Want to run your own business? – Get help from the Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative

Enterprise Catalyst Business Support Initiative

Enterprise Catalyst provides entrepreneurs in Northwest, Central and Southeast Birmingham with free expert advice and access to match-funding to make entrepreneurial dreams a reality.

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

Enterprise Catalyst initiative

Enterprise Catalyst provides that much needed support to help you start out, grow your idea or develop your existing business with the use of dedicated coaches and finance packages.

Enterprise Catalyst aims to help people to help themselves by driving forward credible ideas – whether it is a completely new venture or an existing business looking for growth.

Their combined approach is aimed at helping entrepreneurs eliminate the obstacles common to tripping up even the most business-minded individuals, whilst helping to build a positive economic culture in key communities. To make this as easy as possible, Enterprise Catalyst work with a range of specialist providers, including The Digbeth Trust, Business Insight and Winning Moves to provide intensive business support packages that are tailored to the specific needs of individuals and existing businesses.

To ensure that people can access the support on offer, the Enterprise Catalyst Executive Delivery Team is staging a series of Enterprise Catalyst Business Clubs for residents in North West, Central and South East Birmingham.

Come along for expert advice on business planning, employment law, intellectual property, marketing, finance – and more!

Enterprise Catalyst event 16 June: Helping #brum new entrepreneurs & existing #business




What’s All This Biz? – The context and the content

Thursday 14th November 10am: –  Margaret Way, from Young Talent for Business, is outlining the background and the context for this event and its link to the previous breakfast Youth Employment event held on 24th September, to  the mix of business and young people who have braved the cold wet morning, to attend the “What’s all this biz about?” meeting being held at The Pump in Kitts Green.


Margaret Way addressing the mix of business and young people at The Pump

The purpose of the event is to enable young people and business people the opportunity to have a conversation about how they experience their interaction with each other and how they can work together to help improve life chances and job opportunities for people who live in the Shard End Ward of the City.

Andy Munro and Ian White from Business Development Midlands Ltd have kindly given up their morning to help facilitate the event and Andy has briefed delegates on what is expected from them.  He has emphasised that we want the event to be informal and conversational in format.

Two apprentices Andy and Daniel from BSA Machine Tools  have also turned up to outline their experience of being apprentices.  How they apprentice 2found out about the opportunity to become an apprentice, and what their experience of apprenticeship life has been like so far. Both young men are very enthusiastic and seem to be enjoying their work very much indeed. They attend college a certain number of days each week and the rest of the time engage in a range of work, enabling them to gain a variety of new skills. They work on three of the highly complex machines that BSA are currently manufacturing, machines that are so complex they are not scheduled to be completed until next year!

After Andy and Daniel have spoken the room is buzzing with excited voices eager to discuss the topics of day. To help aid the discussion and to try and obtain some effective feedback on key issues, some questions have been provided, more as prompts than as ‘must-ask’ questions.

For young people questions they might want to ask business people have been suggested, these are:-

  1. As an employer, what are the main qualities that you look for?
  2. If I start on a minimum wage what are the prospects for advancement after the first year?
  3. Would you be prepared to offer work experience?
  4. What sort of training and support would I get when I start work?
  5. Would you take on a 16 year old/do you have any preferences on what age people are, when taking them on?
  6. How do you recruit and how can I get to hear about jobs becoming available?

and for business people these could be:-

  1.  What is your ambition?
  2. What training and education courses have you been on to date?
  3. How do you look for jobs at the moment?
  4. What has stopped you getting into work to date? eg. barriers such as travel
  5. What could we do to help you into work?

Soon young people are talking about how current apprenticeship schemes are not very helpful as they only provide £100 per week which is not enough to live on if they don’t want to remain living at home. They also want to be treated with respect, and be appreciated. There is also a sense that the young people are looking for meaningful work. Other issues that arise are the lack of adequate career advice early in their school careers, and knowing where to look for jobs, the internet is mentioned but there is so much out there…

One positive and possible outcome is the idea of setting up a facebook or twitter account for young people in Shard End Ward to highlight local opportunities to them.

