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Entrepreneur Kofi inspiring businesses of tomorrow

HELPING HAND: Kofi Oppong has set up Urban MBA to enable budding young entrepreneurs to set up their own businesses

LONDON-BASED entrepreneur is aiming to equip 18 to 24-year-olds struggling to find work with key business skills.

Urban MBA, founded by Kofi Oppong, takes participants through a 12-week programme, where they are schooled in the foundations of business and enterprise, looking at finances, product placement, business cycles and business structures.

The programme is designed to get them thinking about how to make their business plans a reality. Oppong said: “Good goals need to be specific and have the ability to motivate and drive you. A lot of entrepreneurs or business people have experienced a form of hardship or challenge in their lives, so their goals are always related to overcoming moments of pain, loss or rejection. When you mix setting a goal with emotions, it’s 100 times stronger.” Oppong’s hardship was being made homeless at 17.

After returning home late from a concert in South London, he found his clothes outside his parents’ house in two black bin liners. From that point, he make goal-setting a priority, which helped him to turn his life around.

He said: “My parents wanted me to become a doctor or lawyer, but I wanted something different for myself. “When I was made homeless, I vowed I wouldn’t return home, so after a few nights of sleeping rough, I trailed the streets of the West End looking for a job. I set myself a goal and it had to be achieved. The inability to set goals means you’re likely to become part of someone else’s goal. Steve Jobs’ goal was to have iPhone, now there’s an iPhone in everyone’s house.”

Fast forward to 2017 and Oppong has racked up 20 years of experience working in managerial roles for companies such as Nike and JD Sports, where he has learned a variety of skills and expertise that he has channelled into creating Urban MBA. Explaining how the programme works, he said: “Often, we have 40 applicants for 15 positions.

“The way we choose our final cohort is by asking three simple questions. Is their idea viable? Are they serious? Do they have the time? We really try to find what is driving our applicants.


“Nowadays, young people will not have jobs for life like their parents of grandparents, so I feel it is my duty to equip them with business skills that the mainstream schools system is not providing them with. I use engaging anecdotes from sports and music to make the sessions come to life so that the young people from deprived areas are able to put the information into context.”

Since its launch, Urban MBA has trained 65 young people, all of whom have gone on to launch their businesses locally. Jade Benn, an alumni of Urban MBA, went on to launch her business the Black British Library, which aims to capture the stories of black British men and women through oral history training. She also hopes to influence policies and procedures within the education

young black students. She said: “Urban MBA is definitely beneficial for young people who are starting their journey of self- development. The course ex- posed my strengths and weaknesses which is vital at this stage, especially as I want to move forward professionally.

“Going from being employed to having the confidence to start my own business, the course taught me about time management, networking, the importance of self-discipline, research and budgeting. I also had the opportunity to meet loads of amazing new people.”

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