After 20 years of working in social housing, Julia was made redundant and decided to set up her own business, Mary J Sews, with the help of St Helens Chamber and Enterprise Hub.

Julia explains: “I was made redundant in 2016 and was wondering what I wanted to do. I didn’t want to go back into social housing which I’d been working in for 20 years. My brother has just become a Deacon with the church and the family wanted to buy him some vestments.

“I’d always done sewing for friends and family alongside my job and we’d noticed that there was nothing bespoke so I decided to make them for him. I bought myself an embroidery machine and started from scratch.”

It was then that Julia had the idea to expand her sewing from doing favours for family and friends to starting a business and growing a client base.
Julia was referred to St Helens Chamber by her local Job Centre Plus and made contact with the Chamber’s Business Start Up service. She met with a dedicated business Start Up adviser to discuss her business plan and also attended Business Essentials workshops, giving her the tools she needed to become self-employed.

Julia said: “I thought about sewing and repairs as a job so I approached the Chamber and got the ball rolling with the business planning process.

“The process of going through the Chamber was great. I’ve always worked in St Helens and was aware of the Chamber, but didn’t know how big it was. The whole process was seamless.

“The minute that you walked through the door, it was very professional and you can see that they mean business. The whole ethos is very encouraging from the start.”

Julia credits St Helens Chamber with helping her to take her hobby to a professional level and create a robust business plan.

She explains: “The Chamber have given me constructive criticism on my plan and have challenged me to look at things differently.

“I am proud to be associated with the Chamber and I champion what they do. If you live in the St Helens area it would be silly not to take advantage if you are in the position to be able to start a business.”
Julia’s original plan was to split the business between three areas: vestments, children’s communion and flower girl dresses and repairs but due to Julia’s contacts within the Church and the quality of her work, she has been busy making vestments and robes for Clergy members.

Julia said: “Word of mouth is growing quite rapidly and I’ve got really good links with the local Archdiocese and they have been able to provide me with some work.

“It’s about being able to move in those circles and get my name out there. It’s very exciting.”
St Helens Chamber is part of Enterprise Hub, the enterprise gateway for business start-up support in Merseyside.  Offering expert advice and support to anyone thinking about starting a business including help to:

  • Understand the process of starting a business
  • Research a business idea
  • Build a comprehensive business plan
  • Develop a marketing plan
  • Create financial forecasts to understand the costs of running your  business and potential income
  • Identify sources of finance to get started

Enterprise Hub is funded by the European Regional Development Fund. For more information about the support available from Enterprise Hub, ring us on 0151 706 8113 or email