‘working with communities to develop their business

           Opportunities and Challenges
for Minority Ethnic and Refugee Women Entrepreneurs


Introduction    ………………………………………………………………………………………   3

Background Information ……………………………………………………………………   4
The Conference …………………………………………………………………………………………   7

Inspirational Stories from Women in Business …………   11

The Workshops ……………………………………………………………………………………………   14
Conclusion ……………………………………………………………………………………………………   16

Contact Details ………………………………………………………………………………………   17


The “Enterprising Women” Conference took place on 31
October 2003 in North London and was organised by
Islington Training Network on behalf of London Borough of
Islington and Reflex Partnership.

The Conference explored key issues shaping and
influencing enterprise development for women with least
access to resources and opportunities.
The aim of the Conference was to bring together women
entrepreneurs, policy makers and practitioners from
different fields to share relevant experiences and
information on a range of issues such as:

  •   Working from home
  •   Childcare
  •   Gender and race discrimination
  •   E-business
  •   Innovative ways of accessing finance

The Conference programme consisted of short presentations
from keynote speakers, inspirational stories from women
in business and workshops. It was also intended as a
forum for interaction and networking amongst

      Background Information

Conference Organisers

Islington Training Network (ITN) is the umbrella
organisation, established in 1999, for over 50 training
providers in and around Islington. ITN, through
fundraising, training and working with key organisations
aims to stimulate, co-ordinate and enhance the capacity
of the third sector to generate accessible, quality
training programmes in response to the needs of the
ITN leads and monitors fundraising initiatives within a
co-operative approach and provides intermediary services,
organisational training and inspiration.
At present, ITN manages contracts for: European Social
Fund, Jobcentre Plus, London Development Agency and
Learning and Skills Council.

As a key partner in the ESF – Community Initiative (Equal
2001), Islington Training Network manages the Capacity-
Building work package of Reflex project which is a cross-
sectoral development partnership led by London Borough of

Reflex stands for Regeneration Enterprise through
Facilitating Local Economic Exchange. Its members and
partners include: banks; business support agencies;
community organisations; minority ethnic business
associations; institutes of further and higher education;
local authorities; local businesses; local training and
enterprise agencies; London Learning and Skills Councils.

Reflex works primarily with communities facing
discrimination and disadvantages in accessing the labour
market. Its aims are:

  •   To promote equality of opportunity and access to
      enterprise development
  •   To open up the business creation process to all
      through the direct engagement of community groups
  •   To involve policy makers and mainstream agencies in
      developing more responsive and equitable policies
  •   To research and identify enterprise development in
      Black and Minority Ethnic Communities and other
      groups excluded in the labour market
  •   To develop programmes to increase the capacity of
      community organisations to promote and support
  •   To work with Business Support agencies to facilitate
      entrepreneurship in local communities particularly
      amongst groups commonly excluded in the labour
  •   To work with trans-national partners in Denmark,
      Germany and the Netherlands.

To find out more about Reflex, visit the Reflex web site:
www.reflex.me.uk (see Contact Details, pg.17).

Conference Speakers

Introduction: Toyin Fagbemi – Project Manager
Islington Training Network

Conference Chair: Sumita Dutta – Project Manager

Teresa Bednall – Senior Consultant

Steve Mitchell – Head of Ethnic Minority and Women’s
Enterprise Unit
Small Business Service

Jackie Brierton - Development Adviser

Claire Caffrey – Coordinator
Street Cred


Organisation/Enterprise                  Name

                                         Lauren Costanti
Arachne                                  Constantina Sampani
Building Construction                    Claudia Medina
Community Learning & Skills Consortium   Laverne Cosbert
Day-Mer                                  Asli Gul
Day-Mer                                  Onder Gocebe
Focus                                    Helen Nicolaou
Gharweg                                  Phayza Fudlalla
ICC                                      Sima Azad
IHBR                                     Clementina Ahanmsi
Islington Council                        Albena Karameros
Kingston University                      Thomas Odamtten
LAWRS                                    Elizabeth Rojas
LAWRS                                    Laura Guardia
LAWRS                                    Consuelo Carmona
London Metropolitan University           Kiran Kalsi
Melanie’s Hats                           Melanie Stewart
Muslim Welfare House                     M. Sheik Ali
Olive Tree                               Yiota Kyprianos
Prevista                                 Teresa Bednall
QCCC                                     H. Rashid
RAGU                                     Saba Rahi
RAGU                                     Nana Stepanyan
Rainbow Carers                           Antonella   Bowes
Rainbow Carers                           Nadia Rashid
RETAS                                    Roja Jahanbin
Shalom                                   Bukky Oladimeji
Small Business Services                  S Mitchell
Small Business Services                  Jackie Brierton
Street Cred                              Claire Caffrey
Sudanese Women’s Rights Group            Einas Zakaria
The HELP                                 Triumph Ayo-Isegun

