Vegan Skincare products made with you in mind

MSA skin care is a natural, organic and vegan skincare brand that is cruelty and plastic free. It has been operating for over 1 year with an eco-friendly approach, which includes a re-fill service for customers.

All products are created by mother of 3 and founder Suprina Hilaire. She uses natural and sustainably sourced ingredients that are good for the skin and kind to the planet. MSA Skin Care is on a mission to empower women to be confident in their skin and to make the skincare routine an enjoyable experience as opposed to a chore.

The products help customers who have dry skin and dry eczema problem – which can be alleviated by the Vanilla and Sandalwood body butter available to buy from MSA Skincare website.

Here is how what happened when I caught up with founder of MSA Skincare, Suprina Hilaire:

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Tell us about your background and why you decided to get into the skincare business.

I am a single mother of three with a diploma in skincare formulation and Aromatherapy.

My first career was in education as an Assistant Teacher, which I did for 20 years. I have always had an interest in Aromatherapy and I started an essential oil collection years ago, which I used for my own personal use.

After getting married, having kids and then getting divorced, I realised I had always put my aspirations on hold, so my journey began to find myself and what I wanted to do. As a procrastinator it took me a while to finally push forward and start the business. Initially, I wasn’t a big skincare enthusiast as I used “simple” products. However, after receiving my first facial, I loved the way my skin felt. It was at that point that I started investing more time into learning about skincare products and practicing a regular skincare routine. As a sufferer of dry skin and a daughter who suffered with eczema, I got fed up with steroid creams and decided to make products, I knew I could trust.

https://www.msaskincare.com/shop

What was your first product and how did you go about creating it?

Vanilla & Sandalwood Body Butter was my first product, which I created as part of an assignment on a skincare course I took. It was made with my dry skin in mind, as I needed something that would nourish skin naturally without the harsh chemicals.  It’s made from a selection of rich butters, plant-based carrier oils and essential oils for skin hydration.

What were some of your challenges when you started your skin care company? How did you overcome them?

I faced a number of challenges which included finding the right suppliers for ingredients as well as packaging, building brand awareness, especially on social media and creating an online presence. 

With regards to the online presence, I built my website myself during the first lockdown. I taught myself, used templates and managed to get a great looking final product.

When it came to suppliers, I did a lot of research myself, contacted potential suppliers and attended trade shows. Building brand awareness – this is still ongoing, but to start the process I joined a few membership groups and did some networking. 

A Lot of it was teaching myself and asking questions and would recommend this to anyone starting a business

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How did you overcome procrastination?

I have found ways to deal with procrastination, which can be seen by the fact that I started my business. For example, I thought I needed a number of qualifications (at least that’s what I told myself) in order to start my business. However, after being rejected for a course that I thought would help me, I decided I was just going to start the business anyway and remember saying this to a friend and that was it.

I believe in myself more now and so just tend to go for things that I put my mind to.

https://www.msaskincare.com/shop

What is your bestselling product and why do you think customers like?

At the moment there are 2 top sellers: The Vanilla & Sandalwood Body Butter, which has a comforting smell and it nourishes dry skin as it sinks in. The other product is the hand spray. With everyone sanitising their hands a lot more, this is a great one as it is a spray not a gel and it doesn’t dry out your hands or leave them sticky.  Plus, there is a refill available.

Customers can buy these products directly from our online store here

What do you enjoy the most in your entrepreneurial journey?

Making the products and receiving great customer feedback of how the product has worked for them.  I also enjoy learning new things about myself and my determination.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a skincare company?

Persevere, get help, don’t do it alone, think about your support network, if in doubt, ask, look after yourself, take time out regularly. It’s ok to outsource and data is key, record it weekly.

Thanks for the insight into your business journey so far Suprina!

Upcycling for creative reuse

Yal-Art

Yal-Art is an Award-Winning Art brand started in 2019 by Founder Bertha Wensah, a self-taught prolific fabric artist born in Ghana and raised in the cosmopolitan city of London. The company was born out of her fascination of the vibrant fabrics of Ghana as well as her environmentally conscious attitude.

Yal means fabric in the language of MO, from Northern Ghana where Bertha’s parents come from. Bertha produces pochoir art. Pochoir, which is French for “Stencil” is distinguished from ordinary stencilling and is a highly refined technique of making limited edition prints. She uses fabrics to incorporate into the stencils to create individualised art work for all occasions.

As you can tell, Fabric is the overarching theme of every unique handmade piece of Art. Each piece of fabric is delicately and intricately fused into a design to create timeless art you can treasure or give as a gift.

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The company was created when Bertha started using fabrics ethically sourced from Ghana in addition to unwanted pieces of fabric from friends and family, to make art pieces. She quickly realised that she wanted to contribute positively to the environment, and therefore moved to purely using upcycled fabrics for creative reuse. “I find this to be sustainable for the business as it affords me the unique opportunity to contribute, in a small way to the environment”, says Bertha.

