their tax bill into monthly payments from today (1 October), without the need to call HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC).   

The online payment plan service can already be used to set up instalment arrangements for paying tax liabilities up to £10,000. From 1 October 2020, HMRC has increased the threshold to £30,000 for Self Assessment customers, to help ease any potential financial burden they may be experiencing due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The increased self-serve Time to Pay limit of £30,000 follows the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s announcement on 24 September to increase support for businesses and individuals through the uncertain months ahead.

As part of his speech, the Chancellor announced that Self Assessment customers could pay their deferred payment on account bill from July 2020, any outstanding tax owed for 2019 to 2020 and their first payment on account bill for this current tax year in monthly instalments, up to 12 months, via this self-serve tool. Customers who need longer than 12 months to settle their tax liabilities are invited to contact HMRC in the usual way.

Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Jesse Norman, said:

“We are supporting jobs by giving more breathing space to up to 11 million Self Assessment taxpayers when managing their tax affairs.

“Enhancing Time to Pay should ease the financial burdens and protect the livelihoods of these taxpayers, as they navigate the months ahead.”

More than 11 million customers complete a Self Assessment tax return each year. Once they have completed their tax return for the 2019 to 2020 tax year, those who have payments to make may have the option of using the online self-serve Time to Pay facility through GOV.UK to set up a direct debit and pay any tax that is owed in monthly instalments, up to a 12-month period.

HMRC estimates around 95% of Self Assessment customers who are due to make payments on 31 January 2021 could qualify to implement a Time to Pay arrangement using the self-serve Time to Pay facility online, without needing to speak to an HMRC adviser.

Customers who wish to set up their own self-serve Time to Pay arrangements must meet the following requirements:

  • they need to have no:
    • outstanding tax returns
    • other tax debts
    • other HMRC payment plans set up
  • the debt needs to be between £32 and £30,000
  • the payment plan needs to be set up no later than 60 days after the due date of a debt

Customers using self-serve Time to Pay will be required to pay any interest on the tax owed. Interest will be applied to any outstanding balance from 1 February 2021.

Be aware of scams claiming to be from HMRC, offering to help you set up payment plans to pay any tax owed. These scams are trying to harvest your details to steal your money. Check GOV.UK for information on how to recognise genuine HMRC contact. Self Assessment customers can set up their own online payment plan to help spread the cost of their tax bill by visiting

Tuesday, 29 September 2020

Entrepreneurship - Alive and Well During Covid-19

I’m sure everyone would agree that the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has been a huge challenge for all of us.  But how has it affected entrepreneurs, not to mention start-ups and young businesses?
Paul Rittenberg from Wirral Chamber of Commerce shares his experience of working with inspiration businesses over the last couple of months...

There’s an old saying that “necessity is the mother of invention” and this is certainly true for those starting and running a new business.  However, with the added complication of a global pandemic, this has stretched even the most resolute of souls during the last few months.
However, having worked in the business support sector for many years, it still amazes me how the human spirit can triumph over adversity, whether it be by adapting a current service or product offer, or just by doing things differently.  The capacity for humans to be able to reinvent themselves and ‘shape-change’ and be ‘chameleonesque’ in response to an ever-changing environment is something we sometimes take for granted.
For example, at the very beginning of the crisis, one of our new Enterprise Hub start-up businesses put out an online ‘call to action’ for people to pre-order her brand-new product range at an early-bird discount but tied it into a crowd-funding opportunity to give her pre-start business a much-needed financial boost before she could physically open her doors.
But does it have to be something innovative or can it be just a simple ‘tweak’ of a business offer to meet a change in demand?  Another of our Enterprise Hub clients was looking to offer his transportation service to a particular target market. However, Covid-19 put paid to that and so he just …. well changed his target market!  Same vehicle, different client group, money coming in.
I’ve been particularly impressed by how the restaurant and pub trade have adapted their services.  Click and collect, delivery services and innovative seating arrangements have all been simple but effective ways to keep the tills ringing, their business going and their sanity intact!
And then there are those businesses which have adapted their services to an online platform such as tutors/life coaches/yoga classes – an adaptation which has taken people out of their comfort zone but opened up a whole new world of opportunities and clients which will remain long after Covid-19 has disappeared.
And then there are those businesses which have suffered, been allowed to eventually re-open under restricted conditions, but have then managed to prosper by following the guidelines and going the extra mile for the customers.  I’m reminded of a local barber who cut a colleague’s hair.  He had a mask on, a visor, wipes outside, wipes inside.  The place was spotless and appointments could only be pre-booked.  My colleague said it felt as safe as being in his own home.  So sometimes, just a little change in the way we do things, thinking about others and going the extra mile is all it needs to develop a best practice model for these unprecedented times.
Sometimes it can be the little changes that make the difference.  British cycling owes a lot of its success to ‘marginal gains.’  Maybe you could too.
If you have a business within the Liverpool City Region and you're looking to grow - we can help! get in touch with us on to find out more

