“We decided, as a team, to spend the first month listening to young people and designing stuff around the needs of the people we wanted to reach... that made the world of difference.”
Business Launchpad (BLP) supports disadvantaged young people to start and run their businesses. They offer resources for all stages of entrepreneurship, coaching young people from the very early stages of a business idea to those who have already started trading. BLP is primarily funded from profits of the Trident Business Centre in Tooting. In 2019 they launched a ‘Youth Innovation’ hub at International House, Brixton, providing free training, services and community for local young entrepreneurs. Currently over 70% of their clients are from BAME backgrounds.
In May 2020 BLP was awarded £43,000 via the London Community Response Fund to launch a new online entrepreneurship training and support programme, aimed at young people in South London particularly at-risk during lockdown. The grant was jointly funded via the Walcot Foundation and City Bridge Trust, with work planned in Lambeth, Wandsworth and Southwark. Their plan was formulated as the COVID 19 pandemic unfolded and BLP were confronted with a sharp increase in the number of young people self-referring for support, with many expressing fears that lockdown and a COVID inspired recession would spell the end for their business idea. More details can be found below by clicking on the Read More button .
“We had a really strong response to the coaching offer. Even though we weren't able to work face to face, young people had several weekly sessions with their coach and the opportunity to share what was going on in their lives outside of the programme”.
BLP partnered with Lambeth Council to set up a referral pathway for young people in particular need of support in the borough. They started with a cohort of 13, worked very closely with a group of 10 and finished with 4 young people setting up their businesses, pitching for funding and on the way to creating an income. Trainees also benefited from 40 hours of technical training, including product design, coding, crowdfunding campaigning and developing their own websites. Two young people have already launched their own business websites: Dontie Ellis Music and Never Switch Up Clothing.
“One young person had absolutely no digital skill experience prior to joining the course and found so much joy in building their website that he's actually now becoming one of the trainers!”
Over the summer BLP learnt a lot about how best to engage with a younger cohort and use technology to create learning and coaching opportunities that fit the lives of those coping with a changing jobs market and the day to day stresses of living through a pandemic. Now they plan to roll out further ‘Develop Your Side Hustle’ courses in Wandsworth as well as running again in Lambeth to meet need.
“One young person in particular was quite savvy finding jobs during the summer and so her availability changed quite a lot. We were really open to that, we put her in sessions on a Saturday or Friday evening, which allowed her to keep up with the work whilst also being able to earn an income”.
BLP have now targeted engaging around 20% of those completing the ‘Develop Your Side Hustle’ programme in the long term, providing 2 years of business support, including a dedicated business coach, access to workshops and spaces to continue to test trade their ideas and products. However, they remain mindful of the ways in which the pandemic, lockdown and a reliance on digital services could ‘amplify inequality’.
“Lack of good Wi Fi and access to computers is a huge thing at a time when online businesses are going to be the ones thriving and earning a sustainable income. So that together means there is going to be a huge widening gap in inequality”.
BLP believe they lost around 25% of their most recent cohort of students due to IT issues and this is from a group of individuals who already had manged to find and sign up for the course. ‘What about the young people that haven't registered for a course, who don't have any Wi Fi access, and no one knows about it?’. For many organisations considering more digital services and support for young people throughout the autumn and winter, this is a question that may still require further consideration.
Quotes from Stuart Thomason (Business Launchpad CEO) and Stephanie Gamauf (Develop Your Side Hustle Manager).