In 2019 Yal-Art won the BWB Award in the category of Business Start-Up of The Year. This was a great opportunity for the upcycle business, which was less than a year old at the time. In 2020 the business was rebranded with the new name Yal-Art. Art lovers can buy Yal-Art pieces directly from their online store or work with Bertha to commission one-of-a-kind art pieces, therefore allowing environmentally conscious art lovers to add a personal touch to create the final results.

Yal – Art

Do you have a creative process? If so, what is it?

I don’t have a creative process as such but work really well when the sun is out. I am able to work at my peak with natural lighting and the sun helps me feel relaxed and engaged. UK weather is so unpredictable that it makes it quite difficult sometimes, for me to work at my best. I am not a sun worshiper by the way, I worship the one who created the sun.

I think I may have that sad syndrome where I don’t do well during winter months but thrive tremendously during the summer and warmer months.

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How easy did (or do) you find selling your art? What made you decide to sell it?

I didn’t initially set out to sell my work. I created my first prototype for my brother as a gift. The first image I created was the map of Africa. I took a picture of it and posted on my WhatsApp status just to see what people thought. I didn’t tell anyone that I had created it at the time. I sent it to quite a few people in my contacts list to get their honest opinion and feedback.

The response was overwhelming and I decided to start an Instagram page to post images of my art. My brother and friends supported me to get the first company name and things just took off from there.

To date, I have sold my work through word of mouth, online via my website and through markets and exhibitions, that I have participated in. Friends and family also help but they don’t account for a large market.

What do you enjoy the most in your entrepreneurial journey?

I enjoy meeting new people along the journey, especially when I do markets or exhibitions. Learning new ways to do business and improve what I do and getting feedback from my customers.

How do you find and decide on which markets / exhibitions to participate in?

I have a few different ways of doing this.  A lot of market holders have reached out to me in the past to trade with them.

I also get recommendation from other business owners who have traded with a particular market and feel that it’s a good fit for my business. Therefore, I would reach out to those markets based on that feedback.

Sometimes it is as simple as coming across a sponsored ad on social media. I then follow up with the organisation in order to exhibit with them.

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Yal-Art

What about the operational side of the business, does this play a big part in your business?

I do everything (marketing, accounting) myself and I still work part-time for social services on top of that. Hence, it can be challenging juggling everything, however I purposely work part-time so that I can run the business. I still have a lot to learn in order to structure it properly so that I can make a real success of it. I constantly receive excellent reviews for my services and creations and I guess this is what won me my first Award in 2019 when the business was less than a year old

What is your most popular piece? Why do you think customers like it?

I don’t have just one popular piece because all my pieces are personalised, customers always have the opportunity to put their own personal touch on what they order making it unique to them.

What challenges have you faced so far and how have you dealt with them? 

I have faced multiple challenges as an entrepreneur. For example, I don’t drive and this weighed heavenly on my purse and physical health as I have often needed to travel to multiple markets or exhibitions for a period of time. Sometimes as far as Manchester, Luton etc.

Thank you for sharing your story on Black Business Blog!

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Spotlight: Film maker Saudat Sanusi and her film production Company

Sysan Productions is an independent film production company which creates films and provides audio-visual content and script writing services for organisations. The company was founded by Saudat Sanusi, a Nigerian-British film maker, screen writer and script writer in 2014.

Film production is at the core of this business from development through to principal photography and post-production. Sysan Productions also provide audio-visual content and script writing services for organisations who want to increase brand promotion and raise awareness. Whether it be event filming including product launches or conferences, promotional videos, investor relations and testimonial videos, Sysan is your go to production company. They have a talented team which is able to visually bring to light ideas and help to create a memorable image.

Saudat’s passion for film making grew out of her love of watching films. “As far as I remember, I’ve always loved films”, she says during our interview. As her passion grew, she became intrigued by the film making process and wanted to learn more about its different facets, which led her to taking on an MA in film. After completing her studies, she started off as a producer, working with talented writers/directors to produce several short films and an anthology which focused on five connected stories.

However, as time went on, she felt the need to tell stories from her personal perspective and so began to write and direct projects. Some of her previous projects include True Ripples which is available on Vimeo.

We caught up on all things related to the film industry and the challenges of being an entrepreneur.

Do your films have a particular theme? If so what is it?

I was born in Nigeria and live in the UK so, my aim is to tell stories about people like myself, those who feel caught in between different worlds, whether it be culturally or figuratively. 

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What was it like moving to the UK from Nigeria and why does it play such a big part in your films?

I was born in Nigeria and moved to the UK when I was six years old. Whilst I’ve spent the majority of my life here in the UK, my mum and most of my family still live in Nigeria and I try to visit them whenever possible.

As a Nigerian living in the UK, I recognise that there are vast differences between the two cultures whether it be music, food or language and it is these differences that affect and shape my everyday life. By focusing on the realities of these two cultures in my films, I am telling stories about my own experiences, with the hope of relating to others that also feel caught between different worlds, whether it be culturally or figuratively.

How did you go about setting up a production company? Did you need any licenses or permits?

