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Encouraging young people to become tomorrow’s entrepreneurs

Jul 28, 2014 - Comments: 0

Opening Doors Network (ODN) was launched earlier this year, aimed at supporting disadvantaged young people, aged 18-30 into self-employment. 

Participants undertake a programme of practical workshops covering areas such as financial planning, benefits of social media and the legalities of setting up a business together with the opportunity to test trade their products and services. 

Recently we held two events to promote the programme.

The first was a networking and pitching event, where several participants on the programme pitched their ideas to a panel of entrepreneurs and start-up loan funders.  

Our guest speaker Tim Campbell provided inspiring advice for the Opening Doors participants, including:

  1. Make your customers feel special so they choose you over the competition
  2. Don’t be arrogant and think you know everything there is to know
  3. Respect the advice of experienced people
  4. Know your customers REALLY well
  5. Understand profit: Lord Sugar told Tim “anyone can sell a 10 bob note for 9 bob”
  6. Essential elements of your business , the triangle: CUSTOMER + PROFIT + USP (Unique Selling Point)

(Thanks to Bright Ideas Trust for sharing these tips via twitter @Bright_Ideas)

Winner of the top prize of £250 vouchers was Jilly-Ann of Xaymaca with her sorrel based natural health drink.


Jilly-Ann (centre) with the panel members: Robin Landman, Olga Astaniotis, Amie Samba and Analyn Haswell



Our second event saw Minister for Communities Stephen Williams visit the Opening Doors Programme in North London. The visit started with trip to the local Sainsbury’s, where the Minister together with former Spurs skipper Gary Mabbutt, met ODN participants’ trialling their products and services. Read more about this visit on the Tottenham Hotpspur Foundation website.

This was followed by a drop-in to a workshop session at the Spurs stadium where start-up company Freshious spoke about the benefits of the ODN programme, which included the hands-on practical nature of the workshops; the one-to-one mentoring and support; the networking opportunities and the chance to meet and discuss ideas and issues with  like-minded people, all with the goal of starting their own business.

Minister for Communities Stephen Williams said: “Getting more young people into training and employment is by far the best way of increasing prosperity, tackling poverty and worklessness and creating a fairer society.  The Opening Doors initiative is doing tremendous work towards these goals by encouraging and coaching local young people into being tomorrow’s entrepreneurs”.

For further information about the Opening Doors programme, have a look at our website and follow us at @Openingdoorsnet. 

If you would like to speak with someone about the programme contact Programme Director Indra Pooran at or 020 7832 5839.

Work experience

Jul 15, 2014 - Comments: 0

Before I started work experience, I was a bit sceptical about leaving school temporarily and moving to an office for seven days. The thought of it didn’t grab my attention at first. I am confident that I am not the only one whom felt that way to.

I would be heading towards Kings Cross from Chigwell to work for a charity called ‘Black Training and Enterprise Group (BTEG)’. Commuting to work was a struggle because it was 45 minutes away from my house on the tube and I had no idea how to get there.

However, now that I am experiencing work; I find it very enjoyable. It was completely different from what I imagined. I get to meet new people by going to meetings and events. This helped me because I thought meetings would have a different layout but now I know the different situations that go on in a meeting or an event I have an advantage in preparing for them.

There are many skills I have learnt here at BTEG. I think one of the most important skills I have learnt was communicating and meeting new people. I have had to do this many times whilst I was here. In the past I would have been nervous and shy; BTEG have helped me overcome this by taking me places where there are lots of new people that are willing to work with me.

Even meeting and working with my colleagues (Jeremy, Mark, Tebussum, Janine and Phil) has given me so much confidence for the future when I have to work with other people I have never met before.

Another skill I have acquired is independent working. I would struggle completing tasks on my own without the people of BTEG showing me what to do and how to do it. This has given me a real advantage for work and also for school when I go back, in September.

I think BTEG is a vital charity and its role could be a massive in today’s young society. Their mission is to end racial inequality. They work with Black and Asian Minority Ethnic (BAME) young people.

One of their projects is called Routes2Success, which aims to help young black men (11-25) to have a good education and get a job. Charities like this one are vital, because they can help prevent crime, poverty, unemployment rates (economically active and inactive) and help boost our economy.

I have witnessed the hard work and effort they put in to get these people help and to improve their charity to help the wider audience. These are the people that could potential help your family member out of a struggling time, they could be in a situation where they cannot find employment because of perhaps racial remarks, and turns their life unlawfully, its these charity that personally help people who are going through the hardest stages of their life cycle.

