“One of the things that came from the programme is that Islington Council has encouraged me to set up a Black Owned Business forum, to organise a once-a-month Black Owned Business Event… I have then taken it upon myself to start a survey to ask Black Owned Businesses about [key resources] that they need access to.”
Mark is the founder of Spaces Business, a company that converts empty locations within the community into enterprise hubs which local businesses and start-ups can utilise to move their business forward.
He got involved with the Inclusive Entrepreneurship Programme as he felt that what he was doing complimented the values and aims of the programme but he wasn’t getting any support to do it. His mission is to support local entrepreneurs and this programme both helped him further his business and helped connect him with others on the programme who could benefit from his space too.
The grant he received enabled him to acquire a lease on a building which he had identified as being able to convert to his enterprise hub. However, it did take longer than he anticipated to be able to do this and so the other support from the programme was vital while he waited.
The 1-to-1 consultancy was especially useful as he had to change track to find other ways to make income while the lease took time to secure, so the consultants were invaluable in helping him think through ideas to do this. He also found that they helped him to get clarity in establishing his business by showing him how to prioritise the different aspects of it.
He has now managed to secure the lease and his work to support entrepreneurs is underway, using relationships he was able to build while sorting out the issues, including with local community centres and Islington Council. He has done a lot of projects at the community centres, including showcases to attract entrepreneurs into the space and to engage with locals.
Mark attended various programme masterclasses on topics like marketing and finance, where he found the information to be consistently useful and gave relevant, applicable knowledge for challenges he faced now and potentially in the future.
He thought that ALS were a really interesting way to learn as they put the businesses owner on the spot to challenge themselves to be open to member feedback and gave him the insight of thinking how he would respond about his business to the probing questions asked. It was also insightful to hear how others thought of their own businesses and to see how people’s thoughts varied over the course of the session. Having to ask probing questions also made him reflect on his business experience to help the presenter find solutions.
Even though he focussed on the quality of the consultants work and support over their background, he still noticed that the BAME consultants used had a better understanding of certain nuances and challenges faced within the community and were more aware of the environment that BAME businesses face.
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