Wednesday, 31 March 2021

MAT Recruitment - The agency with ethics and values

Education recruiters Marie Tormey and India Kapur felt large recruitment firms were serving schools and children poorly, so they set up their own venture in Liverpool.

Marie Tormey (right) and India Kapur

Most large recruitment companies will insist they work hard to match the right person to the right job in terms of experience and qualifications.

And, for the most part, that is probably technically true. But when your job is to hire teachers for schools the bar is raised and comes with a wider social responsibility, or at least it should be. As Marie Tormey says: You are looking for teachers who will inspire, engage and enthuse children.”

Marie is co-founder of Liverpool-based MAT Recruitment along with India Kapur. Between them the pair have amassed 28 years working in the education recruitment sector, mainly for larger corporates. And they felt the way they were having to work could sometimes lead to standards being compromised.

India explained: “When you work for a large organisation you are too often driven by KPIs (key performance indicators). There was a lot of pressure to satisfy the client from the organisation by finding any teacher to fill the role. But it meant that we didn’t feel like we were always making the right ethical decisions.”

So in February 2018, they took the plunge and launched MAT Recruitment. And, despite a few early setbacks, the business has gone from strength to strength with support from Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub via The Women’s Organisation in Liverpool. It’s a venture that is aware of its wider responsibilities to society.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, MAT has grown headcount with four people, including Marie and India, now in the business. Rather than just putting bums on seats, MAT will go the extra mile to ensure the right teacher is being placed in the right school.

“We would rather say to a school ‘I’m sorry I don’t think we can help you on this occasion’ rather than taking their money,” she said. “We don’t comprise on our standards. Our philosophy is always the same – profit with purpose. We are, and we will always strive to be, a values-led ethical business.

“You often hear of good teachers leaving the profession altogether. It doesn’t always have to be like that. Too often the problem is they are not in the right school. Most of the time, people don’t leave jobs that they are happy in.”

MAT works with individual schools and academy trust across the UK. It helps to place teachers as well as other educational staff such as HR, finance, facilities and support staff. It offers a personalised service to candidates. Time and care is taken to understand their career history and own aspirations.

India said: We take considerable time to discuss challenges they may have faced in their careers. We write a personalised profile for each candidate that highlights their key achievements and successes. Writing this profile gives confidence to the candidate that we understand who they are as a person and a professional.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the education system with children away from their classrooms for weeks and months at a time due to multiple lockdowns. This has led to fears of long-term effects on young people.

Both Marie and India acknowledge but add they have found the resilience and adaptability of both schools and children to be awe-inspiring. Both are active school governors in Liverpool and can offer insights on the education sector from multiple perspectives.

“Schools and children have done a fantastic job in adapting to the pandemic,” said India. “During the first lockdown there was a gap between the children who were getting access to teaching and those that weren’t.

“However, that has now changed significantly. This time around, schools are much better organised and they are offering online structured timetables. They have really upped their understanding of what the technology can do.

“At MAT we have provided a fully-staffed virtual school with tutors across a number of subject areas for a large multi academy trust. This has been specifically aimed at year 11 students and is helping to fill gaps in knowledge. It has been a really big piece of work for us.”

teacher, classroom, school, pupils
MAT Recruitment says it takes placing the right teacher in the right school very seriously


Although both Marie and India were experienced and accomplished professionals in their field, there is much more to starting and running a business which is where the support of Enterprise Hub proved invaluable.

India said: “Enterprise Hub helped us a lot with structure. Both Marie and I know our stuff when it comes to recruitment but there are other things you have to consider – marketing, accounts etc. It helped us to step back and look at areas we needed to focus on. There were things we probably would have got around to but with their help we got there sooner.

"We had recently grown the business in terms of headcount, but we were conscious of ensuring that we therefore increased our turnover and managed the team effectively, making use of their skill set. Also, we wanted to set a clear direction for our ambitions and goals and have them formulated into some sort of structure. 

"We found the training sessions with our team to be really useful; this is where we identified the range of services we offer and how we are different to our competitors in regard to the level of service we provide. Our employees were able to see our USPs which has helped when talking to candidates and explaining to them why they should work with us. "

And, talking about the learning curve of starting a business, Marie added: “We went into this with our eyes open. We are self-funded and we had a clear budgeting strategy to enable growth and sustainability.

“I think you have to have faith in your own abilities and be prepared to learn from your mistakes. We have certainly had our setbacks. Those situations test your resolve but we have always kept the faith in what we do, and refused to compromise on our principles and standards”.

“Both India and I bring different skill sets to the business and we have a lot of confidence in the two people we have taken on. They have really bought in to what we are trying to achieve. We are two hard working professionals who had a dream and wanted to create something unique within our industry. Our aim is to ensure that our values continue to drive the growth of MAT Recruitment.”

