A week in the life of... Loretta Awuah, Start-ups in London Libraries Greenwich Champion
Loretta Awuah is our Start-ups in London Libraries SME Champion for Greenwich. She is based in the borough providing support to aspiring entrepreneurs as part of the Start-ups in London Libraries (SiLL) programme.
I start the week off by working through my inbox and responding to all the emails from people who are requesting one-to-one sessions and enquiry emails from people wanting to join the SiLL programme. It’s always great to see the wide range of potential businesses who I can register to the project. On this particular Monday it’s a food business and a social enterprise. We also have a weekly meeting with our borough SiLL team to discuss upcoming events and the support they may need. In the SiLL project, we support two types of entrepreneurs – people who have an idea which they haven’t yet developed and those who have been registered for a year or less, so we also look at ways of supporting and reaching these two different groups.
A big part of my job is showing the resources available in the library and supporting businesses in making the most of them. So in the afternoon, I do a COBRA tutorial with a newly registered business who is interested in finding out more information about ethical fashion and industry trade shows. It is amazing how much you can find on these databases so she leaves with a pack of information that will help give her direction and inform her next moves.
One of the best things about being able to offer the one-to-one sessions is that in one morning I can be looking at very different businesses and helping them map very different things, using varying techniques and models. This morning I have two sessions: one with an aspiring entrepreneur where we create a business model canvas and discuss her company structure; and another with someone wanting to start a social enterprise during which we developed a value proposition statement. No two sessions are ever the same and I love hearing how many ideas are springing out of Greenwich – it’s definitely a buzzing borough and that shows in the range of businesses I talk to.
The afternoon brings a presentation I delivered as part of Black History Month on the history of the black entrepreneurs across the African diaspora (past and present) and the impact of their products and services, combined with a workshop on ‘can you turn your passion into a business idea?’ I think it’s so important to acknowledge the benefits of a diverse business community, and how transformational this can be for the entrepreneurs, customers and their local communities
Relationship building with local organisations is also a big part of my job and I finish the day by confirming dates to collaborate with GLLaB (Greenwich Local Labour and Business) which is a council run organisation working with employers to promote job vacancies for local people. The aim of this meeting will be to promote the SiLL programme amongst job seekers interested in starting a business in different areas within Greenwich.
More meetings today with a presentation to the Plumstead Traders Forum about the SiLL programme and the support they could receive and a meeting with the GCDA (Greenwich Cooperative Development Agency) about the support they provide to aspiring food entrepreneurs.
The one-to-one I had scheduled in for today was with a potential businesswoman looking at applying for funding for a project she would like to deliver next year, and sourcing a bid writer so again, we are able to make some definite progress in that area.
As I am the midpoint between the Business & IP Centre at the British Library and the borough I also have regular meetings with the Royal Borough of Greenwich’s business engagement team. Today we have one to discuss collaboration opportunities in 2020 and information about business licenses on behalf of SiLL clients
Greenwich has a really active Start-ups in London Libraries community, which has been born out of people attending the workshops, receiving one to ones etc, and so we run a monthly session with our SiLL clients and other start-ups. It’s a safe space where they can all share updates on achievements, progress made and discuss challenges they are facing which they would like support. This month we also had Gary Parker, Director from CNT Associates deliver a presentation on funding for small businesses and social enterprises.
A big focus for me this month has been preparing for the Greenwich Christmas Start-up Marketplace we are delivering on 4 and 5 December to enable SiLL clients and other local start-ups to promote their business, trade and test out ideas. A lot of the time, these small businesses can use this sort of platform really effectively, to not only sell their products and services but do some market research and evaluate out the appetite out there.
There are smaller jobs I fit in where I can like arranging catering for the ‘Get ready for business workshop’ on December 11 2019 at West Greenwich Library – not the most exciting job but crucially important. We don’t want our workshop attendees going hungry!
Then there‘s time for one more presentation this week, this time to the Black Female Entrepreneur Greenwich organisation on effective time management tips and an overview of the SiLL programme. I love talking about the programme and getting the name out there as much as possible. People are always so surprised that they can get this support completely free.
All 10 of the SME Champions from each of the boroughs have monthly training sessions at the British Library to hear from some of the key organisations like HMRC and big banks which ensure that our knowledge of the business support landscape is up to date and relevant. Things are changing so quickly, and there will be lots to learn particularly after Brexit has happened, so these sessions are always really eye-opening. As well as providing the support, we need to make sure we’re signposting other sources as much as possible as well and acting as a convener.
After a full day of training, I pick up my baby son Joshua from the childminder, which is always a perfect end to the work. I’m looking forward to spending a restful weekend with him before getting going again on Monday.
The Start-ups in London Libraries project is generously supported by the European Regional Development Fund, J.P. Morgan and Arts Council England.