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British Council empowers five creative entrepreneurs with £10,000 grants

Determined to provide young creative entrepreneurs with access to artistic, technical and enterprise skills, British Council has awarded five fashion-Tech entrepreneurs with £10,000 as seed funding towards the growth of their businesses.

The five fashion-Tech entrepreneurs emerged winners of the British Council’s Creative Enterprise Support Programme as each winner received a prize of £2000 including access to 8 weeks mentorship with key fashion industry players.

British Council initiative which provides young creative entrepreneurs with access to artistic, technical and enterprise skills training as well as mentorship and coaching opportunities.

The winners selected were Cherish Ibeh of Cher Stunner, Vivian Ogbuagu of Handsmithen, Anthony Sule of Antoine Collections, Misan Atsemude of Omali Bridals and Mabel Sontan of Adire Biz Hub. One of the winners, Vivian Ogbuagu was selected for a unique business which focuses on fabric wastes being turned into raw materials.

Adetomi Soyinka, director, higher education, skills and enterprise, British Council says the programme aims to support capacity development of creative entrepreneurs as well as stimulate UK -Nigeria linkages between individuals and institutions to share, learn and collaborate within their respective sectors

Soyinka observes that such the programme leverages the UK and Nigeria’s expertise within two key sectors, Fashion and Technology.

The 60 Fashion-Tech entrepreneurs initially participated in an intense 2-week training programme, which includes artistic, technical and enterprise training tailored to the needs of the local sector and this was followed by a 6-month incubation programme for 30 entrepreneurs from the cohort who made it to the next phase. The incubation programme included access to workspace, access to equipment, training, business support and mentorship.

Uju Dubas-Agbasi, project manager, Arts & Creative Economy, British Council, said ”The Creative Enterprise Support Programme is a programme targeted at young creatives who are doing things on their own but are limited in various areas. We train them to run their businesses properly, give them more knowledge, exposure and bring in trainers from Nigerian and the UK to widen their scope, help them run their business better and make money.

On how the programme will help small businesses thrive in the Nigerian economic environment, Dubas-Agbasi said: ”They have not only been trained on how to make clothes or how to make shoes or fashion pieces. They have been trained on finances, marketing, packaging and more, and all those things build into a business’

The recently completed programme in Abuja, kicked off last year with 60 Fashion-Tech entrepreneurs and was delivered by ‘The Assembly Hub’(NG), ‘Ventures Platform’(NG) and ‘Do It Now Now’ (UK). This edition of the programme focused on the fusion of Fashion and Technology to explore more efficient, sustainable and environment friendly ways of running profitable fashion businesses in Nigeria.

Due to the impact of Covid-19, the programme was put on hold for a few months and then resumed to be completed virtually to prepare the entrepreneurs for their final pitch. After 10 months since the programme started, 10 finalists pitched their businesses, with 5 of them emerging as winners. On Tuesday, each finalist was given five minutes to make their presentation virtually to the judges of the contest, while the judges used two minutes to give their feedback on the presentations.

Giving more insight into her business, Ogbuagu said: We are trying to build a circular economy around fashion. We are designing out waste entirely from the process. For example, instead of buying a necklace and throwing it away, you can bring it to us and make something else out of it. I believe that, with that, once you have an endless supply of raw materials, you are bound to grow. And we have a good target market too’

Another winner, Sule Anthony who produces bespoke and ready-to-wear footwears for Nigerian millennials, speaking on his brand and the programme, stated that: ”I have worked with a lot of wonderful entrepreneurs since we started, right from when we were 60 and down to 10. We were all excellent and we are all winners.”

On challenges faced by small scale fashion entrepreneurs in the country, he said: ”I would say recognition. Prior to the CESP programme, personally, I was faced with the issue of being recognised. You have a lot of people look down on you when you introduce your business. But, the programme made us understand that you have a lot to offer and your office can be heard. I feel like we need more recognition in the fashion business.”

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