SPICING UP THE CUPBOARD BASICS: Leeds entrepreneurs ensure that those in need have some flavour in their lives 

·        A husband and wife team who create Indian Spice blends, donate sachets of their homemade product to ‘spice up’ food parcels given out by the Salvation Army. 

·        Inspired by his single mother who lived on the breadline and made the most of her empty fridge by spicing up baked beans and scrambled eggs, Dave Singh set up Go Indian Spice with his wife Lucky Kaur. 

·        The Leeds-dwelling pair hope their affordable blend will help other families like theirs to batch cook and eat healthily on a budget while donating a portion of their profits to charity. 

·        More families are struggling to make ends meet with a rise in fuel and energy prices “but that doesn’t have to mean bland food,” explains Lucky Kaur. 

·        Their first ingredient in business is spice blends which they hope will be their recipe to success and then they will start their own charity.

Uninspired by the spices on supermarket shelves as well as the bland offering of affordable food, a husband and wife team decided to spice up cupboard basics in the hope of inspiring others. 

Dave and Lucky from Leeds, are on a mission to spice up the lives of families living on the breadline, after experiencing their own hardships growing up. 

Dave said: “I was brought up in a poor part of Glasgow with a single mother and often we didn’t know if there would be food on the table.

“But when there was food, even if all she could afford was some eggs and baked beans, she would make us baked bean curry or masala scrambled eggs.” 

Dave who now lives with his own 9-year-old daughter and wife has his sights firmly set on creating his own empire out of their small kitchen.

He said: “Being a foodie doesn’t have to be just for the wealthy, all of us deserve to taste flavoursome food. 

“My mum used to be so creative, she inspired me to make the most of everything.” 

So after years of making their own spice blends at home, Dave and his wife decided to follow their dreams and set up their own business. 

“Our whole ethos is to give back. Yes we want to build a business but it’s with the goal of starting a charity,” said Dave. 

Initially, the hope is that the product will encourage and enable more healthy eating and for families to batch cook nutritious food. 

“With price hikes, a lot of families are being forced to cut their shopping budget but this doesn’t have to mean unhealthy bland food.”

Dave who works in finance and his wife Lucky works part-time in a doctor’s surgery aspire to succeed in their business to give their daughter a better life and others. 

“We’ve done alright for ourselves but my wife’s health isn’t great so she can’t continue cleaning. Plus, her heart is in creating our unique spice blends for our company based in York,” said Dave who felt privileged to be in a position to provide for his family. 

“We could always do better, but our journey is about taking others in need on the journey to reap the rewards of us doing better in life and business.” 

Their business journey started last September when they officially set up Go Indian Spice – a subscription box service. 

Since then, they have been offered to deliver demos at food festivals and have a goal of boosting their online sales to help families globally. 

What’s their secret this far? 

Lucky said: “We believe in great tasting, healthy dishes that make you feel fantastic and still pack a flavour punch. Being of Indian heritage, Indian cuisine has a particularly special place in our hearts and we’ve always loved experimenting with creating our own spice blends. 

LUCKY KAUR

“We wanted a way of bringing our homemade creations to kitchens across the country, to help everyone share the same joy and fun we have when we’re cooking. But we also wanted to make sure we were bringing something healthy and unique to the market too.”

Go Indian Spice mixes are all vegan, gluten-free and contain no artificial ingredients. They’ve also teamed up with a team of dietitians to provide general monthly health tips – all evidence-based – exclusively for regular spice box subscribers.

Lucky added: “Our spice blends aren’t just for Indian food either. They’re perfect for sparking inspiration, experimenting with your ingredients and creating some truly unique and wonderful fusion dishes. We can’t wait to see what everyone comes up with.”

For more information, go to: https://goindianspice.com/ 

MORE ON THE GO INDIAN SPICE STORY: 

In 2017, my wife Lucky and I were out shopping for spices. We were in our local supermarket and ended up buying a general curry powder mix. Once home, we created our meal using the mix we had just purchased and sat down to eat it with great anticipation. Sadly, our enthusiasm was quickly quashed and we were so disappointed with the (lack of) flavour that we got to thinking that we could do much better ourselves.

Today, Lucky and I consider ourselves to be very lucky indeed as we are now the proud owners and producers of Go Indian Spice blends. We simply cannot contain our enthusiasm for you to share in the enjoyment of trying out our wonderful spice blends of ‘Kickstart’, ‘Refresh’, ‘Boost’ and ‘Zing’. We are hopeful that you too will enjoy and join us in our passion for food and love of Indian cuisine when using our unique spice blends.

We have taken the utmost care to ensure that all our mixes are versatile because they are not just for curries, but can be used for fusion dishes such as our ‘Spiced Fishcake’ recipe in the recipe section on our website. Suitable for vegans, gluten-free and containing no artificial ingredients, our spice blends are also low in salt which many of us eat too much of in our day-to-day diets. Why do we need to reduce salt? Well, a diet high in salt can cause raised blood pressure, which can increase risk of heart disease and stroke.

