"Strive UK will equip small businesses with the support and skills"
Be the Business has partnered with Mastercard to help Black and Asian businesses grow in the digital economy.
Be the Business is an independent, not-for-profit movement whose mission is to help UK businesses improve their productivity and performance.
The partnership with Mastercard for the Strive UK programme aims to transform the performance of Black, Asian and other minority businesses in the UK by connecting leaders from this community to the digital economy in order to grow and strengthen their companies.
Black and Asian businesses are often some of the most entrepreneurial but least supported entrepreneurs in the country.
Research has revealed that outcomes for ethnic minority entrepreneurs are worse than the general business population when it comes to productivity, turnover and non-financial goals, despite higher than average levels of entrepreneurialism and innovation.
Mastercard launched Strive UK in September 2021 which aimed to help British small and micro enterprises (SMEs) through free guidance, helpful tools, and tailored, one-to-one mentoring.
Payal Dalal, Senior Vice President, Social Impact, International Markets at the Mastercard Centre for Inclusive Growth, said:
“Small businesses are going to be the catalyst for an accelerated and inclusive economic recovery in the UK, but they need tools and resources to fulfil this role.
“With an emphasis on making things simple, quick and easy, Strive UK will equip small businesses with the support and skills they need to succeed in the digital economy.”
Anthony Impey MBE, CEO, Be the Business, added:
“Strive UK will help unlock the tremendous potential and entrepreneurial drive of ethnic minority-owned businesses.
“Enabling ethnic minority business leaders to embrace technology and succeed in the digital economy will be transformational – both for the businesses and for their communities.
“We believe Strive UK can help inspire a new generation of digitally empowered ethnic minority business leaders.”
The Strive UK programme is a business mentoring one as it is one of the most effective ways to develop leadership and management skills.
Be the Business’ mentoring programme matches experienced executives from some of the UK’s leading firms with small business leaders from ethnic minority backgrounds who want to build their business and develop their skills.
- The mentoring programme is planned to last for 12 weeks or 12 months. Mentors and mentees register online and complete a brief profile.
- A mentor is quickly assigned to you based on your business objectives, experience, personal interests and working preferences.
- If there are reservations at any stage over compatibility, either party can request a rematch. Resources are available to aid the success of the business mentoring relationship.
- Once matched, you and your mentor will receive tools and templates to help with your mentoring relationship. Both parties should decide how to manage their relationship and ways of working.
- Once you have joined the programme, you become part of the Be the Business movement, receiving access to further resources, business connections and invitations to webinars.
Be the Business’ Strive UK programme has been a benefit to many SME owners, with 80% of mentees stating that the programme has helped them improve their knowledge and skills.
A third of mentees reported increased turnover while over 50% have seen an increase in their productivity.
On average, mentees scored 8.8/10 when it comes to the likelihood of recommending the programme to others.
Two business owners who have taken part in the programme are Rushab Shah and Lola Bejide.
Rushab Shah and Holly Gillman co-founded Portobello Vintage Market in May 2020.
Portobello Vintage Market is a virtual store that curates unique collections, styled for modern fashion and accessible to all.
As the business is still young, Rushab and Holly are on a journey to inspire the global movement of change within the fashion industry to do better for those who are impacted the most.
In order to grow his business, Rushab joined Be the Business’ Strive UK mentoring programme.
What made you join the Be the Business Strive mentoring programme?
My decision to start a business was driven by my curiosity, passion for personal development and an opportunity that came about at the right time.
Starting Portobello Vintage Market 2 months into the pandemic, with very little experience, meant I was fairly isolated whilst learning on the job.
It was clear that both the business and myself would benefit from having someone who could help with asking those awkward questions or explaining things in a slightly alternative way.
“I decided to set out to find an advisor, which was no mean task.”
A number of programs required the business to have a certain number of employees or revenue to qualify and we just did not meet these quotas.
I came across The Business Strive program, a free and accessible program targeted to those who needed the help the most. It felt like a no brainer and decided to apply and join the program.
Why do you feel there is a lack of support for Black and Asian entrepreneurs?
Asians typically have a lot of pride and overcoming this and asking for help is not always easy.
This is a typical issue that is perhaps the reason why a lot of issues aren’t tackled sooner beyond business when it comes to mental health and finances.
Since there are not as many Asians asking for help, there is often less effort put into creating schemes to support underrepresented ethnicities.
This lack of representation at a senior business level often causes systemic challenges where help and support go to those most similar to the decision-makers. Therefore there is a need for further support to reach equity.
Before joining the programme, what were you doing to grow your business?
We started with £100 which we used to make a website and started to upload items on, however, most of our sales came from Depop.
We knew we wanted to build a brand, and persevered with the website until we were able to accrue sufficient capital to invest in social media ads which were a game-changer.
