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Budding entrepreneurs in forum with top black professionals

THE PANEL: (L-R) Reggae Reggae sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots, TV presenter June Sarpong, MOBO founder Kanya King, designer Yinka Illori and life and business coach, Rasheed Ogunlaru

BUDDING ENTREPRENEURS were treated to a valuable sit down with some of the nation’s most successful black businesspeople on Tuesday evening (Oct. 27) as part of MOBOs ‘Rise with Us’ season.

MOBO founder Kanya King, Reggae Reggae sauce entrepreneur Levi Roots and TV presenter June Sarpong shared motivational tips and stories of personal trials and triumphs while also offering practical business advice.

The discussion was moderated by life and business coach Rasheed Ogunlaru who welcomed questions from the audience.

King revealed how the first-ever MOBO Awards was arranged in just six weeks and twenty years later, said she was still committed to expanding the brand.

Sharing her ideas on success, the leading figure, who is off Ghanaian heritage, said: "To me, success is the relentless pursuit of your goals. No matter how hard things are, I embrace the challenge of the situation. That's really why I'm successful. I've got to where I am not because of smarts but because I never gave up.”

Also addressing the crowd was London-based furniture designer Yinka Ilori, who spoke in detail of how his British-Nigerian identity helped his craft.

The artist shared with those in attendance how “one exhibition changed my life”.

“Following the 60 chairs I designed for Milan Fashion Week, I sold all my work in just one year. To be doing so much so soon in my career is a massive shock to me - I'm only 28, and I feel very lucky,” he said.

Speaking as an advocate for diversity and equality in the creative industries, TV presenter Sarpong added:

"I’ve seen first hand just how there is an imbalance in society, and I think the wonderful thing about being a black woman is that you understand it from two perspectives. You understand it from gender, but you also understand it from race,” she said. “For me, the argument of equality, which is the thing that gets me out of bed in the morning, isn’t about it being morally the right thing to do, but because it also just makes sense to the bottom line.”

Last to address the audience was Roots, who stole the show with his storytelling ability.

The Reggae Reggae brand entrepreneur spoke about serving a nine-year prison sentence that changed his life and using the lessons to encourage others, he said:

“I went to two prison visits today, which was me going back to somewhere I was very familiar with. It was behind Her Majesty’s doors that I actually found the true Levi Roots. The one that you see now. My life before Dragons’ Den wasn’t pretty. It’s part of my life that I’ve accepted, because you are a product of where you’re from, and that’s why when I go back into prisons now, I relish the moment.”

Young entrepreneurs were encouraged to network after the event and connect and create beneficial relationships.

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