How Do I Start? Elizabeth Takyi Speaks To The Need For Incubating Entrepreneurialism

Last week I had the fortune to catch up with Elizabeth Takyi, CEO of Aspire2inspire Dyslexia CIC, a social enterprise based in South London, UK. Ms Takyi’s social enterprise supports aspiring dyslexic entrepreneurs to take hold of their dreams and find a way. We’ve all heard of the entrepreneurial flair of famous dyslexics, and ADHDers too, for that matter, but we also know that there’s a resourcing gap. Ms Takyi works with individuals marginalized by intersecting issues of neurominority, race or poverty and knows firsthand how the barriers can be practical as well as emotional. For her own story, she acknowledges the role that her self-determination and drive played in getting her company started.

“One day I just walked into South Bank University and said to the outreach team: I want to learn. I studied Human Resources Management and loved the human part of it but hated the paperwork! However, I realize that not everyone will be walking through that door – not everyone can do that.

At Aspire2Inspire Dyslexia we have seen amazing people walk through our door and often they ask me: how do I start, where do I go, where is the hope? You told me that dyslexia is a gift – where is the gift for me? I have failed my exams three times. Education was the key for me, that’s not true for everyone.”

Ms Takyi makes a good point. Not everyone is starting from the same place, which is important to realize when we are considering succession planning in our own businesses, investing in start ups and incubating the next generation. Ms Takyi recalled her own start up story.

“I was unemployed, with a young family. I had £1.25 in my bank account when I started A2i. But I had resolve, I just knew it was going to work. 5 years later we are still here. I made it work because I have no choice – innovation is the mother of invention!”

And now Ms Takyi is now the mother of many incubated business in her local area. She met powerful people with whom she can network on behalf of her community such as her local Chamber of Commerce, the Dean of her local University. She helped the founder of Begin to Sport, a sports coaching company for dyspraxic people and Apples and Pears, a business solutions provider.

“I’m not good at writing a business plan but I am good at people, good at service, people will come back. We need to focus on what we are good at, what we can uniquely do. There is a huge stigma about dyslexia in the Ghanaian community. We are taught that there is ‘nothing wrong’ and to get on with it At Aspire2inspire we serve a majority Black and Asian community and they often say please don’t tell anyone, there’s a sense of shame. We help to reorientate people around their skills, talents and try to repair their self-esteem. That’s the first step. But in the transition from shame to pride and ambition, representation matters and we need to share stories of successful black business owners.” MS Takyi has featured some successful leaders such as Sabrina Ben Salmi and Dianne Greyson on her YouTube channel and hashtag campaigns.

So this is something to note in our own businesses. Are you incubating the next generation of innovation and growth or are people hiding, held back by fears of coming forward? In neurodiversity at work we often talk about the need for better recruitment, but there is also a need for better encouragement and support for those who are already there. The skills and talents that Ms Takyi is drawing out of her local community can be mirrored by managers and HR in bigger businesses. In our everyday actions as employers we can frame around strength to generate ideas. My heart sinks when I see standard review and appraisal processes. They tend to start with a predetermined list of actions, objectives or deliverables, based on what the business and team does now. If Ms Takyi has started there, she’s still have a community worried about coming forward and hiding in the shadows! Let’s start with possibilities and open questions. Let’s Aspire to Inspire in our day to day work and incubate the next generate of entrepreneurs in our own businesses, communities and investment profiles.

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