Inspirational entrepreneurs from Black South West Network

Black South West Network (BSWN) is a regional racial justice organisation that supports the development of dynamic, independent Black and Minoritised communities, businesses and organisations. Last year, BSWN invited SMV to take part in a mentoring initiative, where seven members of SMV were matched with seven Black entrepreneurs, who worked together over a six-month period.

The mentoring programme was managed and led by Derek Tanner of BSWN’s Enterprise Team. “A strong sense of authenticity in each of the matches enabled trust to build and fundamentally, that’s the key to success,” said Derek. “Building a relationship with someone from a different level of business success strengthens you as an entrepreneur and your ability to overcome a particular issue or question. Mentors can assist in problem solving and enable a solution, or even just offer a different perspective. The mentor may or may not have the answer but they’re likely to know somebody who does!”

Derek is busy matching a further ten Black and Minoritised entrepreneurs with ten members of SMV who will soon take part in the second round of the successful mentoring programme.

Read on for a snapshot of the mentoring matches that were set up in 2023.

  Ashley Burrowes with Mike Bothamley
Jerk King is an award-winning Afro-Caribbean events catering business led by Ashley Burrowes. Ashley was teamed up with Mike Bothamley, a retired development lawyer. A regular vendor at St Pauls Carnival and Bristol Rovers home games, Ashley has also been building up his large event catering footprint with his team of 15.

“We’re looking at getting into bigger festivals next year,” says Ashley. “I received a surprise call from Mike who was at Glastonbury Festival – I didn’t know he was there and he called to tell me about what catering was being represented at the Festival!”

Since being connected with Mike, Ashley has taken on commercial kitchen space at the Malcolm X Community Centre in St Pauls, which offers more operational capacity to grow his weekend delivery business. Jerk King is now scaling up with plans for a catering van that will enable the business to operate from multiple locations on the same day.

When Mike first met Ashley, he already saw a successful businessman: “Ashley didn’t need advice on how to run his business, he was already doing that really well. What he did need, however, was contacts.” Mike introduced Ashley to Simon Stallard, British chef and event catering innovator, and this turned out to be a game-changer. Simon has built a world-class brand with impressive sponsorship credentials; and Ashley has been bouncing ideas off him about his own brand development: “He gave me lots of advice, every time I speak to him, I’m inspired.” Ashley hopes opportunities to collaborate with Simon will come to fruition in 2024, and Mike looks forward to being there to see the business go from strength to strength: “Although the mentoring has officially finished, the relationship we’ve built continues.”


Edward Ware with Latoya Adlam.
Latoya Adlam runs KC Concepts, Bristol’s first Black-owned pop-up shop showcasing 40 Black British brands across art, lifestyle, beauty and fashion. Latoya was matched with Edward Ware, whose career has been in property investment and construction. “Over the last few years e-commerce has become really tough. People’s spending habits have changed and regular sales have slowed,” says Latoya. “Edward was great at helping me come up with new business approaches to re-strategise how to brand my products and implement subscription models.”

Edward also introduced Latoya to several contacts to support her longer-term objective of opening a permanent flagship store in Bristol. “Regular customers want a physical presence so bricks and mortar will definitely be my next step, but it’s really challenging.”

KC Concepts currently has temporary shop space in Bristol and weekly pop-ups in London, Birmingham and Cardiff. Edward says: “It’s more difficult than ever for small businesses to grow but Latoya is a determined and inspiring businesswoman who works incredibly hard, has a clear vision, a great client base, excellent products and a wealth of high street retail experience. I have no doubt she will succeed.”

Leonard Jackson with David Powell.
Martial arts coach Leonard Jackson runs Maroon Fist, a blend of traditional Chinese and African styles with Tai-Chi, boxing and self-defence. He was matched with David Powell, a retired solicitor.

Leonard launched Maroon Fist in 2012, running it alongside his day job at BT. Now focused solely on growing his own business, Leonard joined the mentoring programme hoping to gain advice on promoting Maroon Fist in Bristol’s competitive martial arts market, with ambitious plans to scale the business. “We want to get into schools, universities, community centres, and further down the road, into the film industry. But it’s just me doing it all so I needed a strategy that would deliver results.

“I’ve built a great relationship with David, he’s incredibly supportive. He’s also introduced me to several contacts who have helped me to accelerate my business plan, including a communications consultant and a filmmaker. We’ve spent time fine tuning my marketing strategy and I now have a number of plans that I intend to pursue.”

