Launched earlier this year, Opening Doors is a new enterprise programme for Londoners encouraging young people to create and launch their own enterprise initiatives.
The six-month-long, highly flexible programme supports budding-entrepreneurs offering guidance through expert-led workshops tailor-made to each participant’s project.
During the visit, the former skipper and MP headed to a local supermarket store in Tottenham where participants from the programme were taking part in a live product testing exercise with customers, designed to help them gain ‘real’ feedback on their prototypes.
Jilli-Ann Green from Tottenham, who founded juice company Xaymaca through Opening Doors, said: “This programme is exactly what I needed to help launch my business. I’ve had the opportunity to meet other people like me with a business idea and gain advice from retailers, business managers and financial advisors as part of the Opening Doors workshops at Tottenham Hotspur Foundation. I’ve received lots of support with my business plan, marketing campaign and product development, all of which are really beginning to take shape.
“The opportunity to do some test trading in Sainsbury’s – as part of the Opening Doors Test Zone – has offered me a fantastic opportunity to talk to potential customers about my product and I feel so much closer to realising my dream now. All of this is quite scary, but in a really exciting way!”
Turning concepts into reality is central to the programme and to facilitate this, Opening Doors engages established entrepreneurs and companies to deliver regular networking events and guidance sessions to participants. Key elements of these sessions include tips on how to make ideas stand out from the crowd, business planning, leadership and management skills and the benefits of social media.
Supported by the Department for Communities and Local Government, and Trust for London, the scheme is open to 16-24 year olds and currently operates in three areas of London including Haringey, Croydon and Brent. Priority access on to the project is given to those young people not currently in employment, education or training.
Minister for Communities Stephen Williams said: “Getting more young people into training and employment is by far the best way of increasing prosperity, tackling poverty and worklessness and creating a fairer society. The Opening Doors initiative in north London is doing tremendous work towards these goals by encouraging and coaching local young people into being tomorrow’s entrepreneurs, backed by the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation and £150,000 of government funding.”
Grant Cornwell MBE, Chief Executive Officer of the Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, believes that projects such as Opening Doors are increasingly important to young people in London, and said: “We at Tottenham Hotspur Foundation believe the Opening Doors project will offer young people in our local communities the opportunity to gain tangible, transferable skills and insight into the world of enterprise, entrepreneurship and employment.
“Through our apprenticeship and employment schemes, Tottenham Hotspur Foundation has become a highly-recognised centre for training and development and we’ve seen first-hand the positive impact schemes such as Opening Doors can have, helping to support young people from diverse communities in to employment and training.
“I’m delighted that we are working in partnership with BTEG and the Department for Communities and Local Government to deliver what I believe will be a hugely rewarding project for our young people.”
Jeremy Crook, Director of BTEG, said: “This generation of young people face a very different jobs market and future to their parents. With London leading the economic recovery, we feel it is a great time for young adults to contemplate how they can become their own boss. But Opening Doors is not just a business start-up programme. It is a network of like-minded people working together and recognises that a successful start-up depends not only on the strength of your idea and what you know but also who you know.”
Opening Doors is a partnership of highly experienced organisations and individuals passionate about enterprise, social mobility and the economic transformation of diverse communities. In addition to Tottenham Hotspur Foundation in Haringey, the business incubation company Abi Associates CIC will offer training and enterprise coaching in Brent, whilst social enterprise PJs Community Services will deliver the scheme to young people in Croydon.