Once I had a company name, knew my niche and the types of films I wanted to create, I incorporated my company at Companies House. Next steps included drafting a business plan and setting up a business bank account. Filmmaking is a collaborative process so I’ve made sure to build a network of filmmakers and creatives, who I can call on to work on projects with me.

In regard to licenses / permits, permits are required to film in public places and the cost depends on the type of filming and the location. Also, for all film shoots, it’s important to have film production insurance and to do a production risk assessment.

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www.sysanproductions.com

What are you enjoying the most in your entrepreneurial journey?

Being an entrepreneur is extremely rewarding for me as I am able to turn my passion for filmmaking into creating a business that is aligned with my personal values. Although there are many challenges and it can take time to build up a business, I have found that I’m constantly learning. Also, I’ve enjoyed and continue to enjoy connecting with entrepreneurs and organisations from not only the film industry but also various other industries.

I also love the collaborative aspect of being an independent filmmaker. Every project is different, and the size of a film crew can range from a small team to a team of thousands. This keeps it interesting as you never know who you might meet or what you might learn on a project.

What do you enjoy the least about being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur is a risk. However, I always keep in mind my vision for the company and make sure to always have a positive outlook. This enables me to take the necessary and sometimes risky steps that are required in order for the company to succeed.

How do you obtain actors /actresses for your films?

It varies.  Casting agents are great as they have a wide variety of talent on their books. There have also been times when I’ve watched a film and thought that an actor/actress might be suitable for one of my upcoming projects so, I’ve reached out to their agent. I’ve also posted acting jobs on casting call websites and /or social network groups for actors/actresses. After receiving submissions from the actors/actresses, I call them in to audition, which could be in person or by video, in order to get a sense of their ability and suitability for the role.

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What challenges have you faced so far and how have you dealt with them?  

As in any business, having enough capital at the offset has proved vital as it can take a while to generate income. Fortunately, I’m a qualified accountant so, I’m familiar with managing financial records and budgeting.

Whilst building a business has its challenges, the unpredictability and lack of monotony makes it exciting and worthwhile. I’m as passionate and determined as ever.

Where can people find your films?

Information about my films can be found on my website and on the Sysan Productions website. My work is also on platforms such as YouTube (for trailers) and Vimeo.

Any business or individual(s) wanting to connect with Saudat can do so on the following social media channels:

IG: @saudatsanusi or @sysanproductions

Twitter: @saudatsanusi or @sysanpro

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCW_w1i1AC84b01uSMM48DIg

A New Way to find your favourite Wine and Tapas

Eligant is wine and tapas discovery business that introducing customers to exclusive wines and tapas through its online shop and club at http://www.eligant.club. The business was started by Gisely Dias as she wanted to share her passion for delicious wine, tapas and the Mediterranean with the world. The business selects, sources and handpicks exclusive Mediterranean wines and Spanish artisan tapas from amazing people and local businesses.

Currently, there products include wines from Spain, Portugal, Italy and France, which are only available in the UK through Eligant. They also sell artisan tapas such as Iberian ham, manchego cheese and much more.

Eligant also hosts wine tasting sessions (currently held online) and sell celebration packs, which are the perfect gift and worry free box for those speecial moments with friends and family.

I caught up with Gisely to talk about this new venture

https://eligant.club/shop/wines/

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What makes Eligant different from other wine subscriptions?

Transparency. With Eligant you can read more than just a label. Our customers have the opportunity
to learn all about the product before committing to buy as we have collected and curated the
relevant information about our products: flavours & aromas, wine profile, food pairing suggestions
and handling, leaving no doubts about what to expect. You can imagine how a wine will taste just by
browsing on our website.

Discovery. Those who subscribe to the club will receive a handpicked selection of wines and tapas every month. Customers enjoy variety and expand their horizon and knowledge of original and local Mediterranean products.

Exclusivity. Most of the wines and tapas in our online club and shop can only be bought through us. Eligant club connects the British people with local Mediterranean producers awaking memories and dreams of a perfect holiday. We have personally visited the wineries and tasted hundreds of wines and have partnered with an incredible wine expert with 15+ years’ experience to select the best products.

Knowledge. On our website, you can learn about the main grapes in the Mediterranean, the regions and how to pair wine with food. Soon we will be sharing yummy recipes that go along perfectly with our wines.

https://eligant.club/shop/wines/

I understand you launched the business a few months ago, during the pandemic. How was that?

We launched Eligant shop 3 weeks ago, and plan to launch Eligant club in May 2021.

I believe when life gives you grapes, make wine J. We all have the power to react positively to adversity. I am passionate about Spain and used to go there on holiday twice a year. During lockdown we all felt stuck, and I’ve decided to do something to bring that Mediterranean feeling and experience to the UK.

I wanted to create something special by offering high quality products made with passion by local and in the UK unknown producers. British people ought to have great Mediterranean products in the comfort of their home with or without travel restrictions.

What are you enjoying the most in your entrepreneurial journey?

The passion that I have for Eligant gives me the energy to work incredible hard. The power to move forward and the inspiration to do something special only happens when you genuinely believe in what you are doing. Wine is my fuel.

