The Inclusive Entrepreneurs Programme, funded by Islington Council, has been supporting early-stage entrepreneurs from underrepresented groups, particularly young people (those aged under 30) from Black, Asian, and Minority ethnic backgrounds who often face disproportionate and significant barriers to success compared to their white counterparts.
As part of the programme, ARE has been using Action Learning Sets to support entrepreneurs with their business aspirations.
Action Learning Sets (ALS) were developed in the 1940s by Reginald Revans, a university professor and scientist, as a new way for managers to learn and develop together. They have been used in a range of platforms, including in the NHS and other public services.
This ALS was presented by Majida who runs Anaqaa Apparel, a business that designs and makes modest clothing for women and is based in FC Designer Workspace, a shared space run by Islington.
It has a focus on empowering women and girls from minoritised ethnic communities and was formed out of the charity Jannaty, which Majida also runs. Jannaty has a community sewing group which teaches women to sew and helps them develop skills and achieve a qualification.
At Anaqaa Apparel they employ some of the women who they have supported through Jannaty.
Joining the Inclusive Entrepreneur’s programme, Majida identified a challenge she was facing: “How do we make sales through social media to the public?”
The ALS set out to work through this challenge. It began with probing questions trying to establish her existing social media presence, such as whether she had Facebook, Instagram or TikTok; how many followers and likes she gets on these platforms, and the type of content she is publishing.
Members then started delving deeper to discover if Majida was aware of the demographics of those engaging with her posts, in contrast with who she is trying to target. This gave them a thorough picture of the marketing already carried out, and ideas for any improvements that could be made.
Questioning then became more detailed such as whether Majida had considered using the story behind the brand in more detail and the stories of the women working there. She was also asked whether she could connect the charity to her business marketing to show the social good that the brand does.
This ALS had an incredibly rich discussion and gave many actions for Majida to think about taking forward with key highlights being to:
- Think about using hashtags when posting and see which ones garner most attention.
- Look at the algorithms more closely to see what is working.
- Make more use of TikTok as that is where a lot of impact is generated with little activity so far.
- Use more interactive posts and live feeds during events at her shop.
- Increase the number of relevant people and influencers they follow.
- Demonstrate the human value of the brand more clearly as a unique selling point.
- Communicate the social good delivered by this brand more thoroughly by highlighting the use of upcycled materials and the women that are supported.
The feedback was incredibly positive, with many members being able to relate to Majida’s challenge and valuing the take-away actions just as highly. What which resonated with many were the benefits of telling your business’ story so customers can connect better with a brand as well as in paying more attention to social media algorithms to maximise the reach of posted content.
For some, it was their first time attending an ALS but they could instantly see how much learning could be covered and shared within the session.
“I love it, my first time on an ALS – [it was] brilliant. All the ideas resonated with us.”