A young entrepreneur credits a Tooting social enterprise with giving her the skills and confidence to start her own business.
Masi Conteh, 23, was among the young people at the Trident Business Centre in Bickersteth Road today showcasing their independent companies at the festival celebrating the 30th anniversary of Business Launchpad, which aims to support people aged 18-30 through all the stages of setting up a business.
Her stall displayed her printed T-shirts, jewellery and other accessories with empowering, positive messages like ‘My body is a temple, respect it’.
Miss Conteh said: “It sounds corny or cliched but my inspiration comes from me because when I was younger, I was bullied for two years and it just knocked down my confidence.
“Because I know what it feels like to be in that position I’d rather try to empower the younger generation.
“That way, if someone were to come to them and say ‘You’re ugly’ they won’t believe it, because they actually know within themselves that they actually are beautiful.”
She first stumbled upon the charity while researching places that offered free business ideas online in 2016.
Before attending her first workshop she only had a vague business idea but says that the organisation gave her both the insight and confidence to start her own business.
“My favourite thing is knowing the fact that I am my own boss,” she added.
“Everything that happens with my business is down to what I do, I make the decisions, it’s not like I’m working under someone else.”
Launched as Wandsworth Youth Enterprise Centre at the height of Thatcherism when youth unemployment was very high, the charity has helped thousands of people start their own business.
Founder Richard Williams, 63, said: “The idea was about partnership and young working with each other to help themselves and sustainable business.
“Ironically we were a social enterprise before the word ‘social enterprise’ even existed.”
Business Launchpad chair William Hoyle, 60, said their approach was to look at the young people they worked with in a holistic way.
The majority of them had some sort of disadvantage in their background, whether in their family life, being excluded from school or involvement with gangs or drugs and alcohol.
“They have something in their personal lives that has been an inhibitor to progress,” said Mr Hoyle.
“By dealing with the whole person, helping them overcome their personal issues, that you increase their level of confidence and you give them more control, and that gives them a better chance of success.”