Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Foluke is the future...apparently!

I was delighted to be named as one of Courvoisier's “The Future 500” a list of the country's top achievers across ten wide-ranging categories.
Whats more I was chuffed to be named as one of the top 100 'Ones to Watch' one of the few women of colour in the list. The full list of 500 was published the Observer newspaper and Courvoisier hosted a spectacular party for the Future 500 at The House of St. Barnabus in Soho in December.

Here's the blurb:

Launched in 2007 The Future 500 (F500) is a network created by Courvoisier, designed to support and promote Britain's most sparkling talent across the UK. Selected by a panel of inspirational judges, all members have achieved significant success in their field - be it as an artist, businessman, entrepreneur or activist
Courvoisier has created a platform for Britain’s brightest talents to connect, share their vision, inspire one another and ultimately collaborate to achieve even greater success.

For me it was a great way to end a really great year and I'm really looking forward to finding out what being in the network involves.

Happy New Year to you all!!

Monday, 1 December 2008

And the winners are...

Oh what a night!

The 2008 Precious Awards was an evening to saviour and I'm still reeling from the positivity and warmth this night of celebrating some of the UK's top Black and Asian female entrepreneurs produced.

Our hosts for the evening were Hannah Pool, Guardian writer and author and Rasheed Ogunlaru, the Precious business coach, who opened the event with messages of support from David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Baroness Amos.

The evening proceeded in style with an entertaining, warm and humorous speech from Jennette Arnold, leader of The London Assembly. Recently named as one of the most powerful black women in the UK Jennette had the audience almost entranced as she shared her story of her rise to the top. And then the awards began…

Seeing each of the winners head up to the podium to receive their award reminded me of how difficult the judging process had been. There was lots of healthy discussion and debate between the judges about the winners of each category, which only served to emphasise the high quality of the nominations we received. What was most telling to me was that so many of our winners were so surprised to be recognised. This enforced for me why the Precious Awards are necessary to play a role in celebrating the dedication, passion and sheer hard work that Black and Asian female entrepreneurs display to achieve success.

And the winners were:
Best Business: Samantha Alfred, Jivana Style,
Creative Business of the Year: Imtaz Khaliq: Imtaz Bespoke Tailor,
Best Service Business Paschorina J. Mortty: The One Event,
Best Start Up Business: Annick Adjo: Atelier Annick Ltd,
Best Social Enterprise, Abiola Okubanjo and Yemisi Gibbons: Forefront Training
Young Entrepreneur of the Year, Samata Angel: Samata's Muse,
Inspiring Leader within the Workplace, Nike Folayan: Mott Macdonald UK

The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year: The Judges Prize, went to Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael of La Diosa two young incredibly focused inspiring women whose luxury jewellery brand is set to soar even higher. I'm so proud of them and all our finalists and winners.

We're already planning the 2009 Precious Awards... I hope that you will be able to join us.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

C'mon lets celebrate

Things are looking great for this year's Precious Awards; we have some great sponsors, a lovely venue and some special judges including Sonita Alleyne, CEO of cross-platform production company Somethin' Else(which is the largest independent radio producer in the UK and a top ten producer of TV entertainment) and Marcia Williams, Head of Diversity at the UK Film Council.

Once again, it was really bought home to me why there is still a need for initiatives such as the Precious Awards.
A few days ago I was chatting to a female entrepreneur via MSN:
"Your name came up just the other day" I said,
"Oh really?" she asked, "Why?"
I explained to her that someone had nominated her or was about to nominate her for a Precious Award.
"Oh no" she said, “I am sure that there are other people out there more deserving than me. Maybe I'll enter next year."
This woman, lets call her Annie, has been running her successful business for about five years, she has a healthy turnover and is respected in her industry yet was reluctant to come forward for some recognition.

"I think the awards are great" Annie said, "I just don't think I am ready yet."

I was disappointed but not surprised. There are so many women of colour running successful businesses up and down the country, yet they feel unsure or nervous of accepting recognition.

The Awards are not just about celebrating entrepreneurs, they are about creating role models too. We are trying to create a legacy, where young girls and women are surrounded by the stories of successful women who look like them too. Where its commonplace to hear of a women of colour setting up her first, second or third business or heading to the top in corporate UK, and firmly believe that they can do it too.
That's what the awards are all about, the Precious Awards are about women like 'Annie'. So, if you know of a woman of colour, who is running a great business or is steering a leadership role within corporate UK, then nominate her today. Just head to: www.preciousawards.com

Friday, 4 July 2008

Testing Times

At Precious HQ, we've just launched a social networking aspect to the main site: The Precious Network. Why? Well, we've had lots of requests from our members, asking how they can connect with each other online and we always try to do as our members ask!

