Bristol is now home to a brand-new black-led mentorship programme which will support aspiring entrepreneurs to reach their full potential and be their true selves.
Lynn Mareno and Sandra Gordon founded their non-profit social enterprise, Rise, in 2013. Rise specialises in providing BAME businesses with new opportunities to connect with a wider audience. Part of the work Rise does includes an annual awards event, which recognises the achievements made by those in the BAME community in Bristol. After the cancellation of the 2020 Rise Awards due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Mareno and Gordon created Rise2 Inspire, which will work with 12 mentors and mentees, all of whom will be BAME entrepreneurs, over the next 12 months.
With a focus on ensuring that mentees are equipped with the self-belief and skills needed to realise their personal goals, programmes will comprise a series of 1-to-1 coaching sessions, workshops, group projects and networking opportunities. All Rise2 Inspire mentors will have previously been awarded a Rise Award, which means that mentees will have the opportunity to learn from those who understand what it takes to strive for success.
Despite once being a vibrant sector, the BAME business industry has experienced a decline in recent years, not just in Bristol but across the UK. BAME businesses are still being created, but they aren’t receiving the support they need to expand. There are a number of reasons for this and a distinct lack of visibility means that there are few role models in the Bristol area showing the community that this avenue is a viable option.
The Rise 2 Inspire programme believes that the business sector should truly reflect Bristol’s diversity and will both take steps to help the local community recognise that starting your own business is possible and deliver the support they need to thrive, both now and into the future. Ms Mareno has said that people need to feel supported by someone who understands them and Rise2 Inspire gives people the space to explore what it means to be themselves and build their confidence.
Support for Rise2 Inspire
Rise2 Inspire is being supported by Sue Mountstevens, who is the Police and Crime Commissioner for Avon and Somerset Police, as well as local venue Lakota and investment firm Hargreaves Lansdown. Ms Mountstevens has said that supporting Rise2 Inspire is an honour and is encouraging everyone in the BAME community who is looking for guidance and support to get in touch with this innovative programme.
Bristol-based artist Michelle Curtis is one of the first Rise2 Inspire mentors and has said that it is important for all local communities to see positive representation of people of African descent. The benefits are myriad, provided that people are able to see, meet and speak to people who have made their entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
Upcoming Rise2 Inspire development programs
The Rise Out of Covid programme has secured National Lottery funding and will focus on supporting Black women who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic. Five modules will be delivered across five weeks and will prepare participants for changing their situation, which may include pursuing a new career or starting their own business.
Mentees have the opportunity to learn from a variety of mentors, including Rodney Wilson who is Director of Elite Solicitors, Delroy Brown who is Founder and CEO of a property company, Keri Andriana who is the CEO of a luxury accessory design brand, and Euella Jackson who is an award-winning creative producer and presenter.