Posted 20 February 2020

Introducing six young creative entrepreneurs driving social and environmental change

In our current climate, having socially driven businesses at the forefront of the creative industry feels more important than ever. This is something that the Deutsche Bank Awards for Creative Entrepreneurs (DBACE) has set out to highlight, as it seeks the next wave of entrepreneurial creatives with ideas and initiatives that put positive impact first.

With investment from a pot of £50,000 and 12 months of business support on offer, delivered with programme partner MeWe360, it’s a great time to reflect on the socially and environmentally driven companies that landed DBACE’s top investment funds last year. From fashion, editorial, crafts and educational practices, DBACE is open to all ideas spanning the creative industry. Whether you’re looking to develop your own concept or looking for some inspiration, the following examples are here to get you thinking.

Activate the City! founder Karen Jelenje running a workshop

A social enterprise helping young people try their hand at urban planning

Company: Activate the City!
Founder: Karen Jelenje
Year founded: 2019
Mission: To work with disadvantaged young people to transform vacant and redundant spaces around UK cities
DBACE investment: £5,000 and a 12-month programme that will help her identify suitable locations, produce a business plan and deliver a pilot programme

With a background in urban planning and designing, Karen Jelenje set out to launch social enterprise Activate the City! in 2019 as a creative urban place-making agency, targeted at the next generation of entrepreneurs and creators. She believed that young people had ideas and ambitions to transform spaces in their local areas, but didn’t have the resources to do so. So she took her idea to the next level by entering the DBACE awards last year.

Karen’s mission to initiate youth-led community development in spaces that need some love and attention was one the DBACE judges felt resonated well with the programme’s aims to drive positive social impact through creative enterprise. The social enterprise poses questions such as, “How can we make this area more exciting?” Or, “How can we transform this vacant building into a space that everyone could visit and enjoy?” These are then set as briefs for those wanting to get involved. Karen reiterates that, “Activate the City! is focused on creating social change by equipping young people with skills in entrepreneurship that gets them thinking about their built environment, and how they can transform it for the better.”

Karen’s key piece of advice for anyone wanting to launch a social enterprise? “Choose one or two elements that embody the values of who you are as a person, but also as a business – this will be important for gaining the trust of potential customers.”

Black Ballad website

An online publication that puts black British women first

Company: Black Ballad
Founders: Tobi Oredein and Bola Awoniyi
Year founded: 2014
Mission: To provide a landscape in which black women can create and connect with one another
DBACE investment: £15,000 investment and a dedicated 12-month programme for business guidance and support

Born out of a frustration at the lack of black female writers in mainstream journalism, Tobi Oredein and Bola Awoniyi established Black Ballad back in 2014. Two years later the platform successfully raised enough money to transition into a membership model, and has continued to design and cater for the needs of black women ever since. Their commitment to helping emerging journalists to secure paid writing work has been recognised as a necessary step in changing the media landscape for the better, and in 2018 Tobi and Bola were listed in the acclaimed Forbes 30 under 30 list for their incredible work.

Following further investment from DBACE in the summer of 2019, as well as a dedicated business guidance programme that sees them meet regularly with experts, the company has reached new heights. “[It’s] been critical to our success and has led to increased credibility and visibility,” says Bola. This, in turn, has boosted their confidence further, as Tobi reaffirms Black Ballad’s mission: to build the leading digital and physical space that creates economic empowerment and stimulates cultural creativity for black women and the global African diaspora.

The Bukky Baldwin website

An ethical fashion and textile company creating a safe space for marginalised communities

Company: Bukky Baldwin
Founder: Ibukun Jesusanmi Baldwin
Year founded: 2019
Mission: Breaking negative cycles within marginalised communities through innovative hand-crafted design
DBACE investment:
£5,000 and 12 months of tailored business support focused on developing Bukky Baldwin’s business plan and financials

In the simplest terms, Bukky Baldwin is “flipping the script on the ethics of the fashion and textile industry.” Based in The Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, designer and CEO Ibukun Jesusanmi is championing hand-crafted innovative designs, created by local refugees and asylum seekers.

