A group of young creatives have been selected as Creative Entrepreneurs for 2021 on the basis of their potential. Marina Norris looks at a programme aimed at building the opportunities and skills of young people.
We talk a lot in the cultural sector about opening up opportunities and being inclusive of young people. Often that means we create opportunities that focus on their lack of experience. We create paid internships and apprenticeships, providing routes into an industry that mirror our own pathways of employment. Yet we know these pathways have historically limited the diversity and, therefore, the talent in our industry.
Since 1993, the Deutsche Bank Award for Creative Entrepreneurs (DBACE) has supported young people in carving a path for themselves for careers in the arts, cultural and creative industries. Over 220 ventures have had start-up capital and 355 young adults have been provided with business training and mentorship.
Supporting entrepreneurial potential
The DBACE programme centres support around the potential and entrepreneurial talent of a young person, or a group of young people, and their capacity to lead, in response to the changing needs of the creative industries.
While previously the programme focussed on UK university students and graduates, since 2019 it has broadened its reach by having four simple criteria:
- aged between 18-30
- with a strong idea or an existing business in the creative industries
- with a wish to creative positive social impact through their enterprise
- ocussed and committed
Many schemes for young people focus on under 25s, but by increasing the age range, DBACE recognises that entrepreneurs often need paid experience to gain confidence and credibility before being able to strike out alone.
Since 2019, applications have rises by 166%. The statistics speak for themselves:
- more than 40% from lower socio-economic backgrounds
- 59% Black, Asian or ethnically diverse
- 33% with at least one form of impairment
- more than 66% identifying as female or non-binary
Young people need their own agency
Does this diversity illustrate that for some the entrepreneurship pathway is a more realistic career option than long term employment in the cultural and creative sector? Does the lack of boundaries around creative disciplines feel more encouraging and inclusive?
There were nearly 400 applicants to DBACE this year, and whatever the long-term outcomes of their business ideas, these are all young people prepared to take the risk of creative entrepreneurship, inspired by their own agency to create social impact.
They are unafraid to address significant problems in the world from anti-racism to climate change. Individuals often described as marginalised in the cultural sector are now defining themselves as leaders.
Generosity of the start-up community
Embedded in the design of the programme is a process that treats applicants as leaders, whatever their age and experience. They receive feedback on their ideas on how to improve their proposals, and there are one-to-one meet and greet and advice sessions as well as online resources.
Over 330 organisations across the UK offer support. And the start-up community is generous, with many experienced entrepreneurs giving time to help applicants prepare their submissions.
50% of this year’s finalists applied in previous years. Thanks in part to the pre-application support, their ideas were developed, stronger and more compelling, demonstrating the entrepreneurial qualities of tenacity and capacity to learn.
This year’s winners
Every year, the programme supports 10 entrepreneurs (five winners + five bursary recipients) who receive tailored one-to-one mentoring. This year’s winners were selected by an expert panel including people from Deutsche Bank, MeWe360 (the delivery partner) and a former DBACE winner.
The five DBACE 2021 winners’ initiatives are wide ranging and ambitious and, in some cases, have taken years of commitment to get to this point. They are:
African Diaspora Dance Association (ADDA)
Founder: Nahum McLean
Black Females in Architecture (BFA)
Co-directors: Akua Danso, Neba Sere & Selasi Setufe
Founder: Ameenah Begum
The Blair Academy
Founder: Charlie Blair
You Look Okay To Me
Founder: Jameisha Prescod
As we attempt to create employment pathways for young people who have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, instead of focussing on poorly paid cultural jobs, we want them to be able to create jobs with new narratives for themselves.
Ibukun Baldwin from Bukky Baldwin, a former DBACE winner, is clear about what is needed: “Know the needs of the people you are trying to help and find the right partners to help you.”
Find out more at https://dbace.org/
Marina Norris is Director of Cultural Baggage and part-time Executive Director at Brighton People’s Theatre.