Just Started – We Rise In: Faith Locken

Today’s business leaders are talking about diversity and inclusion more than ever before. So how do they turn words into actions? We Rise In is here to show them.

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We are a team of writers, experimenters and researchers providing you with the best advice with zero bias or partiality. This article was authored by:

Name of founder: Faith Locken
Age of the founder: 29
Location: London
Date launched: September 2021
Number of employees: 4

What does your business do?

We provide professional training and consulting services for corporate entities. Our mission is to inspire, elevate, and develop the careers of Black professionals whilst promoting inclusion, equality, and diversity in corporate industries.

We work with individuals to hone the tools and skillsets they need to achieve positions of seniority in their career, and work with companies to provide career support, mentoring and leadership programmes for their diverse employees.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

Following the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020, we saw a lot of businesses seeking advice on how best to support their Black employees. The idea of the business was born out of the desire to help businesses support their Black employees, giving them a safe and inclusive environment where they can thrive and have long, successful careers.

How did you know there was a market for it?

We knew there was a market for the business as the data shows there is a considerable lack of diversity within the workforce and particularly at senior positions, and that businesses struggle to retain diverse talent.

The idea of the business was born out of the desire to help businesses support their Black employees

In 2015, 1 in 8 of the working age population in the UK was from a Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) background, yet these individuals made up only 10% of the workforce and held only 6% of top management positions.

Furthermore, a 2021 boardroom diversity report conducted by the executive recruitment and diversity consultancy agency Green Park showed that there are no Black people in the top three executive roles at any FTSE 100 companies.

Many companies understand that having a diverse workforce is good for their business, however they struggle to recruit and successfully retain diverse talent. We Rise In's mission is to help companies overcome these issues by consulting with them, advising on diversity and inclusion best practices, and providing the training and development their employees and business needs to thrive.

What were you doing before launching your business?

I was working, and still work as, a Real Estate Development Manager. I am a Chartered Surveyor by trade, and specialise in Housing and Regeneration. I enjoy working in housing, particularly regeneration as it involves providing much needed affordable housing for the UK population. Continuing to work as a professional allows me to see first-hand some of the issues companies and individuals go through in relation to diversity and inclusion. This ultimately allows us to better serve our clients.

Have you always dreamed of starting a business?

Yes. Ever since I was little, I have wanted to start a business and when I think about it, I actually started my first business at age 14. My first business was a tutoring business where I prepared and tutored kids to take the 11+ exams for secondary school entry. Though I didn't view it as a business back then, I still managed to generate revenue and grow my list of clients through word of mouth. I saved everything I earned and used the money to support myself through my first year of university.

How did you finance your business?

We were fortunate enough to apply for and win the Montagu Evans' ME100 Awards which provided us with grant funding and most importantly business mentorship. The funding allowed us to formalise the business and to launch our mentorship and leadership programmes.

Explain your business model and how you make money.

The business operates on a B2B model. Companies pay for our services which include; diversity and inclusion training and consulting, reverse mentorship programme for Senior Management, mentorship and leadership programmes for Black professionals.

There is a considerable lack of diversity within the workforce and particularly at senior positions

What are the main challenges you have faced? And how did you overcome them?

The main challenge we faced was starting the business during the pandemic. We needed to get the word out and network to secure clients. As face-to-face networking wasn't possible, we had to utilise our existing contacts and rely on video conferencing tools like MS Teams and Zoom to pitch and win business.

What has your experience been of starting a business during a pandemic?

At first, we thought it would be difficult starting a business during a pandemic, however what we found was that we were able to connect more easily with people and companies that we might not have been able to get in touch with if it weren't for the convenience and now regular use of video conferencing tools.

We've also been able to grow our network members to include individuals from all over the world, not just the UK. Our most recent event was held online and we had people join from Europe as well as the USA.

Describe your first breakthrough.

Our first breakthrough was winning the Montagu Evans ME100 Award. The process involved submitting a business plan and CV. We were then invited to an hour-long interview where we had to pitch the business to a panel of Montagu Evans judges and the whole company. Winning the award provided us not only with the capital we needed to get started, but also the validation that there is a business need for the services that We Rise In offers.

How has Brexit impacted your business? Do you think it will in the future?

Brexit hasn't really impacted the business much as our clients are currently predominantly UK based companies. We may see some impact in the future as we expand the business and look to engage with European and more global companies.

What advice would you give to other aspiring business owners?

The one piece of advice I would give to an aspiring business owner is to start and figure it out as you go along. If you wait for things to be perfect and for everything to align, you could be waiting forever. If you approach starting your business in small steps, it won't seem so daunting and will be more manageable.

What is one resolution you have for your business this year?

Our resolution this year is to systemise and streamline our business processes in order to allow us to grow and expand our client base, network members, and platform users.

If you approach starting your business in small steps, it won't seem so daunting and will be more manageable.

How do you see your business developing in the next three years?

Over the next three years we will develop the business in the following ways:

1) Grow the client base to include companies from a variety of industries and regions;

2) Grow the network of individuals who use our platform and benefit from our services;

3) Develop an online platform that businesses and individuals can use to access our professional development and training services.

If you're a business owner with a startup that's less than six months old, apply now to feature as one of our Just Started business profiles.

Helena is from Yorkshire and joined Startups in 2021 from a background in B2B communications. She has previously written for a popular fintech startup covering everything from money-saving tips to cultural reviews.

She is particularly interested in project management software and the films of Peter Jackson.

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