Social Founders from Hackney, East London
Read the founder stories of Joyclen Buffong, founder of Rise:365, Kofi Oppong, founder of Urban MBA, and Peter Merrifield, founder of SWIM Enterprises, all based in Hackney, East London.
Founder and CEO of Rise:365
After almost two decades working as a youth worker for statutory services, Joyclen Buffong decided that enough was enough, and that she needed to step in herself to address the fundamental gaps in youth provision for black and ethnic communities. Joyclen founded Rise:365 in March 2019, to support young black men on the Kingsmead Estate in Hackney, East London. She talks passionately about her drive and sense of purpose in becoming a founder, her combination of deep experience and the fire in her to speak out against injustice. This is a powerful and inspirational read.
Founder and CEO of Urban MBA
“I felt I was so lucky, with what happened to me after being homeless, that I wanted to give back to the community and people like myself, who needed a reason to go on.”
Kofi Oppong is the founder of Urban MBA - “The University for Street Entrepreneurs”, as Kofi calls it. Urban MBA is an education programme set up to help marginalised and disadvantaged young people develop entrepreneurial skills. Registered as a non-profit organisation and offering free courses, Urban MBA assists young people with sustainable social and commercial businesses.
We sat down together to discuss Kofi’s story of being a social founder, his thoughts about the flaws with the education system, and how he is striving to address this issue.
Founder and CEO of Support When It Matters - SWIM Enterprises CIC
“It can be a lonely place. As you grow the organisation more and more, you get increasingly separated from the ground. You’re juggling all these hats and you can’t always delegate responsibilities where you want to, as some things can be no employee’s responsibility. This can mean that you often carry a lot more than you’d expect."
At the height of the Pandemic and despite a personal background of drug dependency, homelessness and trouble with the Criminal Justice System, Peter Merrifield set up Support When It Matters (SWIM).
Only three years into its existence, the organisation now has sixteen employees and is filling a critical need to engage black communities in mental health support and reduce criminal reoffending. Speaking to Peter, I picked his brain on how he has been able to achieve all this, and his thoughts about the greatest joys and challenges of being a social founder.
Refugee Week: featured Social Founders
Below we celebrate some inspiring founders of organisations supporting refugees.
Josie Naughton, Co-Founder & CEO, Help Refugees & Choose Love
Zufi Deo is the inspiring co-founder of BizGees, a group of professionals using their commercial expertise to support the development of startups by refugee entrepreneurs in exciting and innovative ways. BizGees provides seed capital as well as training, credit history and ongoing support for low-income refugee communities.
The Refugee Journalism Project, UK
Vivienne Francis founded The Refugee Journalism Project to support refugee and exiled journalists to re-start their careers in the UK. These journalists arrive in the UK with an impressive range of skills – many have been editors, correspondents and producers in their own countries – but they face significant barriers when they attempt to continue their journalism. The project is a collaboration between the London College of Communication and the Migrants Resource Centre.
Revd. Dr. Inderjit Bhogal OBE
City of Sanctuary, UK
A leading theologian and Methodist Minister, Revd. Bhogal is founder and President of the rapidly-growing City of Sanctuary movement. City of Sanctuary began in 2005 with a vision for the UK to become a welcoming and safe place for people fleeing violence and persecution. Today, over 100 groups around the UK have joined the movement and declared their cities and towns a place of sanctuary.
Women for Refugee Women, UK
Natasha Walter founded Women for Refugee Women with a vision of a society in which women’s human rights are respected and in which they are safe from persecution. Women for Refugee Women challenges the injustices experienced by women who seek asylum in the UK by empowering them to speak out about their own experiences to the media, to policy-makers and at public events. It works with the arts, media, and public events to tell women’s stories; and by publishing critical research.
Revd. Colin Hodgetts MBE
Refugee Action, UK
In 1981, Colin Hodgetts created 14 reception centres for the first of 15,000 Vietnamese refugees who were being resettled in Britain- the first project of the organisation he founded, Refugee Action. Since then, Refugee Action has provided housing, legal and employment advice services; delivered youth programmes and campaigns against misinformation, asylum poverty, and discrimination against LGBT asylum seekers; conducted critical research into the lives of refugees in the UK; and helped refugees establish and run community groups.
Equal Ground, Sri Lanka
Founded by Rosanna in 2004, Equal Ground is the only organisation in Sri Lanka actively fighting for equal rights for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Intersex and Questioning (LGBTIQ) community.
The Good Market, Sri Lanka
Achala is Co-Founder and Managing Director of the Good Market, a social enterprise that sources organic, craft, rural and environmental produce to sell in Colombo and online.
Association of War Affected Women, Sri Lanka
Visaka founded the Association of War Affected Women in 2000, after her son was reported Missing in Action during the Sri Lankan civil war.
Divya Marie Kato: The Big Draw Japan
Divya Marie Kato
Divya Marie Kato
Founder: When in Doubt, Draw; The Big Draw Japan; Art for Hope
"If I didn’t have access to art in my formative years, life would’ve turned out differently,” says Paris-born, Tokyo-based, British Indian artist and educator, Divya Marie Kato. “My sketchbook was a constant companion through my parents' separation, the resulting bankruptcy, repossession of our home and my mother's cancer treatment. Drawing and painting allowed me to express what I didn't have words for. Art was something to look forward to and taught me that my inner resources were the most valuable thing I had.”
Michelle Morgan, Founder of Pjoys and Co-Founder of Livity
Pjoys and Livity, UK
Michelle Morgan, is the Founder of Pjoys, using creative designer pyjamas as the Trojan Horse to provide positive hopeful messages of mental health. She is also Co-Founder of Livity, the award-winning youth marketing agency.
"Suddenly I found myself at the crossroads of where Brilliance Meets Madness," said Michelle Morgan during her talk at our recent Social Founder Network Breakfast Forum. Michelle went on to tell us about how her her new venture Pjoys was born out of her very real and painful experience of founder burnout.