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Saturday, September 18, 2021

Support and Mentoring Enabling Entrepreneurship: Fulfilling Lives by Teaching Self-Employment Skills

Opening a business can be a daunting prospect. The award-winning Support and Mentoring Enabling Entrepreneurship charity demystifies the process and empowers people with disabilities and young adults to become entrepreneurs…

Founded in 2016, the Support and Mentoring Enabling Entrepreneurship (SAMEE) charity upholds three values in its work: welcoming, honest, and daring. The organisation was founded to help individuals make informed decisions about their lives, achieve financial independence, and coach them in employability skills. The charity is located in Boscombe, but it widely operates across the South. 

SAMEE is the only independent organisation in Dorset to receive the Level 3 Disability Confident Leader Award. supporting disabled adults to explore different forms of employment, and guide other businesses in how to become Disability Confident Employers. 

An educational team member and business mentor, Ricci Colla has been working at SAMEE for over four years. He mentors clients and supports SAMEE educational workshops at the local schools.  

Ricci talks about the charity’s work and breaks down the process to self-employment.

WHO ARE YOUR PROJECT PARTICIPANTS? 

At first, we focused mainly on adults with disabilities and people with health challenges struggling to find employment. However, we noticed a gap in school education: no one was teaching young people self-employment skills. In the current job market, self-employment is becoming more common than in previous years. These days, even a relatively safe job might not guarantee long-term employment.

We decided to start self-employment workshops at schools. It turned out that children who attended our seminars discuss their experiences with parents. Then their parents get interested in our programme and talk to us. These workshops might start a lifelong journey. We help youths at different stages of their education and life.

We also help youths who might choose not to continue their education at a college and who might not get into an apprenticeship, but might want to be self-employed.

Many people who come to us have brilliant ideas, but they might not know how to turn them into self-employment opportunities. For example, clients might understand that they need support, but they don’t know where to obtain it. Traditionally, if they went to a business advisor or a bank, business advisors would suggest writing a business plan. However, a lot of them have never written a business plan and they face a roadblock.

Mentors work with participants who have explained their ideas by writing them down, creating mind maps, drawing pictures, using plasticine models or just talking about it. We listen and then mould individual approaches to their self-employment. We help to bring an idea to life.

WHAT ARE YOUR REQUIREMENTS TO JOIN THE PROGRAMME?

Our programme does not ask participants to have specific educational qualifications or prerequisites. We look for a little bit of motivation, passion, enthusiasm, and a business idea.

The organisation assigns a mentor for the two years. A participant and a mentor go through a variety of stages of becoming self-employed and financially independent. 

WHAT ARE THE CRITICAL STEPS TOWARDS SELF-EMPLOYMENT? 

We start at the very beginning. It is essential to understand why someone wants to start a self-employed venture and what their vision is. Only when a business concept is clear can we start piecing it together.

Once we’ve understood the business idea — its concept — we analyse all the steps to make it successful. We think through how to promote and launch it. We might also start working on a business plan. Later we would need to take a look at registering a business, getting the required insurance, applicable certificates, and permissions.

Although these steps are essential, every participant and their idea is unique, and the road to self-employment could be very different. There’s no general template where one set of steps fits all new businesses.

Our organisation does not stop providing help and support once the new business is up and running. Our programme participants are welcome to come back and get advice if they hit a roadblock. The door is always open.

HOW DO YOU ASSIGN MENTORS?

We’ve had experience working with a wide variety of industries. Our mentors provide support in business elements rather than focusing on a specific sector. For example, mentors who have significant business registration experience will advise how to file documents, those who have more marketing work experience will consult on business promotion strategies.

We have helped over 200 Dorset-based disabled adults to gain financial independence by becoming self-employed. Our organisation has assisted a young lad with a disability to begin his gardening business. We helped a lady who makes weighted blankets for children suffering from anxiety. Our mentors worked with a gifted baker. We also helped a lady who designs jewellery that can calm people who feel worry, nervousness or unease. 

SAMEE has worked with a broad range of businesses, enabling us to provide mentorship in different business aspects. Throughout the years, we’ve built up a collection of knowledge about various industries.

HOW DO PARTICIPANTS FIND YOU?

In general, we receive referrals from local organisations. We work with different job centres and a variety of not-for-profit organisations. People who are interested also can reach out through our social media pages, send a note through our website, or just call.

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO MAINTAIN A SUCCESSFUL BUSINESS?

It is essential to have a clear understanding of your business finances. An accountant said to me, “Your cash is your king”. It is crucial to have a clear business development plan. If you don’t know what you’re doing, how can you expect other people to understand what you’re doing?

Starting your own business can be scary, because people take responsibility for their income at the end of the day. While it is risky and essential to recognise those risks, it is also necessary to be aware that feelings of fear and doubt are normal. Everyone experiences doubt and fear when they embark on a new journey in life.

We have a term for these feelings in the charity. We call them, “the wonder wobble”. A person gets to a stage where they wonder if they can do it, and have a little wobble about it. And then you move forward.

Being a financially independent and productive member of society helps people with their sense of pride and identity, and to feel more fulfilled.

Over the past five years, SAMEE has made a significant impact upon the Dorset disabled community with one in every three beneficiaries successfully trading despite the challenges of COVID-19.

Thinking of starting up a self-employed venture? Why not give the Support and Mentoring Enabling Entrepreneurship charity website a look and see what help they can offer? For more local Charity stories, click here. Also, don’t forget to follow HQB News on our socials: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube.

Gabija Steponenaite
Gabija Steponenaite, or just Gabi, is Deputy Editor at HQB Media. She is an international journalist with experience reporting for several national and local newspapers in Lithuania and the US. She grew up in Soviet Lithuania, when international travels were severely restricted. Her childhood curiosity and eagerness to visit foreign countries grew into a determination to become a journalist and report on different cultures. For over two decades, she lived in the US and wrote stories that matter from the humanist point of view. A year ago Gabi relocated to the UK, where she continues to learn about its people and culture. In her free time, she creates abstract watercolours, loves reading mystery novels and sipping berry smoothies on the beach.

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