Thursday, 27 February 2020

Laura’s Business Soars To New Heights

With a Biomedical Science Degree and a background in retail, Laura’s career path was hurtling in a particular direction with her future already mapped out for her. However, sometimes life throws us a curveball and after facing a series of health issues, Laura was given the opportunity to re-evaluate her life and question the direction it was currently taking her.
It was during one of these periods of recovery that Laura decided to take stock and make sure that she was going to live her best life, be the mistress of her own destiny and spend time doing something that she enjoyed. This was the starting point for her new business ‘A Little Pop of Sparkle’.
Being a naturally creative person, Laura had always enjoyed making trinkets and decorations for friends’ birthdays and family occasions. She even created all of her own decorations and favours for her own wedding, wowing guests with her creativity and imaginative designs.
When a chance meeting gave Laura the opportunity to buy a friend’s balloon stock off her, her business burst into life and before long she was offering everything ‘balloon’ – from backdrops to clusters, towers to garlands. She’d finally found her niche product and was ready to fly!
So what words of wisdom would Laura have for anyone wanting to start their own business?
 “You’ve got to do something that you enjoy and have a passion for, and you have to be willing to learn and accept that you won’t know everything”. She added that coming on the Enterprise Hub programme “built up my confidence in my product and in myself. The workshops were an excellent source of information and the one-to-one sessions really homed in on specific things that I needed – like tailor-made spreadsheets and appreciating the need to cost my time!”
So what does the future hold for A Little Pop of Sparkle? Since coming on the Enterprise Hub programme, Laura has gained a contract at the popular Birkenhead venue The Lauries, where she now supplies all the balloon decorations for their events and parties.  Her private bookings for weddings, parties and baby showers continue to thrive and she has aspirations to expand into the corporate scene in the near future.
Laura adds, “A few months ago, if I had a flurry of bookings, I used to bribe my mum with a McDonald’s breakfast to get her to help me out, but if things carry on the way they are, I’ll have to think about taking on extra staff!”
For more information on Laura’s business, you can follow ‘A Little Pop of Sparkle’ on Facebook and Instagram, or contact Laura directly on:


Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Guest Blog: Ways to Make Your Business Energy Efficient in 2020

Emerging writer Amy Hendrix has taken to the blog to share some top tips when it comes to making your business more energy efficient...

Any business needs to be profitable in order to survive. In order to make sure that this happens, business owners need to ensure that their expenditure is no higher than it needs to be. One way of doing this is to reduce the amount they spend on energy bills.

The best way to reduce this expenditure is to pay strict attention to the way that energy is used. There are several steps that businesses can take in order to optimise energy usage and expenditure.

Turning off appliances that are not being used

It's easy for appliances to get left on in a business premises. For instance, employees often leave computers on so they do not have the issue of waiting for them to boot up all the time.  Leaving appliances on in this way can quickly cause energy expenses to mount up.

This is why businesses need to put rules in place to ensure that employees know the importance of switching off computers, and any other electrical outlets, when they are not being used. It's also good practice for businesses to make sure that the last person to leave the building in the evening knows to make sure that all appliances are turned off.

Having energy usage assessed 

Having energy performance assessed allows a business to recognise any steps that it needs to take in order to improve its energy efficiency levels. Energy Efficiency Specialists in London can help large scale businesses in this way by assessing their energy efficiency and providing advice about how it can be improved.

An energy assessment only takes a few hours to complete and there is minimal disruption to the business while the assessment is happening. Once the assessment is complete the business is awarded an energy efficiency rating. There are seven available ratings, from A which is the highest to G which is the lowest.

Use power saving where possible

Power saving mode is often available on office equipment such as computers and printers. Using this mode means that the device automatically hibernates when it has not been used for a certain period of time. This means that if people forget to switch a device off when they are not using it power is still saved.

It's normally fairly easy to to activate power saving on a device. Businesses simply need to check the manuals and instructions that come with a device.

Use power strips throughout the office

Office equipment still uses power even if it has been switched off, unless the power is turned off at the wall. This is why it's so important to make sure that all sockets are turned off when equipment is not in use.

