On the 20th of March, Black South West Network has successfully engaged more than 60 BAME entrepreneurs during the second Bristol Urban, Enterprise & Innovation Network event, proving that the initiative has met the desire of the diverse business communities in the city and that it has great potential to grow.
Barbara Brown, Trustee at BSWN, opened the evening with a warm welcome to all new and old attendees and inviting the audience to step up and take true ownership of the Network. After sharing her personal experience and views on the potential of a connected and resilient community, she closed the introductory speech with an encouraging note to be proactive:
‘What we want is to be able to galvanise the expertise in the room, the professionalism, what we have, what we know, who we know, and connect the dots together so that we can create a vision […] Tonight, I don't want us to limit ourselves to what it is that we can do, what I want us to do is to think about what we would do if we had a blank sheet of paper, what is possible for us because actually, when we galvanise our talents, amazing things happen and that's what we are wanting today.’
Andy Boreham, Head of Marketing at Colston Hall,then took the word briefly to highlight the key opportunities for engagement with the Bristol’s Home of Music in a time of great transformation and handed the word to Sado Jirde, Director of BSWN.
After a brief thank you note, Sado proceeded to set up the context around the 2018 BSWN research programme and the identified challenges that sparked the initiative of the Network and the greater ambition to establish a BAME Enterprise & Impact Hub the Inner city of Bristol.
‘I would welcome your contribution, most importantly, to engage and to make this something that we can keep and develop it further so my message to you is: this belongs to you and it's pretty much what you want to do with it, how do you shape it and how you take it forward.’
She then invited the key-note speaker Nick Sturge, CEO of Engine Shed, totake the word and offer insights into what does it take to build a successful and sustainable enterprise in the city of Bristol and how could similar enterprises follow the example. After giving context into the work of the SETsquared incubator, aimed at supporting early-stage high-tech and high-growth potential businesses, Nick shared some tips for all entrepreneurs, e.g. surrounding yourself with like-minded people who will support you, but also with different types of people who will give you honest advice and a fresh look on your challenges.
Bobbi O’Gilvie, CEO of Ready To Blog Design and moderator for the night, started the panel discussion by inviting the panellists to share with the attendees their definition of success and what are the ingredients to achieve it.
Dionne McLarty (Georgina's Hair Extensions) believes that success is financial stability and recognition, and the main ingredient for it is having a highly productive entrepreneurial mindset.
Azir Razzak (A2Z Technologies) replied that the essential ingredient for success is contentment and using the positivity to navigate challenges.
Gary Miller (Mutual Solutions Limited) provided a list of ingredients:
‘A is all about dedication, determination, discipline. However you apply that to your life, your business life, your personal life, your fitness, you are gonna achieve goals. The second one is focus and vision. You use pictures, use boards, use your fridge, use whatever you like but have a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly vision and you will achieve things. Think about the outcome, if you think about the outcome and you work with the right people that will help you massively as well. Never ignore your gut feel, your gut feel should always be something that you work with. If you feel something, if you're tingling about something there's a reason for it. […] Get a supporting partner, an adviser who has your back and talk to that person frequently. Surround yourself with the right people, surround yourself with people that are better than you, all you need to concentrate on is being the leader. Lastly, and the most important thing I think is to remain positive because where there's a will there's a way.’
In the following questions the panel agreed that having a good work-private life balance is essential to be a good entrepreneur and shared some advice they have been given to their mentees: ‘If you haven't learnt from that mistake it was not worth making’ (Azir Razzak). Lastly, they talked about the role that their community had in developing their careers highlighting once again the importance of having role models that look like you and ending the discussion with a positive note for the future of the Network:
‘I think it's really good having events like these, because Bristol is a very buzzing city right now, and there is a lot of talent out there and I think without community I just don't think we engage enough with each other’ (Dionne McLarty).
After a brief Q&A session where the main themes of mentorship, legacy and success were explored more in depth, Sibusiso Tshabalala, Outreach Officer for BSWN, closed the event with a further encouragement to take benefit and at the same time offer something to the Network.