A PENARTH woman has secured a place on a new programme designed to help people overcome the challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic after starting her own business inspired by her mother. 

24-year-old Catherine Williams beat entrepreneurs from across Wales to secure a place on the Excelerator Programme, which will see 23 people from under-represented groups take part in a Welsh Government-funded 12-week immersive accelerator programme.

The aim is to help them launch and grow their business idea or scale an existing business.

Ms Williams is the founder of O’Honni, a luxurious lingerie brand for women who have had mastectomies and lumpectomies as part of breast cancer treatment.

Penarth Times: Catherine WilliamsCatherine Williams

The Excelerator Programme will take Catherine and her fellow entrepreneurs on a step-by-step journey from business idea to paying customers and a sustainable business model.

It will also support participants to develop their core business skills and a ‘success mindset’. 

The virtual programme will include a series of expert masterclasses for founders, as well as mentorship and professional coaching from business start-up and scaleup experts.

It is being delivered as part of the Business Wales Accelerated Growth Programme, which is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Welsh Government. 

Ms Williams, whose business idea was inspired by her mother’s diagnosis with breast cancer, says she is looking forward to taking part in the Excelerator Programme:

“Being chosen to take part in the Excelerator Programme feels fantastic. I began my business of re-imagining the mastectomy bra after my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Inspired by her struggle, I saw a chance to reinvigorate her creativity after a long history in design.

"I was motivated to reinvent an industry that has never adequately met women’s needs.


“Having such a prestigious programme back me this way is propelling me and my business far faster than I ever dreamed.

"After all my long nights working away at the plans, finances, manufacturing, building networks and developing new designs, I feel as if this has flipped a switch for me.

“Now my business plan has crystalised into a fully formed start-up that’s raring to go.

"The insight offered by workshops, mentors and lectures will provide me with a wide range of expert experience that I can apply to the challenges ahead, and I’ve never felt more excited to face them than I do now.”

Minister for Economy, Transport and North Wales, Ken Skates, said:

“I wish to congratulate Catherine for being selected to take part in the inaugural Excelerator Programme.

"We recognise that women, young people, those from a BAME background and people living with a disability are significantly under-represented when it comes to business start-ups in Wales, and we want to help change that.

“This Programme is part of our £40 million investment in delivering on our ‘Covid Commitment’.

"This funding is there to ensure anyone over 16 in Wales can access advice and support to find work or pursue self-employment.

"Encouraging and supporting entrepreneurship will a big part of this commitment, so this programme will help entrepreneurs with high-growth potential access the expertise they need to take their companies to the next level. 

“This presents a fantastic opportunity for the 23 entrepreneurs taking part, who will receive expert support to develop a sustainable, robust business model.

"The programme will provide invaluable access to a network of experienced mentors and peers, who will work with them to develop a clear growth plan.”