Would-be business women from Barking and Dagenham graduate

Rashida Khatun-Uddin is one of the women graduates from Barking and Dagenham Picture: UEL

Rashida Khatun-Uddin is one of the women graduates from Barking and Dagenham Picture: UEL - Credit: Archant

A group of aspiring women entrepreneurs have graduated from a university project run to help them launch businesses.

Sixteen would-be entrepreneurs graduated from the Make it Real project which was launched in February. It was funded by RBS Inspiring Women in Enterprise, UEL’s Centre of Excellence for Women’s Entrepreneurship to provide funding, mentoring support and office space to local women with serious ambitions of setting up their own business.

The project was aimed at women aged 18 plus from the Olympic host boroughs including Barking and Dagenham, Newham and Tower Hamlets. It received nearly 120 applications in three months.

From May each has received a designated mentor to support them in their efforts to set up a business, three months office space at UEL’s Knowledge Dock Business Centre, and six expert workshops covering the ‘nuts and bolts’ of starting your own business. On graduation they were each presented with £2,000 start up funding.

Now they are ready to turn their dreams into reality. Their ideas include a beauty website, poetry commissions, a brand of organic chilli chutney, a family-friendly board game with an Afro-Caribbean theme; and a dating app specifically designed for London’s lesbian community.

The graduates from Barking and Dagenham are Deborah Taiwo who has set up Indulgence Deli GF Patisserie – Gluten-free cakes, pastries and confectionery and Rashida Khatun-Uddin, from Artishtic who makes unique fine art cards and hand painted products.

Deborah, 28, said: “I have been baking since I was a child, and had been making things for friends and family for years. I felt that maybe I could do this as a proper business. The funding is going to help me with the branding and packaging of my products.”

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Rashida, 35, said: “It’s been an amazing opportunity, just to be in touch with other women in similar situations, people who are trying to do something for themselves. I had the most amazing mentoring on Make it Real, doing workshops that I may not have been able to access without being on the programme.”