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When I embrace a challenge, I always give my best. Prior to launching Eligant, I carried out some market research and received positive feedback on the products, online shop. The same has occurred since Eligant.club went live and customers started buying wine and tapas. Receiving such positive feedback from customers gives me a boost of motivation. Their excitement and joy when they open an Eligant box and taste the products fuels my passion every time.

As a Financial Controller I was previously only focused on my professional niche. As an entrepreneur I became curious about everything; now I want to learn more and more about the entrepreneurial world every single day and connect with people to understand their journey.  I really enjoy this curiosity and ability to solve problems and quickly move forward. Every day is a unique day.

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How do you source the wine and tapas sold on your website?

This is actually the really fun part of my job!

We visited the producers in Spain back in July 2020 and learned about their story, their products, their methods, and traditions. We have tasted over 120 of wines and selected a range from sparkling to fortified wines. Currently we offer 50+ wines on our website.

We have also partnered with two exclusive wine importers and carefully selected a range of Mediterranean wines. Like us they have visited the wineries and picked the best selection. However, the main focus lies on wines and tapas that can only be sourced through Eligant.club.

What challenges have you faced so far and how have you dealt with them?

As an entrepreneur every day brings a new challenge. There is always something to figure out or to fix.

But my biggest challenge at the moment is brand awareness. We launched 3 weeks ago and so far brand awareness has been through word of mouth, from people who have enjoyed our products and recommended us to their friends and family. This has been great so far but there is still more to be done.

Now a suitable marketing strategy and realisation is crucial: How to spread the word without spending a fortune is a challenge for a self-funded start-up. I now need to find a way to communicate my passion and make people curious to try and fail in love with the experience as much as I have.

Enjoy a Mediterranean experience in the comfort of your home when you purchase wines and tapas from https://eligant.club/shop/wines/ ! Order now and get 15% discount on all products using the code WELCOME. Customers also get free delivery for orders over £60!

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Not your average Jewellery brand

ELXNAY is a jewellery brand that was started in 2018 as a hobby by a mum, whilst on maternity leave. She was used to being busy and wanted something to keep her occupied in her spare time, this quickly became a passion. She identified a niche in the market and the brand now provides high quality tarnish free jewellery, which means customers can have affordable and fashionable pieces that will last them a life time.

Here is how the conversation went, when I caught up with founder Naomi McGann on how she started this great business

Have you always worked in this industry and what motivated you to start your own brand of Jewellery?

I haven’t always worked in the jewellery industry. I am a Registered Psychiatric Nurse and I qualified at 21 years old. Although I was proud of my achievements, the excitement quickly wore off when I realised I did not want to work 12 hours shifts for the rest of my (working) life. I knew I wanted to start a family and be present for my children.

I fell into owning my brand but my motivation to keep on going is my daughter and my little sister (I call them my little helpers). I do this for them to give them the best start and to show them that black women can run a successful business, there are no limits to what you can achieve when you put your mind to it

Necklace by elxnay.com

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What makes your jewellery brand different from others on the market?

What makes ELXNAY stand out is that the business thrives off representing our customers. We specialise in country map jewellery. Our pendants allow people from different cultures and backgrounds to carry a piece of home with them wherever they go!

Being of Caribbean heritage it has always been important to feel close to and be proud of my background. Wearing my St. Kitts and Jamaica necklace achieved this for me. This was a feeling I wanted everyone to experience.  With over 90 country map pieces available we allow many people from all around the world to feel connected to home. We also provide trendy pieces that make the perfect go to jewellery collection for everyday wear. 

For those that are not aware, tell us about the jewellery market and where your brand is positioned

The Jewellery business is a competitive, billion-pound market that is projected to grow rapidly in the next few years. Though the trajectory is mostly reflective of high-end brands, mid-range brands like ELXNAY are also expected to do well. Despite the fragility of the high street the purchasing of jewellery has gone up, with research showing two-thirds of people in the UK buying jewellery for themselves or someone else…. Overall there has been a 5% increase in comparison to 2018!

I think this is a profitable market, especially when you discover your unique niche and in the age of online shopping there’s some evidence to suggest online brands may have a stronger advantage.

Why did you decide to sell your jewellery via your own website and move away from Etsy?

When I started ELXNAY it was a hobby and Etsy seemed to be the best place to dip my feet in the water and see what people wanted. After obtaining almost 7 thousand sales with many returning customers, it became very clear that there was a demand for our product and in order to gain more control over our business and to truly establish the brand in its own right, I recognised it was time to move ELXNAY to its own domain

Pendants by: elxnay.com

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What are some of the challenges you experienced whilst moving to your own website? 

The biggest challenge about starting over was starting over! I felt like I had mastered Etsy. I knew how to list products in a way that guaranteed traffic to my store, how to interact with customers quickly and effectively and how to unify this to generate sales.

There’s a lot more work that goes on behind the scenes of owning your own website, things I hadn’t yet encountered. My first challenge was designing my website, whereas Etsy is like a cookie cutter one-store-fits-all well as your own website is essentially a blank canvas that you have to paint on to create your brand identity.

