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Empowering entrepreneurs

FOREVER GRATEFUL: The Prince’s Trust helped Ronke Ige realise her business dream

BUSINESSES TEND to spring from a simple idea.

But even the simplest of ideas need investment. And in these difficult economic times, finding full-time work is hard enough let alone accessing money for a start-up.

With the right support, however, the dream of becoming self-employed can become a reality.

The Prince’s Trust Enterprise Programme, established in 1983, helps disadvantaged 18 to 30-year-olds who have faced barriers in finding work.

Since then, the charity, founded in 1976 by HRH Prince Charles, has helped 80,000 young people set up their own businesses with support from ambassadors such as chef and entrepreneur Levi Roots.
With one in five young people in the UK not in education, employment or training (neet), youth unemployment costs the UK economy £10 million a day in lost productivity.

Shereen Scott, 34, grew up in a deprived area of London renowned for violence and drug-dealing. As a result of being bullied at school, she left with only a few qualifications and low confidence.

After training as a beauty therapist in 2008, Scott was single-handedly raising her 11-year-old daughter and unemployed.

She said: “I couldn’t find a job, so the only way was to create a job for myself.”

Scott was referred to The Prince’s Trust Enterprise and after enrolling on the enterprise scheme, she received advice and funding to launch a beauty and holistic therapy business.

She said: “Every day I am always so grateful. I look back and think that I could have been written off; no one back then made me realise I could achieve my dreams.

“As a single parent I wanted to be a positive role model to my daughter, which kept me going.”

SUPPORT

The Prince’s Trust has seen the impact that self-employment can have on people like Scott and their local communities.

According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), small enterprises provide 48.2 per cent of all employment in the UK.


GIVING BACK: Ronke in Nigeria with a shea butter producer

Another beneficiary is Ronke Ige, from Greenwich, southeast London. The 33-year-old had enjoyed a successful career as a freelance public relations professional until the recession hit and jobs dried up. Ige spent a year struggling to find work and was also pregnant with her first child.

In 2009, she approached the Prince’s Trust.

She told The Voice: “I’d always wanted to set up my own business, so I looked at the different ways to finance it and during my research I came across The Prince’s Trust. I contacted them and was invited to the Enterprise Programme.”

Ige then launched her body butter moisturiser business that was inspired by her Nigerian grandmother who sent her a gift of 100 percent natural shea butter, which is produced from a nut that grows in West Africa.

OPPORTUNITY

“I was given a fantastic mentor and completed the plan in four weeks, as I didn’t want to be idle with the opportunity,” explained Ige. “I wanted to be up and running as soon as possible.”

With financial backing from the trust, Ige was able to set up Emi & Ben, named after her daughter and nephew.

Two years on the business has been a success, attracting celebrity fans such as Myleene Klass and TV presenter Angelica Bell.

Ige said: “Having well known personalities love what I am doing and continuing to support the business is the best thing any entrepreneur could ask for.”

Her next mission is to visit Nigeria in June and build a factory to produce shea butter.

The local women’s cooperative that she works with will own a 40 percent stake in the factory, thereby providing an opportunity to support themselves financially.

She said she would always be grateful to The Prince’s Trust for helping her through a difficult time and, in turn, is passionate about giving back.

“I’m extremely excited as it’s my way of supporting my country of origin and local communities within Nigeria,” she added.

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