Year in Industry blog: Boosting Liverpool’s Business

Author Rio Gill is an undergraduate student at the University and currently on a Year in Industry placement within our Careers team as Enterprise Project Support Intern.

In April 2022, I organised and led a project for the Enterprise team within the Careers and Employability department which was titled Time to Thrive; Boost Liverpool Business. This was a brand new and unique initiative that provided all students with the opportunity to come up with new ideas and initiatives to support BAME entrepreneurs across the Liverpool City Region.  The aim of this project was to be a challenge-based pitching competition for our students to come up with ideas and initiatives to help tackle potential challenges faced by the BAME Entrepreneur community within the Liverpool City Region. Potential issues to focus on were highlighted within the description of the challenge drawing attention to factors such as generational wealth, business networks, BAME role models, and access to training opportunities or awareness of grants/funding opportunities.

For the challenge, I was lucky enough to work with the Mayor of Liverpool, Joanne Anderson, as this project aligned to her aims for supporting the growth and development of small businesses within BAME communities across Liverpool. Thankfully, Joanne was able to show her support for our programme by creating a descriptive video of the challenge to encourage students to get involved as well as to give her feedback on the final pitch of the winning student. This was a massive help in raising status and awareness of the challenge, giving students an increased hunger to get involved and share their ideas. This was not only a great opportunity for students, but also for myself as I was able to work with the Mayor and gain her help and guidance on such an important topic. Additionally, this project was able to tie into my LCR Grad scheme catalyst programme. Within this programme I was able to learn about the city region and the barriers which people face in regard to business, equality, poverty, sustainability, connectivity, and much more. Due to this knowledge gained, I was able to apply it to my university project aiming to make Liverpool a stronger and fairer city region.

My main responsibilities with this challenge were to not only work towards the aim of encouraging student innovation and creativity to help tackle the potential issues which fall within such an important UK topic, but also to use the skills and knowledge I have learned throughout my placement year to manage this project. Managing the project involved working in collaboration with the communications team at the careers and employability team to market and promote the project to students to increase applications. This was achieved through promotional emails, a social media campaign, and activity via Microsoft teams.

Furthermore, another task was to organise the video pitches. Details such as where to send the pitch, how long the pitch should be, what the pitch should cover, and Top Tips on Pitching, were all things to consider when designing the challenge. Designing and managing Time to Thrive was an amazing experience, not only did it allow me to further develop my key skills in communication, leadership, organisation, and multitasking, but I was able to reinforce the skills, knowledge, and experiences that I have picked up throughout the year from leading other projects such as Design your Future and the Documentary making on an iPhone workshop series. If I was to lead this project again, going forward I would change the time of year to run the project. Due to the programme opening throughout May, this caused a slight decline in initial applications due to students being busy with assignments and exams. This barrier was overcome by being flexible with the programme deadlines and ongoing promotion to students highlighting the employability benefits of taking part.

When initially designing the challenge, I was unsure about what ideas to expect or look for from the students. Due to this, I chose to leave the door open for creativity and innovation, receiving a varied range of solutions. Ideas such as online networking groups, transferable skills boot camps, informational opportunity databases, and new organisations were all ideas that came up from our talented applicants with the common aim of tackling the potential barriers which may be faced by BAME entrepreneurs across the city region.

Overall, this project was a success, resulting in many amazing pitches and ideas. The winning pitch came from Onnicha Rattanopas, who spoke on a new programme to help develop BAME-owned SMEs in Liverpool through peers, mentors, and investors.

Feedback from our first-place winner Onnicha Rattanopas – International Business student: “I like that the project allows students to take part in solving the community’s problems using our ideas and creativity and to overcome the challenges which will also benefit people in the BAME community. I’m against any kind of inequality. Therefore, applying for the program means I can do the thing that I believe in, especially when I am also an ethnic minority in this community. If you want to solve the problem, you need to know the problem. If someone is going to solve the problem, I feel like it should be the people who have faced or are facing the same problem before.”

Stacy Elsa John – Challenge Runner Up said: “This competition has enabled me to discover and focus more on the history of Liverpool, political and economic development over the years, and the growth of business within the city region. During my research on these topics, I had a great opportunity to propose solutions to specific barriers faced by the community which were regarding the collaboration of Liverpool with WIA, developing employment/ enterprise skills, financial aid, and developing a special loan package for the community. This was a great opportunity to expand my knowledge and share innovative ideas, and develop skills in commercial awareness and presentation along with gaining a better understanding of the problems faced by the BAME business owners and developing solutions to these problems.”