Then came the challenge of generating sales, because once you navigate away from ETSY you also leave behind the customers Etsy brings to its platform. Every visit to my store is now generated by me and so, I had to learn how to really utilise the power of social media and online advertising. It has been a journey… challenging but most definitely rewarding. 

Do you design it yourself?

initially, when I started ELXNAY as a one (wo)man brand I wore many hats, which included penning my own designs ready for our manufactures to transform into amazing pieces. However, I quickly discovered that I’m not a jewellery designer (as cool as it would be to be one) and there’s a reason people go onto further education to study this intricate skill. I’m thankful now that I can maintain creative control over my designs however can rely on skilled designers to capture this for me!

Do you have any advice for aspiring jewellery designers?

There’s no better time than now to get started in the jewellery industry. With so many mid to high range jewellery brands finding their feet and expanding their territory, many are on the search for keen and hard-working jewellery designers to join their teams.

Reach out and pitch your unique selling point, highlighting what you could offer to a brand. Alternatively, if being the boss of your own brand is more suited to you, once you’ve established your desired brand identity, take time to build a great working relationship with a manufacture. It is always important to have trust in your manufacturer to deliver exactly what you’ve asked for especially after investing so much of your time and money into something you love!

Necklace by: elxnay.com

What are your plans for the brand this year?

This year I want to continue to grow the brand’s collections to represent more countries around the world whilst also connecting with the wider community. I will be hiring more staff to support the growth of the business and collaborating with others to grow the brand identity.

More importantly we want to decrease our carbon footprint and ensure our business is friendlier to the environment!

Thank you so much for sharing the journey of ELXNAY. Checkout this unique jewellery at elxnay.com and get 20% off your purchase with promo code: BOB20

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This Expat is taking her passion for travel to the next level

Melanin Travels Magic is an online travel tour operator providing Group Tours & Travel planning services to the African and Carribean diaspora worldwide. Founded by marketing consultant Christina Belloge, the company specialises in Black heritage tours in countries with a major afro descent population. Melanin Travels Magic aims to primarily encourage the diaspora to reconnect with its heritage as well as get enducated and empowered by it.

Ok, what makes this tour operator any different from what you’ve seen before?

Melanin Travels Magic specialises in black heritage and leisure group trips. This means they have a strong focus on connecting travellers with the local culture. This can be through visiting villages, favelas (Brazilian shack or Shanty town or slam), landmarks and cultural immersion through fantastic experiences and historic tours.

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Photo by Christina Belloge

Christina’s love for travelling goes back to when she was a teenager. Her dream was to travel while studying languages. “I always wanted to have an international career, learning languages and travelling to get to know people”. Christina was introduced to travelling while in High school in France. “We used to take discovery trips to Europe with your class”. Prior to that, her trips mostly consisted of travelling to her native country Guadeloupe to visti family. These rituals got her hooked on the experience.

It’s therefore no surprise that Christina has spent the last 14 years moving around Europe. Her expat journey began when she moved to London at age 22 to be with her British boyfriend.

“When I first moved to the UK, I had to start from scratch and learn the basics, as it was my first time not living with my parents. I had to find a job and a place to live. I had to learn how to cook and take care of myself. My boyfriend soon left to study in Birmingham and I stayed in London having to navigate the big city alone.”

“I eventually found my way, and in just a year, I became fluent in English, which helped me tremendously. For the next few years, I bounced between the U.K. and France as I worked on a Double Franco-British Master in international trade, and then landed a job at a start-up after graduating“.

One of her fond memories as an expart is when she moved to Gemarny. “In Germany I got the best expat experience as my company at the time, a major German fashion retailer, provided an agent who took care of all my admin needs.

I felt a big sense of national pride and found the people to be straight talkers, which was a shock at first. Overall, I really loved my time and took advantage of a romantic trip to Hamburg, the Cologne Christmas market and Berlin cultural museums!“. These types of expereinces have encouraged Christina to take her passion for travel to the next level.

Photo by Christina Belloge

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So why start a travel business during a Pandemic?

It’s very challenging because of all the travel bans in UK & Europe and Canada“, she says. “The only market still travelling is the United States.”

Despite of these challenges, Christina was motivated by the Black Live Matters movement following the death of George Floyd last year and the Black Business renaissance movement that is happening in UK. The awareness around developing and strengthening the Black community via business ownership has been popping recently literally. Therefore I decided to launch melanintravelsmagic.com with both the vision to leverage my passions for travel and black history as an empowering and healing tool for the black diaspora.

I was also influenced by the Afro American #blacktravellersmovement and the need for African and Caribbean diaspora to uncover their history and culture.

Christina believes in passing on her passion of travelling. For her, its a way for people to connect with the rest of the diaspora, contribute to black economics and grow their sense of self value by understanding how connected we are as afro descent people. With Melanin Travels Magic they get to learn about common cultural traditions, history and value the privilege they have in the Western World to make a difference by leveraging education and business opportunities.