The Conference
The Conference was opened by Toyin Fagbemi, Islington
Training Network’s (ITN) Project Manager who welcomed all
participants and gave a brief background of ITN and its
close partnership with Reflex.
Toyin then handed over to Sumita Dutta, Reflex Project
Manager who chaired the next session. The first speaker
was Terry Bednall a Senior Consultant from Prevista.

Terry spoke about Reflex, which is a local project led by
the local authority, Islington Council and run on its
behalf by Prevista and other project partners (see
Background Information, page 4).

The next speaker was Steve Mitchell, Head of Ethnic
Minority and Women’s Enterprise Unit for the Small
Business Service (SBS), an Executive Agency of the DTI to
encourage more women into business.

Steve spoke about a Government initiative, the Phoenix
Programme which has been very successful and has been
extended to run until 2006.
The Phoenix Development Fund consists of 19 projects to
encourage women’s entrepreneurship within the DTI’s
Prosperity for All Agenda, the framework for the
Government policy for small business and enterprise for
disadvantaged and under-represented groups.
SBS follows through this agenda to facilitate social
inclusion and help minority ethnic groups.

Why focus on women? Because they are the largest under-
represented group in business enterprise; there is still
a wide gap between the number of men and women in
business though in some regions in England currently
there are proportionally more women than men starting in
business. It must be recognised that women from minority
ethnic backgrounds have even more barriers to overcome;
SBS can then respond to their needs more effectively.
SBS’s strategic framework aims to address the inequality
women face – emphasis is on mainstreaming and
consultation with women business advisers and local
women’s units.

The next speaker was Jackie Brierton, from Prowess
(Promoting Women’s Enterprise Support), the UK-wide
membership body for organisations providing business
support to women. Prowess works towards promoting equal
numbers of women and men starting and growing businesses.
It develops awareness and skills in the business support
sector and influences the policy environment. Launched in
October 2002, it has a growing membership of over 120

Jackie presented the DTI Document “A Strategic Framework
for Women’s Enterprise” (DTI, April 2003) which will
hopefully be a practical tool for organisations. The
presentation featured stories from women who overcame
issues such as lack of qualifications, lack of family
support, sexism and racism to establish successful

The full document is available from the Department of
Trade and Industry (see Contact Details, pg.17).

Participants had the opportunity to pose questions and
comment on the presentation.

Question: How are you translating the DTI’s framework
          into reality in London?

Answer:    We have to influence the attitude of Business
           Links. Based on their success, we are
           encouraging them to come together with similar
           organisations. For example, in Bradford
           Business Link has joined up with Asian
           organisations to successfully access Asian
           Business Links’ role is to reach out to
           communities - we will encourage initiatives to
           facilitate this and to this end the Regional
           Development Agencies will play an increasingly
           important role. It works two ways: small
           business organisations should let the DTI know,
           through its agencies, if things don’t work.

Question: Having said that you want to facilitate
          childcare, for the past couple of months women
          attending courses have to use registered
          childminders rather than having the options of
          leaving their children with familiar, but
          unregistered, childminders. This has, at times,
          proved a problem. What can you suggest?

Answer:    European regulations mean that childcare
           expenses cannot be paid to unregistered
           childminders; however, this is an important
           point which we will be sure to include in
           recommendations to the Government which are
           being drawn up at the moment.

Question: We need more childminders fluent in community

Reflex     To address issues such this, there is an
Business   initiative in South London for a group of 12
Adviser:   Creole-speaking women to be trained, in Creole,
           to become registered childminders.

There followed a presentation by Claire Caffrey,
Coordinator of Street Creed (SC), a peer-group
microcrediting lending scheme funded by Europe, Central
Government initiatives (Phoenix) and Local Government.