The most important elements of a basic curry are usually onions and spices. Curries are not to be rushed and can be prepared in a large pot, saucepan or skillet. You can even prepare them in a slow cooker if you find that more convenient. Ring the changes with ingredients – use veggies, fish or meat depending upon your personal eating style.

We sincerely hope that you will share our love, passion, the joy of food and love of food when you try using our spice blends and would love to hear from you when you create something new and tasty with them.  

Dave and Lucky, Co-Founders of Go Indian Spice

ENTREPRENEURS OF IMPACT: GIVE TO YOURSELVES AND OTHERS

Surely they can’t just want to help others? There must be something in it to help themselves? Our human brains are wired with a negativity bias so our primal instinct is to think ‘worst case scenario.’

But actually many people simply want to help. 

Yes, ‘giving,’ one of the five ways to wellbeing, results in a feel good factor,  but many altruistic people in our communities ‘give,’ all year round because everyone needs support in some walk of life. 

But can this be the case with business leaders? Whether they are driving a non-profit or a philanthropic organisation, money doesn’t always need to be a dirty word because actually the more these ‘brands,’ do good, the more good that can be done in the world, in the right hands. 

I didn’t always believe this, so I never desired to earn a lot of money as I just wanted to help people who felt unheard, until I discovered social enterprises and  I realised my poverty mindset was holding me back. Setting up as a nonprofit meant I needed to drive revenue and profit to be reinvested into the communities I wished to serve.

This is something that Leeds accountant and avid Yorkshire Evening Post reader Colin Glass has since drilled into me. His drive is not money which seems ironic as an ‘accountant,’ but it’s to enable businesses to flourish so that organisations prosper and reach their potential – “but we all need to live and deserved to be paid for our skills.” 

And even when such philanthropic leaders reach their potential, as I witnessed at the recent not-for-profit Yorkshire Society Awards, those leaders often use their platform to do more good. Such as those attending the awards who chose to fundraise on the night for Yorkshire Children’s Charity.

We all know as ‘leaders,’ in any area of life that while we may have blossomed out of our own adversity that we too needed support along the way. And actually we still do. 

Last week, for example, we launched our first professional Impact Podcast with business support organisation AD: Venture and while we shared tips on where to find support, both our guest Rebecca. Hopwood Youbee Media and I shared how we too were receiving support from AD: Venture to grow our enterprises.

IMPACT PODCAST: Connecting with your challenging cheerleaders so you can better serve others

Even that morning before recording, I had a mental health appointment and that evening I attended a Yoga class because I know what I need to do to stay as well as possible. 

One of the ways we can help ourselves is by practicing “gratitude,” explains Leeds-based The Joyful Coach Sophie Cliff at the first WECAN business conference held to empower female leaders. 

“Gratitude is taking positive emotions and swirling them around in your mind.”

Sophie transformed a tragic bereavement into her new business in which she now uses positive psychology to transform the lives of others. 

In a hyperconnected world, we can all feel disconnected, so safe places brining people together to support one another and challenge each other to prosper, which means we can better help others. 

And as Ali Ward from Social Enterprise Yorkshire and Humber said: “I don’t like the term ‘not for profit’. Instead, it should be ‘profit for good’ as a social enterprise sees their ‘profit’ as a way to direct some good.”

Let’s start giving to ourselves and others this Lent and beyond. 

Photo: “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.”Mayor Tracy Brabin at WECAN Conference

OFFERING PLACES OF – SANCTUARY FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS: BUSINESS PERSPECTIVE

A lot of us struggle to adjust to new seasons in life and business as we age, we feel unsure and have periods of instability. Especially when it comes to running an enterprise.

We look back with rose-tinted glasses and social media ‘memories’ don’t help either as they are often a collection of images that gloss over the grit of reality. 

Even birthdays can feel stressful with so many options available to us to mark another year of life and more responsibilities. 

With 35-44 year-olds tending to be the most ‘stressed out’ in the UK due to work, health, and a range of other issues including housing and finance.

Can you imagine, however, fleeing a war-torn country and finding yourself in situations where your life is at risk at home?

While our issues are relative, appreciation for having such choices can help to allay stress.

We may have ‘distanced’ ourselves from such realities facing asylum seekers in the past, but with the abhorrent war in Ukraine, it is much closer to home. Finally, people are united in ‘relating’ to human beings who find themselves in such a hellish reality. 

More optimistically however are the ‘olive branches’ that pioneering folk from Yorkshire have offered to those seeking sanctuary before the media coverage of this disaster. 

Sheffield was the UK’s first City of Sanctuary, Leeds which is now also a City of Sanctuary plays host to the UK’s first Theatre of Sanctuary Leeds Playhouse and Wakefield has the first Studio of Sanctuary at The Arthouse, as well as Theatre Royal Wakefield who has become a Theatre of Sanctuary. 

It’s easy to take these venues for granted as we busily scurry past, but actually, inside contain life-changing offerings. 

Such cultural hubbubs have not only created accessible activities for a range of people from marginalised backgrounds, but they actively offer a welcome to refugees and Asylum Seekers who are part of our community, our family. 

It’s one thing to build a bridge between English-speaking locals and these cultural institutes but how do they cater for many of those seeking asylum when English isn’t their first language?  

