Bernie Cox, Trainer at The Women’s Org

Budding business starters heard from three key speakers today at Liverpool Central Library, on how they too could make their passion their daytime job, as part of Enterprise Hub’s Business Start-Up Fesitval.

Starting off the Conference, Michelle O’Dwyer, who set up Baytree Catering, took to the floor. Some people may recognise Michelle from local TV station Made in Liverpool, where she both produced and directed her own cooking show, The Food Life. Although being on TV may seem like the pinnacle of most careers, it wasn’t Michelle’s intention to be a TV star. It started with a phone call one day to ask her whether she’d like to be interviewed for a new show. She admitted today, that with no prior experience in that area, she felt daunted. Despite her concerns, in her own words – ‘she went for it’.

She has forged a successful career as a chef, cooking for high profile clients such as at the Grand Prix and the Australian cricket team.  This year, she is looking at producing a book which will include recipes inspired by the communities of Liverpool, with an accompanying show on YouTube.

One audience member asked Michelle about funding, she replied that she didn’t receive any, but saved, reinforcing one of her main points, that keeping sources of other income allowed her business to survive and grow.

Michelle said: “If you’ve got a passion, just stick with it, if you continue with your passion, you will succeed.”

She added that surrounding herself with positive people has been a part of her success.

Michelle has been supported by The Women’s Organisation and continues to have a relationship with them today, she said: “They’ve been fantastic from day one!”

Michelle O’Dwyer, Baytree Catering

The next speaker of the day was Carrie Birmingham, who as a professional voice coach, set up Pro Vox Liverpool. Her business offers professional standard voice training for students of all ages and ability, helping them to have anything from a recording career, to more confidence with public speaking.  Since starting the business in 2013, she has grown the business and developed herself professionally and is now studying for a masters.

She said today: “It’s amazing how many doors can be opened once you go it alone.” 

Her business has led to her being appointed as the North Area Representative for the Association of Teachers of Singing (AOTOS).

The Women’s Organisation helped Carrie with her paperwork, so she could get a loan from the bank, this allowed her to expand her premises.

Carrie added: “The Women’s Org have a variety of events on throughout the year which I attended. Their bookkeeping class really set me on my way. It took a lot of hours to get used to. I’m still using the accountant that they set me up with to this day.”

Both Michelle and Carrie warned about striking the right balance between getting your name known when you start out and still building your business. Volunteering and doing work for free can help build contacts and get you publicity, but doing this too often can devalue what you’re offering. Time is money!

Carrie Birmingham, Pro Vox Liverpool

The final speakers of the day were a duo, Joe Taylor and Dave Byrne. They fit security alarms and CCTV for a wide client base, with BDI Alert Systems. They encouraged the audience to consider the possibility of taking on apprentices. Not only does this offer young people focus and a foot on the career ladder, it can also enhance your business. Their apprentice Nathan is going to help them move forward with their social media presence and as part of their commitment to investing in him, they’re going to pay for him to take driving lessons.

Both Joe and Dave relayed the importance of fostering good relationships with the people and organisations you work with, such as suppliers. Having principles in business is important. They used the example of a supplier offering a cheaper rate than someone they had worked with for years. 

Dave said: “If I need someone to drive to Manchester, the person I’ve had that good relationship with is going to do that, the competitor who is telling me they’ll save me £20, might not.”

Dave Byrne left, Joe Taylor right, BDI Alert Systems

Bernie Cox, a trainer at The Women’s Organisation, rounded up the speakers and took to engaging with the audience. There was a wide mix of would-be ventures, from the more established to complete beginners; freelance marketers, crafts people, artists, Amazon sellers and eco-producers, to name a few.

If you missed this event, you can still attend one of our other business conferences, all part of Business Start Up Festival. Check out our original blog for links to the festival schedule for weeks one, two and three.