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Launching the Birmingham Next Generation programme

Updated: Jan 22

What do 50 entrepreneurs, 12 weeks of intensive enterprise training, and a meet-up in Café Artum amount to? The kick-off event of the Next Generation programme organised by Launch It in partnership with Enterprise Nation.

I was one of the lucky aspiring entrepreneurs to be selected for the programme with the chance to develop a business idea; Happy Autistic Lady, a platform founded by my sister Vera in 2019 to spread awareness, understanding, and acceptance of autism. With the amazing community, my sister built combined with my experience in marketing and business growth, we decided to partner together to transform her empowering art into products: stickers, stationary, accessible educational resources, and more. Want to be the first to see our products launch? Check out our website!

There were a handful of other amazing business ideas buzzing around the room. From colourful and quirky art designs by Raluca, all-natural vegan and gluten-free energy bars by Dom, to interpretation services by Mariam, and more.

The first business mentioned, however, was the Uganda Marathon founded by Henry C. Blanchard who also ran the introductory workshop.

Henry, one of the UK’s leading start-up experts, brought everyone out of their shells with a handful of team-building activities and shared his experiences of starting a business. Henry commented “Programs like this work because of three things:

1. Accountability and community in the group, working together, pushing towards goals together, achieves more.

2. A clear time limit. Working together as a Sprint over three months gives a clear deadline and helps people push harder.

3. External experts. No one can do it alone, and no one knows everything. Learning from both each other and external people helps you find and fill the gaps in your knowledge and grow faster. Plus - and most importantly - it’s more fun working together than working alone”

Christy Lakeman - one of the guest speakers - added to this by sharing his first-hand experience of setting up a multi-concept space focused on records, coffee, and music. Christy said “it was great to have the opportunity to talk at the ‘Launch It’ bootcamp. Being able to share my experiences, knowledge and background as both a business owner (Cafe Artum) and as a funder (Arts Council England) with a new generation of entrepreneurs was really fun.”

Ayesha - founder of Jtai Beauty - also gave tips including her main learning lesson: “if you can’t buy it three times, you can’t afford it”. Ayesha disclosed that she made the mistake of renovating her store to make it ‘Instagrammable’ and more aesthetically pleasing. You may be thinking, why’s that bad? Wouldn’t customers love that? The problem was that right after the store was renovated Covid and lockdowns hit. As the renovation wasn’t a necessity and Jtai Beauty understandably couldn’t afford it 3x, it was a beautifully decorated store with no physical customers.

Through her experience, Ayesha highlighted the power of e-commerce which was definitely encouraging, as currently my business partner and I are aiming for Happy Autistic Lady to be an online store.

I’m definitely excited to see how our business and others have grown in March, at the end of the Next Generation programme. I’m certain we’ll all succeed in accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves during this introductory session.

Want to stay informed about the programme? Follow Launch It (@launchit_uk) on Instagram and check this blog for frequent updates!

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