Why I launched Mission Diverse

Cleo Morris

I started my first business aged 21, fresh out of university with an idea, but with no clue how to make it profitable. The keyword here is profitable. Fast forward 6 years and I run two companies, a corporate catering service and Mission Diverse CIC.

Mission Diverse CIC is a nonprofit community organisation aimed at improving business enterprise skills in BAME communities, and disadvantaged individuals across the UK. Which includes providing participants with financial literacy, life planning, business planning, support, interpersonal skills and workplace development opportunities.

What is Mission Diverse? Why did I do this?

I wanted to help, teach and develop individuals from Black, Asian and minority communities, as well as those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds who don’t get the same level of support or education required to access opportunities and succeed. Mission Diverse provides individuals from all walks of life with practical and transferable skills to create self made income, improve job opportunities and heighten the prospects of generational wealth.

By educating and understanding processes and procedures from others more knowledgeable, I was able to sustain, pivot and grow my business, as well as opening up other workplace opportunities through skills, tools, tips, tricks and techniques I learned along the way. Mission Diverse is all about passing forward this knowledge to others within the community, so we can all grow together.

As a nonprofit organisation, we rely on donations, corporate memberships, diversity and inclusion training services go directly into funding and supporting the BAME community, young people, those from disadvantage backgrounds through our community enterprise programmes, workshops and mentoring services.

This means with your support more people within the community access workplace opportunities, and start local businesses. Thus, supporting and improving local communities and helping companies engage, support and recruit a more diverse workforce.

I wondered, “if I knew the things at 21 that I know now at 27, would I be further along in my business journey?”  We’ll never know! But using all the nuggets of information I obtained over the years, as well as real world business lessons I asked myself…

“I wonder how many other people are out there like me?”

“Why keep all that information about business a secret?”

“Why keep quiet about the knowledge that may help other people live out their dreams?”

My Black Lives Matter Experience & the George Floyd killing

Like many, in 2020 I was disgusted and shocked by the killing of an unarmed and handcuffed black man, George Floyd. It highlighted an even bigger problem around racial injustice across the world, and how it hasn’t progressed much since the days of Martin Luther King.

The George Floyd killing spoke volumes to me. That over the course of hundreds of years, nothing much has changed when it comes to racial equality. People are still judged by the colour of their skin, gender and personal preferences.

I, like many others, attended the peaceful protest in Birmingham city centre. Were over 4,000 people from all walks of life came together to learn, listen, educate and understand more about each other. Some read poetry, others talked about change, many asked questions, and everyone marched in unity.

At this point I realised, we need to create greater change for ourselves and generations to come, the way I saw this being possible is through education.

I am very much a believer in “knowledge is power”. So my aim with Mission Diverse is to educate people from Black, Asian, minority ethnic and disadvantaged communities about business, finance, planning, pitching and enterprise.

There are so many people from these communities that have a business idea or a side hustle outside of their 9 to 5 jobs. But don’t have the crucial experience, support, opportunity or basic knowledge to really start their business and make it a success. That’s where Mission Diverse steps in!

Help us by donating as little as £2 which goes towards increasing employability and enterprise in individuals from underprivileged backgrounds and BAME communities.

Reasons why people put off by starting a business

I personally have been very fortunate to have the support and passion of family and friends in all my business ventures. As well as a degree level education in Business to fall back on. But for many that isn’t the case.

Naturally, some businesses fail.  But there are many reasons why entrepreneurs are put off by starting a business. Several reasons include:

  • Little to no access to finance or funding – Funders & banks are less likely to invest in black, Asian and minority owned businesses in comparison to white owned businesses (click here for more information).
  • Lack of Business knowledge and education – Individuals do not have the required knowledge or knowhow to start and grow their business.
  • Lack of diversity – There are not many visible references for people of colour or those from disadvantaged communities in business.
  • Lack of opportunity – People of colour and those from disadvantaged communities are less likely to be considered for opportunities for progression.
  • Lack of Access – Individuals are less likely to have access to material resources that can be used to improve education.
  • Unconscious bias – People facing adversity due to inaccurate and unfounded stereotypes by decision makers.
  • Lack of equality – As individuals are commonly behind the decision making process, personal implicit biases impact others on how equally they are treated.

In business and entrepreneurship several studies and reports have shown banks are twice as likely to reject a bank loan from black owned businesses; as well as venture capitalists investing in under less than 1% of black businesses. This alone is a common deterrent for many people of colour, disadvantaged communities and women when it comes to launching a business.

Why is this a deterrent? All of the above points listed have been systemic within organisations. The reasons previously mentioned also have a historic disproportionate negative impact on people of colour, disadvantaged communities, women, LGBTQ+, those with disabilities and more.

Changing the look of suitability and success

Banks, corporations and institutes have commonly seen the “vision for suitability and success” as well-to-do white men. As these personal biases have created and shaped organisations and institutes idea of what “suitability and success” should look like, it has always disadvantaged a subset of people who fall outside of this ideology through no fault of their own.

With little incentive to get start-up business support, education and access to finance, this large subsection of budding entrepreneurs shy away from starting businesses. It also reduces the likelihood of black and ethnic minorities, disadvantaged communities, those with disabilities and women choosing to start and grow a business.

This is where Mission Diverse comes in…  Our goal is to change what people see as the “vision of suitability and success” through education, teaching and learning.  We do this through our unconscious bias, diversity training and consultancy, which trains and educates those within institutes, businesses and corporations about diversity and inclusion.

From businesses and banks to investors and the general public. My goal is to make diversity the norm and not a trend. I want organisations to understand, address and discard their bias’s to effectively encourage diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship and in the workplace.

We also offer our Reach start-up business programme to the BAME community, young people, and those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This is to ensure they are fully equipped with the knowledge; resources, support and understanding that I had access to in order for them to kick-start their business.

As well as offering our youth engagement and community outreach programmes, which are designed to re-engage disadvantaged and disenfranchised people within local communities about the world of business. Giving them real access, opportunity and hope to make a success of themselves.

I believe in order to extract the most out of people you should judge them based on their passion, expertise and business acumen. Not on the basis of their appearance, connections and financial status. Everyone has to start somewhere, that’s why Mission Diverse is here! To give everyone an equal and opportune start in business.  

Help us by donating as little as £2 which goes towards increasing employability and enterprise in individuals from underprivileged backgrounds and BAME communities.

To find out more about who we are, and what we do, click here.

Why I launched Mission Diverse
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