Jo & Sabah from The Women’s Organisation
Last week we took our FREE ‘Business Start-up Conference’ to Sefton. This event is offered as part of the Enterprise Hub project, a European funded programme offering expert advice and support to start in business through a consortium of delivery partners including: The Women’s Organisation, SAFE Regeneration, St Helens Chamber, Granby Toxteth Development Trust, Everton Development Trust, Alt Valley Community Trust, The Prince’s Trust, Merseyside Expanding Horizons and Franchising Works.

The conference took place on Thursday 20th October at the new fantastic conference centre within the Hugh Baird campus, L20 Hub.  A huge thanks to InvestSefton who assisted us in organising a fabulous morning, and arranged the delicious refreshments served- warm crispy pastries accompanied by hot tea and coffee, perfect on a cold day!
InvestSefton is an enterprise, business support and inward investment service of Sefton Council. This aims to make Sefton an attractive and easy place for new and old business to thrive. Kris Swift and Julie Swarbrick from Invest Sefton were on hand at the event to encourage budding entrepreneurs to keep in touch with their team throughout their business journey to receive help and advice.

The morning was hosted by Jo Austin from Enterprise Hub Partner The Women’s Organisation who gave all attendees a quick introduction into Enterprise Hub and how it is a great time to access free support to get started.

Cheryl Grogan was inspirational
Our first inspirational speaker of the morning was Cheryl Grogan who has recently set up a soft play centre, AJ’s Playdays, which is due to open on Stanley Road in Bootle, later this month. Cheryl spoke about choosing self-employment to enable her to create a job for herself that fits around her children. Cheryl also emphasised that ‘market research’ was very important in the process of setting up and that she literally wouldn’t have got to the point of launch if she hadn’t tapped into advice from Yan Miao, business advisor at The Women’s Organisation.  She also said not to listen to those close to you who might worry about self-employment not being a steady income as they will soon be positive when they realise what you have achieved.
Jack & Julie offered real insight

Next, Jack Foster from Crosby Coffee was interviewed by Business Growth Adviser from Invest Sefton Julie Swarbrick, who had helped him to get his business off the ground and growing.  Jack started roasting coffee at home in a popcorn machine as a hobby, but soon found friends were asking him for his coffee and he built a demand testing the market by taking his product to a local farmers market in Sefton.  He received advice and support to build on his idea and now has a unit in Sefton with staff, and is getting help from Sefton@Work – partners of InvestSefton, to recruit more staff through a scheme they have that helps to fund initial cost of wages. Jack also highlighted the importance of market research, and advised that social media is one of the best platforms to promote business.

Kevin Murphy’s practical tips were great
Our third impressive entrepreneur was Kevin Murphy from Rentaspace who spoke about how he built his storage empire from 2005 to a nationwide venture turning over £5mil+. He then sold it and started again in 2015 with Rentaspace which is a flexible storage facility on Dunningsbridge Road in Sefton.  Kevin is keen to support other entrepreneurs so has set up a hot desk space within his facility that he welcomes small businesses to use free if they want somewhere to hold meetings or just have desk space for a while. Kevin’s advice is that you only get out what you are prepared to put in and that it is essential to build a network around you to take away the loneliness of self-employment.

Our key event partners were Startup Direct, an organisation that provides government-backed funding, mentoring and support to small businesses as part of the UK governments Start Up Loans Scheme. Ali McGrath from The Women’s Organisation spoke on behalf of Startup Direct stepping through the benefits of the scheme and offering advice about getting yourself investment ready.

The programme also included activities which explored the ‘Pros and Cons of Self Employment’ and understanding why businesses fail so we can avoid making mistakes early on. This was highly enjoyed by attendees and gave them an insight into self employment.

Below are some comments received as part of the feedback:

“I have found this session really inspiring and don’t feel as scared of making the jump into working for myself.”

“I think it’s amazing the amount of help Invest Sefton and Enterprise Hub have to offer, I feel my knowledge and conference has grown just rom attending this workshop today.”
“Absolutely fantastic, didn’t know it existed will attend further workshops.”
“Really helped with my confidence in moving forward with my business.”
“Highly recommended the course for anyone with an idea.”
“Positive and good introduction for individual considering self-employment.”

It was great to see representatives from the Local Growth Hub also supporting the event and helping to raise awareness that there is support for every business no matter what stage via
It was a busy morning but we are glad that it benefitted so many attendees. Don’t worry if you missed out because we are hoping to deliver similar sessions across the boroughs within Merseyside, so keep an eye on @MerseyEntHub on twitter and contact our team on 0151 706 8113 to find out how to join the programme.