Particularly as many people’s lives can be transient as these human beings have no choice but to be ‘dispersed’ across the UK. Fortunately, places of sanctuary can offer some respite and hope. 

As drama practitioner Gemma Whelan explained that ‘play’ is a universal language. Much like dance, art, and creative story-telling. 

Gemma, who works for the Theatre Royal in Wakefield which runs the Conversation Cafe, said: “I’ve had the rare and wonderful joy of working alongside families who are new to the country that I call home. 

“As a drama practitioner the core of the work I do is using play and storytelling to explore the ‘now’ we find ourselves standing in and I was tentative, to begin with as I didn’t want to press any bruises and exploit any heartache. I needn’t have worried as play is a universal language one understood the world over and offers moments of reprise. There is freedom and release found in joy.”

The theatre has created such a ‘place to belong’ for the new locals that despite the chaotic nature of their reality, many people escape this uncertainty temporarily with the anchor of this Theatre of Sanctuary. 

Gemma added: “I could talk about the heartbreak and harrowing experiences the people I work with have endured but that’s their story to tell not mine. So I will leave you with the moment that I was stood with a young man from Sudan who came to the session on his 17th birthday and when I asked if he’s had any special plans, he’s said ‘this is my special plan, you are all my family, this is home, here with you all.’

As I finish writing this while watching BBC News on loop as the situation evolves, I look up to see a mother’s video of her daughter’s birthday being celebrated underground in Ukraine.

As I soon mark another year of life I no longer feel overwhelmed by emotions thinking of what I should have been doing by now in my life, instead, I count my blessings.

Perspective and pauses can help us to reanalyse our own situation.

Read more from Sophie at https://communitymedianetwork.co.uk

Photo: Yorkshire artist Panni Loh has created cards all proceeds going to Ukraine – Contact panni@panniloh.com

FROM MANAGING PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALLERS TO SCORING GOALS WITH A PLANT-BASED BUSINESS

We all know that we should be eating at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day to stay well and boost immunity, but with our already hectic lives, most of us find this a challenge. 

Fortunately, two entrepreneurs are on a mission to make feeling healthy affordable at a cost of £1 per day and attainable with their pioneering immune-boosting products, 7immune. 

Sam Ahmed said:

“I loved my career working with Premiership footballers and Boxers,  I have been always passionate about sport, nutrition, and our health. 

“But sports pros have the money and team to stay as healthy as possible and watch everything they consume. But for the everyday person, it can be really challenging.

“I learned a lot from my time working with professional athletes, but I knew that the everyday person needed help urgently,” said Sam together with Rassam have spent the past 3 years working on his immune-boosting products.  

“A friend introduced me to a chef who came up with the idea of an immune-boosting ice cube. While it was revolutionary, all the ingredients were 100 percent natural and pure. 

It’s not about profit for me and Rassam it’s about supporting people to be the best version of themselves.” 

Dad of Two Sam thanks his humble roots of being born in Birmingham and bred in innercity Toxteth, Liverpool, for inspiring him to help the wider public, supporting them to feel like “world champions.” 

Rassam and Sam knew they wanted to create a recipe that was all plant-based and with only pure ingredients, which is when 7immune was born. Consisting of seven ingredients: Valencia Orange, Soursop, Pineapple Core, Ginger, Ginseng, Arrowroot, and Turmeric.

While his costs were high, he wanted to ensure the products were affordable so he needed investment to create them on a larger scale. 

It was then he asked childhood friend  Rassam Muslah, to invest. 

Dad-of-four Rassam also born in Liverpool and grew up in Toxteth said: “I was sceptical at first although I trusted Sam, so I tried a sample. 

“Within a week I had to go back I wanted to be apart of this exciting new project  even though there so so much work still to do.

The pair then ensured the product went through 8 months of vigourous lab testing and implemented the right procedures to get a consumable product off the ground. 

Sam said: “I had been helping some incredible boxers and footballers achieve their peak, I put the same effort into managing the ingredients of this product. It was all about precision.”

Then when the Pandemic hit Sam and Rassam knew it was time to really try to help those on the ground. 

7immune launched the world’s first immune-boosting ice cube, their signature product with the help of celebrity endorsements, the cubes made a noise online and it became so popular that Rassam and Sam offered a subscription model too. 

7immune is a blend of 7 natural, organic ingredients that have been specifically selected and prepared to maximise potency, allowing all nutrients to focus on your immune system and help your body function at its peak.

Sam said: “People were raving about us on Trustpilot and any initial scepticism was quashed”.

Rassam said “You can certainly taste all the ingredients as it’s all plant-based and jam packed with antioxidants.” 

After their global online launch proving popular, Rassam and Sam who have both stayed living in the area they grew up in, wanted to make sure they were re-investing their success into the local community too. 

“We regularly donate bottles of 7immune with the ice cube trays to the local care home. And we continuously raise money for Cash for Kids.” 

Not ones to get complacent however, as Sam and Rassam have since launched a 7immune tea and Grab & Go brownie range as well as setting their sights on more products combining their essential ingredients. 