Those attending from business are keen to engage too, and are eager to seek solutions to issues and problems that have been raised. Some are working in the same sector that the young people are interested in, and business cards are offered and further discussions take place….

A ‘washup session’ takes place where the five table facilitators feedback the key issues that have been raised. The general consensus is that this has been a very successful event and both parties, the young people and the business representatives, have enjoyed the discussion and learned a lot. People are now going off with the intention of following up on some of the suggestions that have been made. The idea of holding another event, to explore these issues further was well received. Watch this space….

Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham – 11th Nov 2013


Today’s Social inclusion summit: Working Together for a Fairer Birmingham is being held at Austin Court, next to the old Birmingham and Fazeley Canal which still provides an exciting mode of transport for visitors to the City.

IMG_0073A fine rain has been falling all morning making David Hockney pool-scapes of the dark canal surface. Clearly, our hope that this would not deter the delegates from attending, has proven true,  for the Rt Revd David Urquhart, Bishop of Birmingham – who has been leading the Social Inclusion Process since its launch in March 2012 – is currently welcoming some of the 150 or so people who have braved the drizzle in order to attend.

These summits have proved to be a very successful method of community engagement, encouraging people from the whole social spectrum of Birmingham, representatives and practitioners from the Third Sector, Business leaders and workers, member of faith communities, Birmingham City Council staff, colleagues from the Police, and Fire services, indeed everyone who contributes to make Birmingham a truly great city.

The Bishop is remarking on the fact that we all come together, to be together and to spend 2 or 3 hours together to listen to each other and to learn from each other. he goes on to explain how he was attempting to explain to a group of sixth-formers what Social Inclusion is. Addressing the question: How do we make Birmingham an inclusive city? He suggests that there are three levels – first level is the policy level (both local and central Government) and as a Bishop he is invited to address committees in Parliament, then there is practical level which is the level that many people attending this summit engage at, and thirdly there is a pastoral level, which the Bishop explains is more personal and direct for example, helping in your local area and looking after your neighbour.

Summit: Working together and ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign

“Working together” is the key theme of today’s summit being held at Austin Court and the programme will include contributions from successful local collaborative initiatives, including the Birmingham Fair Money Campaign, Alcoa Kitts Green’s community team, the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Research into Superdiversity and locally-based community organisations addressing loneliness and isolation.

Another aim of this Summit is to encourage delegates to get behind the ‘Standing up for Birmingham’ campaign.  

Birmingham City Council leader, Cllr Sir Albert Bore has announced details of a new campaign for Birmingham called ‘Standing up for Birmingham’. The campaign calls for community groups and individuals to play a bigger role in the delivery of services in the light of the Government cuts. Launching the campaign Sir Albert said:

“We must all ‘stand up’ and make our contribution to getting us through this crisis, and the strongest need to do their bit to protect the weakest from the impact of these cuts.

Over the next few years we will need to restate the role of the city council in a new landscape, with far less resources. But that doesn’t mean we give up on our aims, values and priorities for the city.”

I would think that this is something delegates attending the social inclusion process summit, which aims to encourage everyone across the city to work shape the future wellbeing of the people of Birmingham, would fully endorse.

Brum Food Bank Directory is growing

FindFoodBanksBrum is a new fully interactive and FREE online listing service for food banks situated in Birmingham and the wider Black Country regions. It was launched in July 2013.

There are now over 80 providers registered on the website. The listings on the site include other related services such as food co-operatives, community gardening projects, free or subsidised clothing outlets, furniture and household goods services.

Website:  http://www.findfoodbanksbrum.org.uk/about-us/

Follow us on Twitter: www.twitter.com/FindFoodBrum

With the use of built-in Google Map and Google Map Street View capabilities, search and locality features, the website will make it simple for those in need of these services to locate them easily.

FindFoodBanksBrum was established by Naphtali & Associates.

The Parable of the Good Brummie!

The Good Samaritan

At the recent Social Inclusion Summit there was a clear sense of eagerness, one could almost say enthusiasm, to put the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper into action, along with a strong mandate from those present to proceed on to the creation of the White Paper and the Action Plan.

