Leeds, West Yorkshire

Local Business Focus, UrbanBiz

InspireLeeds.com recently held an interview with an employee of a local enterprise centre named the Biz Centre run by UrbanBiz. The centre has been responsible for turning individuals from Leeds and the Chapeltown community into the entrepreneurs they only ever dreamed of becoming.

Donna Bailey is a Business Advisor who has assisted on this exciting path to entrepreneurship since the doors of the Enterprise Centre first opened in 2007.

Donna Bailey, Pre-Start Business Advisor at The Biz Centre, UrbanBiz, Leeds, West Yorkshire In our informal chat we asked her to tell us something about the organisation she works for and here is what
she told us about UrbanBiz.

The ethos by which UrbanBiz is driven originated in Bradford when three Directors saw a gap in the market and set up the organisation to fill the gap. Their idea was to provide individuals from black and minority ethnic backgrounds with training and support to assist them in gaining employment. A task which the local job centres had found to be difficult was an undertaking which proved to be very successful indeed. By knocking down barriers such as language, cultural understanding, lack of confidence, homelessness etc., our directors proved that Black and Minority ethnic people were indeed very capable of successfully qualifying for and keeping a job.

The Leeds office opened in September 2007 after a successful bid was made to the Local Enterprise Growth Initiative (LEGI) to prove once again that anyone from a diverse and under-represented community is capable of being enterprising. The Leeds Biz centre has four members of staff - two business advisors, one (myself) assists pre-starts, and Peter who assists existing businesses. We both offer advice and guidance which includes signposting our clients to other organisations who specialise in the area our clients need help in. Although our organisation does a lot of hand holding, our main aim is to empower our clients and give them a sense of ‘capability’ and promote a ‘can do’ attitude.

Our Enterprise Awareness Coordinator Dorine is responsible for making sure that the public is aware not only that the centre exists, but to make them aware of how our centre can help them with their enterprising dream. Once they have indicated that they are interested in becoming self employed, Dorine passes their details to Peter and I at which point we will make an appointment with them to have a friendly and informal chat at the centre.

We currently offer the same facilities at our other two centres in Doncaster and Bradford and because we have proved that what we do is so successful amongst disadvantaged communities, we would like to expand our services to other cities at some point.

We work together with many other organisations under the LEGI umbrella, LEGI is an initiative started by Gordon Brown, then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in his 2005 budget. His idea was to increase enterprise activity in what he described as deprived areas. Chapeltown is one of those areas.

I am happy to say that we are doing very well and have been very successful in assisting many individuals in setting up their own business as well as helping existing businesses to grow. Of course, just like other organisations under the LEGI umbrella we have targets to meet and are required to report our progress in quarterly reports. This doesn’t take away from the fact that we are very much a people organisation. We work hard to achieve targets but work even harder not to compromise our ‘customer first’ way of working.

Last but not least is our Centre Manager Alex who has been with us since October 2008. Alex is responsible for overseeing the work of the centre and managing our training facility in nearby Unity Business Centre. Our training facility offers ESOL (English for speakers of Other Languages) and basic skills training in Literacy, Numeracy and ICT. Alex liaises with our funders and partner organisations such as Business Link, Jobcentre Plus, A4E and others to ensure we are providing the widest level of information and opportunities for the community. Alex also does undertake some business support and enterprise awareness alongside the rest of the team.

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