No agreement on the causes of young black male unemployment in London

Jul 14, 2014 - Comments: 0

A new study has found that young black men believe racism and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rates. This is in stark contrast to reasons put forward by mainstream employment support providers that help unemployed people into work.

In the study - published by the Black Training and Enterprise Group - providers identified about 20 reasons why young black male unemployment is so high but the importance the providers’ accorded to these factors varied considerably.

In general, mainstream providers (those supporting all groups of job seekers) cited as the main reasons: 

  • poorly presented CVs
  • negative attitudes
  • lack of confidence or motivation

On the other hand, specialist providers (working particularly with black and minority ethnic communities) suggested:

  • lack of support
  • racism or discrimination from employers

The four local councils that participated in the research offered a wide range of explanations including:

  • the links between poverty and ethnicity
  • family breakdown and absent fathers
  • educational attainment
  • possible postcode discrimination from employers
  • lack of flexibility within DWP programmes to provide tailored individualised support
  • gangs and criminal records 

The gap between unemployment rates for young black men and young white men has grown in recent years. This is despite improved educational outcomes, with even black university graduates twice as likely to be unemployed as their white counterparts.

Nearly 200 young black male Londoners aged 16-24 years participated in the study and they were clear that racism, discrimination and negative stereotyping are the main reasons for their high unemployment rate (ILO unemployment rate for young black men is 48%).

‘Because black males are not shown in the best way in the publiceye. People stereotype them in gangs and this affects black males chances of getting a job.’ (Young black male, survey respondent)

The young black men that attended focus groups in their local jobcentres said it was the first time anyone had asked them about their views on this issue and about their experiences trying to find work. What they want is a personalised individual service from advisers who understand the barriers that they face.

The researchers found that employers, colleges, employment providers were reluctant to talk about young black male unemployment. The messages from this study to employment and education bodies is talk and listen to young black men about their experiences and aspirations and remind employers there is a talent pool that they are missing out on.

I hope some of these issues will be addressed by the half a million pounds of new funding Trust for London is making available to tackle the high unemployment rates of young black men in the capital.

‘Action Plan To Increase Employment Rates For Young Black Men In London 2014’, Published by BTEG.

Is a Policing-led approach the best way to tackle gangs and serious youth violence?

Jul 08, 2014 - Comments: 0

On Monday June 2 Mayor of London Boris Johnson hosted an international Gangs Summit at which experts from around the world discussed how best to tackle gang violence. Mayor Johnson has stated that £3 million per annum will be spent on tackling the problem of gang violence in London.

Living in a leafy North London suburb doesn’t make me best placed to be an expert on urban street gangs, but I have always been a sceptic on the effectiveness of what can feel like an obsession with gang interventions from government on a number of levels. My three key contentions are:

  1. I have always felt that gang interventions tackle the symptoms rather than the root causes. For me, the construction of the `gang’ is a by-product of being marginalised, excluded, uneducated and poor. Acknowledge this context and tackle the root causes and the oxygen which feeds gang culture can be exhausted;

  2. The experience of BAME young people, and particularly young black men, within the whole gangs’ debate and analysis is largely ignored. To me this is bizarre. I would have thought an approach that recognised the marginalisation and discrimination faced by young black people would be better help tackle the wider exclusion faced by this group. There needs to be a focus in areas such as school exclusions, the care system and structural labour market barriers (young black men have unemployment rates more than twice that of their white peers)

  3. For all the warm words around exit strategies and support for young people, this is an enforcement-led agenda. Don’t get me wrong, wherever you have laws being broken the Police must have a role. However, the culture of British policing is law enforcement not crime prevention and diversion away from crime. If young children are being coerced or groomed into gangs, the best ways to deal with that are by early intervention and by working with families and communities. Some of this work may be happening in a piecemeal fashion but not, I suspect, at the level needed.

In March I attended a seminar organised by the Centre of Crime and Justice Studies called Ending the Gang Nexus at which Patrick Williams, a lecturer and researcher at Manchester Metropolitan University, was a speaker.

A centrepiece of his analysis compared the mapping and figures for gang interventions against those for serious youth violence across the city of Manchester. Whereas nearly 90% of identified gang members were from BAME groups, the list for perpetrators of serious youth violence was only 23% BAME.

