Karen Mahood was on maternity leave with her second child when she put pen to paper and started laying out her business plan. With life about to get busier, it was now or never.

Karen’s idea was Lucille & Grace, a self-curated collection of colourful and stylish homewares, gifts, and art, created by independent makers and brands. Through her curation of unique items, Karen helps women-led independents and artisans maintaining traditional crafting methods to thrive in a competitive marketplace.

Along her journey Karen signed up to various digital and business skills courses as part of our Enterprise Hub Skills programme. She now has a stall in Liverpool’s new and improved Red Brick Market, as well as a new online shop lucilleandgrace.co.uk.

We caught up with Karen to find out about her business journey.

Tell us about yourself and your business? 

My aim with Lucille & Grace was to make shopping for unique homeware and gifts easier. All products are unique to each customer and can not be found in mainstream stores. They all have a story to tell. 

What led you to set up this business? 

I had the initial idea to set up my business a few years ago, but it wasn’t until I was on maternity leave with my second daughter that I decided to create my business plan. It was a case of now or never, as my life was only going to get busier with two young children. Up until then I had been working as an independent consultant specialising in change management for large organisations.  

The experience of working as an employee then becoming an independent consultant has helped to prepare me for running a business, but it’s still very different selling products rather than other services or my advice. 

How did you find out about The Women’s Organisation? 

I first discovered The Women’s Organisation while I was having coffee with a friend. I casually shared my business idea with her, and she recommended The WO. She had been receiving support from you! It just shows the power of networking. 

What courses did you attend at The Women’s Organisation, and did you get an accreditation? 

I attended a Business Planning course and several Social Media courses, which have all been very useful. (Click go apply for our Developing a Business Plan course.) 

The business planning course gave me the structure I needed to think about the various aspects of my business in detail before getting started. The social media courses were useful in enabling me to think about which channels will be more effective regarding my target market, rather than just thinking about how I use social media. 

I am now completing a Level 3 Accredited Course in Digital Marketing   

How has The Women’s Org helped you to start or grow your business?  

A qualified business advisor facilitates all the business courses. They helped to keep me on track in terms of knowing what I needed to set up a business.

They helped me to not feel overwhelmed and gave me reassurance when I had moments of self-doubt. It was like having your own cheerleader! 

Are there any challenges you have faced and how have you worked around them? 

To reduce the level of financial risk in starting my business, I took on some part time consultancy work when my youngest child started nursery to avoid having to get a business loan.

Though this helped financially, taking on the extra work on top of childcare slowed me down in terms of progression with business planning and getting started. 

Now that the business has launched, I am figuring out how to balance my time between my stand at Red Brick, having stalls at other markets and driving traffic to my website. 


 What advice would you give to someone starting a business?  

To anyone wanting to start their own business, you need to do your market research and test out your products and services as soon as you can – this does not need to be on a big scale. It will just help you to tweak your offering and give you an insight into who you should target. 

We are delighted to support Karen in developing her business, which has gone on to help other local makers. 

Visit Lucille & Grace over in the new Red Brick Market @ 70 Stanhope St, Liverpool L8 5RF and help support your own local female led independent businesses. 

Interested in starting your own venture? Sign up for our next ‘Are You Ready to Start Your Business’ session with an expert business advisor now.