Leading entrepreneur and businesswomen, Michelle Mone, has met with some of the 1,270 Westminster residents that start up their own business every year.
The visit to Impact Hub Westminster, a co-working space off Trafalgar Square and co-launched by Westminster City Council, formed part of Michelle’s government-initiated independent review to encourage business start-ups and entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities.
Michelle Mone OBE said: “It was inspiring to meet with so many entrepreneurs in Westminster today that have had council support to launch their own businesses, like Ola’s Apron and her delicious banana jam. The ambition and desire for success among the people I spoke to about their business ideas was clear.
“I am travelling across the country learning about the barriers people face in setting up their own businesses. I want to talk to as many people as possible to explore what changes are needed so people from all backgrounds and of all ages can be successful entrepreneurs.
“I truly believe that it doesn’t matter where you are from, what your background is or what you have done in the past. If you work hard and put the hours in you can be a success.”
Councillor Daniel Astaire, Westminster City Council Cabinet Member for Housing, Regeneration Business and Economic Development said: “Westminster is renowned as an innovative hub for new enterprise, with businesses here contributing more to the UK economy than any other local authority. Nearly 85% of companies in Westminster have fewer than ten employees and almost two-thirds of all jobs in the city are generated by small and medium businesses. As a council we are committed to supporting residents to start their own business to help drive the city’s economic prosperity.”
Westminster City Council has invested approximately £5 million over the past five years, helping thousands of people every year to start their own business, particularly those in the city’s most disadvantaged areas.
One of those programmes, HELP Enterprise, supports disadvantaged people living in temporary accommodation, at risk of homelessness, to establish their own business as a means to financial independence.
One of those, Mohammad Khalife, from Westminster, started his own businesses in February. Mohammed met Michelle at the event today to tell her his story: “I had been looking for a job for five years. I am registered blind so I was finding it very difficult to find suitable work and it was frustrating. I discovered HELP Enterprise and after a couple of meetings with them I was persuaded to start my own business selling and fixing consumer electronics.
“Through HELP Enterprise I’ve had support writing my business plan and have access to free office space which has been so important to grow my business. Running my own company means I can learn and be creative every day. While I’m still at the first stage of my business I can see how far I have come in the last year, without any financial support and I am really proud of what I’ve achieved. “
Gillian Farrell, from Westminster is also an entrepreneur on the HELP Enterprise programme: “The flexibility of running my own business allows me to have a child whilst working. It is no longer a situation where I can only give my attention to one or the other. I am able to do the school run whenever I wish, attend school plays and be the mother I want to be, whilst working. I have also been able to continue with the degree I first started before I became self-employed.
“Help Enterprise first and foremost gave me direction through a proper business plan with which I could act upon. I also received social media training allowing me to better use sit as a tool for new business and networking. I have a mentor who is always on the other end of the phone who I can speak to any time for advice on business decisions and potential new contacts.”
Find out more about the support the council offers [update: link removed].