Street Cred grew out of research carried out in
Bangladesh, Poland and France: microcrediting has been a
useful tool to influence communities and to overcome
difficulties women face. It targets unemployed or low
income women who have no access to credit, over 18 years
of age and who live in East London. At the moment it
works with 100 women, giving loans which average around
£500, are flexible and repayable within a year.
Street Cred’s vision is to empower women to enhance their
livelihoods through developing a money making idea. It
does that through:
  • Microloans on the basis of group trust, i.e. social
     collateral rather than financial collateral, credit
     checks or deposits
  • Women join a group, enabling them to support each
     other, building confidence, capability and capacity
     in their money making ideas
Street Cred aims to work in an anti-discriminatory way,
to provide high quality loan support to clients and to
carry out a transparent loan procedure. It does so by
working within an environment of trust, in a team, and in
ways that enable people to take responsibility for

There was another opportunity for members of the public
to comment on what they had heard.

Comments: I am one of the first women to obtain a loan
          from Street Creed; Street Creed had the
          important role of giving me not only the
          initial loan but also a lot of sound advice and
          information and vital continuing support thank

          I have been in business for 6 years now; I
          found a lack of information on marketing and
          accountancy for small business.

Answer:   Successful government initiatives should
          include a holistic approach to setting up a
          business which encompasses training, support
          from other women in business, information and

          I’m throwing the question back at the audience:
          how did you access the information you needed?

Replies:   I’m a member of the London Women & Manual
           Trades and the Federation of Master Builders
           which provided me with basic training in the
           practical skills needed to run a business.

           I’m a Small Business Adviser and we do provide
           extra training to small businesses in matters
           relating to, for example, the Inland Revenue,
           how to sell your product, finance.

           Sometimes the information is available; the
           problem is to ensure that it reaches the women
           who need it.

Inspirational Stories from Women in Business

The second part of the morning consisted of presentations
from 3 successful business women.
The Chair was Melanie Stewart, a journalist who has been
working for BBC London New for the past few years and
prior to that for Carlton Television in the West Country.
She considers herself a bit of an entrepreneur and is
currently setting up her own business, ‘Melanie’s Hats’
making hand made woollen crochet hats and accessories.

Melanie: Hello, I am a journalist and consider myself an
entrepreneur as I have started a business making
crocheted hats, a skill which I learned as a child.
Welcome to the panel, can I ask you to introduce

I am Bukky Oladimeji, proprietor of Shalom Christian
Resources, a business which has been loaning Christian
resources for the past 6 years;

I am Claudia Medina, a builder member of the Federation
of Master Builders who has been in business for about 6

My name is Yiota Kyprianos, I opened my restaurant in
Finsbury Park four years ago.

Melanie:   I will ask the panel, what motivated you in
           starting your own business?

CM:   I come originally from Colombia, where I was a
      professional in marketing; because I’m gay, I found
      it impossible to continue living in my country so I
      came to the UK where I started working as a cleaner,
      I then became a mini-cab driver. I knew I had
      something to give to society and that kept me going:
      as a Latin American, as a Colombian, I wanted to
      show the world what we can do and to combat negative

Melanie:   How do you think Reflex is helping women from
           minority ethnic backgrounds?

CM:   I am a survivor so I was able to find out for myself
      what I needed to set up business, but many women out
      there need information, help on how to start, help
      with financing their ventures and initiatives like
      Reflex can help.

Melanie:   Bukky, your story is interesting; will you tell
           us about it?

BO:   I worked in retail for 12 years until I became a
      General Manager; I left when I felt that work was
      impinging on my time with my son. I had a banking

      background, but I asked myself what I was passionate
      about: the answer was to share the Gospel with
      others so I decided to start a business which would
      allow me to do just that. With a loan of £500 I
      bought some stock and started taking Christian books
      to exhibitions, fairs etc. I now run a bookshop!

Melanie:   How did Reflex help?

BO:   I learned that training is vital: Reflex can provide
      that as well as support which is something money
      cannot buy.

Melanie: What advice could you give to someone thinking
     of setting up her own business?

BO:   Go for it. What Reflex is providing, is the right
      information, but you must be passionate about what
      you intend to do; you have to set yourself realistic
      targets and don’t cut corners – it’s so rewarding to
      reach your targets; equip yourself, take any
      training opportunities available; don’t quit at the
      first signs of difficulties. In business, you have
      to take risks. The support you can get from a mentor
      is invaluable, take it if it’s on offer.