But it was their signature ice cubes that caught the attention of the popular Shankly Hotel in Liverpool City Centre. 

The Shankly which is a tribute to footballer and manager Bill Shankly, leading Sam back to his pro sport roots. 

He said: “They approached us having heard and tried our ice cubes, to design a hangover station for guests in the hotel foyer. 

“We know the ice cubes are much better for you and can help cure hangovers instantly – we’ve research and tested the product on a number of people and had amazing feedback.

7immune not only can support the immunity of hungover revellers or those struggling to get their five a day, it can help anyone.

Rassam said: “As two avid gym-goers we know how hard it is to fuel up on something healthy when you’re on-the-go, so we are launching 7immune in gym vending machines too.” 

Now with a strong throng of fans behind the products, Rassam and Sam are looking forward to rolling new punches with a range of other products which are in the pipeline.

For more, information, go to: https://7immune.com follow @7immune

Key Facts:

  • Sam Ahmed who managed premiership professional footballers together with Rassam Musleh property developer/ Retail sector, have created a product worthy of the limelight.
  • Liverpudlian entrepreneurs Rassam Musleh 43 and Sam Ahmed 45 both directors and founders have a range of transformational immune-boosting products called 7immune.
  • 7immune is a blend of 7 natural, organic ingredients that have been specifically selected and prepared to maximise potency, allowing all nutrients to focus on your immune system and help your body function at its peak.
  • From immune ice, the world’s first immune-boosting ice cube to tea and now Brownies.
  • Childhood friends Rassam Musleh and Sam Ahmed launched 7immune at the start of the first Lockdown.
  • The philanthropic pair of entrepreneurs donate their products to some care homes across Liverpool as well as raise money for Cash For Kids.

International Women’s Day: New Power offers a world of hope for women 

While the Pandemic has hit young people and women the hardest financially, it has also seen the rise of new power. With diverse voices coming to the forefront thanks to online platforms. 

‘The battle between old and new power is determining who governs us, how we work, and even how we think and feel.’ explains Jeremy Heimans and Henry Timms in New Power. We have witnessed this through the rise of community media outlets online since the world wide web was born. The internet began with a philosophy of ‘empowering the individual.’ It has since enabled often marginalised communities to join together to provoke positive action in the world. 

A perfect example of this is the #MeToo movement which fought against the old power of Harvey Weinstein. No longer could he rely on his powerful status and the hierarchy to be ‘untouchable.’ More recently social media has helped us connect with the brave human beings in Ukraine and to hold those in power to account. Dragon Den’s Star Deborah Meaden has been using her half a million Twitter followers to campaign to help Ukraine and has held the government to account.  

New power evidently isn’t just about giving people a platform, but it enables people to create a movement. 

But can we really feel connected in a hyperconnected world? 

No matter how large or small their mission, it has been wonderful to witness other content creators aka leaders, largely women, find their voice online locally. 

From Leeds-based Simply Ladies, an online community holding a real women fashion show and awards to champion women in business to Wakefield entrepreneurs Fanfare Music and WF Web design who have joined forces to create a charity fashion show in aid of Wakefield Community Foundation’s Women’s Fund. Inclusivity campaigner Mel Ellyard also set up Include Me to bring people together to campaign for a more diverse and inclusive world of entrepreneurship. Not only have these pioneers turned their own adversity into success stories but they are now using this ‘new power’ to help other women. 

But sadly the story is twofold with so much online discrimination, abuse, and harassment. For women, this is largely based on gender. “I’ve been offline for a bit because my mental health can’t stand the abuse,” I see another female leader I write online. While we all need an online sabbatical for our mental wellbeing at times, it riles me that so many women who have a strong voice and gain recognition, get attacked by such ‘old power’ mentalities. 

On the one hand, we have promising more democratic platforms but on the other we see these platforms breed hatred and even create old power leadership with those at the helm of social media platforms. 

New power however has created strong movements such as International Women’s Day on March 8th which celebrates the achievement of women while campaigning to #BreaktheBias. I am optimistic that the more women and allies to gender equality join forces we can truly harness our power to create change online, in the media, and most of all within our communities.  

This is why community media is so important because it is about harnessing often marginalised voices and enabling them to be empowered by creating media with meaning to promote positive social change – changing lives and changing minds. Connecting human beings with their community and with others across the globe. Read more from Community Media advocate, social entrepreneur, and mental health campaigner Sophie Mei Lan at https://sophiemeilan.com

Photo: As my daughter who was due on International Women’s Day marks her 10th birthday, I have a duty to champion women’s voices for a better future for all. My ‘new power’ vehicle is the media.

Collaborate don’t compete: The power of local businesses uniting

For too long we have been fed business advice that talks primarily about beating competition rather than focusing on what the customer wants. And nowadays we are witnessing a rise of conscious consumerism where people want to shop locally and as ethically as possible. 

A simple solution to serving audiences who also have little time is with such collaborative models. Not only are they a great way for new, independent, and small businesses to prosper and boost the local economy but they have a fabulous array of goods on offer for buyers who want to do good and shop local but have little time.

