The Big Onion



With our primary goal being to support vulnerable people to make positive and lasting changes in their lives, MEH are committed to being part of the recovery!


The Big Onion was born from a program Merseyside Expanding Horizons started in 2008, which gave support and advice to business starters and entrepreneurs. We aspired to give as much support as possible to new and local businesses, and so providing a physical shop space for these people was the natural evolution!

The Big Onion Enterprise and Employment Incubator Hubs play an integral part of our inclusive strategy to support local entrepreneurialism, create jobs and strengthen communities.

In December 2020 MEH successfully opened the Big Onion Bootle Hub where in year 1 it will support:


- 60 new entrepreneurs to commence trading whilst receiving wraparound business support. Within this target is a commitment to support 15 women from BAME communities

- 300 young people under the age of 25 with targeted employability support working in partnership with the Department of Work & Pensions

- Support 90 people into full time jobs

- 1600 local residents to engage in the community programme delivered from the Hub

- 25 people into structured volunteering opportunities

- 60 local businesses to upskill their staff by delivering accredited training


The Big Onion hubs have three layers: - The Market Space - The Employability Hub - The Community Centre


The Market Space – It’s simple….here’s the deal: each trader is charged affordable rent for a self-contained unit within our mall. Signing a 1-year lease with a rolling 28 day break clause we support each trader to trade 6 days a week. In addition to the unit traders receive wrap around support and targeted interventions and support plan to help them grow. Within a supportive environment alongside a community of peers, we feel this is a unique offer.


The Employability Hubs are unique! We provide space, support and one-to-one mentoring for anybody seeking employment. This includes how to find jobs and how to successfully apply for them. The hubs also engage with local employers to support them to fill opportunities within their businesses with local people. In addition we support our local employers through business development activities and targeted accredited training to upskill their existing workforce. Finally we work closely with JobCentre Plus and other public, private and third sector agencies to reach out to local people. All in one hub!


The Community Hubs are run for and by the communities. They are venues for local people to meet for a range of activities and utilise the venue to their fullest potential. Whether it be learning something new or developing your skills, improving wellbeing, or giving something back to your local community.

The Big Onion Enterprise and Employment Incubator Hubs enable us to:

- Provide tailored business and social enterprise support to a variety of different groups across a range of business sectors - Provide bespoke employability support and coaching to people from diverse backgrounds in direct partnership with Jobcentre+ and a variety of other cross sector providers of employability and training - Signpost and refer potential entrepreneurs who need industry specific support e.g. digital - Support participants and their families by providing practical and emotional support - Provide test trading and incubation support to fledgling enterprises - Work with schools and further and higher education institutions


Through the Big Onions we work with people from disadvantaged groups who face multiple barriers to employment, the majority of whom have never considered self-employment or business start-up as a way back into work. We run a number of activities and projects that promote, support and enable individuals facing these barriers to start their business, become self-employed or enter mainstream employment.

Our work at The Big Onion is underpinned by a delivery methodology which supports people using the following methods:

- Understanding the individual including their experiences, skills, personal circumstances, and internal and external barriers;

- Co-production of Individualised business/employment planning and support; - Coaching and mentoring to start business or access employment opportunities; - Ongoing business and employment mentoring in early stages of business start-up or employment; - Re-engagement with busines or employment support where necessary.

Through this work we have developed a strong understanding of the needs of people facing barriers to both business start-up and employment.

This experience has given us a real insight into the main barrier that stops many retail entrepreneurs from launching their business: access to quality, affordable, and flexible retail units.


Over the course of the next 3 years, we aim to establish a Big Onion in each of the 6 local authority areas of Liverpool City Region including Sefton, Halton, St Helens, Wirral, Liverpool and Knowsley.


Following on from this we envisage establishing Big Onions in the wider Cheshire and West Lancashire areas.


Based on our current projections and forecasts we believe that each Big Onion Enterprise & Employment hub will inject over £500,000 into the local economy, support 90 jobs and improve the lives of some 1600 local people.


For more info: www.thebigonion.co.uk


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