Two entrepreneurs are planning for their most successful year yet after winning a pitching competition at De Montfort University.
Seetal Kaur and Aaminah Patel of Forward Culture impressed the judges of the NatWest and De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) Pitch Contest, organised as the culmination of a series of online and in-person sessions to support start-up businesses.
Part of the prize was the chance to have a series of mentoring and coaching sessions with DMU business lecturers Andrew Nicholson and Alexandra Morgan. They also win networking and connection opportunities through NatWest Business Builder.
Their vision is of a community interest company that helps South Asian women and girls aged 15-25 navigate the issues and challenges of growing up in two cultures, as well as take pride in their heritage, through events, blogging and arts.
Seetal said: “Being a South Asian woman living in Britain there’s that pressure sometimes to hide your cultural identity, or you can be in this place where you’re living in two cultures – being one person with family and another with friends. Our work tackles that and helps give people a space to express themselves and to gain confidence in their identity.”
Forward Culture began life as Two Brown Girls, a blog and on social media, building up a loyal following and leading to speaking invites for Aaminah and Seetal, including one in New York from New Jersy City University and connecting with SAYA (South Asian Youth Action).
That inspired them to set up more face-to-face events and run a pilot project in London, quickly followed by a sell-out event for more than 200 people at Leicester’s Phoenix Cinema.
At the moment they juggle running Forward Culture with their day jobs – Seetal as a relationship manager for Arts Council England and a dancer, and Aaminah as a postgraduate student and Arabic teacher.
Seetal said: “It has been a passion project for both of us and we really want to take it to the next level. We had already prepared for a previous opportunity when we found out about the NatWest event and so while we were a bit nervous, we knew we had a strong pitch and were confident in what we wanted to say.”
Thanks to the coaching and mentoring, they have been able to bring a more strategic focus to their plans for the next year.
Seetal said: “We have had one session with each of them so far but it’s been really amazing. It’s really opened our minds and made us think differently about the business and what direction we can take.
“Having this extra time to focus on the business has been so helpful. We are researching our customers and thinking about our business plan and creating our vision so that we can grow.”
Meanwhile they are hosting events as part of An Indian Summer festival, which is being held online this year because of coronavirus. The ‘Brown Women Talk’ series had more than 400 people sign up for both events.