Patrick’s research largely chimes with my intuitive observations. He not only points to an over-policing of BAME groups but the clear danger that younger BAME people are being corralled into the Youth Justice system when resources could be far better spent diverting them away from it. 

This analysis raises quite serious issues for the justice system, particularly when we know the over-representation of BAME young people, and in particular young black people, has soared in the youth justice system over recent years. 

Clearly Patrick and my views are out on the margins, but I believe that those making and implementing policy need an approach that is not tilted so much towards law enforcement, and that involves young people who have been through the system, as an essential element in deterring young people away from crime and violence.

Read more on Patrick Williams and his research

The fences aren't just round the farm. They're up here, in your heads

Jun 30, 2014 - Comments: 0
Ginger in the film Chicken Farm

You’ve got a great idea you want to develop; you want to learn a new skill; you want to completely change your direction in life.

You’re not going to, though, are you? What’s more, you’ve got the perfect reason not to (underline as necessary):

I can’t take the risk
I don’t have enough time
I don’t have the skills
I don’t know where to start
I have to plan everything first
I’ll do it someday
I’m not creative enough
It’s not the right moment to do it
It’s too late for me now
People will think I’m crazy

This kind of thinking stops you from taking action, from growing, from realising your potential.

The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.  Chinese proverb

You might think that you will take action but first you’re going to collect all the necessary information, analyse and categorise it and use it to create an action plan. This can be an excuse for avoiding taking action.

You look like you’re working towards your goal but often you’re confusing activity with productivity. The accumulation of data is pointless unless you are going to use it; plans are useless without action.

A life spent making mistakes is … more useful than a life spent doing nothing.
George Bernard Shaw

Much of this inability to act comes from fear – fear of failure, fear of making mistakes. We can learn from mistakes though. They can show us what works and what doesn’t work in a way that thinking about something can’t

If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. There's no point in being a damn fool about it. W. C. Fields

A funny line, but not very helpful. Amy Purdy could have quit. She had both her legs amputated when she was 19. Despite that watch her dancing the Quickstep

People often don’t fulfil their potential because they fear stepping out of their comfort zone. Outside of the comfort zone is where all the development occurs. What could you achieve if you took that step? As Thomas Edison said:

If we all did the things we are really capable of doing, we would literally astound ourselves.

photo credit: Adam Jones, Ph.D. - Global Photo Archive via photopin cc

You never know who’s watching…

May 19, 2014 - Comments: 0

Or listening! As I walked home from work yesterday complaining down the phone to a friend I felt a tap on my shoulder. It was my old Head of Sixth Form. I smiled and said hello and then gasped!

Had she heard my conversation?

This rant wasn’t for her to hear! I found myself going back over what I had said trying to reassure myself that it wasn’t that bad (it wasn’t, thank goodness). If I had waited to have that conversation at home I wouldn’t have had to worry about who had heard or seen my frustration.

We often get so caught up in ourselves that we forget that the moment we step out of our front doors we have an audience; an audience that may consist of our Head teacher’s wife, future employer, future mother-in-law, a new client.

In fact, even before we leave our humble abodes we’re open to the world: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…. We’re exposed 24/7 and our audience is definitely always watching.

We do have a level of control of what information we put on our profiles and the pictures we upload, but when you are face to face there are no Instagram filters to mask your weak points, just as there are no screens to block your light.

For instance, a few weeks back I was asked what the secret to my smile(s) was as I seemed like one of the happiest people this person had met. I didn’t realise that I was overly happy or smiling anymore than usual but they had met me and made this judgement.

This really made me think about the impact we can have on others without consciously trying.

For this reason I urge you all to be a little more mindful of your actions the next time you meet a stranger. Smile at the stressed-looking passenger you see on your morning commute, ask the person on reception how their day has been as you leave the office and why not buy that homeless guy a hot cup of tea?

You may not be a happy bunny everyday so this might sound easier said than done, but that smile on the train could lead to a conversation about your dream job or news of an amazing event that you’d be interested in, or it might not; BUT what harm will it cause you to smile?

Whether it’s an old school teacher or a potential employer someone is always watching, so ensure you show them the best version of you when they tune in!

5 blogs that small business starts up should read

May 14, 2014 - Comments: 0

It can be hard to keep up-to-date with what’s happening in the business world when setting up your own business. Blogs are a quick way to focus in on what’s current in the start-up world.