Originally published in LBN Daily: 

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

Monday, 22 March 2021

Philippa and Neil Build their Own Careers with BC Bespoke Furniture

 Phillipa and Neil have turned their passion into a successful business with BC Bespoke Furniture. Starting out fixing and customising their own home furnishings, both Philippa and Neil recognised that they could create unique pieces for customer’s homes by setting up their family business.

Philippa explained: “The business has really evolved from where it started. BC Bespoke Furniture actually started when our puppy ruined our dining room table! I knew what type of table I wanted but I knew I wouldn’t find it in a shop, so I set about making it myself.

“I have a quirky style when it comes to furniture, and my vision was to have something unique. I made the table from scaffold boards and tubes and the finished product was exactly the look I was going for.”

From their dining room table, the couple also realised that during the pandemic they needed extra desk space as Neil was now working from home.

Philippa commented: “When COVID started, Neil ended up working from home and using my desk, so we needed extra desk space to accommodate us both.  We made a new desk ourselves, then some shelves for the living room and it grew from there.”

Philippa and Neil clearly had a passion and talent for creating bespoke and unique furniture, but after relocating from Northampton it wasn’t until their young family was settled into St Helens that the pair took the next steps towards setting up BC Bespoke Furniture.

Philippa explained: “I moved from Northampton nearly 5 years ago and I had tried to go back to work when I came to St Helens. At the same time, we were going through the diagnosis process with my son who was diagnosed with ADHD at age 14; so, trying to work for someone else and get him into school moving was too much of a juggle for us.

“Once the whole family was settled, it felt like a great time for me to get back into work. I realised that setting up our own business would give us the flexibility we needed to balance family life with our work lives. Unfortunately, Neil was made redundant too, but this ultimately helped us decide to set up on our own and we started looking into the premises and machinery we would need.” 

Once they had decided that the time was right for them, both Neil and Philippa set about researching what they would need to set up their business – enlisting the help of St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team.

Neil commented: “We had some conversations about starting up properly, and we knew we needed machinery and that our current workshop was far too small.

It took us around 8 months to get the website built, find our new premises and commission the workshop, but now we are all set up and operating safely.”

BC Bespoke Furniture now make a range of different products, all unique and bespoke. Each product is created with passion and the business has now evolved further into making bespoke Garden Rooms.

Philippa explained: “Now we have the machinery we need we are creating these amazing garden rooms. There’s a full range to suit all different sizes and matching all budgets. We actually use one of the garden rooms ourselves as an office in our workshop.

“These rooms have electricity, UPVC doors, cladding and add a really useable space to your garden. Once lockdown has been lifted we are planning to have a collection service from our workshop and we will allow people to come in and see one of our garden rooms fully set up so they can get a feel for it before they buy.”

Through Enterprise Hub, St Helens Chamber’s Start Up team supported Philippa and Neil while they created their business plan and will continue to support them as their business grows.

Neil commented: “Steve was really helpful. He put a framework together for us and showed us everything we needed to consider while setting up our business.

“Steve then helped us with our business plan, he gave us lots of helpful feedback whenever we sent him the plan and helped review our cost plans. He’d often come back with questions we’d not thought of, which was really helpful when starting out.”

St Helens Chamber is part of Enterprise Hub, the enterprise gateway for business start-up support in the Liverpool City Region.  Enterprise Hub is part funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

Now BC Bespoke Furniture is set up and business is growing, they have become Chamber Members. Chamber Membership helps them enjoy great links with local businesses and plenty of other benefits.

Philippa commented: “The factsheets I requested were really helpful – they helped us know what to consider when it came to health and safety, we had one on social media marketing too.

“Anything we needed like business insurance etc we were able to go through Chamber Members and felt much more secure going to someone who is associated with St Helens Chamber. All the support has been great, from the start up team to our Chamber Membership”.

To find out more about BC Bespoke Furniture visit:

To find out more about Start Up Support, visit

To access support to start your business contact the Enterprise Hub team on 0151 706 8113 or

Monday, 15 March 2021

Redundancy gives James the Opportunity to Realises his Dream of Setting Up his own Business

After being made redundant, James Hunter decided it was time to follow his ambition of starting his own business. With the support of St Helens Chamber and Enterprise Hub, he started mobile valeting company, High Definition Mobile Valeting.

High Definition Mobile Valeting

James explained: High Definition Mobile Valeting is based in Newton Le Willows, but we cover most of the North West. I valet cars and other vehicles too; offering a range of services from full valets, to showroom valets and even a disinfecting mist service which kills 99.9% of germs.

