Enterprise Hub addresses enterprise gender gap across Liverpool city region

In its first phase The Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub helped more than 6,000 would-be entrepreneurs, 60% of them women, and is now looking to step up that effort. Tony McDonough reports

Enterprise Hub
Sara Burgess, left, and Joanne McCormick, founders of ‘child-friendly’ Liverpool hair salon, Ava & Harrison


Investing in more women-led businesses could boost the UK economy by £250bn, a report claims, and Liverpool city region’s support programme for fledgling entrepreneurs is doing its bit to the address the enterprise gender gap.

Published in March, The Rose Report revealed that just 6% of UK women run their own businesses, compared with 15% in Canada, almost 11% in the US and more than 9% in Australia and the Netherlands.

Compiled by Alison Rose, chief executive of commercial and private banking at NatWest, the study said that pushing up that percentage would offer a huge boost to the UK economy.

It identified manufacturing, IT, financial services and transportation as the sectors where female entrepreneurs are most underrepresented. This imbalance could be addressed, it added, if women looking to start their own businesses were offered the same level of support as men.

It recommended increasing funding for women who want to start a business, and providing greater family care support so they can reach their goals.

Access point

Liverpool-based The Women’s Organisation was one of the main contributors to the report and is also the lead agency of the Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub.

Enterprise Hub was launched in December 2015 as a single-door access point to advise and support people who had started, or had ambitions to start, their own business. To date the project has offered assistance to nearly 6,000 people with more than 60% accessing support being female

And, crucially, lead partner The Women’s Organisation report that the women they alone have seen through the programme have been supported to apply for more than £1.7m in funding up to November 2018, when the initial phase of the scheme came to an end.

Of the 1,073 businesses that started through the programme 60% of them were majority female owned. Phase 2 of the Enterprise Hub, which is now up and running, is pledging to build on that success.

Dream to reality 

One, now thriving, business to benefit from that assistance was Sara Burgess and Joanne McCormick, founders of ‘child-friendly’ Liverpool hair salon, Ava & Harrison. The pair has first worked together as children’s hairdressers in Children’s World back in the 1990s.

They both went on to follow separate career paths but often spoke of joining forces to open their own business – a dream the Enterprise Hub helped them turn into realty. Ava & Harrison opened its doors in the summer of 2018 and approaching their first birthday are still thriving.

Most salons or barbers focus on either women or men and Sara and Jo had spotted what they believed was a niche in the market – a salon that catered for all members of the family.

Understanding that many children view a trip to a hair salon on a par with a trip to the dentist, they wanted to ensure that children who came through the door received a positive salon experience, taking the essential extra time needed to support children suffering with anxiety.

Ava & Harrison
Ava & Harrison is a Liverpool hair salon that aims to be ‘child-friendly’


And, so far, the salon has proved a hit with customers. Joanne said: “Things are going really well so far. Our team is organically growing, and we are taking more than our predicted forecast.

“By the end of week one we had to employ someone, and by our second week, another staff member” by week 12 the salon anticipated needing a team of seven to staff it. She reflected on how different their story could have been without support and financial investment, adding: “We simply couldn’t have opened and followed our dreams without the investment and support we received. We are Forever gratefully and very pleased we took the risk.”

Prime examples

With the support of the Enterprise Hub, Sara and Jo secured £30,000 of investment from the Government’s Start-Up Loan scheme, a combination of two successful bids for £15,000. Yan Miao, the pair’s Enterprise Hub business advisor, added: “Joanne and Sara are prime examples of the brilliant women we work with every day at The Women’s Organisation. 

“When they came to us and signed up to the Enterprise Hub programme they were highly skilled in their field, passionate about their business idea but just needed advice and an injection of investment to help them to take the next step. 

Yan Miao
Yan Miao, a business advisor for the Liverpool City Region Enterprise Hub


“They needed to understand the practicalities that surround business ownership – where to look for finance, how to structure a business plan, understand financial planning such as evaluating start up costs, sale forecasting, producing a cashflow forecast.  Each step along their journey we helped to build their confidence as their knowledge around business practices grew.

“We absolutely need those offering finance for enterprise to invest fairly in businesses regardless of gender, but a big part of the puzzle is also offering support to ensure women are investment ready when taking that step which is where organisation’s like ours come in.”

Enterprise Hub offers fully-funded support to those starting or growing a business, up to their third year of trading in the Liverpool City Region.  The programme is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, and will help local people to understand the funding landscape, develop their business plan and application, and support them through the process.

For more information contact the team on: 0151 706 8113 or at  enterprisehub@thewo.org.uk

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