This 10x of revenue allowed us to grow the business organically and invest in infrastructure needed to run a clothing brand.
The problem was our business had become reliant on digital advertisement which many know is an expensive route to customers.
We also then hit a plateau and we struggled to find further growth as the UK moved out of the Covid pandemic and we started looking for alternative sources of inspiration.
What aspect of your business has grown with the support of the programme?
The biggest change to the business was the deep dive into why.
Why we exist and this helped to refine our vision and mission beyond just selling clothes.
In line with this, we created a business plan and cash flow forecast which allowed us to think strategically about how we wanted to grow over the next year. We have been actioning this plan and starting to see the results.
How are you liaising with your mentor and have there been any challenges?
Having joined the program during the phasing out of Covid measures meant it was challenging to meet with my mentor in person.
The flexibility of a simple phone call was best suited to my very busy schedule.
This allowed me to take action, refine documents and thought processes in between calls, ensuring each session was of value.
What advice have you received from your mentor and how have you implemented them in your business?
My mentor was able to help guide me through furthering my understanding of a business’s core fundamentals.
I was then able to apply this to Portobello Vintage Market and build the key documentation needed to drive a business to grow.
By questioning my initial thoughts and rationale, I unearthed some critical flaws in my approach and quickly addressed these to make our weaknesses our strengths.
Do you feel the programme will result in an overall improvement when it comes to supporting Black and Asian businesses?
The program is a huge step forward for black and Asian businesses.
By making accessible the critical support needed to grow and operate a business, it will improve the likelihood of success for many business owners.
Strive allows black and Asian business owners an equitable playing field and start to create a change in the entrepreneurial space.
Lola Bejide is a certified career coach and the founder of Soluman Consultancy.
Soluman Consultancy provides support to entry-level talent prior to joining corporations, providing them with corporate readiness skills, EQ awareness and application, supporting them to develop a proactive career trajectory strategy.
Lola joined the Strive UK programme in order to grow her business and she told DESIblitz how the experience has been.
How did you find out about the Be the Business programme and what made you sign up to be a mentee?
I came across the Strive programme via a Google search as I specifically searched ‘find a business mentor for SME’.
I then went through the website and saw that I was able to choose either a 12 week or 12-month programme which I immediately found attractive as both time periods would provide a tangible amount of time to receive results.
I knew in order to move my business forward with a defined business strategy, I would benefit from an embedded support framework which includes business mentors.
Why do you feel there is a lack of support for Black & Asian entrepreneurs?
From a financial perspective, especially with regard to venture capitalism, there is a significant lack of support/investment for Black/Asian businesses.
I believe this is largely due to network and capital exposure.
However, with regard to mentor support, I think there is a possible two-fold reason why it may feel that there is a lack of support for Black and Asian entrepreneurs.
Firstly, we as entrepreneurs possibly rely on those within our community to provide ‘informal’ mentoring which means we do not show up in the formal mentoring space.
Secondly, there are times when our businesses are not deemed ‘professional’ which results in fewer mentors wanting to support our endeavours.
Before joining the programme what had you been doing to grow your business?
As soon as I started my business, I had a business start-up coach to support me in the initial steps.
I also joined a community of entrepreneurs where the founder shared business-building resources and provided 1-1 coaching.
I have addressed different aspects year on year, starting from brand creation, awareness and presence to operations and processes, where I work with specialists in the field.
What aspect of your business has grown with the support of the programme?
Product and service streamlining, I have been able to lean my offering to ensure my value proposition is 100% clear and is able to attract my target market effortlessly.
How are you liaising with your mentor and have there been any challenges/obstacles?
We liaise on a fortnightly basis and meetings are scheduled in our diaries, I send batch meeting invites for 3 months.
If a meeting cannot hold, I ensure to provide an email update to my mentor so she can see progress being made and I can also share any challenges being faced.
What kind of advice have you received from your mentor and how have you implemented them in your business?
Being clearer on my value proposition to stand out for my ideal client led me to update my LinkedIn profile.
“I am currently updating my website to streamline my services that ultimately speak to my ideal client.”
Subsequently, the clearer value proposition has also enabled more focused content creation for my social media platforms.
How are you finding the programme overall?
I absolutely love the experience and it is already reaping rewards in my business.
I think the mentor/mentee matching process is very thorough and ensures you are paired with a mentor that has expertise in the areas of focus cited in the mentee application form.
Rushab and Lola are just two small business owners who signed up for the Be the Business Strive UK mentoring programme in order to grow their business.
The programme is offered for 12 weeks or 12 months to address specific challenges and help your business grow and there are no charges or fees.
To join the programme, visit Be the Business’ Strive website.