The misting service has gone down really well at the moment as people are much more conscious of keeping their cars clean and free of bacteria. I also offer a carbon clean too which is good for the engine maintenance, so I help people take care of the inside of their car as well as the outside!”

After being made redundant, James was keen to get his business off the ground. However, after talking to St Helens Chambers Start Up team he slowed things down to make sure all of the relevant funding and business plans were in place.

James commented: I knew once I took redundancy that I wanted to start my own business with the money. I thought it was a great way to turn something which was quite stressful into something good; and its worked out really well.

I wanted to finish my job on the Friday and go straight into the new business on Monday. After speaking with my Business Adviser Steve, he advised me to take a step back and look at a business plan; which really was the best thing I could have done.”

James didnt just benefit from the support of the Start Up team, he took every opportunity to train with St Helens Chamber and boost his skills – all completely free of charge.

James explained: The support has been superb. Steve slowed things down for me and gave me a new perspective, he advised me about different funding available and then he helped me access relevant training.

I took advantage of some of the courses on offer like Getting started with LinkedIn and I did a Bookkeeping course which was really useful. With me handling money I wanted to know I was doing everything right, so this really helped.”

High Definition Mobile Valeting is going from strength to strength and business is growing even through the lockdown.

The timing of me starting in the middle of the pandemic wasnt ideal, but once we came out of the first lockdown we really hit the ground running. In particular, Facebook has been really good for us lots of bookings come through Messenger.

I wasnt sure whether the business was going to take off through the pandemic but it really had and Im so pleased. I work nearly 7 days a week and were really busy which is great. Im establishing my business so its great to have so many bookings coming through.”

Steve Mather, Business Start Up Adviser at St Helens Chamber, added: Its fantastic to see Jamesbusiness doing so well through these tough times, Im looking forward to continuing working with him and seeing how his business will grow in the coming months.”

Enterprise Hub is funded by the European Regional Development Fund.

To find out more about High Definition Mobile Valeting, visit

To find out more about Start Up Support via St Helens Chamber, visit

Or for general Enterprise Hub enquiries contact EnterpriseHub@TheWo.Org.Uk or 0151 706 8113.

Monday, 8 March 2021

Meet the engineer turned businesswoman who is making a name and badge for herself and others, online

 Krystina Pearson-Rampeeare is an Aerospace Engineer who turned a common observation about her day job, into a profitable business.

“You don’t look like an engineer!” It’s a comment Krystina and many other women in jobs traditionally associated with men, have heard 100 times or more. As a Flight Systems Engineer at BAE Systems, Krystina decided to mix her love of pin badge collecting with an important message about equality and possibilities. In 2020, she launched AviateHer, an Etsy shop which stocks and sells her inspired pin badges.

Krystina Pearson-Rampeearee

“I initially came across The Women’s Organisation on social media and attended a few talks at 54 St James’s Street. When I started my business during lockdown, I contacted The Women’s Organisation to see if they could offer me any support with setting up a business.

Before she contacted The Women’s Organisation, Krystina said she was looking for support to progress her idea, she said: “As someone with little business experience I was hoping to gain insight on how to run a business and what I needed to be aware of.

“I balance AviateHer with my day job where I have worked for seven years after graduating from university with a master’s degree in aerospace systems Engineering. I live in Liverpool with my husband, 2-year-old boy and our dog, and in my spare time I volunteer as a STEM Ambassador and mentor.”

AviateHer is a one-woman operation as Krystina uses her creative flair to design and sell enamel pin badges to highlight diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) careers. She sells them online via Etsy and hopes to launch her own website in 2021.

“The advice that I got from The Women’s Organisation was invaluable. I was asked questions during sessions with my business advisor Huda, about my products that I hadn’t considered. She really opened my mind to possibilities and approaches to help my business succeed. I had regular sessions which helped me to remain accountable to the running of the business.”

Krystina feels proud of her new skill set as she manages the inventory, product design, photography, packing and marketing herself. Her Enterprise Hub business advisor also helped with setting monthly targets which Krystina says improved her management of inventory and to plan.

“I wish we could have met in person, but the remote meetings did enable more flexibility with balancing work and family life.”

Now a small business owner who has raised over £1000 for various charities since opening her online shop, Krystina has received more than 500 Etsy sales since going live in July 2020 and lots of positive reviews.

“The response was better than I ever expected, I started with a pin badge for Engineers and due to requests, have expanded to include further careers such as Scientists, Pilots, Coders and Mathematicians, with more to come!

“Part of the proceeds from each pin badge goes to charity which has been a great way for me to give back. I’m looking forward to the future and seeing what comes next by expanding AviateHer further and setting up a Community Interest company which aims to benefit women in STEM.”

To find out more about AviateHer you can check out the Etsy Shop link here.

If you have been inspired by Krystina’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.