New launches are always exciting, but no matter how big or small the venture, there are always those niggling worries. In this case they were, in no particular order: Will anyone sign up to the network? Will it be genuinely useful for our members? Does it detract from the main Precious brand? How long do we leave it before we move it to another platform?

As we test out the site, I am also thinking of the other areas that Precious is looking to branch into and its made me more determined to get on and just have a go! That's the great thing about being in business, you just HAVE to try different things and go on new entrepreneurial adventures. That's what it's all about.

If the idea of connecting with some Precious women appeals, then please do sign up to the Precious Network here. Enjoy!

Saturday, 31 May 2008

Get a (Public) Life

This year marks two important dates for women’s suffrage in the UK. The 90th anniversary of women over 30 getting the right to vote and the 80th anniversary of women getting the vote aged 21 on a par with men

It was with this in mind that I attended an event hosted by Harriet Harman, the Minister for Women and Equality, to launch a new taskforce to help more women of colour to become councillors, and so make councils more representative of the community they serve. We’ve reported on this here.

This is an initiative that I'm delighted to support, but I would take this further and say we need to get more women of colour onto public bodies too. Public bodies have a role in shaping and influencing our society and making decisions that affect all our lives. Surely these decisions are more effective when made by those who reflect the society we live in?

Whether it’s the National Consumer Council, or regional bodies such as Havering Primary Care, the more women of colour we see in positions of power like this, the more our voices will be heard and the diversity of our society will be properly reflected. What’s equally important is that young people also realise that this is another route to leadership that is open to them too.

Precious will be working with the Government Equalities Office to put Harriet Harmon’s initiative in the spotlight, and we'll make sure the issue of women on public bodies is high on the agenda too!

Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Precious Awards 2008

I'm already looking forward to the Precious Awards which take place in November during Enterprise Week. It’s our chance to celebrate women of colour entrepreneurs, and show how women in business are really making their mark on UK plc. That's why I launched Precious; to celebrate the achievements of women of colour and the awards are a great arena to do that. There’s already been a lot of interest in the event and with a fashion show, high profile patrons, and some really exciting new categories in the offing; it looks set to be even better this year.

As many of you will know, the preparation for a ceremony of this kind starts early and over the last few weeks, have been putting the call out for sponsors and supporters for the event - getting sponsorship isn't easy, even in these days of corporations putting 'diversity at the heart of their agenda'. But in a strange kind of way I have been enjoying the process; putting together the proposal, tweaking said proposal, working with our branding specialist to make the proposal look good(thanks Rene!), the phone calls, emails, and other conversations, its all been an experience.

Since last year Precious Awards, I have been watching the progress of our winners with interest. The Precious Entrepreneur of the Year; Jessica Huie of Colorblind cards, has simply gone from strength to strength, her business has recently launched in the States and she made a confident and assured appearance as one of the experts on the BBC's Apprentice - You're Fired show a couple of weeks ago. Natasha Faith and Semhal Zemikael, the two young women behind luxury jewellery brand La Diosa, and winner of Best Start Up, stock their products in Harrods, have been profiled in Fashion bible Vogue and are being hailed as a big luxury brand of the future. I am really proud of all our winners!

I cannot wait to discover the entrepreneurial gems set to enter the awards this year; my fervent wish is that the Precious Awards truly gives them a chance to shine.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

I'm so excited!

There are only a few people in the world that can get me out of bed before 7 in the morning, but Steve Moore is definitely one of them.

Steve is the director of Policy UnPlugged, he's a great guy, who really defines the meaning of a connector and he is one of the friendliest, most genuine people, I have ever come across. Anyway more about him another time, the point is that Steve sent me an invite to the launch of a new monthly breakfast event called One Morning, and I shifted myself out of bed and went along.

The premise of One Morning is that each month three individuals are given ten minutes to answer one question, fill the room with ideas and then take questions from the floor. Then there's some intense networking over breakfast and by 10.15 you are on your way back to your office, desk or laptop!

The launch question was: What happens next? (a question that I ask myself continually) and the speakers were Kevin Anderson, Blogs Editor at The Guardian, Jeremy Ettinghausen Head of Digital Publishing at Penguin and Matt Locke a Commissioning Editor for education at Channel 4.