CASE STUDY: The Ridings Shopping Centre, Our Sparkle HQ

Whether you’re searching for a handmade gift for a special occasion, a bespoke item, or furniture, or perhaps you’re hungry for a sweet treat… some of the best places to shop local are at the new hubbubs of independent businesses. Marketplaces, where local makers, producers, and creatives sell their goods, offer some incredible finds. From Made and Found’s trendy Yorkshire-themed memorabilia and gifts, Created in Yorkshire’s artistic offerings and Wakefield Antiques Centres quirky historical goods from local sellers to delicious donuts and bakes at Arrowfresh, there is a range of unique goods on offer at The Ridings Shopping Centre.

Not to mention their regular markets and events which bring more yet local suppliers and talented professionals together under one roof.

Here’s a lowdown of what’s on offer 

 

Local crafters and artists share the space to showcase their creations, so items change on a regular basis.

Official stockist of Frenchic paint.

 

  • Arrowfresh: Arrow Fresh, opened their first on the mall kiosk, outside of Leeds at The Ridings, selling delicious Yorkshire-baked goodies such as Doh-boy Donuts. 

 

There’s also a wide range of independents, charity shops, and ethical goods on offer throughout The Ridings Shopping Centre. Read what’s on at Ridingscentre.com and go tohttps://yorkshirefamilies.co.uk

Crafting an Inclusive Culture in work and life – it’s #TimeToTalk

Culture can be changed or modified in two directions from the collective to the individual and the individual to the collective. The whole concept of mental health is a great example of this two-way change process. For far too long, mental health didn’t even have a term. If you were female, any challenges you were experiencing were simply dismissed as gender bias or put down to the menstrual cycle. If you were male, you were expected just to man up. Both were derogatory and useless in helping anyone. But over time, our collective understanding of issues most of us face from time to time changed, allowing individuals to express themselves more and seek assistance when needed. 

By developing an inclusive culture, that works for all, we create a healthy place that people enjoy being part of. 

Sir Madge Mee writes…

I love words and I always feel there’s a clue in the word to help us find the meaning. The first thing I noticed about the word ‘culture’ is that there are two ‘u’s’. The first ‘u’ represents you the individual, your knowledge, beliefs, customs, capabilities, and habits. The second ‘u’ is everyone else within your group be that family or at work. 

Below are three great ways to create a nurturing, supportive and inclusive culture so we can all shine, individually and collectively:

1. Be More Bilbo  

I recently lost my best friend Bilbo, a 12 and half-year-old Springer Spaniel. Often people who have never had a dog find it difficult to understand the devastation of losing a pet, but he really was my best friend. He never complained, growled, or moaned, he just lived life to the full. He was always happy to meet new people and saw the best in everyone. Everyone was a friend he just hadn’t sniffed yet. He was welcoming and loving every morning and was content with the simple things – a nice tennis ball, a walk on the beach or a cosy snuggle. The feeling I have for him is one of absolute admiration, respect, and love. He was joy itself and my life is far emptier without him. Although I’m incredibly sad right now, I am also so grateful he shared his life with me. And I’ve vowed to Be More Bilbo from here on in.

I think we should all Be More Bilbo. The poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said, “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  So true. Bilbo always made my life feel better, especially after a tough day. I don’t remember anything other than those wonderful feelings. 

Take a minute to think about how the culture you live in makes you feel? How, in the course of your day, do you make others feel? Are you uplifting and supportive, or grumpy and demanding? How are you contributing to a positive or negative culture in your home? Be More Bilbo. 

2. Embrace Change

We might like the idea of things staying the same, but they never do for long. Life is change. Besides we would just get bored if everything were always the same and we were always the same. All great cultures adapt. Or they die out. It’s as simple as that. 

The greater we are at adapting to change, the richer our lives become. I’m often asked how I deal with change and have been called a change expert. To me I accept what is, and I adapt to what is happening without trying to fight it. The more we resist the more things tend to persist.

As adults, we have to become much more comfortable with failure. It’s the same issue as our unwillingness to ask. Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck refers to the differences as the growth and fixed mindset. Children naturally have a growth mindset: they try, fail, try again and ask a million questions about everything. Adults try, fail and cover up any attempt they even tried and refuse to ask anything in case they look foolish. The kids have it right. 

Take a minute to think about the last time you resisted change? How did it turn out? Do you have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset? Change is inevitable, so we may as well embrace it and enjoy the journey. 

3. Be the Best You Can Be

Always give your utmost and fully turn up in whatever you are doing. Athletes often say: trust the process and the outcomes will sort themselves. In other words, just do the work, be the person you want to be, hold yourself to a higher standard and the results will follow as surely as night follows day. We can’t always control the outcome. Everything is always changing around us, but we always have control over what we do in that change and who we are. Sure, sometimes we will do our best and it still won’t work out, but there is still a quiet satisfaction to be gained from knowing we did all we could. 

We should celebrate our own difference, whatever that may be. And we should also make space for difference and diversity in all our cultures. Let’s celebrate the wonderful diversity we have in our families, our communities and the wider world.

No two paths are the same and everyone’s path to happiness, greatness or whatever your ness is, is different. But there are constants: perseverance, passion and principles.