Looking for your first destination post lock down? Or maybe you need some help planning it…You can connect with Melanin Travels Magic via the following links

MTM IG:  https://www.instagram.com/melanintravelsmagic/

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/melanintravelsmagic

You Tubehttps://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBhfQOHR78xo5gF8IjqfQRw

Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/company/melanin-travels-magic/?

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Learn how to invest in stocks with Stock Pickers Academy

Since the beginning of lockdown in March 2020, official UK statistics (based on a report from House of Commons library) show that total household savings have increased. This is mostly due to a fall in spending on non-essential items during lockdown.  This increase in disposable income combined with close to zero interest rates has led to increased interest in the stock market and trading from retail investors.

If you know what you are doing, like Debodun Osekita, founder of Stock Pickers Academy (SPA), investing can be quite profitable. You can learn how to invest your money in one of the programs provided by SPA.

SPA is a non-advisory community of beginners and experienced investors coming together as one to leverage each other to create wealth. At SPA, investing beginners have information about their respective fields and life experiences, whilst experienced investors have the technical expertise to turn those trends into investing ideas in order to buy stocks.
Debodun manages other people’s ideas by applying safe entry and reasonable exit price points in a non-advisory manner. He is also transparent with regards to the profit or loss he makes with every investment. The community gets to see the ups and downs of his investments and track record.

At SPA, individuals can learn how to start investing in stocks in a number of ways. For example, SPA provides group courses, where specific proven strategies are taught, mentoring – for ongoing learning and support, an alerts service and a portfolio review service.

Joining Stock Pickers Academy provides a good entry point for stock trading for beginners and those interested in learning about the stock market, understanding the stock market and how the stock market works

Here is how the conversation went, when I caught up with him.

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What were you doing before you started the business?

Up until 2018 SPA has been running concurrently whilst I was working as a way to give back knowledge. It only became a business during lockdown. In addition to this, I run UrbanFounders to connect startups with Investors, and City Jobs Coaching where I work with Diversity recruitment agencies and universities to coach ethnic minorities both graduate and experienced hires into roles around the city and Investment Banking.

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How and when did you get into trading?

I first started trading at university but it was virtually and mainly forex trading. I was doing very well and winning so many competitions. However, it wasn’t real money and after securing highly competitive summer internships on trading floors of Santander and Barclays Investment Bank I eventually landed a full time job at Goldman Sachs.

Which charater from ‘The City’ reminds you of yourself when you used to work in the city?

I would say Harper but only her character inside the office not the socials – The serious side.

After a decade of working as a trader, why did you give it up?

My last role was at a Quantitative Hedge Fund in the Channel Islands – I was there for 3 years and eventually got bored of the Island and decided to relocate back to London. It was a bit of a gamble but I thought I’d be ok and land something here.

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What were some of the challenges that you faced when you first started Stock Pickers Academy?

The stock market is always moving so time management and prioritising questions for existing clients on their positions, managing money and teaching new clients is always a challenge. It is impossible to just turn my eye away from the markets for long periods of time. Lockdown has helped me to focus but some aspects of what I do are not scalable. First movers got a big advantage as my model switches from 1-2-1 service to groups and online

How do you decide which stocks you buy?

This sounds like a simple question but a lot of thought goes into my answer – I have combined my own ideas with those from the diverse community I have created. I like to keep my methods simple and that is what makes it easier to pass on. I find an industry I believe in and prioritise stocks in that. Then I diversify by lots of different factors, volatility, beta, market value and so much more which I teach on my course. Then I have a strategy on how I execute on my transactions. My portfolio returned 129% last year and I have published that on Instagram. This is despite holding 35% as cash.

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What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a position and what went wrong?

Realised loss of £4000 – company went into administration. Canadian Lithium mining company which was meant to be a play in Electric Vehicle batteries raw materials. They still exist under a different trading name so I feel share holders were cheated but hey. That was 15% of my portfolio but still managed to return 129% in the same year so no complaints.

What are your thoughts on the future of banking?

We are moving more into a Big Data/Ai/Robots world as part of this technological revolution. More investment is going into tech and automation. Less risk is being taken and Regulatory reform is the order of the day. Block chain is also here to stay and getting more institutional attention. On the recruitment front diversity is getting more attention and hopefully that lasts.

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What advice would you give to a recent graduate who wants to become a trader?

Start putting in the work and study from 1st year of uni. It is so competitive that you need to be on top of the knowledge and getting experience early. Work hard at uni too as a good degree is important for the entry criteria.  From a technical perspective commercial awareness is very key. Download finimize and follow @StockPickersAcademy on Instagram to get 34% off the annual subscription. Invest in yourself as having good commercial awareness and genuine interest is so important. Learn about the products and there is a good book called All you need to know about the City.

What are your plans for Stock Pickers Academy this year?

I just want to see people winning financially. The plans themselves are still a bit go with the flow – I didn’t expect the demand I’m currently facing so finding solutions on the fly has been interesting and fun. I would like to create SPA kids/teens at some point as well as put a bit more work on the podcast and the other non-investing fronts. I want to get some of the black celebs involved and really diversify my client base. Long story short I want to scale and carry others along the journey with me.