However, despite the enthusiasm there was also at times a frisson of uncertainty, and an underlying sense of bewilderment as to how we could make the recommendations a reality.

There is no doubt that it is a challenge, a real challenge. The task from now on is to come up with solutions to the problems that have been so clearly articulated.

Now, one response to this could be to become despondent and overawed by

One approach to the challenge

the clear enormity of the task, and ostrich-like bury one’s head in the sand.

Another would be to try and run head-long at it and, like some super-hero, set out to save the world.

Another is to keep working hard to find solutions, setting up the conditions to bring about the necessary change, and working through each obstacle as it arises.

It is this last method that seems most likely to succeed and I have a quiet confidence that the people of Birmingham can bring this about.

Let me tell you a story…

Amid the storms that lashed the country on Thursday night (22.11.12), leaning at a very steep angle to the universe, I made my way to my bus-stop against a fierce, relentless wind. Rain was bouncing of my clothing and the cold was lacerating my face as if I was being flayed by a razor-sharp icicle.

I could see the bus I was after in the distance but, as I drew closer, it uped its platform and drove off. I was now first in the queue; soaked, cold and miserable. Time passed. Eventually a bus from a rival company arrived. Sadly, my pass was not valid and I was reluctant to pay the top up fee which would enable me to use this service.

Suddenly an inspector approached informing the now swelling crowd that the bus was now loading further down the stop. I informed him that I could not travel on that bus as my pass was not valid. He said, “Come on. It’s cold and wet. Just get on. I’ll sort it.”  Flustered, I repeated my rather limp excuse about the wrong pass but he was insistent. “It’s freezing cold, just get on the bus and go.”

He escorted me down to the waiting bus, where three or four other passengers with the wrong passes were hanging around. Extending his beneficence he ushered all of us onto the bus, repeating his desire to get us out of the cold.

He then spoke to the driver and using some discretionary fund he had access to, waived the additional fees. We climbed on board and a few moments later, sitting in the warm, soothing comfort of the dry bus, we set off.

Here we have a clear example of the Brummie spirit! We know Birmingham is a welcoming city,  and I am sure there are many of you who, like me, have had a strong, vital, direct experience of how caring, compassionate and generous a city it is too.

It is because it is full of people like this bus-inspector, who is willing to use his discretionary power for good, that gives me the confidence to believe that we can make the commitments and recommendations of the Green Paper, and the emerging Action Plan and White Paper, work!

Operation Black Vote – West Midlands Civic Leadership Programme

Typewriters, computers, innovation and change!


Watching the BBC TV news on Tuesday  (20th November 2012) I was struck by several items. The first, at around 6.15 am, was a short ‘magazine’ piece on the end of the typewriter, which showed the very last Brother typewriter being produced at Brothers’ factory in Wrexham.

What a remarkable device the typewriter turned out to be from the very first successful commercial model produced by Remington way back in 1870 to the last one produced on Tuesday. (Not many products can boast of a 142 year life cycle or produce such an amazing production curve.)

In our attempt to increase the level of Economic Inclusion the Green Paper made the following recommendation:-

1.5 Foster and develop the entrepreneurial spirit of our young people and our migrant communities

In promoting this we are also promoting the need for innovation that lies behind it.

Sometimes It’s Hard To Think Outside The Box

Would it not be truly wonderful if, as a result of the Green Paper initiative (soon to be White Paper), someone from Birmingham went on to invent and develop the next device which will revolutionise our world in the way the typewriter did (and to some extent continues to do)?

A second news item, later in the day (about 6 pm) was the announcement by Hewlett  Packard (HP) the American computer and printer giant, that it was reporting a $6.85bn net loss.

Here we see the speed of change our world is subject to. On the same day that the typewriter becomes obsolete, we also begin to see the dark clouds of  obsolescence  hovering around the laptop and the computer, as smart phones and tablets begin to ‘elbow’ them out.

Strangely enough yesterday morning (21st Nov) we learn that plastic electronics, also known as organic and printable electronics, is an emerging field, which some experts say will revolutionise the electronics industry. (As one printer dies an new one is being born!)

