Thursday, 15 October 2020
The entrepreneur and business strategist on where to seek out the knowledge you need to build the business you want.
In 2014, Melanie Eusebe co-founded the Black British Business Awards (BBB Awards) out of a drive to celebrate the exceptional performance and outstanding achievements of Black professionals across the UK.
“We [Eusebe and co-founder Sophie Chandauka] saw a need to highlight the role models that we knew existed in the Black British community, but that we weren’t seeing on our screens or in our media,” she says.
“Besides the usual subjects, we wanted to highlight doctors and dentists, financial services professionals, people working in STEM, consumer, luxury – a plethora of entrepreneurs and business people – so that we would be presenting the world with the width and the depth of the Black community, and really positioning its contribution to the British economy.”
Eusebe’s own entrepreneurial journey to date has been prolific; as well as forging a career as a management consultant for global firms and a business adviser to aspiring entrepreneurs, she is a professor of leadership, management and business strategy at Hult International Business School in London. She also serves on the board of the Creative Industries Federation, has delivered business transformation programmes for IBM and EY, and most recently was a judge for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction.
Eusebe is quick to credit those that have helped her on her way, citing the NatWest everywoman Awards, which celebrate female founders, as the inspiration for the BBB Awards.
“Karen Gill and Maxine Benson, the founders of everywoman, shared all their knowledge in regard to having a successful business – from the big things like how to attract sponsorship, all the way to the little things like how to make award ceremonies run on time. For us, mentoring was key, and it certainly accelerated our success. That kind of knowledge can only come from experience.”
Eusebe encourages aspiring entrepreneurs to look closer to home when seeking the knowledge they need to develop their business ideas.
“You don’t have to just necessarily look at the huge people out there on your screens – look next door. Who are the people that are doing it that you have access to?”
“If you are of Black descent, make sure that you’re not just focusing on educating others about Black history, but also that you’re taking the opportunity to educate yourself”Melanie Eusebe, co-founder, Black British Business Awards
Eusebe says Black History Month is an important opportunity to recognise the outstanding achievements of people of African and Caribbean descent, but adds: “There’s a lot of work to be done outside of that. Black History Month is not a diversity and inclusion solution at all – celebrating Black history does not fix the systemic problems that exist in regards to the inclusion, attraction and retention of Black people in the UK workforce.”
As she does every year, Eusebe plans to personally use this October to delve deeper into her own Caribbean ancestry, and encourages others to do the same.
“If you are of Black descent, make sure that you’re not just focusing on educating others about Black history, but also that you’re taking the opportunity to educate yourself. The way that we all know the ancestry of the royal family, I would encourage everyone to know their own ancestry just as much because it does edify you.”