I was drawn in from the start as I listened to Jeremy talk about the future of publishing, the promise of the first E-book and a vision of a 'book' for the future that you can listen to on your ipod, then plug into your car on your drive into work and then continue reading on line at the office. Wow!

I was intrigued by Kevin's contribution on the so-called death of newspapers, how to find the perfect online business model, citing Tech Crunch as a prime example, and how and why more and more companies are spending their advertising budget online; (great news for Precious) and I was really impressed with Matt's contribution that covered art, how young people use tools such as MSN and how it all fits in to the future of social media.

The event took me back to when I was working in the ITN New Media department about 10years ago, when the web was relatively new in the UK. I was part of a young team, who were very passionate about our work, and who were driven by being part of some truly innovative stuff. They were challenging and interesting times. We were stick in a back office, spoken of disparagingly by some of our colleagues, (I remember the ITN Royal correspondent wandering into our office muttering "What is the point of this Internet stuff anyway?") But we didn't care, we knew we were involved in something fresh, new, and exciting and as soon as everyone else in the company caught on, they would be as passionate about the web as we were...heady days indeed.

One Morning reminded me of that feeling of excitement and newness, and so, for that reason, I'll be a regular from now on

Saturday, 3 May 2008

What's your recovery style?

A question for all you entrepreneurial folks out there: how do you cope with being ill? I have finally realised that my method is pretty terrible and utterly ineffective; I just ignore any illness and heroically plough on through regardless, in the mistaken belief that no-one will notice that I'm ill and I can still be as effective as ever.

Now recovering from my 3rd viral infection in 7 weeks(chest, throat, then chest again for your information) I have finally realised that being an entrepreneur does not make you invincible...and its usually best to ask for support when you are not feeling your best.

Two weeks ago at the height of my second viral infection, I decided to climb out of my sick bed and attend a high profile event at the National Portrait Gallery.

"Why are you going?" asked my sister, "you look awful...and you're sweating."
"I might meet people," I explained, "You know, contacts,.. the Precious Awards, so much to do..."

"Well, its up to you", said my sis, with an expression of pity on her face as I fell out of the front door."

My sister was right of course; I spent most of the evening trying to disguise my sniffles, and vividly remember a sea of glaring faces turning to tut as I coughed my way through Bond star, Colin Salmons' keynote speech. After an hour, I admitted defeat and made an early exit back to my sick bed, cursing myself for ever leaving the house.

I have learnt my lesson, When you are sick, it really is best to have total rest, don't turn on the laptop, turn off your mobiles... and Blackberry, reschedule meetings and take time to recover. It really is OK and your business will survive your absence.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Terminal 5

I've just been through the Terminal 5 experience at Heathrow airport. The place is a big soulless barn of a white elephant with teams of check in/bag drop counters, yet hardly any staff. My flight to Glasgow was delayed on the way there, and as the 45th minute of waiting on the runway ticked by, I thought to myself... next time I'll just get the train.

Gloria Taylor

I was beyond sad to hear about the death of Gloria Taylor. Gloria was the mother of 10 year old Damilola Taylor who was senselessly stabbed and left to die in a Peckham housing estate stairwell seven years ago.

Since her son's death, Gloria and her husband Richard had become tireless campaigners. They ran the Damilola Taylor Trust, whose work included providing medical scholarships children(Damiola dreamt of becoming a doctor) and opened the Damilola Taylor Centre, a sport and community hub in Peckham.

Watching Gloria on TV as she talked about her son and all he hoped to become, I was struck by her dignity.“We don’t want revenge, we want justice for our son,” she said, “Only after that can we forgive those who did this to Damilola.”

I doubt if I could have had the capacity to be so forgiving.

My thoughts are with the Taylor family in the UK and Nigeria. May Gloria rest in peace.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Out and About

Phew, its been a full on couple of weeks. It seems that event and launch season is now in full flow and I’m having trouble keeping up!

On Tuesday it was off to Millbank for the Channel 4 Spring/Summer press launch. (I wonder if I was the only person a tad surprised to see that they had alcohol on offer at 11am?)

The event kicked off with a man in a suit(he didn’t say who he was) bounding on to the stage announcing: “I told you last year that things were going to change” err…I wasn’t invited last year. Indeed, looking around the room, it seemed as if I was one of just two representatives from black or Asian media who had been invited this time round.

The event rolled on with a clip of some of highlights of the forthcoming spring/summer output. All the usual favourites were there, Charlotte Church back for a new show, actor Neil Morrissey starring in a new show about setting up a brewery with his mate (why?)...