The easiest way to make sure that this happens is to make use of power strips. This is because it's simple and quick to simply switch off a power strip which in turn makes sure that all the attached devices are switched off.

Make use of renewable energy sources

Renewable energy is constantly being mentioned in the news due to its importance in protecting the environment. This is one reason why it makes sense for a business to invest in renewable energy. Doing so means that the business is seen as being responsible.

The other obvious advantage of using renewable energy is that it's cost-effective in the long term. There is obviously a need for an initial investment in items such as solar panels. However, using this type of renewable energy leads to a significant reduction in energy costs. This helps to reduce the expenditure of a business and increase its profits.

Use thermostats in business premises

Obviously, it's important for a business to sustain the correct temperature in its premises, during office hours. However, temperature levels are usually not as important when the premises are not occupied.

This is why using programmable thermostats is a good idea. This is because a thermostat can be programmed to raise and lower temperatures at specific times. This means that business premises are not heated unnecessarily, helping to improve energy efficiency.

Expenditure on energy can be a major concern for many businesses. This is why it makes sense for business owners to do all they can to improve the energy efficiency of their business. Doing so helps to reduce costs and improve profits. It also reflects well on the business as it indicates a high level of responsibility. This is important for any business that wants to attract and retain a good customer base.

About Ella

Ella Hendrix is an emerging freelance writer, typically covering articles on sustainable living, property matters, career development and green business trends. In her spare time, you'll find her hiking hills with her golden retriever or in her local coffee shop with a Nat Geo magazine.  

Thursday, 13 February 2020

MSIF Finance Hub exceeds over 1,500 businesses supported

The MSIF Finance Hub has now supported over 1,500 businesses from the Liverpool City Region in their efforts to secure funding. 

George Wright - MSIF 

Launched in June 2017, the MSIF Finance Hub works with growing Small and Medium sized Enterprises (“SMEs”), start-up ventures and aspiring entrepreneurs to prepare them for funding success and act as a single point of access to finance for the City Region.

Led by Finance Hub Facilitator, George Wright, the Finance Hub provides a free service to individual businesses by looking at their propositions and helping with key financial information including cash flows and yearly forecasts, ensuring that the business is investment ready.

As well as financial support, the Finance Hub has a collaborative network of over 180 referral partners. By working closely with all boroughs of the Liverpool City Region (“LCR”) [including the LCR Growth Platform], the MSIF Finance Hub can carry out detailed conversations and investigations to help determine the best route for funding and facilitate a warm introduction – delivering a ‘one stop shop’ approach to funding.

Some examples of businesses supported across the region include SolidTek, Pasta Cosa and Abditory.

Going forward, MSIF will look to champion the continued success of the Finance Hub by supporting more SMEs and growing its base of referral partners.

George Wright, MSIF Finance Hub Facilitator said, “I am delighted to see that the Finance Hub has had a positive impact on local businesses in the Liverpool City Region. It is important to work collaboratively with fellow organisations across the region to best prepare aspiring businesses for success.

There is real and tangible talent out there that just needs that extra support and guidance to help them achieve their business goals. I look forward to what the next year brings, the businesses we can support and the relationships we can create to grow our network of opportunities.”

Mark Borzomato, CEO of AFM [MSIF’s fund manager subsidiary company] also commented, “The MSIF Finance Hub is an important part of our offering, providing significant local impact. We have a responsibility to invest our time and efforts in people to help achieve their ambitions.

Through the support that the Finance Hub provides, we can better support the economy of the LCR, not only by guiding opportunity but by sharing the expertise and knowledge we have gained over 25 years of supporting SMEs across the wider North West.”

Enterprise Hub can link businesses with the finance hub for investment support. If you would like to find out more about the MSIF Finance Hub, visit or contact 

Monday, 3 February 2020

Branded Items Group’s top three tips for growing your business in Liverpool City Region

Branded Items Group is a multi-award-winning family-owned business, providing promotional goods and branded merchandise for companies in the UK and beyond. Based in St Helens, Branded Items Group have seen significant growth in the past few years, thanks in part to the support they have received from across the region.
In this blog, Directors Steve Fairhurst and Louise Fairhurst give their top three tips for growing your business in Liverpool City Region.