If you are interested in investing in stocks, learning how to trade or simply looking for a community you can discuss trade ideas with, then visit Stock Pickers Academ here

Flavour like Fancy, a gift shop with a difference

Flavour like fancy is an independent gift shop and online shop, which was started in July 2019 by Tasha Grant. The shop sells unique gifts handmade and produced by small UK businesses, with a focus on Leeds based makers as part of a bid to support local makers. Flavour like Fancy stocks a variety of items from cards to jewellery and ceramics to prints.

Here is how the conversation went, when I caught up with founder Tasha Grant on how she started this great business.

What were you doing before you started the business?

Before opening Flavour like Fancy I’ve worked in a variety of roles within the creative industry including account management, managing art events and marketing and communication. It was through these roles that I gained the experiences and skills necessary to run a business, which I am so grateful for such as budgeting, managing people, and problem solving. In my spare time I also created jewellery under the name Loon Moon jewellery which was an opportunity for me to express myself through wearable pieces.

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What differentiates flavour like fancy from other gift shops

At Flavour like fancy I aim to celebrate work that is bold, colourful and speaks with passion. Everything we stock is something that I like and admire, and in ways it’s an extension of my personality formed by the strong creative community that I am surrounded by. In terms of the décor I was keen to capture that same level of fun and excitement from the stock we sell in the overall shop layout and aesthetic of the brand. Which is why our brand colours feature vibrant pastel shades of pink, yellow, and turquoise.

https://flavourlikefancy.co.uk/

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I understand you moved to Leads to pursue your passion in Jewellery making, when did you decide to create a shop for creatives and why?

I started making jewellery in 2015 and by 2016 it became a growing passion that I wanted to pursue and once a decision was made to move up North, I saw it as an opportunity to try and make my hobby into something more. Once set up in Leeds, I was able to meet a lot of talented makers. I was able to identify a gap in the market for gift shops in Leeds selling unique and locally made work that reflected the fun and vibrancy of indie markets and popular craft fairs. Fox example DIY Art Market and Crafty Fox to name a few. Seeing the lack of opportunities for makers really inspired me to set up the shop and create a space which I loved.

What has surprised you the most about running a gift shop?

I am mostly surprised by the support received for Flavour like Fancy by the makers who form the indie businesses that stock within the shop and the local community. When I initially set up the shop I had researched, planned and felt fairly confident that I had forged a unique proposal but to some extent I was completely unaware of how it would be received. Fast forward a year later, I have gained such a positive response, which I am grateful for and has   made me feel good about the future of the business.

https://flavourlikefancy.co.uk/

What were some of the challenges that you faced when you first started?

Upon opening Flavour like Fancy everything was a challenge as it was all new to me and outside of my business plan. I quickly realised that I had to adapt ways of working to suit the area and customer demographic.  I spent a lot of time trialling items as part of a sale and return proposal and building a range of items which suited the customer needs once I was able to see trends in what was being brought / requested.

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What were some of the mistakes that you made at the beginning and how did you rectify them?

The biggest mistake I would say is going against my instinct. In every new business I think it is important to gain advice from other businesses and listen and learn from their mistakes. When starting out, I made a point to avoid doing things that had not been successful for others. In a way, this hindered my own progress in terms of stock and promotion gained from attending markets. I just decided one day that it was important to see how things went for my business and in so doing regained confidence in myself.

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How do you handle running a business and raising a family?

In October I became a first-time mum and while in many ways, lockdown has made things a little easier it has also had its difficult moments. I’ve realised that I am not superwoman nor should I endeavour to be, the most important thing Is health, well-being and not being afraid to ask for help. I think in particular when you are self-employed it’s easy to feel like you have to manage everything in spite of what goes on personally. I have recently taken on a member of staff to support during the first few months which is such a relief and gives me a chance to settle into family life whilst working at my own pace from a distance.

How did you handle marketing when you first opened?

Initially the majority of marketing activity was done online via social media, community groups as well as old school flyers. I found these were the most cost-effective ways to support my new business and reach my target audience.

What advice would you give to someone who wants to start a business in the same space?

Do your research and really consider your proposal and how it differs to that of your competitors. I recommend completing a business plan even if you do not require funding, as this helps you to formulate the necessary questions in your mind, to determine whether this is the right business idea for you. It’s also worth thinking about whether you are prepared to be self-employed – Having your own business carries the reward of being your own boss but it’s also very risky and has no holiday allowances etc, so it’s important to really want it and be 100% invested in your vision.

If you are looking for a birthday present for someone or you want to support creators, then visit flavour like Fancy here

Meet the founder of award winning interior design company MDC Group

Daniel Taylor MBE is the founder of MDC Group, an award-winning office design agency with over 20 years of experience in designing truly inspiring workplaces for some of the world’s leading brands. The company takes a ‘cradle to grave’ approach to design and works with clients of all sizes and at different stages of their business. It’s therefore no surprise that MDC Group boasts an impressive client list that includes Facebook, Dolby, Harley Davison and JN Bank –The first Jamaican cashless bank to operate in the UK. Some of MDC’s award-winning projects include the South-Central ambulance call centre, which was awarded a silver award by the Home office.