During his speech, the man in the suit had proclaimed Channel 4 as the home of alternative TV. For me, as a professional black woman living in London, there was nothing alternative about this stuff. The only programme that featured more than one person of colour as the focal point was a season of programmes focusing on…you’ve guessed it…gun and knife crime. Channel 4, and indeed ITV, BBC et al, could be really alternative and feature a positive series of programmes about people of colour just going about their business. How about our contribution to UK plc as enterpreneurs? Or a series on the lives of a group of women working, living, loving, y'know like Sex and the City but with women of colour as the main rather than minor focus...

On Thursday evening I was at IBM, near the South Bank, for a reception to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEM). GEM is a worldwide initiative that aims to bring togther young people under the banner of entreprenurship. It was a good night and I met some fascinating people. Precious have signed up to be a partner for the week and we're looking forward to working with them on this years Precious Awards.

I also met up with fellow Make Your Mark Connector, Servane Mouazan who is founder of social leadership company Ogunte and we went for a couple of drinks after the event. Servane is one of the most positive people I know and a real force to be around. We’re talking about hosting a Precious/Ogunte networking event around September so keep your eyes peeled for info on that.

On Friday, it was off to the Institute of International Visual Arts,in Shoreditch for the end of decibel party. decibel was an arts council initiative to promote black and Asian artists. I’ve done some work for the National decibel team and have to say they are a truly great bunch of people who have worked their socks of doing some innovative and interesting work with this project.
So Terry Adams, Nike Jonah and Pat Palmer, I salute you, as you all go on to even bigger and better things!!

Saturday it was off to the Vitality Show over at Olympia. I always look forward to this yearly event, for me it’s a chance to discover some new health/lifestyle content features, and see what new products are about to be launched. Sadly, this was definitely the most lacklustre show I’ve been to. Things looked grim as soon as we entered the press room. Usually the press room is pretty buzzy, journalists flitting around eating the free yogurt (it’s sponsored by Muller) drinking water and trying to negotiate taking home another bulky press bag 'for a friend.' This year there was NO YOGHURT, no water, and the only free stuff available was the rather tired looking press releases lying in a corner of the room.

Vitality used to be about promoting a healthy lifestyle and encouraging people to look after themselves via mind, body and soul. On the day that my colleague and I attended, it seemed to be purely about the BIG SELL. There was no atmosphere, a downturn on visitors, and a strange mixture of exhibitors from credit cards to tarot cards(there have always been one or two tarot readers but this year there were an abundance) and every time we hit a corner we came across yet another stall flogging yet another 'new' type of coluoured, flavoured water!

The event has lost its soul and its edge. I have no dout that very soon someone will enter this market and do it bigger and better.

A new week, another round of events. Tomorrow, I am off to a Women in Technology (WIT) event which takes place at Microsoft. WIT events are usually good fun, informative and I’ve made some great contacts there! I’ll let you know how I get on!

Wednesday, 19 March 2008

The Mothers of Invention 3

On Monday I attended another excellent event run by the British Library. Precious loves the British Library! They put on a great range of events(not just for entrepreneurs)and they have a lovely team of hard working people who have a real passion for the library, who pull it all together. Over the years we have developed a good relationship and we are very proud to be partners ( of the British Library that is and not the lovely team!)

Anyway back to Monday night's event; The Mothers of Invention 3 was a celebration of International Womens Month, and the chance to put questions to some of the female entrepreneurs running some of Britain's most successful businesses.

It was a real mix of a line up that sounded odd on paper but really worked in practise. Amongst the guests was Jessica Huie, founder of ethnic greeting card company, Colorblind cards, and also the 2007 Precious Entrepreneur of the Year.

Although Jess has a very high profile , it was the first time I had heard her talk about her journey. How she built up her business while juggling single parenthood with working for Max Clifford and writing a column for a magazine, its truly inspirational. She's a lovely, friendly person too!

Also on the panel was Lorraine Heggessey chief executive of talkbackThames, and Sian Roddick, owner of "erotic emporium" Coco De Mer. Sam was funny; talking about blowjobs and sex toys, while letting off the odd expletive, bought some gasps from some sections of the audience but just made me laugh. Honestly what did they expect? Don't they know what type of shop she owns?

