On 16th January, three women established a not-for-profit company, Train2000 Ltd, to bridge the gap in business services for women, who were massively underrepresented in enterprise. Their remit was to address this issue through offering quality and bespoke services, particularly for women who were socially and economically disadvantaged.
Three years in, the European Commission presented us with our first award for Women’s Economic Development. The award was given to acknowledge the impact of our ‘New Opportunities for Women’ programme, devised and run in partnership with Liverpool City Council.
At the start of the Millennium, we began using our expertise and influence on an international stage, starting with our work helping to develop the Slovenian National Programme for Promoters of Women’s Enterprise. The lobby is now the largest association of women’s NGOs in the European Union.
Led by the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry and the Minister for Women, the Women’s Enterprise Strategic Framework
was developed to provide a collaborative
and long-term approach to the development of
women’s enterprise in the UK. Train 2000 were instrumental in the development of the framework, offering expertise and feedback during the development.
As part of our growth strategy, 10 local women were recruited to join an innovative traineeship in offering business advice, tackling inequality in the business advice sphere. Female business advisers were hugely underrepresented in the sector, right across the region. The programme expanded our team of expert advisers and changed the diversity of the advice landscape.
That same year, our leadership team undertook a research trip to the USA, exploring ways that business incubators could be used to support women’s enterprise here in the UK. This marked the beginning of a whole new phase of our impact and the inspiration that would spark the development of our future home.
WICED (Women’s International Centre for Economic Development) was a £5.3m initiative established to boost entrepreneurship and economic participation amongst women. As part of the programme, we invited a global panel of gender experts to share knowledge and ideas towards our vision. The result of that initiative became 54 St James Street, the largest dedicated facility for women’s economic development in the world.
Around the same time, we also established our international research hub for Women’s Economic Development, which fosters international collaboration, accelerates start-ups and contributes to the gender equality knowledge-base, amongst other things – all whilst positioning Liverpool as a global leader for women in business.
2011 saw the culmination of the WICED initiative. With building work complete on the 2,000sq m plot of former wasteland, operations were formally moved into our brand new 54 St James Street location at the start of the year. With space for up to 80 business units, we had the capacity to help all kinds of women start and grow businesses, as well as acting as an international research hub.
This new beginning was underpinned by a new identity. Dropping our original Train2000 name, The Women’s Organisation was born along with a contemporary brand that fully embodied our mission and values.
As part of International Women’s Day and Global Entrepreneurship Congress, BBC Radio 4 chose 54 St James Street for a special outside broadcast of Woman’s Hour. More than 3 million listeners tuned in to hear Liverpool-born presenter Jane Garvey and an expert panel of businesswomen discuss issues that women face setting up and running their own businesses, before answering questions from a 150-strong audience.
Building on our partnership with the Shanghai Women’s Federation formed in 2010, we were invited by the Chair, Zhang Lili, to attend the 2000 Shanghai Expo in 2013. Liverpool was the only city represented at the six-month long event, attended by 70m visitors from 140 countries, and The Women’s Organisation were the only social enterprise invited to exhibit, which gave us a truly global platform to promote societal efforts in harnessing women’s enterprise.
In 2014, the International Festival of Business came to Liverpool and The Women’s Organisation were chosen to host the government lead for women’s enterprise – Lorely Burt MP. As a result, we were named in the Burt Report on women’s enterprise – a government recommendation on the best ways to support women in business.
Alongside our growing role in shaping government policy, the Department of Communities and Local Government nominated The Women’s Organisation for the EU RegioStars Awards 2014.
In 2016, we celebrated 20 years in business – and our support in the economic development of more than 50,000 women during that time.
As well as marking this milestone, we formally launched Enterprise Hub, a single gateway for anyone seeking business start-up support in the Liverpool City Region.
Our Enterprise Evolution consultancy designs and delivers entrepreneurial development programmes across the globe, specialising in adding entrepreneurial value to the education sector.
In 2019, we completed training for over 1000 educators in China, who are now harnessing new entrepreneurial approaches to add value in a wide range of organisations across the country.
The Women’s Organisation was listed in the top 1% of UK Social Enterprises in the SE100 Index, which is the country’s leading source of market intelligence on social enterprise.