From Startup to Mentorship: Giving Back to Local Entrepreneurs

I’ve worked in Brixton, a district of Southwest London, for 17 years and been a resident here for even longer. During that time I’ve launched three successful brands, raised two boys and transformed my passion project into an official charity. But the fact is when I started out I was as clueless as anyone else about what really goes into starting your own business.

In 1998 when I started JPC – a brand strategy consultancy for global blue chip and specialist brands – I wasn’t lucky enough to have a business mentor and it was a often a fairly lonesome road setting up a business alone at my kitchen table. Later as my business grew I connected with the women in my field which was a great boost to my business confidence during an otherwise uncertain period, which every start-up naturally undergoes.

Thankfully JPC hit the ground running, signing up Nokia as our first client and carving out a specialty in tech and innovative brands. As our client base grew, so did our profile and relevance as an employer in Brixton and in 2009 I was awarded the Best Businesswoman in Lambeth Award; however, when I arrived at the event to collect it, I saw that I was one of the few woman receiving an award. I remember feeling convinced at that moment that this honour was really just another start-up opportunity in disguise. And so, Brand Amplifier – the brand strategy training programme to boost the success of female entrepreneurs — was born…

I wanted to create opportunities for businesses in Brixton to flourish and equip those women willing to take the risk of building a business with the survival skills to make it work. The idea was simple – create an applied mentorship-meets-branding boot camp and use it to instil high-level brand strategy in aspiring female-led start-ups. Together with a seasoned team of successful female entrepreneurs, who had benefitted from a mentor and were now looking to pay it back and forward, we developed a bespoke curriculum around the art of branding. From self-executed PR, to business strategy, to mastering social media, our curriculum creates and nurtures the skills that will amplify brand relevance, voice and performance.

Each edition calls for applications, of which, a short list of budding business entrepreneurs are selected to give their all to a programme that works hard for them. Whilst all successful applicants win free brand strategy training, there is an added bonus for three finalists to scoop up grand prizes of seed funding to inject into their businesses. 2014 is going a big year; we successfully converted the initiative into a CIO in order to grow its reach and double its intake and our sponsorship by the J.P. Morgan Chase Foundation has helped us target the programme to specifically impact the educational regeneration of Lambeth.

Our spring edition may have been the most eclectic mix of startups yet. We had women in tech, fusion food, events and textile design. The increasing level of business diversity has challenged us as mentors to alter and adapt our style to suit the women and our efforts as tutors are reflected in the progress of our entrepreneurs. This was especially apparent in this year’s final workshop. In a Q&A led by our team of experts and guest panellist Claire Morton, our female entrepreneurs took full charge of the session fielding each other’s questions before we even had time to answer them. Their boost in business confidence has always been the real point of difference and consistent by product of the training and mentorship. So it’s always a pleasure to take a back seat.

I’m very lucky to work with such dedicated women, and our award ceremony last month allowed our talented entrepreneurs to celebrate their achievements at the perfect time and place. The event was hosted at the ITV studios during the run up to International Women’s Day, allowing us to help boost awareness around the world for female empowerment. Brand Amplifier always reinforces my belief that incredible things can grow from true grit and a little creativity.

Our upcoming Autumn edition will include a very special focus on regeneration in an exciting and promising area of South London, Loughborough Junction. Applications will open in a few months, and we're excited to  Follow us to keep informed, and maybe you or a woman in your entourage will be the next to boost their brand and win funding.

Follow our progress and news on

Twitter/Instagram: @brandamplifier

http://www.brandamplifier.co.uk

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