Take a minute to think about the last week. Can you point to at least one example where you were your best self? The more we demand that of ourselves the quicker cultures will change around us. 

Creating a culture that allows for enquiry and exploration is surely better for us as individuals and as collectives. Everyone matters, regardless of who we are or where we come from or where we are heading. There are 6909 languages spoken in the world and an astonishing 3814 distinct cultures. That’s a whole world of diversity and difference that needs celebrating and embracing. 

By taking just a few minutes a day to check how we are impacting the others in our environment we can all develop better, stronger and more inclusive and supportive cultures at home.

And don’t forget to Be More Bilbo!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sid Madge is a transformation and change specialist and founder of Meee. Meee draws on the best creativity and thinking from the worlds of branding, psychology, neuroscience, education and sociology, to help people embrace change and achieve extraordinary lives.

From pupils to CEOs, we’ve helped thousands find their magic to transform themselves, their communities and their organisations. From leaders of PLCs and SMEs to parents, teachers, students, carers, the unemployed and prison inmates we help people excel.

Sid Madge is also author of the ‘Meee in Minute’ series of books which each offer 60 ways to change your life, work-, or family-life in 60 seconds. 

Web: www.meee.global

Web: www.meeebooks.com

Twitter twitter.com/Meee_HQ
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/MeeeHQ/
Instagram www.instagram.com/meeehq
YouTube https://youtu.be/fISupZWZMQc 
TEDx https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bR3Cyjs62c8

Community Journalism: From grit to gloss – “Why and how we harness the power of community journalists” to drive the media and change the world

Did you know we are powered by a team of Community Journalists? Here’s why we are passionate about sharing ALL voices but the strength of doing so too.

Powerful Multi-platform media has the potential to bring about positive change globally for people, purpose-filled brands, and the world. 

Community journalism can have this impact as we work from the heart of a human, the ‘grit’ of a community and the core of a brand, to articulate and share stories with gloss aka creating content with wider appeal. 

Not only does this ensure that articles, videos, and audio online and offline are diverse but inclusive. Community Journalism doesn’t just imitate such values but it is from the diverse voices themselves.

Enabling stories to be told authentically, more powerfully and when done well helps to connect better with those you wish to serve. 

What is Community Journalism? 

Central to Community Reporting is the belief that people telling authentic stories about their own lived experiences offers a valuable understanding of their lives. Community Journalism provides opportunities in which people can use professional storytelling/sharing techniques to: 

  • Find their voice 
  • Challenge perceptions 
  • Be catalysts of change 

We use digital tools such as cameras, smartphones, podcasting equipment, or tablets to help people tell their stories in their own way.  Plus we are able to connect community reporters with groups, people, and businesses that are in a position to create social change. 

What is the impact of Community Journalism? 

Empowering experts by lived experience to share their stories, collect and report on other stories from their specific community or backgrounds in order to elevate authentic voices from a range of seldom-heard communities into the media. 

We train groups of people in a range of multi-platform journalism and media skills utilising a range of digital equipment. Not only does this develop their media, digital, communication and journalism skills but it enables the team of trainee community reporters to acquire professional communication tools such as story-telling techniques, social media, marketing, and multi-platform media (blogs, vlogs, articles, podcasts, video, and photography). 

How do people train as Community Journalists? 

Community Journalism is a great way to produce content that resonates beyond someone’s own community. Our reporters and content entrepreneurs have the opportunity to specialise in a skill while designing their own enterprising idea and articulating their own stories with us. 

How do we elevate community voices? 

  • We follow a model of mobilising stories (responding to a social problem through project work), gathering stories (probing- their own and those of others in their community), and curating stories (sense-making). We also look at marketing and ways to share such stories to help create positive global change through a range of platforms from traditional media, our own platforms, and magazines as well as via social media and creating their own resources. Not only does this give reporters a sense of pride but it is also a great outcome and a way to explore/evaluate what their needs are to inform future work and co-create other ideas together. 
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How do the projects work and what are the benefits? 

These projects act as a form of expression, evaluation and create change beyond the project as we create professional ‘shareable’ content which has the opportunity to be published.

  • Training reporters from a range of backgrounds, using bottom-up rather than top-down story-telling techniques about certain communities and the issues important to them. 
  • We also train reporters to eventually work with a range of other communities to facilitate peer skill-sharing workshops to collect, curate, and share stories together to have a domino effect. 
  • Plus reporters have the pride of not only acquiring a new skill, connections in the media and business but it encourages their own ideas to prosper by learning such professional skills.
  • Project work: Each project focuses on a certain demographic with an aim to solve a social problem through a variety of creative means. From creating one-minute documentaries (Youtube Shorts and TikTok for example) to writing journals, wellbeing activities and community journalism is an integral part of it. The benefit of empowering a certain demographic to focus on issues close to their hearts is extremely powerful. Together we combine storytelling techniques, digital skills, and our knowledge of multi-platform media so that this content creates the impact we desire.  
  • Whether it be stories about society, mental health, life, geographical community, or boosting confidence and self-esteem among deprived areas we ensure that normally marginalised voices are heard.
  • Our tool for evaluation of each project is much wider and longer-lasting than typical evaluation methods because we create appropriate content together as part of the project and the evaluation process. 
  • Depending on the participant and project, whether it be online, video, audio, or in print, we use participant and community stories to showcase any hurdles and/or transformations made.  Plus, this has a long-lasting effect on those involved as well as on inspiring others.  
  • With evergreen content, we are able to continue creating impact beyond the project ending date.
  • Our projects help those who feel unheard to be heard beyond their own niche and to make noise so that those in power have to listen. 
  • Our projects give participants the skills, opportunities, and connections to progress their learning and develop business and media ideas together. We hope that they will continue to utilise their skills with us or to start creating their own independent media or business.  

