Entrepreneurs from deprived parts of Birmingham are plotting major growth for 2014 after being given a helping hand into business by a new initiative.
The business brains from Ladywood, Handsworth and Small Heath are among those to have set up companies after being supported through Birmingham City Council’s new Enterprise Catalyst Business Support scheme .
The £9.3 million scheme is part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and is helping to build an entrepreneurial culture in key communities, offering free expert advice and grants of up to £50,000.
It aims to help 3,500 businesses and entrepreneurs over the next two years and already has a number of success stories in the city.
Among them is Mohammed Zafran, known as Zaf, who founded All 4 Youth and Community in Small Heath after a family tragedy.
In 2010 his Zaf’s 24-year-old brother-in-law Sarfraz Khan was tragically stabbed to death while his two daughters waited for him to come home.
He began to ask questions of local youngsters and discovered that frustration over a lack of focus outside of schools and college was often at the centre of the violent attacks and other crimes such as burglary and drug abuse.
Zaf introduced sports activities as a stepping stone towards further education, training as well as integrating them into the wider community. With the help from former England cricketer Rawait Khan and other professionals, local sports teams and free coaching sessions were set-up to fill that gap.
Elsewhere, Tom Arscott from Handsworth has helped to set up Tasty Pastry, a business supplying Jamaican patties to the public and local firms.
He was given £15,000 worth of match-funding to help expand into larger premises, invest in chillers, cookers and pastry machines, and take on more staff – now he has plans to export and set up franchises throughout the country.
He said: “My business is very important to me and I devote a great deal of time to the growth and development of the company. I am very serious about the business and I am constantly thinking of how I can improve the quality of our product and sales techniques.
“I believe that Tasty Pasty will be selling Patties and other product nationally in the near future. Our medium to long term goal is to sell our product in Europe, the USA and the Caribbean. We also hope to develop the Tasty Pastry brand by opening a chain of Tasty Pasty shops and franchises.”
As part of the council’s drive to regenerate priority neighbourhoods, Enterprise Catalyst will over the next two years support 3,500 businesses and entrepreneurs with free independent expert advice, as well as provide up to 50 per cent grant investment.
To be eligible for Enterprise Catalyst support; individuals must live, or have a business trading in northwest, central and southeast Birmingham, which makes up the scheme’s target boundary.
Another aspiring entrepreneur to be helped by the scheme is Liwen Clifford from Ladywood.
The stay-at-home mother now has international plans with her business offering Chinese lessons and translation– tapping into a boom in interest on the back of the growth of the Far Eastern superpower.
She now travels between Birmingham and China with business delegations, helping with translation.
She said: “There will be a greater opportunity to take my business further with increased trade between Britain and China. Learning Chinese language and culture is vital to build a successful business relationship with Chinese customers.
“I am very positive about the future, as I am getting more and more clients. Many British people are starting to learn Chinese and I think this trend will continue to grow in the future.”
Councillor Tahir Ali, cabinet member for Development, Jobs and Skills said: “Entrepreneurs and small businesses that create growth are one of the keys to economic recovery.
“For us to be an Enterprise City, we need to encourage greater growth in private sector businesses and social enterprises that employ and train local people and make a positive contribution to the communities in which they operate.”