#OurOwnStories continues with part two of our interview with Essentially Ankara. We speak with Julie and Dee about topics ranging from what it means to be a Black owned business to advice for budding entrepreneurs.
What does it mean to be Black owned business?
Dee: I think it means a lot. I think it’s a great achievement in itself. I’m noticing that more and more people want to own their own businesses, especially Black businesses. People want to buy Black a lot more in this country. I think it’s really becoming a movement which is growing about buying Black, producing our products and having our own sector of Black business. And I feel really strongly about that. If I could buy more products from Black businesses then I would. I think a lot more Black people are very passionate about it. As a woman too, I think it’s nice seeing more female entrepreneurs as well.
Julie: I mean it’s not saying that we won’t go to others. But it’s about saying there are enough Black people around for the business to be sustainable. And that is putting down your roots and people becoming increasingly aware that there are businesses that are here for the duration that you would know [them] as you would know a Primark. It’s to be a part of that, where people recognise that these are Black businesses. It’s not to exclude but just for people to know who we are and what we’re about.
Dee: Yeah, we have mostly gone to African markets, Black markets. I see so many different markets, different vendors. It's been a massive eye opener for me. The range of products! I’m not surprised at the creativity but it’s amazing in terms of the vendors and products that they produce.
What have been your greatest accomplishments and challenges?
Julie: For me personally it was actually launching it [the business]. And also within that, me learning more about business because I’m not from a business background. So it’s been kind of like a challenge in a really really positive way, like learning a new skill. I know it comes with risks and can be costly but it’s a big achievement, it’s really good. And people are knowing about us and that’s really good.
Dee: Yeah I agree, I’d say it’s the business - from it being an idea to actually being launched. When we officially registered as a business, when we came up with our name and our logo, we had our first event. And wow it's official. It's a family business as well, that’s been really important. We’re keeping it in our family and getting ideas from everyone. Challenges...there’s always challenges!
Julie: Even though this is what you expect, there are no guarantees in business. We just have to accept that things won’t move, your products won’t move. But keep saying that we just have to be patient. Maybe we just need to learn more about our markets. You just have to accept that you’ll have days when things aren’t happening.
Dee: I guess we’re still trying to find out which are the most suitable events for our products. It’s been a learning curve, learning what works for us.
Any advice for Black entrepreneurs?
Julie: I would just say follow your dream. You learn as you go along. Don’t expect everything to happen at once. Be patient.
Dee: Don’t give up. Stay true to your dreams and don’t let setbacks put you back. Sometimes the setbacks lead to something even better. So keep on doing it.
Julie: And try and connect. As Dee said earlier, it’s been an eyeopener just how many people are doing various things. So go out there, do your networking, do your research. There is a lot more support that you may not realise.
Dee: A lot of people are in the same boat, so it’s good to network and go to free business events, training events.
Julie: The British Library runs a series of events which is funded by the European Union. What they do is they have certain locations where they run workshops for start up businesses. The first one concentrates on how to set up your business, how to register - are you going to be a sole trader or a limited company. It gives you that kind of basic background. It’s all free. It gives you access to their libraries either by going to Euston or certain local libraries. They call it Cobra [Complete Business Reference Advisor] and you can log on and access workshops, webinars from various businesses. Most of them are free but if they’ve got somebody who is like a world renowned entrepreneurs you might have to pay a fee. But it’s not too expensive.
Then day 2 focuses on how you try your business plan. How do you intend to implement your plan? It gives you a lot of guidance on that and setting realistic targets. Then they have a third one which is based on marketing. How to promote your business. That one is really really helpful.
Dee: There’s also Saturday school by Saatchi Advertising. It is called M&C Saatchi Saturday School. It’s aimed at BAME, I think they do it on a monthly basis on digital marketing, business planning. That has been really helpful as well. You have to pay £8 initially but then they refund it to you. I think it’s to get people to attend. There is the Co-Dalston that does free branding and mentoring if you need help on that. They also have a co-working space.
Julie: If people just do searches they would be surprised. There are so many free workshops for people to attend and they’re all really really helpful.