“We believe independent community and hyperlocal journalism, a movement that is still growing, help promote social cohesion; connects and engages individuals to address local issues and affect positive change. A better-informed citizenry and increased local accountability mean stronger communities and a healthier democracy.

Imagine a world where everyone had equal rights to expression, communication from the ground up using the media as a power for good  

Providing platforms for underrepresented communities to express themselves and to be heard…

Back to grassroots ‘the heart’ of journalism in Lockdown: 

Sophie has again been inspired and reinvigorated by the community in which she lives which is made up of deprived areas, a range of cultures, and people with disabilities. 

 “I have been enlightened by returning to where I started as a journalist doing ‘vox pops’ aka voices of the people where you ask random members of the public their views on the news, which has opened many a wonderful conversation and reminded me while we need to work from the ground up rather than top-down.

“At times it may be challenging and uncomfortable to hear from those who don’t fit into our own world view but that is what is beautiful about giving a platform in whatever way we can to a range of diverse voices. 

“Whatever our skill set we can all use our strengths to hear others and be change-makers within our own communities.”

Do you want to train as a community journalist or have us deliver training to your project/ team? 

Or are you interested in us producing media collateral that serves your audience? 

Get in touch with me sophie@sparklecommunications.co.uk

Go to https://yorkshirefamilies.co.uk and https://sparklecommunications/home

DECLUTTER YOUR WORK AND LIFE SPACE – TO EASE YOUR MIND

Mrs Hinch, Kon Mari, and many other decluttering gurus hit the spotlight during the Pandemic when it seemed like most people were using this time with their 2.4 families to spring clean and bake sourdough bread. But what about those who found themselves hoarding, cluttering up their homes, and feeling overwhelmed by cleaning? 

“Many people were left alone at home and our home reflects how we feel. 

“Many people didn’t have the same motivation to sort their house as when they were hosting guests,” explained Rachel Smith who runs Clutter is the Enemy. 

Rachel doesn’t just declutter someone’s living space but their mind too. 

Wakefield-based Rachel, 45, pivoted her career during Lockdown when people needed her to support their mental wellbeing. 

Here she took part in our Sparkle Start-Up Series: 

“Your home is a direct representation of your mind.

“Your home should be your happy place.

“My mission is to make people happier, one room at a time.”

Why did you set up your enterprise: I was made redundant during Covid and took it as a now or never moment. I realised that there were a few gaps in the market that I could fill but my real driver is to make people happier by improving their home environment.

How did you get into your enterprise? I’ve always been interested in houses and interior design and when I was made redundant I took the opportunity with both hands to do something I love.

Do you have any challenges in your business? Yes, there are several. Because the services I provide are not widely known about, I’ve had to educate the public as to their existence. One group of clients that I work with often suffer from mental health problems and are liable to cancel appointments at the last minute.

What has been the most challenging thing about Covid for your business? I am lucky as I have been able to work throughout the last year and a half. People have been spending so much time at home that they are more likely to ask for help to improve their home environment. The most challenging thing has been that my original business plan was centred around Home Staging, but that all fell off when the market went even crazier at the beginning of 2021. As demand far outstripped supply, estate agents were able to sell any property for over the asking price without even trying.

What’s it like being a social entrepreneur? I don’t really regard myself as a social entrepreneur but I do work with a housing charity to prevent people from being evicted. I’m looking into what funding I can get so that I can help the most at risk. I also want to raise awareness for people who live in dire situations at home and raise awareness of the ways that your home affects your mental health and vice versa.

What drives you? Inspires / motivates/ excites you?

I always thought my main driver was to make people’s homes nicer but it is in fact to make people happier one room at a time, no matter what their budget/story/mental and physical health status. Everyone deserves to live with dignity and have a home that is a sanctuary.

What do you hope for the future? 

My hope for the future is to carry on the conversation about our homes and our mental health; to introduce colour into people’s lives; to help people get the most out of their spaces so that they have a positive impact on our mental health and our relationships.

Find out more: 

www.clutteristheenemy.co.uk

FB – @clutteristheenemy

IG – @clutter_is_the_enemy

https://www.linkedin.com/in/rachelsmithclutteristheenemy

WHY SPARKLE WAS BORN – TRANSFORMING ADVERSITY INTO SUCCESS

Not only has the Pandemic connected some communities but it has exposed and triggered a number of huge barriers that remain for many people and businesses from ‘diverse’ backgrounds. 