Ibukun’s beautiful and colourful space functions as a safe sanctuary for many, as well as a learning environment that provides training programmes and workshops. The business’ main aim is to move away from the “selfish fashion industry” and to transform it into “a force for change and opportunities for those less advantaged.” In turn, the proceedings made from the hand-crafted products go straight back into funding Bukky Baldwin’s ongoing training programme that propels socio-economic change throughout Manchester.

As a young company breaking into the world of sustainability, Ibukun is grateful for the people she’s met during her investment journey. In particular, she highlights that she couldn’t have done it without the support of her MeWe360 mentor, who has helped the young entrepreneur to “dream bigger”. As Ibukun affirms, “environmental and economic integrity” will always remain at the forefront of the company, whilst continuing to provide a fun and creative space for marginalised groups. Ibukun’s long-term goal? To establish Bukky Baldwin all over the UK – providing hubs for those who need it most.

Mental Health: The Arts founder Angela Awuah (centre) with graduates from the programme

An arts academy that supports and celebrates young carers

Company: Mental Health: The Arts
Founder: Angela Awuah
Year founded: 2016
Mission: To provide an early intervention creative arts academy for young carers in South London between the ages of 13 and 25 with direct and indirect experience of mental illness
DBACE investment
: £12,500 and a 12-month programme focusing on formulating business and project plans

With the number of young carers rising every day in the UK, Angela Awuah has used her experience of being a carer to launch her social enterprise Mental Health: The Arts in 2016. The academy works with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds who have experience as young carers to a parent or guardian, and works with them to develop healthy coping mechanisms that they may not receive at home. This is done through cognitive behavioural therapy, life coaching, nutritional education and creative art workshops. With a real focus on creativity, Angela hopes to secure experience or paid employment for each student by the end of their time at the academy.

Angela admits that winning professional backing and investment has provided her with the “confidence and insurance that [she’s] doing the right thing,” and that pushing forward with the academy has become a bigger priority. Her hopes for the coming year are to recruit an advisory board and roll out the programmes she has recently been piloting.

The Petit Pli website

An innovative children’s clothing brand that kicks waste to the curb

Company: Petit Pli
Founder: Ryan Mario Yasin
Year founded: 2017
Mission: Engineering versatile garments that grow as the wearer does
DBACE investment: £12,500 and a 12-month support programme, targeted at providing marketing support and identifying investment opportunities

Petit Pli came on the scene back in 2017 with a clear environmental and economical goal: to put an end to the copious amounts of waste generated by the garment industry. Founder Ryan Yasin, an aeronautical engineering graduate from the Royal College of Art, is the creator of Petit Pli’s signature waterproof outerwear and bottoms – designed to grow with your child during the ages of nine months to four years. Not only is Petit Pli helping parents to cut costs, but it also recognises the rapid rate of growth amongst young infants, and the business model is a direct solution to these challenges. Ryan experimented with folding techniques that allow the clothes to grow bi-directionally, and is now making them from recycled bottles.

Through a concoction of grit, determination and sacrifice, the company has seen huge progress in the past year, gaining recognition from awarding bodies like Dezeen and the James Dyson Awards, as well as investment from DBACE in 2019. Now a few years into their journey, the team at Petit Pli has expanded their studio space and grown to focus on research and development for the next 12 months. One result of the move is the ability to experiment with research approaches; as they now invite customers to their studio to test products.


Would you like to be in with the chance of winning investment and business support from DBACE? See our guide to applying here and DBACE’s FAQs here. Applications are open to anyone aged 18–30 in the UK, no matter the idea – as long as it is driven by a social purpose.

We have partnered with Deutsche Bank’s CSR Made for Good social enterprise programme to bring you coverage of DBACE opportunities and the impact it’s had previously. Look out for further features over the coming months, and learn more about DBACE here.

Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for students and emerging creatives. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]

Written by Creative Lives in Progress
Mention Activate the City!
Mention Black Ballad
Mention Bukky Baldwin
Mention Petit Pli
Mention Mental Health: The Arts
Mention Deutsche Bank – Made for Good
Mention MeWe360