From the streets to the boardroom

Street Smart launches careers of Birmingham’s young black entrepreneurs.

A group of young black entrepreneurs from inner-city Birmingham are set to launch new business ventures after being inspired by some of the city’s leading business figures.

Seven 16-25 year-olds have graduated from Street Smart 2 Business Start, Birmingham’s first virtual programme for aspiring business owners from black communities.

Delivered by local charity, First Class Foundation, the seven-week voluntary programme offered practical hands-on support in how to run a successful new business, including business strategy and planning, financial management and customer engagement.

Backed by Barclays and the Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce, Street Smart 2 Business Start featured free evening masterclasses by established local entrepreneurs including bestselling author, Errol Lawson, Hoodrich Clothing founder, Jay Williams and Chris Cummins, joint managing director of global training business OTD.

Now in its third year, the Street Smart 2 Business Start initiative has supported 25 young people in becoming their own boss, including those who have previously been involved in crime. This is the first year the programme has been delivered online.

Kay McDermott, aged 20 from Birmingham, works in IT and is planning to apply learning from the programme to develop his own business. He said: “It’s so refreshing to be part of a group of young black people sharing the same goal and learning about business together. I have often felt as though I’ve had to do things on my own and it can be alienating but Street Smart 2 Business Start has given me a peer-to-peer support network to call upon and the confidence to continue to work hard. It’s good to see amazing local professionals taking time out of their day to do something like this and it’s important to know we have the opportunity to go to them for help throughout our journey.”

Street Smart 2 Business Start was founded by entrepreneur and business consultant Nathan Dennis (above), who has specialised in BAME stakeholder engagement strategies for more than fifteen years. He said: “Street Smart 2 Business Start is all about inspiring young peoplewho are running the streets to run their own business instead. The survival skills that many young people pick up on the streets are in essence, the fundamentals of running a business. We capture those transferable skills and help train young people to use them to grow a business idea of their own from conception to launch and beyond.

“If we can call upon successful local role models to show them how to use their skills in a productive way, it could lead to less of our young people heading down the wrong path and will instead enable them to make positive contributions to society.”

Chris Cummins, joint managing director, of sponsors OTD, said: “We are hugely impressed by the work Nathan and the First Class Foundation is doing to engage with and build lasting relationships with those in the community traditionally deemed hard to reach. Many young people have never considered that they could become an entrepreneur and it’s our role to help and inspire them to fulfill their potential.

“We believe that real and sustainable change is only possible through action, which is why we’re proud to be involved in Street Smart. As a Birmingham-based business we’re committed to supporting equality of opportunity for all local young people.”

Street Smart 2 Business Start is sponsored by OTD and supported by Barclays, Hoodrich Clothing, Micquel Wright and Greater Birmingham Chambers of Commerce.

More information is available here.