Thursday, 24 September 2020

Elsie Hayford tackles injustices in health systems with her business Lamèsè

Born in Russia, raised in Ghana and Liverpool, Elsie Hayford has experienced the best and worst of health systems. Whilst completing law studies at the University of Liverpool, she developed a passion for global health which eventually led her to obtain a Master of Laws in Global Health Law from Georgetown University, Washington DC.

Eagar to expend her legal skills to strengthen health systems and bridge the health equity gap in developing countries, Elsie launched Lamèsè’ in 2019 - a global health firm that works to restore accountability and tackle injustices within health systems globally.

It was during an event hosted by The Women’s Organisation over 10 years ago that Elsie first thought about setting up her own business. With little legal work experience at the time and almost no savings, she told herself that she would not be qualified enough to run a business – this was until she met with Senior Business Adviser, Huda Mamoun many years later.

Attending 1-2-1 meetings with Huda, she was able to start pulling together a plan of action of what she wanted her business to look like:

“My business adviser Huda was a big help in pointing me to the right resources, she was also able to connect me with other woman who were on the same journey as me”

“I found the training courses particularly useful – they broadened my perspective of running a business, gave me solid concrete information about legalities involved and simplified otherwise complex concepts”

Starting off self-employed  – Elsie secured several consulting contracts from health companies such as Livful Inc, and global health organisations such as The Global Health Advocacy Incubator & The O’Neill Institute of National and Global Health Law where she worked on WHO, Lancet and Global Health Security Agenda projects – many of which included analysing and drafting health legislation for countries.

The business transitioned into a Limited Company in 2019, with the very fitting name ‘Lamèsè’ translating to Good Health in native Ghanaian Language, Ewe. Elsie is the sole director of Lamèsè Ltd in the UK and has a subsidiary company set up in Ghana where she works with 3 other partners. In Ghana, their current work focuses on improving maternal healthcare with the goal of reducing deaths due to medical/and or systemic errors.

Elsie’s position as a Global Health Lawyer and Consultant became even more valuable this year with the COVID-19 outbreak. Her business was able to secure a contract with US global health organisation, Vital Strategies to provide support as part of a Global COVID legal response team - leading the work on legal protections for healthcare workers and the legal infrastructure required for emergency healthcare delivery globally – this involves advising ministry of health lawyers and writing guidelines for national policy makers.

With the business already supporting global organisations, what will be the next step?

“Once we complete our contract, I hope to use my skills to tackle healthcare issues within the UK’s foster care system. I’m excited about the future and very pleased with the support I have gained from The Women’s Organisation.”

“I don’t intend to return to a traditional 9-5 role anymore. The future will see us expand the business and come a relevant voice within the health policy space in the UK and beyond”

To find out more about Elsie and her business Lamèsè, you can find her on Twitter using @EEhayford and @lameseCS

If you have been inspired by Elsie's story and are interested in starting or growing a business of your own, then Enterprise Hub could help!

Get in touch if you are thinking of starting a business in the Liverpool City Region or have a new business under three years old. You can speak to our team via or 0151 706 8113.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Mikaela takes a step towards curbing climate change with The Unwaste

Finding herself at a crossroads following a redundancy opportunity from her 20-year career at a well-known fashion retailer, Mikaela King decided to take some time out to focus on her next chapter – little did she know that she would be launching her own eco-friendly business in the midst of a global pandemic.

Mikaela King - Founder of The Unwaste

Following the opportunity for redundancy, Mikaela King left her role in Digital Transformation and Technology, allowing her time to explore her strengths, visions and more importantly what a different work life could look like. It was during this time that she was inspired by several authors who wrote about making a career out of their passions.

With good working knowledge of business and marketing practices, she was keen to have a go at building her own business from the ground up.

Already making steps to become more conscious about her impact on the environment, it was changes she had been making at home without realising that led to her business concept.

Mikaela told us: “I had started to make some eco swaps at home, so was keen to do more in this space. One night, the idea just popped into my head – I pictured myself throwing plastic bottles of everyday household cleaning products into the recycling bin, with not many eco-alternatives about.”

In May, she launched The Unwaste, offering eco-friendly milkman style refills of plant based, vegan household cleaning liquids. The business model offers clients the opportunity to take a step towards curbing climate change through a convenient and easy to use service.

