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Challenge of Finance & Innovation: Past, Present and Future - NBWN @ City Hall MAR 2015

Welcome to the Quest4Success blog, My name's Tendai and I'm a Social Media Trainer & Consultant assiting Entrepreneurs, Small Businesses and Start Ups to market themselves effectively online using Social Media. I attend motivational events, seminars and workshops for Entrepreneurs and Start Ups throughout London and last week on Monday 23rd March 2015, I attended the Female and BME Business Led Forum event at City Hall Organised by the National Black Women’s Network (NBWN).

It was a panel led discussion looking at the Challenge of Finance & Innovation: Past, Present and Future with 5 fantastic speakers across the banking and technology industries.

I’d only just discovered NBWN and can say I was very impressed. As part of an ongoing campaign structured to connect small business owners to the Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) and inform their diversity in business strategy, the (NBWN) teamed up with the ICAEW and City Hall to create the Female and BME Business Led Forum.

It was hosted by a really engaging, lively and informative host Sonia Brown MBE who is the Founder of the NBWN, Let’s Talk Business Networking Forum and Sistatalk (the UK’s leading online forum for women looking to connect with leading companies, decision makers and industry peers.) She introduced the event and her companies ahead of introducing the panel of women bar 1 gentleman who kicked of the discussion.

“It’s one thing to talk about your business dreams and another to take strategic action to make it happen.” Seemed to be the running theme was the introduction for the evening. Stephen Greenhalgh – Entrepreneur and Deputy Mayor (MOPAC) gave practical and straight to the point advice on starting and sustaining a business and reminded us of the basic history of London and its now thriving business economy.

Nila Khan MA (Cantab) ACA CTA and Director of N M Khan Associates was up next. Nila is an ICAEW Chartered Accountant and qualified Tax Adviser, she trained with London firm PwC before leaving to manage her father’s local practice in South East London which she later sold before setting up her own small practice in 2013. Nila provided sound advice with regards to researching any Accountants you wish to use and to be aware of the difference between regulated and unregulated Accountants. Balance sheets, assets, debtor and creditor advise was also shared which will prove useful in supporting business growth.

She introduced the Business Advisory Scheme (BAS) to us, a scheme which is part of the ICAEW (Institute of the Chartered Accountants in England & Wales which highlights the benefit of qualified versus unqualified accountants and helps develop local economies and the growth of SMEs.

Next up was Catherine Walker (above), Head of Large Enterprise Marketing, Group Enterprise for the Vodafone Group. Catherine is responsible for both large Corporates and the third sector organisations and was the 'Tech' person on the panel, providing some great insight on the future of technology. She explained the machine to machine technology - communication which allows machines to transmits data to personal appliances. She fascinated the room with the upcoming news on Intelligent Mirrors, Intelligent Menus, Driverless Cars, Facial recognition software and 5G technology - Future technology to come....

Sheila Elliott, Director of BSS Management Consultancy and a qualified chartered accountant with a Master’s in Business Administration degree was up next. She was a great ball of energy providing the audience with a great narrative of her journey to date. She gave some really informative advice on content for Business Plans with regards to the way in which they are evaluated and reviewed by Funders and Investors. Some excellent food for thought was the mentioning of Accountants, Mentors, Coaches, Management etc in your Business Plan and this info had the audience nodding in unison.

Sheila is the author of “My Business Is My Business”, a business management book that has been endorsed by the ‘New York Times Best-Selling Author’ for the Chicken Soup for the Soul Empire - Mark Victor Hansen. As a fan and owner of “Chicken Soup for the Soul for Entrepreneurs” I look forward to getting my hands on Sheila’s book as I’m sure it will be full of great business tips.

Sonia Brown MBE interjected to introduce the final two ladies. Sharron Gunn, Executive Director, Commercial, ICAEW who is responsible for launching a successful jobs website, an international leadership development programme, and a range of other support services; One of which helps members on a career break – women in particular – return to the accountancy profession. She runs many different micro-businesses and introduces proposals on each of their visions and net and profitable values to Directors with regards to investment.

And finally, Irene Graham; the Executive Director for Business Finance and Strategy at BBA who the overall policy work across SME and corporate businesses, including key industrial sectors and she sits on the board of the UK Business Angel Association. She introduced us to Tim Rivett the Mentoring Manager at BBA whom I managed to catch up with during the networking section. Tim explained the Mentoring process and pros of mentoring, and gave some sound advice with regards to not having a set ideal on whom to have as a Mentor – the exact advice I needed to hear as I am currently looking for a compatible and phenomenal mentor. Irene concluded her talk with Peer to Peer Financing opportunities and prompted us of the available business support advise available with local and high street banks - @KristineMHall from Enterprise at NatWest/RBS was in attendance and it was a pleasure meeting her in the meet n greet session. Kristine is passionate about supporting women-led businesses and encouraged us to utilise the banks business services and events were available.

We were reminded that the event was designed to bring together a wide range of critically acclaimed business owners; corporate professionals; financial experts, retail banks and policy leads to share knowledge; increase understanding and build the capacity of diverse SMEs such as myself to access the strategic support and information we need to grow and flourish.

We were spoilt with a platter of Caribbean food supplied by ‘Cummin Up’ food restaurant run by Richard Simpson and his family. Now I pride myself on being a great cook but this food was not only Devine, but also in abundance! Fish, Chicken, Goat the works – the aroma filled City Hall and it was difficult keeping up the conversation with attendees whilst chomping on the spread of well prepared food. Cummin up have establishments in New Cross, Lewisham and Brighton and honestly, I can’t recommend them enough. As a family run business they were friendly and extremely professional, and I loved the fact that their children got involved and stuck in.

Photography was provided by Damian Walker who engaged with attendees in the networking session, even allowing his food to get cold in the process (despite the reminders from yours truly). Like all of us, he too is a SME/Entrepreneur and it was nice to hear about life on the other side of the lense. As a photographer Damian was just as intrigued about us guys which was certainly refreshing as after all, we were all there to network, be empowered and accelerate our businesses.

We left with our bellies full, great knowledge from the panel and a healthy bumper pack of booklets from the ICAEW on Smarter Business Planning, Running a Successful Business, Growing a Successful Business and Accounting and Finance advice.

A perfect start to the week, and extremely impressive introduction to the NBWN, Let’s Talk Business Networking Forum, ICAEW, BAS, BBA, Cummin Up organisations and a great way to network with fellow SMEs and Entrepreneurs.

Looking forward to the next one.


@Quest4SuccessUK @soniatalks @KristineMHall @bbavoice @ICAEW_talk @team_greenhalgh @VodafoneUK


Pictures courtesy of

Food courtesy of

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