It is in this new, rapidly changing world, that our young entrepreneurs and innovators will have to live and breathe. So we need to consider not only what kind of skills an individual requires to be able to operate in this way, but also what kind of ‘person’ they need to be, to be flexible and adaptable enough to cope with such speed of change.

Innovative organisations and market leaders like Google and Facebook have introduced radically new work environments and management methods to foster the creativity they need to help drive their business.

[Check out the Google office at CA  with its gym, idiosyncratic work spaces, amazing restaurants etc.]

Is this the model our schools and colleges should be looking at to help foster the level of confidence, creativity, and courage required to deal with the rapid speed of change in the modern business world?

At the end of the recent Social Inclusion Summit the Bishop urged us to

let the radical change begin!

Are we ready to be this radical?

Let us know!

Responding to the social inclusion challenge

Councillor Cotton said that after every summit he’d been at he always felt very enthusiastic and stimulated. He wanted to express his thanks to Jackie and her team for making it happen.

He then went on to explain that we know the scale and challenge across Birmingham. We know that a third of our children grow up in poverty. The level of deprivation has remained  the same for decades. We never seem to be able to address it adequately and the current public spending cuts are certainly not helping. Up to forty eight percent of the Birmingham City Council current budget is set to go. As the Leader of the Council, Cllr Bore said recently, this is the end of local Government as we know it.

Cllr Cotton then alluded to the leviathan of Welfare reform that is trundling towards us. It will impact most on those who are already deprived. The poor will continue to suffer. The cuts will not just affect services they will also threaten existing social capital too.

However, we should not be overawed by these challenges. We are more than capable of facing up to them. The Green paper shows no shortage of vision and ideas it indicates a real passion for change. We are not going to sit back and do nothing.  The Green Paper is a call to arms for the city.

Through the creation of the Green Paper the Bishop has managed to pull together a coalition for change: composed of businesses, third sector organisations, universities, religious, community and faith groups and individuals. The challenge now is how we keep the partnerships made here, through this endeavor, together? Hope can we can take the change forward under Bishops Leadership?

There are lots of ideas and solutions across city. A new approach to Neighbourhoods is already being rolled out, here we are endeavoring to provide the right area approach with Local services responding to local needs.  The Youth Unemployment Commission is already working on developing a Birmingham Jobs Fund approach. The Welfare Reform action committee is now in place and should be able to help create a shield to protect some of the people at risk. But he did fear that that the shield may well be dented in the effort.

So we can see that several of the proposals in the Green Paper are already beginning to emerge.

The new administration is keen to develop not just a Birmingham City Council strategy to deal with the needs of city but one that includes and embraces all our partners all working together towards a common goal.

To do this they are creating a Social Cohesion Challenge Unit to take this agenda forward. This unit will be able to challenge social cohesion not just across the Council but hopefully across partnerships too. It will champion good practice and build  and sustain strong  partnerships.  The Council needs its partners to work with us, we can’t do it alone.

So, we are beginning to put things in place to enable us to set off on this journey. The Green Paper is our route map. We know the journey will not be easy, but we also know that we have the ability to make Birmingham a better place for every citizen. So lets get on with it!

Media influence on our places and aspirations

More notes from the Diversity and Place discussions. In this session,  the discussion took an interesting turn away from the consistent topics I’d heard this morning, with one person asking:

“How much influence does the media have on our places and aspirations?

“For example, if you want to be an entrepreneur do you watch Dragon’s Den?

“I’m not saying we should quell the media, nor impose restrictions, but I am aware of the influence of the media on my thinking.”

Aspects of the media change aspirations. Hello Magazine is full of women who are young, slim and beautiful.

The media portrays aspirant images telling you what you should be – rather than suggesting what you can be. Does this shape – and limit – our aspirations because they are so narrow and prescriptive? Or, if the aspirant images projected at us are so outlandish and out of our reach, does it in fact discourage us from aspiring at all?

Another perspective was from someone who is blind. As a blind person, walking into an area that’s stereotypically associated with danger and a higher risk of being mugged, hasn’t been an issue in reality. More affluent areas are those where people are less likely to say “how can I help?”

“The areas we may think of as ‘tougher’ or ‘more troubled do not trouble me. People there have helped me.”