Melanie:   My last guest is Yiota. What is your advice?

YK:   Before I answer, may I just say that what you are
      doing is so inspiring, I hope you ladies can all
      absorb what is going on today and that this can help
      you achieve whatever you wish for.
      The key to my success is confidence. If you believe
      in yourself, you can convince others, especially the
      Bank Manager!
      Since I was a little girl, I had many interests, but
      my heart was in food and the pleasure I can give
      others through it – that is become a passion, some
      would say an obsession! After getting married at 16
      I started doing catering for special occasions
      whilst raising my two sons. Then, once they grew up,
      I felt I could do something with my life.
Melanie:   You started your business at 46 – what tips can
           you give us?

YK:   Find your strength, concentrate on what you’re good
      at and cultivate it! Then make a business plan good
      enough to convince your Bank Manager, calculate
      everything carefully. If you don’t go into business
      full-hearted you will encounter problems.
      What Reflex is doing is wonderful, take all the
      support and training available to you, it is very
      important: I wish I had learned how to use computers
      at the beginning of my business venture.
      In essence, believe in yourself and choose something
      that makes you happy.

Melanie:   Thank you very much to all three! Any questions
           from the public?
 Question: I’m a student at RAGU. I would like to ask
           Yiota, if you did not get married early, do you
           think you would have achieved what you have?

YK: I had many ambitions when I was young but though my
    parents and brothers loved me very much, I was not
    encouraged by them; everyone needs encouragement and I
    got it from my husband who could see what I could do.
    If I had not married I don’t know if I would have had
    the same drive. I owe my husband a lot! He always
    supported me and uplifted me. Once my husband and sons
    started believing in me, so did the rest of my family.

Question:   Claudia, how did you make your way in a male-
            dominated trade?

CM: There are a lot of cowboys out there. I am very
    conscientious and that is my strength.

Question:   All of you have overcome so many barriers, your
            confidence is just one of the deciding factors
            – would you agree to become mentors so that you
            could help others?

All 3: Yes, that’s great! We will be very happy to help

Question:   Bukki, did you ever feel like giving up and if
            so, why didn’t you?

BO: Yes, lots   of times! But for me, it’s picking up every
    day where   I left off. It’s not too important if people
    criticise   you, and they will, you must have your plan
    and stick   with it.

Question:   What are your ultimate goals?

YK: To prove to myself that I can do what I have set up to
    deliver. I don’t know how much longer I can go on, but
    at the moment I am happy to carry on.

BO: I have weekly, monthly, yearly targets. As I go on,
    fresh ideas come up, new challenges I want to meet. I
    want to be there for my son, my priority, and to be
    financially independent.
CM: I get bored easily, I always want to move on to the
    next project. I would like to start constructing
    houses. I was involved in women’s co-ops and learned
    about communities and how they interact. I wouldn’t
    mind being a competitor for big building construction
    But we need more women to help and support each

During the lunch break, participants had the
opportunity to view some of the items brought from
women involved in business (jewellery, hand made
hats, handicrafts from South America). Information
about women-owned businesses such as a restaurant,
building firm and a specialist childcare agency
was also available.
Panels illustrating the work of the Reflex
Partnership were on display.

The Workshops

After lunch, two workshops took place:

1.       Moving from benefits to start-ups
2.       Innovative ways of accessing finance

Workshop 1 – Moving from benefits to start-ups
The workshop looked at the main issues and challenges
faced by women who are trying to move away from the
dependency of being on welfare benefits into establishing
their own businesses.
The general perception was that the starting place must be
the individual motivation essential to drive the person
forward and through the difficult times and help her to
deal with the risk factors of self-employment. Your
business should reflect your personality and what you are
good at. Cultural values should be nurtured and included
into the business as much as possible.
Preparation is vital and any opportunity for training
should be seized, particularly on self-management and
financial management.

The main issues to arise from the workshop were:

     •   Get support (from self-help groups, organisations
     •   Do your sums – calculate your projected income and
         what loss of benefits would mean to you
     •   Check your idea – is it commercially viable?
     •   What would happen if I don’t success or earn enough?
     •   Be informed – especially on matters relating to
         Inland Revenue, legislation, Health and Safety etc..

