The group have all been studying how to start and grow a business
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A group of 25 young underprivileged entrepreneurs including a West African fashion designer who was brought to the UK by his abductors as a child, are set to take over a store in London’s Oxford Street this month.
The group have all been studying how to start and grow a business as part of the Next Generation programme, a joint initiative between small business support platform Enterprise Nation and youth entrepreneurship charity Launch It, part-funded by the by the UK Government through the UK Community Renewal Fund.



They will combine digital technology with fashion innovation in a pop-up managed by flexible retail chain Sook at its store at 58 Oxford Street. It will be the final chapter in their three-month studies, which will help them to explore bricks and mortar retail as part of their future sales strategy.
Emma Jones, CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “These young people are breath-taking in the way they have approached their studies. Some of them are further ahead than others, some are dipping into tiny pots of savings, others are working on the day job while ploughing all their profits back into the business.
“For these young people, starting a business can make the most difference of all. It can open their eyes to possibility and enable their ambition to make the most of their career by starting up. I hope the experience on Oxford Street will help them see the potential role po-ups and physical retail can play in their future brand building.”
Launch It CEO, Pat Shelley said: “This is a great opportunity for these young entrepreneurs to showcase their businesses at Oxford Street, one of the most iconic retail areas in the world. We hope the experience will give these remarkable young people, from diverse backgrounds, the confidence to succeed and show the public what great things they can achieve when given the right support and exposure.”



Yela Alexandre Monteiro, 22, was brought to the UK by force aged two, but returned to Guinea in West Africa to live a turbulent life with his real mother and seven siblings five years later. At the age of 18 he was given an extraordinary life chance – to return to the UK and seek his fortune.
The Greenwich-based designer has set up Salleur, a clothing brand that seeks to remind young people that, like in his case, transformations are possible and real-life change can happen. His printed tracksuits, shorts and T-shirts will all feature in the shop from June 20.
Yela said: “The programme has pushed me to form my business. I already had an idea, a concept, but it was very much in the early stages.
“Joining the Next Generation programme has helped me to take my business to the next level. Salleur represents a snake transforming and that image is a huge part of my life. It’s a key element of the journey I’ve been on and is based on storytelling and my path to success.”



Aminat Akande, also 23, is an economics graduate who studied at Kent University, before taking up a place to study for an MSc in Fashion Analytics and Forecasting at the London College of Fashion. And she’s also working and running her own business at the same time. She will be in the shop on June 23 and 24 with her colourful unisex range of Nigerian-inspired fashion pieces.
Kande Collection is a range that includes casual kaftan tops for men, shiny silk crop tops and custom print skirts made in Nigeria by artisan seamstresses.
Aminat said: “Working through the Next Generation course has been very useful. It’s been really useful to understand more about cash flow and the financial side, but the main thing for me has been boosting my confidence. The personal development journey has been huge.”
She plans to eventually work with stockists like Selfridges and Wolf & Badger, while using pop-ups to build a community and raise awareness of her brand.



Lawyer and food producer Caitlin La’s family settled in the Abbey Wood area of South East London after fleeing from Vietnam in the 1970s. They brought with them traditional Vietnamese cookery and the recipe to a delicious local delicacy – N??c Ch?m and SA T? – a chilli oil that is very hard to get hold of in the UK. While working as a legal adviser following a masters degree in law, Caitlin decided to set up her own company making and selling the oil and a tasty dipping sauce in honour of her family’s ordeal moving to the UK and called the company Boat People Sauce.
Caitlin, 24, said: “My family were what was referred to then as ‘boat people’, they were refugees from Vietnam.
“The idea for the business came over a family meal. Everyone loves my grandparents’ cooking and we all agreed we wish we could eat it in a restaurant. It was a lightbulb moment. I wanted the brand to reflect my grandparents’ iconic story.”
The Next Generation course helped Caitlin ‘fill in the gaps’ in her business knowledge. She said: “It was really useful to understand more about SEO for example, and just to know you’re going down the right path.” The Boat People Sauce will feature in the shop on June 20 to 23.



John Hoyle, CEO of Sook, said: “We are delighted to welcome these inspiring young business owners to Sook. Here at Sook, we are dedicated to supporting the Next Generation of entrepreneurs by providing them with affordable, flexible access to the high street in prime locations like Oxford Street. We look forward to seeing how they transform the space every day.”

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