Initially struggling with confidence in her own entrepreneurial abilities, she was referred to The Women’s Organisation by a friend. Through the Enterprise Hub programme, she was paired with Senior Business Adviser Jacqueline Daley for 1-2-1 support, along with having access to a range of courses to help with business planning and finances.

Having someone to reach out to during moments of doubt was invaluable for Mikaela during the first initial stages of starting up.

She told us: “Jacqueline put me at ease straight away and listened to my situation and my idea and helped me put down some next steps and a plan to move forward. All the sessions were really enjoyable and gave me the chance to meet other likeminded people in a similar situation, some of which I kept in touch with.”

Like many start-ups, Mikaela went in with minimal investment, relying in Facebook and Instagram to promote her business and whilst the first initial response was positive – things soon started to get quiet as she exhausted her social circle.

“Jacqueline advised me to network more to grow reach which I found quite daunting as I am a natural introvert and it wasn’t something I’ve had to do before. I was way out of my comfort zone and worried that other businesses would not want to help me or share knowledge in case it threatened their business.

“I braved it out and contacted other small business owners, local support networks and like-minded businesses and the response was fantastic, people want to help and are so generous with their time and resources”

Together with support from The Women’s Organisation, she has been able to successfully launch and grow a business during a global pandemic.

Expanding her reach across Liverpool and now Wirral, Mikaela is regularly adding new products to her stock and is in talks with other businesses to potentially use and sell her products on their premises.

It is early days for the ‘green’ business sector, with many unknowns to what an eco-business might look like in the future – but with the vast benefits green and eco businesses offer its likely that more companies are going to be adapting to run more efficiently and effectively in the future.

For Mikaela, continuing to raise awareness through her products is at the heart of her business.

She told us: “I am hopeful The Unwaste is helping to force the change in consumer behaviour that’s much needed, albeit a very small contribution to a very large problem. My vision is to increase awareness of the problem, being a catalyst of change towards more conscious consumerism”

The impact of COVID19 has forced businesses to bring their operations to a standstill – leaving many to think that starting a business right now could end in failure. Mikaela is giving aspiring entrepreneurs hope that it is possible to successfully get started during this current climate and adapt to the needs of the “new normal”

Entrepreneurship can lead people down many different paths – what has self-employment taught Mikaela about herself?

“I’ve come to recognise that entrepreneurs come in all different shapes and sizes and there is so much you have to discover, learn and do during the business start-up process I’ve realised I am more capable than I give myself credit for - one of the many things I’ve discovered about myself during this process.”

If you would like to find out more about The Unwaste, you can get in touch on or message them via Facebook or Instagram

If you have been inspired by Mikaela’s story and would like to see how Enterprise Hub can help you start your own business, then get in touch with us. Email 


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

From Vision to Reality with Everpresent Care UK

After spending 15 years building a solid reputation in the domiciliary care industry, Renatta Clerice-Ologbosere decided it was time to finally take a leap of faith into self-employment. Within the space of 3 years, her business Everpresent Care UK Limited has gone from idea stage to recruiting and training qualified staff to offer vital healthcare roles across the region.

Everpresent Care UK Limited is a recruitment agency specialising in Health and Social care – the business works by recruiting and training staff to fill staff shortages in predominantly nursing homes and other care settings. The business puts a strong focus on corporate social responsibility, helping unemployed people back into work with support from their stakeholders.

Renatta Clerice-Ologbosere - Founder of Everpresent Care UK

Prior to setting up the business, Everpresent Care founder Renatta was employed by one of the biggest domiciliary care companies in Liverpool, eventually working her way up the career ladder to become a locality manager.

Building a name for herself in the private care sector, it was her husbands’ support and a love for the industry that made her consider self-employment as an option.

She told us: “I’d studied tropical disease biology at University of Liverpool and fell deeply in love with the industry knowing I was making a real difference to peoples live. My husband spent 5 years asking me to open my own business, so I decided that I should have some faith in myself and not worry about the reservation I had about failure”

Employed in a 08:00-16:00 role, she spent her time after work building a business plan to help her set goals and priorities, recruiting help from her friends via Whatsapp to brainstorm business name ideas.

Marketing can open doors for many small businesses, but sometimes for business owners this can cost more time than money.

When trying to come up with a strategy for Everpresent Care, she found herself struggling:

“The hardest part of the initial setting up process was the marketing. I spent 3 days a week doing face to face engagement and then 2 days of doing cold calling, taking me over 9 months before I got my first clients.