 The challenges faced by anyone starting in business:

   •   Learn about self-management
   •   Break the benefit-dependency cycle
   •   Confront your fears and risk factors
   •   Be motivated and increase your confidence in
   •   Set yourself realistic goals which are neither too
       low or unrealistic
   •   Manage expectations without dashing them
   •   Tackle mental laziness

 Women must never forget it is their decision to take up
 the challenges of self-employment; there are a lot of
 organisations who are willing to help and offer practical
 advice and lots of self-help groups who can offer moral
 support as well as act as a sounding board for ideas.

Workshop 2 – Innovative ways of accessing finance
The workshop was led by Sima Azad who described her
experience of setting up into business and the help she
received from organisations such as Hackney Business
Venture and Street Cred
Two ladies in the process of setting up a Childcare Agency
specialising in childcare for children with special needs
talked about their difficulties in accessing finances and

These are the practical suggestions arising from the
workshop (see Contact details on page 17):

  • Contact Street Cred
  • Account 3 helps women in East London with information,
    support and advice on employment and enterprise
    issues. It runs a women’s enterprise project in
    addition to mentoring, microcredit and networking
  • Business Ventures (all over London); they may have
    grants available if you have a good business plan
  • Local Chamber of Commerce (good source of information
    on all topics)
  • DTI Library. The DTI also operates a scheme, the Small
    Firms Loan Guarantee Scheme which will help small
    businesses to obtain bank loans as the DTI will act as
  • Business Library
  • British Library

 Key point arising from the workshop:

   •   Get professional advice – an accountant and lawyers
       you can trust can be invaluable
   •   Have a good business plan
   •   Gather as much information as possible
     •   Get your finances right from the start (book-
         keeping, separate business account,etc.)
     •   Get a “Set up in Business” pack from High Street
         banks which will help you in all aspects of starting
         your business (Check out ethical banks such as Co-
         Op, Triodos (mainly for organisations) and Unity
         Bank (mainly for voluntary community organisations)
     •   Check your local voluntary organisations to see if
         they have set up co-operatives, or they are
         interested in doing so.


  At the end of the afternoon workshops, all participants
  reconvened and spokepersons gave a brief feedback on both

  Sumita Dutta, Reflex Project Manager, then concluded the
  conference by thanking all who took part and those who
  worked in the background to ensure the day went smoothly.
  She also informed the participants that a report would be
  compiled summarising the Conference.

  Copies of this report can be obtained free of charge by
  contacting Sumita Dutta at Islington Training Network,
  243 Junction Road, London N19 5QG. Tel: 020 7263 9018,
  e-mail: sumita@itn.org.uk or info@itn.org.uk.

  What the participants said about the Conference:

         “… It was very uplifting and inspiring.”

  “The interviews were wonderful!”

         “… A chance to meet people and get contact.”

  ”Excellent ... to network with others, learn and share
  their experience: first opportunity we have had to do so”

Report produced by Marina D'Arco
November 2003.


Account 3

Department of Trade and Industry (DTI)

Islington Training Network
243 Junction Road
London N19 5QG
Tel: 020 7263 9018
e-mail: info@itn.org.uk

London Borough of Islington
Tony Swash, Regeneration Unit
Municipal Buildings, 222 Upper Street
London N1
Tel: 020 7527 3496
e-mail: www.islington.gov.uk

London Chamber of Commerce

United House, North Road
London N7 9DP
e-mail: mail@prevista.co.uk

Lion House
20-28 Muspole Street
Norwich NR3 1DJ
Tel: 01603 762355
e-mail: admin@prowess.org.uk

or Contact:
Teresa Bednall, Senior Consultant, Prevista tel:020 7609
Tony Swash, Project Leader, London Borough of Islington,
tel: 020 7527 3496
Armando Pardo or Stephen Anderson, Business Support,
Islington Enterprise Agency, tel: 020 7226 2783
Sumita Dutta or Toyin Fagbemi, Project Managers,
Islington Training Network, tel: 020 7263 9018
Small Business Service (SBS)
Kingsgate House
66-74 Victoria Street
London SW1E 6SW
Tel: 020 7215 8543
e-mail: womensenterprise@sbs.gov.uk

Street Cred
45-47 Blythe Street
London E2 6LN
Tel: 020 7729 9267
e-mail: streetcred@dial.pipex.com


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