Over the years the company has prided itself in creating modern working environments that encourage productivity, while providing a level of comfort that one would expect when at home.

“When I started the business, I wanted to create a legacy business, not a lifestyle business” Daniel Taylor explains.

With such an upstanding successful business, I couldn’t help but wonder when and how it all started for this entrepreneur.

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Unite HQ

Daniel started his design career at Westinghouse, currently known as TECO-Westinghouse and then moved on to Allsteel, a subsidiary of BTR Group. While at Allsteel, Daniel followed his mentor as he moved up in the organisation to the positions of CEO for Europe and Middle East, a role that required a lot of travel. It took him to places like Czechoslovakia (before it became known as Czech Republic), Qatar and Moscow to name a few.However, travelling for work wasn’t as easy, flexible and sexy as it is nowadays. “when I used to travel for work, I used to take a suitcase full of gadgets in order to stay connected. For example, I had a laptop, modem, satellite phone and so the whole process became exhausting”, Daniel remembered.

When Allsteel was taken over by another company, Daniel saw this as an opportunity to build the legacy he’d always dreamt of. “I am an unusual designer in that I am a very creative person but I am also financially driven and always wanted to own and run my own business”, Daniel explained.

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With a degree in products for commercial offices and a successful career at globally recognised companies, he had built the contact list and expertise to start MDC Group. His talent of being able to articulate an interior design project has continued to win clients over the years.

“I always look at my clients as my friends, because people buy from people” – Because of this analogy, Daniel was able to start the business with a few clients he’d worked for on previous projects. However, after a number of successful months, through the help of his accountant, he realised that his business was reliant on two customers. This was a high risk in an industry that can easily be impacted, especially by economic downturns.

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As such, he decided to re-invest in the business and to make it a family business, because “I had identified earlier on that the UK government was not going to create a provision for me during retirement. Therefore, I had to make that provision for me and my wife (of 30years).”

Optivo Housing

Today, MDC-group is flying the flag for gender representation at board level, with 3 out 5 of its executive board members being black women. “I wanted to work with family because no one has my back like my family does. It just happens that my family is predominantly female”.” When you work with people who are committed to the cause, especially black women, who are strong mentally and physically, they think more methodically and give you a clearer direction, which helps me a lot in the business”.

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Unlike most businesses, the Corona Virus Pandemic hasn’t slowed MDC- Group down. The business was “in a very strong financial position before it happened”. The company continued to win contracts during the period and has re-branded its self as a one stop shop for all property development needs required. Therefore, it has increased its offerings to include design, construction development and interior design.

Some of MDC’s projects to look out for in 2021 include the Dartford hill hub by Rehoboth, who I interviewed in this article (insert link here) and a high design gym with a fight club theme (i.e., catering for sports such as Jiu Jitsu, kick boxing). The Gym is to be placed in a high-density area where It will be used by the surrounding local community.

If you are involved in the construction or property development business, make sure to reach out MDC Group.

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10 lessons from entrepreneurs that I am taking into 2021

2020 was not the easiest or fun filled year that we had all planned for. However, I am grateful for having had the privilege of interviewing some great entrepreneurs from under represented communities. From Barber Shop to Care Homes, these founders were all from different backgrounds and shared some tips that they’ve picked up during their journeys. These are the top 10 lessons I will be taking into 2021 from them.

  1. If you want to start a business, just start it and don’t worry about every little thing – Dan and Tenesia from Earth to Earth Organics. Click here to read their story

2. If you find someone who is doing something that you like, don’t be afraid to approach them and ask them for advice – Carla Sealey, founder of Naked Clay Ceramic. Read her story here

3. Make sure that you have a plan A, B and a plan C before you go ahead – Island Delights’ founder Wade Lyn. This is his story.

4. Be flexible with your plans and be ready to grab opportunities when they arise – Theresa Roberts, founder of Jamaica Patty Company. Find her story here

5. Keep the momentum going, even if it’s just for yourself – Carla Sealey

6. Be a tireless innovator who is always looking for new and faster ways of doing things to improve process and the core product – Wade Lyn

7. Business is about people and the people around it. Therefore, it is important to build relationships with your staff and understand how they work – Roger Waluube of Pelham House Care Home. Click here to findout more about him

8. Understand what financial tools really matter for a small business. For example, Finance at the frontline is not about P&L or balance sheets. A cash flow forecast is what you live by as a small business – Roger Waluube

9.You need to find the right staff to work with. People who can continue to carry out your vision, even in your absence. – Mark Maciver from SliderCuts. This is his story

10. Be open minded and willing to try new things in business – David Adjei, founder of Cognition London. Read David’s story here

If you think you may not be doing something right in your business, have a look at the list above for some ideas on what to change. Are there any other lessons that you’ve learnt but are not this list? Share them wth us!