Awards reveal rising numbers of female entrepreneurs in Liverpool city region

Organised by The Women’s Organisation, the Celebrating Enterprising Women Awards honoured the region’s most outstanding female-led business ventures

Celebrating Enterprising Women
Winners of the 2019 Celebrating Enterprising Women Awards


Unprecedented levels of female entrepreneurship throughout the Liverpool city region have been recognised in the latest Celebrating Enterprising Women Awards.

Organised by Liverpool-based social enterprise The Women’s Organisation, the awards honoured the region’s most outstanding female-led business ventures, and illustrated the rising levels of start-ups being created by women.

Staged in the glitzy waterfront venue Oh Me Oh My – established by Natalie Haywood, the woman behind independent tea shop and bar chain Leaf – the awards honoured businesses who have benefited from the support and guidance of The Women’s Organisation.

Leading on local business support initiative, Enterprise Hub, The Women’s Organisation and their partners worked with 5,685 people across the Liverpool City Region in its initial phase of the programme, of which 62% (3,636) were women, proving that there is a real thirst for entrepreneurship among the women of Liverpool and the five other local boroughs.

The programme is part funded by European Regional Development Fund and provides a one door access point for those in the region with ambition to start or grow their new business.

The 13 award winners have all been through The Women’s Organisation’s enterprise programmes and were among the many nominations put forward by the business advice team which has helped guide hundreds of businesses on the road to success.

Awards sponsor, West Kirby accountancy practice Lewis Evans Partnership, headed by Rosie Evans and partner Simon, was also a former client of The Women’s Organisation. Ms Evans said: “We’re absolutely thrilled to be supporting this event, championing the efforts and achievements of these wonderful women.

“They are a real inspiration to us all to strive to work with passion to meet our goals and help to empower others reaching for theirs. A huge well done to all those who have won awards.”

The first winner was The Makeup Academy, founded by Jane Clappison, which was named Training and Development Business of the Year. It empowers and equips women with the skills and training to advance not only their professional, but also their personal, prospects, helping those either wanting to break into the make-up industry professionally, or those who just want to learn more about makeup for themselves.

Since opening in October 2016 it has helped numerous students gain a professional qualification and go on to secure full-time jobs as professional make-up artists.

The Social Impact Award was presented to Macy’s Café, which was set up by Amanda McDonald. Based in The Grange Community Centre in Runcorn, Amanda has created an authentic space at the heart of her local community.

As well as serving fresh, quality cooked food at affordable prices, Macy’s café provides free hot meals, drinks and essential supplies to those in need.

This is in large part thanks to access to a community fridge and store cupboard for those in need filled with fresh food products, along with toiletries, sanitary products, nappies and clothing through donations from businesses and people alike, and is built on an ethos of “take when you need, put back when you can”.

Enterprise Hub
Sara Burgess, left, and Jo McCormick, winners of the Best New Business award


The Best New Business accolade went to Ava and Harrison, a salon in Liverpool’s Old Swan established by Sara Burgess and Jo McCormack.

They had worked together as children’s hairdressers in the 1990s and had always dreamt of opening their own salon. Their enterprise is Liverpool’s first child-friendly salon, which caters for all the family, and they’re also undertaking training to specialise in hair care for autistic children.

Women in Business Champion was Natalie Hughes, of NatWest bank. A longstanding supporter of The Women’s Organisation and their clients, NatWest business growth enabler Natalie is the very embodiment of her organisation’s re-invigorated commitment to supporting women in business.

The Rose Review produced last year by RBS demonstrated that investing more in women-led enterprises could potentially add an additional £250bn to the UK economy.

Natalie is certainly contributing to redressing that balance through offering personal mentoring to women-led businesses, and working with The Women’s Organisation to provide specialist events and support.

Serene Papafio’s passion for a career in the fashion industry was rewarded with the title of Retail Business of the Year. From an early age Serene has always had an obsession with fashion. On her 16th birthday she asked for a sewing kit and has never looked back.

Serene studied fashion design at Liverpool John Moores University before landing her first job as an assistant garment technologist for online retailer Missguided, picking up that all-important industry knowledge and experience.

