10 August 2016
How I took my business from a small start-up to a super success
Arit Eminue started her business because she was passionate about giving young people opportunities to achieve their dreams no matter what their background, social class, gender or ethnicity.
Her business, DiVA, matches young talent with outstanding employers through government backed apprenticeships, giving people the opportunity to ‘earn while they learn’ and help businesses gain the skills they need to remain competitive.
Since the launch of the business in January 2011, DiVA have provided apprenticeships to over 200 creative youngsters with employers like 20th Century Fox, UK Music, Universal, Southbank Centre, Sadlers Wells, Crossrail and many more.
We caught up with founder and Director, Arit, to find out how she’s done it.
Hi Arit! Where did the idea for your business come from?
We started delivering apprenticeships in 2011. Before this, I had secured grant funding to provide a wage subsidy to film businesses hiring graduate talent. At the time the entry route to the industry was through unpaid work placements, which the sector was trying to combat. Our graduate programme addressed this issue, and was incredibly successful with a high number of graduates gaining full-time employment post-internship.
Low-cost recruitment worked, but the grant funding dried up. Apprenticeships in the creative sector launched, essentially allowing businesses to recruit and train employees at a budget they could afford. I enjoyed playing the “Fairy Job Mother”, matching the right candidates to the best role for them, so I switched focus to apprenticeship recruitment and training. We started with six apprentices and now have 150 young people currently engaged in apprenticeships, carrying out many jobs businesses depend on such as; general administrators, social media assistants, marketing assistants, HR administrators, receptionists and finance assistants.
What challenges did you face in the early stages?
Changing perceptions. Apprenticeships were viewed as a poor alternative to a degree. Employers had such low expectations of non-graduate talent, and thought hiring an apprentice was too complicated and it would take too long for an apprentice to get up to speed. Having recruited graduate and non-graduate talent I can say with surety having a degree does not guarantee you’re work ready.
In addition to changing perceptions about apprenticeships, running a small business gives me an understanding of the pressures employers are under, so my team and I work hard to make their lives easier. We take the headache out of recruitment by providing a full service. We submit grant funding applications and have all paperwork and training schedules issued up front so there are no surprises. We’re also at the other end of a phone throughout the process and beyond.
What has been DiVA’s biggest achievement so far?
Still being in business five years down the line - with not a grey hair in sight! Also we have a very high conversion rate from an apprenticeship into full-time employment and each time this happens I’m reminded that apprenticeships do work.
You grew the business with the help of our Innovating for Growth programme. What specifically did the programme help you achieve?
The Innovating for Growth programme helped me to develop my team in line with my plans for growth. The programme also helped increase our client base. I had previously focussed on creative companies as opposed to creative occupations (e.g. marketing and communications), which are in any sector. Being encouraged to shift my thinking in this regard helped broaden our reach and attract non-creative businesses such as the CBI, Hackney Council, Greenwich Council and JJ Roofing.
What one piece of advice would you give to any business owners struggling to take their business to the next level?
Scheduling one day per week to work on the business (rather than just in it) was the best piece of advice I was given, so it seems only fair to share it. Admittedly, it wasn’t an easy habit to adopt. However, forcing myself to do it has paid dividends. Also, apply for Innovating for Growth and let experts give you the help you need to succeed – it doesn’t cost you or your business anything other than your time.
Apply now for over £10,000 worth of business advice
Are you a start-up looking to scale up, like DiVA? Innovating for Growth is a free three-month programme to help you turn your growth idea into a reality.
Covering everything from intellectual property to reaching new markets and branding, we'll guide you through every step of the process.
The programme is fully-funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the British Library.