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£1m boost for Liverpool’s small firms through The Women’s Organisation

FUNDING worth more than £1m has helped 40 female entrepreneurs achieve their business dreams, new figures reveal.

Over the past 18 months Liverpool-based The Women’s Organisation has secured £1.09m in loans to ensure the successful creation of a raft of new enterprises, ranging from a discount clothing shop to a bridal wear business, and a coaching academy to improve access for women into the media industry.

The loans are linked to the Enterprise Hub programme, which The Women’s Organisation, alongside other business support agencies across Liverpool City Region, delivers from its 54 St James Street headquarters in the Baltic Triangle area.

Enterprise Hub was launched in November 2015, and since the first loan application was agreed in January 2016, a range of financial packages from just £1,500, up to £70,000 for one client, have been delivered.

Of the 40 loans approved, 34 were for start-up clients, under the Enterprise Hub programme, providing a total of £434,000 to help fledgling ventures get off the ground.

Six loans were for existing businesses, to help their growth, worth a total of £656,000.

Sources of funding for the loans included the Merseyside Special Investment Fund (MSIF), Start-up Direct, a credit union, and the NatWest and RBS banks.

Maggie O’Carroll, The Women’s Organisation co-founder and chief executive, said these loans are vital to help small start-ups overcome financial hurdles and ensure the best possible start to business life.

“Small businesses are often under-capitalised from the beginning of their journey, and this hampers their ability to sustain and grow.

“These investment figures demonstrate that, with the correct advice and support, small businesses can access the right level of start-up capital, which will get them off to a good start.”

One of the new ventures to benefit from a loan is Ngunan Adamu, who has set up iWoman Academy to teach women about journalism and broadcasting, and boost their confidence.

She worked with business adviser Claire Pederson from The Women’s Organisation to secure a loan of £15,000, and said: “Working with Claire has been a career change, to say the least. Taking my idea and getting me to take it back to basics so I could truly understand what I was trying to achieve helped me get funding.

“From putting together a survey, to conducting focus groups, it helped demonstrate to funders that I knew what I was talking about, that I understand my target group, and they were confident I could deliver what I would do with the fund.”

Claire Meaghan set up her discount clothing shop Dovey Dolls, in Dovecot, with the help of The Women’s Organisation senior business adviser Francine Taylor. She received £10,000 from Start-up Direct.

Claire said: “Francine pointed me in the right direction and helped me massively with my market research. Once we’d secured the funding I used the money for pretty much everything – to pay my deposit on the shop, to set it all up, get signage, and pay for stock.”

She added: “Francine and the funding from Start-up Direct has allowed me to work for myself for the first time in my life, after always working for other people.”

And Cheryl Grogan, also praised the business advice provided by Yan Miao, from The Women’s Organisation, that helped her gain funding of £16,000 from MSIF to set up her play centre for babies and toddlers, AJ’s Play Days, in Liverpool.

“I wouldn’t have been able to start my business without the support from The Women’s Organisation,” she said.

“The start-up loan was essential, as it helped me with solicitor’s fees, purchasing our equipment, and all of the building work, too.

“My business adviser, Yan, went above and beyond. She was so supportive and helped enormously with the finance side of things, double checking all my documents.”

Photo: Ngunan Adamu, Director of iWoman Media & iWoman Academy