There are so many inequalities that exist for northern entrepreneurs, especially women in business as it is women who have been financially and mentally hitting the hardest in recent times. 

But there is hope with the ‘right support.’ Here’s how one northern female entrepreneur used Lockdown’s setbacks to spark a new business and magazine. 

A self-proclaimed ‘diversity tick box, a young mixed-race woman from the rough suburbs of Sheffield, eventually discovered that her initial barriers were eventually her ‘way in’ to a largely inaccessible media world. 

Determined for her underrepresented community to be heard in the media, Sophie Mei Lan set up htps://VeritaMagazine.com an online magazine with a team of community reporters who were ‘experts by lived experience.’

She said: “I was inspired by the stories around me and from all the people I had met on my own journey, much greater than I. Yet they too remained unheard so whilst I was at university studying Italian and Social Sciences with Philosophy, I reached out to those from my home city of Sheffield and in Manchester where I lived.

“To my surprise, assisting them with writing and reporting we created a multi-platform magazine with the help of O2 and UnLtd, which went ‘viral.’ Eventually this alongside all my years of work experience was my way into the mainstream media industry who finally took note.”

But once Sophie had forced her unpolished shoe through the backdoor of mainstream media thanks to the magazine’s team, diversity schemes, and her unique talent to tell stories from communities most of the staff struggled to engage, no sooner did she realise that she would need to conform to thrive. Whilst policies had changed and research showed the power of a diverse workforce, very few organisations managed to address the issue of culture and hierarchy within such bubbles. 

That’s when I, Sophie Mei Lan began feeling just like a tick box exercise, which is why I referred to myself in the third person. For many years, I wasn’t accepted for being me, albeit perfectly imperfect. My diversity was appreciated by many when it came to telling untold stories but it wasn’t sustainable for me to conform and not thrive. 

At times diversity quotas had helped me to battle my way through barriers but I quickly discovered that without that, most of the recruitment was for ‘lower level’ jobs. 

When actually we need to create ways to place talented individuals from diverse backgrounds in leadership positions. Then we are not just ‘modelling’ diversity and imitating a range of values but these values naturally filter through. 

Whilst this was a great lesson in hindsight, at the time I just felt grateful for the opportunities.  

I was on a number of diversity boards and panels and often was the only one there in an unpaid capacity as a ‘diverse voice,’ so I couldn’t afford to continue. 

I was so passionate yet my poverty mindset and lack of confidence held me back in asking for expenses. 

That said, I was constantly reinvigorated and inspired by the support from a range of organisations addressing this imbalance such as the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) Journalism Diversity Fund who helped me avoid a plateau in my career when I became a ‘young mum.’ By this point, I had already freelanced for some huge broadcasters thanks to winning an Amnesty Human Rights Media Award for the initial magazine I had set up championing some incredible community writers. But I wanted to have the qualifications in journalism to work for print, online, and broadcast which NCTJ funded.

In between studying, freelancing for national newspapers, and raising a baby, I set up an all-female video production company EvokeMediaGroup.co.uk and my own parenting and mental health blogs and vlogs. 

Through Evoke my business partner Daria Nitsche and I managed to secure commissions with ITV, Channel 4 News, and a range of brands. As two dual heritage northern women in film and tech, we were on a mission to make films that came from the heart of communities that evoked emotions. 

Again, we did not do this alone and got incredible support from AD: Venture, Leeds Beckett University, and Wakefield First as well as a range of business support across South and West Yorkshire where we are both based. 

My own personal blogs and vlogs took off too as I was extremely authentic and candid about my life and mental health. 

Yet when Lockdown hit, our bread and butter documentaries subsided and so did a lot of my freelancing commissions as a multi-platform journalist. 

But as they say, when one door closes, another opens, and again we received support from Leeds Enterprise Partnership, AD: Venture, and businesses locally which inspired me to start a new business magazine (sparkleupnorth.com, soon to be sparklemagazine.co.uk) and eventually Sparkle Communications, a social business combining my passions to train and empower community journalists and social entrepreneurs to ‘make it in the media’ and as leaders in their own right.  

Sparkle Communications is a dynamic, digital story-telling agency that creates multimedia content with meaning. From its own in-house publications, content creators studio including professional podcasting booth and its media training programmes for brands. Not only does Sparkle produce professional content for online and traditional media but it proactively trains community journalists budding digital entrepreneurs and it creates long-lasting connections between people and the media.  

We have even secured our first content creators studio and co-working space thanks to The Ridings Shopping Centre which will be our launchpad for our media work, training schemes, and also a wellbeing hub as we will use surplus profits to provide accessible wellbeing workshops for marginalised communities. 

I am thankful for my background and even the barriers I have faced, to help me discover what is needed and where I can add value in the world by championing others to become powerful leaders to ‘do good’ and my hope is that they will be recognised and appreciated for their talent. And paid and promoted for it too! 

By Sophie Mei Lan

https://sparklecommunications.co.uk / https://sparkleupnorth.com (soon to be relaunched to champion UK based entrepreneurs who ‘do good’).