Sometimes I would go home and cry the entire night because I would often get rejected, but having doors shut in my face gave me even more determination to succeed”

Along with strategic business struggles, she also found that her abilities as a woman of colour running an independent business were being questioned; with some clients asking her to lower her prices, making it hard to compete with local rivals who were being paid much higher rates. 

Working to build a client base, Renatta decided it was time to seek out support, only to be told many times over that she was not eligible for any funded support in her area. It came as a lifeline when she was directed towards The Women’s Organisation’s Enterprise Hub programme.

She received 1-2-1 tailored support, helping her focus on the growth of the business.

“I was paired up with a business adviser who taught me so much – but most of all she was very attentive. Sometimes self-employment can seem like a lonely place, but my adviser was my listening ear throughout the process”

The Women’s Organisation introduced her to the Business Canvas Model, a strategic management tool used for documenting each area of the business – something that can be beneficial to analyse the full needs of the business.

She was also able to utilise the funded courses and workshop to start improving her entrepreneurial skills as well as receiving support from her business partner, Edwin. 

She told us: "Many of us women in business look up to a role model or equivalent. Edwin Narnor has played a major role in achieving results in the business."

3 years later and the business continues to evolve, offering bespoke health care services from their home in Wavertree Technology park. Like many businesses across the country, Everpresent Care has felt the effects of COVID-19 but were able to continue their work by securing a few new projects before the outbreak hit. 

So, was self-employment the right decision for Renatta?

“Running my own business has given me a level of discipline that I never knew I had. It revealed my inner strength as a person and given me a level of freedom that I did not have when I was employed.

Once you have a vision, just pursue it and eventually the doors you need will open, be patient, and remember it’s never too late to try something new”

You can contact Everpresent Care UK by contacting their office number on 01513631616 (Out of office hours the phone is diverted to a mobile number which is also available to direct calling: 07392996131)


 If you have been thinking about setting up your own business and would like to see how Enterprise Hub and The Women’s Organisation can help you grow your new business, get in touch with us on

Thursday, 13 August 2020

Toast’d For Success!

Jonnie Barr’s new business, Toast’d, takes toasted marshmallow kits to a new level.  Here’s his story.

Having left university with a Marketing Degree, and with a passion for all things culinary, Jonnie knew straightaway that he wanted to work in the food and drink industry.  

Starting off in marketing and branding at Northern Foods, he proceeded to carve out a 25-year career working for some of the most prestigious food manufacturers in the UK.  Having worked his way up to senior level, he oversaw the branding, packaging and new product launches of many food brands and products we still see in our supermarkets today.

However, as Covid-19 became a worldwide pandemic, and like a lot of industries, the food sector was hit very hard and Jonnie found himself having to look for other opportunities – and so out of adversity, Toast’d was born!

Being a proud family man and passionate about food, Jonnie was intrigued by the popularity of toasting marshmallows and S’mores in the USA.  This prompted him to look into the UK market and, although there were loosely comparable products out there, he couldn’t find any that had that family- fun element which he envisioned for Toast’d.

Toast’d Marshmallow Dipping Kits provide everything you need to enjoy a family get-together whilst enjoying toasted marshmallows at the same time!  The kits come with a small heating device (which is safe to use with adult supervision), chocolate for melting, sprinkles, small wooden skewers and a bag of top-quality marshmallows! And what’s more, they come in 3 sizes to accommodate any sized family or social occasion, be they large or small.

Jonnie wanted to emphasise that Toast’d products are all about family and friends. 

They’re a great way to bring people together to chat, have fun, laugh, play games and without a smart phone in sight!

Jonnie will be looking to develop a range of products for both at home and out of home marshmallow toasting as well as developing seasonal and themed kits to meet the gifting and growing outdoor leisure sectors.  A range of S’Mores and ‘Free-From’ kits will also be launched in the Autumn.

And what advice would Jonnie give to people wanting to start their own business? 

“I think there are two essential ingredients for success.  First of all, have an idea you truly believe in and, secondly, have the confidence in your own ability to make it happen.  Oh, and don’t be afraid to ask for help!”

Speaking of which, how did Enterprise Hub at Wirral Chamber help Jonnie develop his business idea?  

“Well, I found Enterprise Hub to be a very good sounding board that really helped me crystallize my ideas and turn them into reality.  It also gave me the structure and flexibility I needed.”

So if you would like to purchase a Toast’d Marshmallow Dipping Kit or find out a bit more, simply visit the website at or e-mail Jonnie at 

If you have been thinking about setting up your own business and would like to see how Enterprise Hub can help, then get in touch with us on Email