Monday, 17 March 2008

Precious Women in Publishing event

Wow! What a great night the Precious/Pearson event turned out to be. Although I love bringing women together to meet and network, I can't say that organising events is my fave thing to do! The attention to detail, watching as ticket bookings go up, choosing venues, food and drinl selections...it just involves so much. One of the things I am working on is bringing our own events organiser onto the Precious team.

Anyway, back to the event, Hannah and Bernardine were just excellent. Open, approachable and helpful from the start. We were delighted to get a world exclusive too; the very first reading of Bernardine's new book There were lots of great questions from our audience of budding writers and networking that went on for a long while after the event should have closed. Precious women eh? We love to talk....

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Random - Great Theatre

On Monday,I was invited to the press night of a new play at The Royal Court Theatre in Sloane Square. The play is called Random, its written by Debbie Tucker Green and stars Nadine Marshall.
If you go to see one piece of theatre this year, make sure its this, if only to catch a stunning, and at times moving performance by Marshall.
Tucker Green is one heck of a talent, her dialogue flows like poetry, and her observations are canny. More please!

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Yes I know...sorry

I know, I know; it says Foluke's daily view on the tin, and here I am, a few days in and I haven't posted for a while.

I am genuinely excited about having an opportunity to really 'write' again but sometimes life and business just gets in the way.

The launch of the new look Precious site has seen lots of exciting opportunities come our way and its been proposal writing and meetings galore ever since. And now after promising my family that I would cut down on the networking (y'know, just to have an illusion of a work life balance) and spend at least one evening a week at home this month, my diary seems to be chocca...again.

Anyway, this is my solemn promise to update these missives on a regular basis with proper news from behind the scenes of our online magazine...it just might not be everyday, ok?

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Celebrating Mums

So how did you celebrate Mother's Day?

Sadly, (for me) my mum is soaking up the sun in Nigeria at the moment, taking a few months out to spend time with her mum, my granny!

So it was via a translantic phone call that I sent my love and thanks to her this Mothering Sunday. I miss her very much.

Saturday, 1 March 2008

Hannah Pool and Bernardine Evaristo - International Womens Month event

As well as the launch of the new website, something else the Precious team is excited about is our forthcoming International Women's Month event on March 13.

I have been an admirer of Hannah Pool's for ages. I used to buy the Guardian at weekends specifically to read her black beauty column, The New Black. After sitting next to her at last years British Book Awards (we were both guests of the Arts Council decibel team) I began plotting (yes plotting!) a way for Precious to work with her.

I'd recently re-read her book,My Father's Daughter, when it occurred to me that this years International Women's Day should be about celebrating women of colour and the written word. I'm delighted to say that when I approached Hannah to speak, she was immediately positive and keen to take part.

Similarly Bernardine Evaristo; Precious interviewed her about 7 years ago and its brilliant to see that she has now become one of the UK's most prolific female writers. We are even more chuffed that she can join us, as she is flying out to China the very next day.

It's all shaping up to be a really good evening. We still have a few tickets left so why not come and join us:http://www.preciousiwm.eventbrite.com/

Friday, 29 February 2008

Our Brand New Look

Wow this is it. After months of meetings, discussions, planning, rewriting, image sourcing its finally here - the new look Precious!

I’m really excited and I hope you like it too. As always we welcome your feedback so tell me what you think by emailing me at editor@preciousonline.co.uk.

I have to admit that one of the toughest things I’ve had to learn as a business owner is letting go, standing back to take an objective look at my business and seeing where I need support the most.

When I first started Precious over eight years ago, I was determined to do EVERYTHING. I built the website, did the PR, the Marketing, networking, interviewing, chased up editorials…the only reason that I didn’t actually write the content was because we had a great team of writers on board.

It’s taken me a good few years to realise that in order for my business to grow - I had to let go. The best way for me to do that was to let other business professionals into ‘precious world’ to share their expertise and knowledge.

Now I’m working with a range of people who are experts in their field and are working with me to help Precious become the very best that it can, for the people who matter the most…you the reader. (That may sound corny but trust me reader it’s all about you!)
We’ve grown from hosting a magazine to hosting business events to hosting the Precious Awards. Our aim is to become the ultimate destination for women of colour on the web, and we believe we’re right on track.

I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you loyal readers that have stayed on the road with us and those new readers who continue to join us on a daily basis.

I hope that you enjoy my daily blog. I’m going to use these regular musings as an opportunity to share some of the stuff that goes on behind the scenes at Precious and chat about the things that matter… and the things that really don’t!

Keep in touch with me at: editor@preciousonline.co.uk