Here are five blogs that will keep you informed of what’s happening:


  1. Start-ups business blogs  A range of topics about business start ups

  2. Start-up donut A variety of resources for businesses of all sizes

  3. The British Library Business and IP Centre Information and advice about the services that the Centre can provide to business start-ups

  4. Small business blogOpinion & comment on all things related to small businesses

  5. Bright Ideas Trust Useful information for business start-ups by young entrepreneurs and a delivery partner for Start-Up Loans, a government funded scheme to provide loans and mentors for entrepreneurs

Read a blog a day to stay informed and follow them on Twitter for regular updates.  

Follow the Opening Doors Programme on Twitter @openingdoorsnet

Visit our website at

10 ways to prepare to influence

May 14, 2014 - Comments: 0


How to prepare for that crucial meeting where you want your  influencing skills to shine



The steps to preparation include:

1. Knowing what do you want to achieve?

2. What is the range of things the other person could offer?

3. What would you be prepared to accept?  (i.e. what is your fallback position?)

4. What are the facts and figures behind the situation?

• When did it happen?
• How many times?
• Over what period of time?
• What is the effect on the customer/department/ individual/company?
• What evidence can you provide?

5. Who are you influencing in terms of personality and style of working? What approaches may help influence them? For example:

• Are they statistics orientated?
• Like examples painted for them?
• Are they visionaries where you describe what it would be like if they agree to your proposals?
• Do they respond best to information placed in graphs/pie charts?
• Do they prefer flowcharts and diagrams?
• What values are important to them?
• What sense of humour do they have?
• What pressures and challenges are they faced with at this time?

Thinking about the influencee in this way can help us plan our communication style during the meeting:

6. How will you approach the conversation? What will tune them in? What words will you use? What tactics will you use?

7. What objections may they come up with?

8. How will you overcome these objections?

9. When is the best time to influence?

10. Where will you influence? (it can be advantageous to meet the influencee away from interruptions at their desk)

Ethnic minority employment – where now?

May 13, 2014 - Comments: 0

by Tim Riley

On the 3rd April Inclusion and BTEGheld our second annual Ethnic Minority Employment conference. We think this event is particularly important because we are concerned that reducing the inequalities between ethnic groups has fallen off the agenda of the current government and we want to do what we can to drive up the profile of the debate. After all, the employment rate for ethnic minority groups is a whole 13 percentage points lower than for the white population, and this gap in employment rates is actually up around 2 percentage points since May 2010, having fallen steadily over the previous decade. Clearly this gap needs to narrow. As Omar Khan, Director of the Runneymede Trust, pointed out at the event, this is not just a matter of social justice, but also an economic imperative for the country.

Employment rate gaps between BME and white population

Read the full article here

Positive Vibes & Bright Ideas

May 13, 2014 - Comments: 0

We have become used to reading and perhaps focusing on negative headlines about young black males.However, recent events in both my work and personal life have made me realise how much talent we have among young black males.

Unfortunately, not enough time is spent celebrating or acknowledging the great things that these young people do.

It was great to see that BBC television programme The Voice UK had its first black male reality winner this year. Hackney-born Jermain Jackman became 2014 winner with his amazing voice and talents. His demeanour and attitude were ones to be proud of as he humbly celebrated his success.

From the beginning of the show there was something special and unique about this young man. He was a black man that not only wanted to live his dream of being a singer but had ambitions of bigger things. Breaking stereotypes beyond belief he intends on pursuing his interests in politics and becoming the first black Prime Minister in the UK. His mentor Will.I.Am was extremely proud of his mentee and believed that no-one else deserved it more.

News headlines like these are rare but, like Jermain, I want more good news stories about young black men to hit the headlines, because there are many that we could celebrate.

According to the 2011 REACH media monitoring report, seven out of ten stories about young black men and boys in mainstream news are related to some form of crime, compared to four out of ten stories for all young men and boys. Of course this could have a negative impact on the way these young black men perceive themselves.

From my perspective, I would like to see more mainstream news reporters share positive stories and, when possible, black organisations in both the community and voluntary sectors promote the positive work and outcomes they see from young black males with whom they work.

Recently on the Routes2Success Programme (our project that aims to inspire young black males to reach their full potential in education and employment) I have seen lots of talent. The workshops and events that the role models have held have had positive vibes and we have seen many bright enterprise ideas from young black males from around the country.

These young men thrive from being able to meet and discuss their futures with successful black professionals. It is clear that a positive atmosphere and vibe breeds positive young black men. 


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