The growing reputation of Maroon Fist has seen Leonard’s student numbers grow and both his group classes and one-to-one training are in popular demand. “As well as providing beginner classes to help people of all ages improve their health, fitness, wellbeing and self-defence skills, we also host classes for more experienced students who are working towards next year’s World and European Championships. But I’m so busy delivering classes, my marketing was largely reliant on word-of-mouth recommendation. Since joining the mentoring programme I’ve spent time looking at potential growth areas and how to access them by taking part in more community events and using my website and social media presence to engage with potential clients more effectively.”

David Freed with Simon Ashman.
Registered social worker Simon Ashman runs Adolescent Support Home Services to help young people transition to independent living, many of whom have had adverse childhood experiences. He was connected with David Freed, co-founder of independent Bristol-based property group Deeley Freed.

Linking up with David meant that Simon could regularly explore his ideas about the direction of his business. “David helped to reaffirm what I was thinking, he encouraged me to see my work from a different point of view and he delivered some very interesting networking opportunities.” One such opportunity was ACH, a social enterprise in Bristol that provides supported accommodation primarily for refugees and migrants, who invited Simon to take part in some specialist training. David also encouraged Simon to push on with his strategy of expanding the business model, which he felt was within Simon’s reach.

Simon found the mentoring programme invaluable: “It reminded me how important it is to make brave decisions sometimes. You never know what can come from putting yourself out there.” He plans to take on an additional care home property and feels confident of achieving his objectives in a shorter timeframe.

Jikoni is an East African café and event caterer in St Pauls founded by Iman Salat and James Hillier. They were matched with Sam Roberts, co-founder of café group Boston Tea Party. Having developed BTP into a chain of 23 independent cafés across the UK, Sam spent time with Iman and James looking at their current day-to-day business operation and strategy.

“Jikoni is still in its fledgling stages and apart from the café, most of our time is spent building our outside catering work,” says James. “We’re still figuring out the system but our vision is much clearer now, in part due to Sam’s advice.”

“Working in the catering industry is incredibly busy,” says Sam. “It can be hard to find time to even think about what long term success might look like.” He encouraged Iman and James to focus on the business’s identity, such as branding, café location, customer experience and potential finance options. “Sam has given us a great base of knowledge that will carry on informing our plans and decisions as we build the business,” says Iman. The café is currently expanding to provide more space and seating, and the duo have plans to offer more restaurant-style cuisine.

John Aguirre and Tara Miran operate The Green Melon, a fruit and vegetable store and vegetable box scheme promoting healthy eating with affordable, fresh and culturally appropriate food. John and Tara were matched with Mark Burchfield, who built his career in engineering and IT managed services.

John’s working day starts at the wholesalers at 5am to buy fresh fruit and vegetables for the day ahead. The Green Melon is a labour-intensive operation and John was interested in the mentoring programme as a way of assessing the business from a different angle: “Mark helped me to focus on the bigger picture. His advice was to concentrate on the most profitable products and how much time and effort they take.”

One such product is the store’s office delivery service, where there is scope to build longer-term customer relationships. Mark encouraged John to implement some small operational changes, such as agreeing favourable credit arrangements, both with customers and suppliers, to take some pressure off the business’s accounting. “I’ve always been anti-credit,” says John, “but it was a change in perspective that is now opening up more possibilities to go for bigger customers without affecting my cashflow.”

Mark saw his mentor role as helping John and Tara to clarify their business goals and then develop a strategy to achieve them. “The reality is if you’re doing everything, it’s very difficult to lift your head up and see the wood for the trees. Sometimes you just need someone to ask the right questions and the steps to success become clear.”

Kiki Paddy founded International Graduate Success Accelerator (IGSA) in 2021 to help international students and graduates to secure post-university employment and build successful careers. She was matched with Mohammed Saddiq, Lord-Lieutenant of Somerset and former Executive Director of Operations for Wessex Water.

“Having Mohammed as my mentor was ideal,” said Kiki. “His knowledge of higher education governance really helped me to explore how to take IGSA forward.” Mohammed is chair of Bristol Future Talent Partnership, an employability programme for young people that supports Black and Minoritised students to find their path into education and the workplace. With closely aligned values in helping to reduce inequalities experienced by young people from minority ethnicities, Kiki and Mohammed were on the same page from the start.

“Mohammed completely understood my objectives and made excellent suggestions about how to improve my business strategy. It’s much clearer now.” Mohammed believes that Kiki’s approach is vital in bringing Minoritised people together to learn from each other’s experiences. “The personal challenges that Kiki and her applicants have, ultimately reflects the inequality we see in the city.” It is not lost on Mohammed how IGSA reflects the mentoring programme between BSWN and SMV, and how important it is to reinforce the relationship between the two organisations as well as the wider community that BSWN serves. “Like my fellow mentors, I’m immensely privileged to have learnt so much during my career,” says Mohammed. “It is only right that we pass on the knowledge that we have acquired so that someone else can benefit from it.”