Last year she launched MOHOKINI, from the humble beginnings of her mum’s loft conversion. Today Serene employs a five-strong team and is in talks with a number of online retailers who are interested in carrying the brand.

The next winner was created from a need for a quality, reliable, and female painting and decorating service for the North West. Gecko Interiors was founded by Caz Jackson and Amy Burgess, who clinched the Construction Trades Business of the Year award.

Having faced sexism in the construction industry head on, Caz, who learned her trade in the UK and Australia, is resolute in proving that women are highly capable in the construction trade.

Three years down the line Gecko has shown impressive growth, largely thanks to recommendations. Starting mainly in residential painting and decorating, it has now expanded into the commercial sector, including offices, shops and warehouses.

Meanwhile, Kelly Phillips of Connect Studios was the recipient of the Young Entrepreneur title. Professional international dancer Kelly’s career has taken her from Sefton to the bright lights of MTV and Bollywood. Today, Kelly is back in her local community helping young people to discover their talents and aspire to brighter futures.

Together with her business partner, Michael, Connect Studios offers affordable, professional dance lessons to local children. With no funding available it was the kindness of the local community who pulled together to raise money for their studio. Since opening the business has already created 10 part-time jobs.

Former workmates Jennie Size and Tricia O’Rourke transferred their payroll skills into a venture of their own, Xact Payroll Solutions, which was recognised as Professional Services Business of the Year.

They said they could always run a business of their own, so when they were approached by a housing organisation who needed helping out of a difficult payroll situation back in 2016, their opportunity arrived.

They pitched a proposal and were awarded their first contract. Since then the business has expanded into a team of seven, built up a client-base of more than 2,500, and has doubled turnover each year.

The award for Campaign of the Year went to Chelsea Slater, of InnovateHer, formerly known as Liverpool Girl Geeks. With just 19% of the digital tech workforce in the UK being women, Chelsea and Jo Morfee have spent the past five years working tirelessly in their campaign to achieve gender equality within the tech sector.

Their own experiences of inequality within the sector inspired them to start their business in 2013, which supported more than 2,000 women and girls into the industry. Now, under their new brand InnovateHer, they plan to support teenage girls at a national level through their schools programme.

Health & Wellbeing Business of the Year went to Claire Morton for her Ell & Dee consultancy. Since launching in 2017, Ell & Dee has helped businesses and individuals across the country realise their potential.

From working with major corporate brands like shopping channel QVC, to hosting therapeutic retreats and personal development programmes for individuals, Ell & Dee is going from strength to strength. Claire says she is inspired by seeing how people change and grow as a result of their work with Ell & Dee.

The recipient of PR and Marketing Business of the Year has fulfilled her potential, said The Women’s Organisation. They said when they first met Nicola Pink in 2011 they knew she and her business, Pink Media, were destined for great things.

Located in the heart of Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle, Nicola has created a five-strong consultancy providing services in public relations, digital marketing and brand management services.

Irene Afful
Irene Afful won the Empowering Others Award. Picture by Tony McDonough


Judges also said there was only one winner when it came to the Empowering Others Award – Irene Afful, of Ametrine Enterprise Solutions. Her coaching and consultancy services have helped others overcome prejudices, but more importantly, educated everyone about equality and diversity, both personally and professionally.

Irene was able to draw on her experience of working as a Merseyside Police officer for more than 25 years where she saw the challenges that minority groups face within organisations in terms of recruitment, talent recognition and progression.

Irene, who went on to become the force’s first black female Inspector, said her experiences inspired a passion to support and develop minority groups to achieve their potential.

The final award of Inspirational Woman of the Year was bestowed on Carmel Donohue, the woman behind Prescot florist Poppy Bell Florals.

Always fuelled with fresh ideas, heaps of imagination and get-up-and-go, she has worked with brands including Misspap, Vista Print, Instagram cleaning sensation, Mrs Hinch, and TV personality Stacey Solomon, where her work featured on the pages of OK magazine.

And all this was achieved in 12 months, from what started as a maternity leave hobby.

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