#1 – Do your research and find your niche
Steve: The best advice I would give for small businesses that are either growing or starting up is to do your research into the market – if you don’t, you’re chancing your arm! There are many ways to go about this, but what we did was to run an online test business, under my other company. We ran this for two years and constantly mystery shopped larger companies in the sector, and this helped us to really get to grips with the market.
What we discovered is that there was a real opportunity in our industry when it comes to customer service. Some merchandise companies are great, but some larger online business can be a little bit transactional. We decided then that our point of difference would be to offer a more consultative service. Merchandising is part of the marketing sphere and I have run a marketing agency for 16 years, so we have been able to offer people advice to help them maximise their ROI.
Essentially, it’s about understanding what the customer wants. It’s classic advice, but it’s true: talk to your clients. If we want to know whether we’ve got a service opportunity, we reach out to key businesses in our 500-strong customer base and ask them what they need. We have picked up contracts based just on a conversation.
Our research helped us realise that our previous experience fits nicely with the gap in the market, and that’s the reason we’re now growing quickly – we are completely customer focused.
#2 – Look for support and partner with people who ‘get it’
Louise: We’ve had so much support and expertise to help us – it’s not just monetary, but advice and experience, too. Support is out there, so we wholly recommend businesses go and find it.
A key part of our strategy when we first started was to look for external support. We consulted with the St Helen’s Chamber of Commerce and brought in an external non-exec for 12 months to signpost us to funding and support. It’s never easy in the first 2 years to get financial backing from the high street, but thanks to the support we received, we managed to secure funding from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, VIA GC Business Finance based on our projected growth.
Other support we’ve had included New Markets 2 funding for our website. We found this really useful and now we know we can win business online. Based on what we’ve achieved with the website, we’re looking to access additional funding through LCR Activate to potentially develop the online side of the business further. Our online competitors turnover huge sums and have significant investment, meaning they have sophisticated websites through which they can manage supply chains and host tens of thousands of products. The funding we received in this area so far has helped us grow and now we’re looking to take the next step. The key takeaway from this for us is that the right funding and support can really help smaller businesses like ours take on bigger companies.
Essentially, the best piece of advice I would give is to find the right support for your business. Look for programmes and partners that understand your vision – they will be able to point you in the right direction. For me, St Helens Chamber, Northern Powerhouse, and The Women’s Org have been invaluable in the support they have provided. The funding that our partners have directed us to has also been key. Thanks to funding, I was able to leave a corporate job that was secure and well paid and jump into a career that gave me the flexibility I wanted. I’m a mum first, and then a business owner. If you’ve got the right support paired with the right work ethic, you can completely change your lifestyle and still run a successful business.
#3 – Grow your network – but be patient!
Steve: You can’t just open the doors and expect business to come – you have to do the groundwork. We’re involved in lots of groups and have undertaken plenty of activities to grow our network, including sponsorship via Professional Liverpool, St Helens RLFC, and other local sports, and networking groups . We’re also part of St Helens ambassadors, working with Invest St Helens to promote the town. Louise is also involved in the Women In Business Network and Females United In Business. We are well networked, and it’s done us good when it comes to our business growth.
My advice would be don’t be too rigid and be patient! Don’t stick to one single formatted networking group – look at your industry. Who is directly involved in it? Who could be customers and who could be strategic partners? Don’t sell to the room, build relationships. They could pass you on to others who will want to work with you. It takes time, though, so don’t be disheartened if you don’t pull a load of new business in within the first 6 months. Networking is a long-term strategy, and I find most people fail at it when they don’t dedicate time to it, have patience or don’t have an idea of who they want to speak to.
You can find out more about Branded Items Group here.
Get in touch with the Local Growth Hub to find out about funding and programme opportunities to help grow your business in the Liverpool City Region.