Banana Enterprise Network is a UK registered charity, doing things differently in a caring and supportive way! We set up for a specific social purpose and ultimately aim to reduce poverty. We are based in Salford. Our founder and CEO Jayne Allman created the service after identifying a gap in service provision specifically for unemployed or low waged people of all ages, in our community. Our unique and supportive service is specifically tailored to the needs of people who consider themselves disadvantaged in some way because they are struggling to find suitable employment or have low income.
We work at grass roots level, in partnership with carefully chosen, highly respected organisations along with DWP, local community centres, housing providers and work clubs for example. We empower people with essential skills and knowledge, helping to remove barriers they face, so they can confidently make an informed choice as to whether to take their first steps into exploring the idea of self-employment (or start a business).
We also help people who don’t have a business idea yet, to build on their skills and strengths, work on the essential skills they need when running a business and help them identify potential ideas for self-employment.
Time to explore and build knowledge and skills – We help to build confidence and resilience and we provide “hands on” customer-led support and training in a non targeted way and with no time pressures – just great support from people who care! We don’t rush things here – we make sure people are ready to take on the world of self-employment and are resilient enough to cope with the ups and downs of self-employment and have the support network in place to survive in business!. We don’t just “tick” boxes and move on to the next client (like a lot of organisations) – we are here for our clients whenever they need us (we work 7 days a week)!
We plug a gap in provision by offering our unique first steps towards starting a business, which helps people to prepare for the journey ahead!
For many of our clients who have been unable to find work, exploring the idea of self-employment can offer hope, increased self-esteem and confidence and ultimately, provide themselves with a route out of hardship.
More information is available on the website
After spending some time with Banana Enterprise Network the following artcle was written:
Discuss the routes out of poverty and decent work with a good wage will always come high on the list. Businesses offer many people these opportunities, and for many people, starting their own business is a step towards realising their dreams. At a national level, small to medium sized businesses count for about 50% of the UK’s GDP, and of the 5.4 million businesses in the UK, 95% of them were micro-businesses1 (employing 0-9 people). This rate is lower in Greater Manchester, at 81% of total businesses2, but the point remains the same. The economic engine of the nation is driven by small businesses, reducing unemployment and tackling poverty as they do so. So important are small business to the Government’s economic vision that it offers a programme called ‘New Enterprise Allowance” which provides a weekly allowance over a period of 26 weeks (£1274 in total) to help individuals on benefits to start their own business.
But for all of the talk and action, it is widely acknowledged that 50% of small businesses fail in the first couple of years. Jayne Allman, CEO and Founder of Banana Enterprise Network, used to work for the Government’s Enterprise scheme. She says, “I was rejecting 46% of clients who came to see me” who hoped to be supported with their business idea. “They had not done their market research, they didn’t have a business plan”, and she found it very painful. “The experience of rejecting so many good people who just lacked the understanding to take their ideas forward led me to set up this charity to work with them”
GMPA has come to visit Jayne while she delivers a Banana Enterprise Network Introduction to Self-Employment course. We’re in a smart room filled with light at Langworthy Cornerstone, a new build community centre in Salford. Each place around the table has an information pack about the course with a banana on the top.
Banana Enterprise Network offers training in essential skills and knowledge, removing barriers individuals face when they consider self-employment. Jayne is passionate about it and once the attendees for the course have arrived, she begins by saying “starting your own business is easy isn’t it? We all want to be the next Richard Branson”, then Jayne takes the group through an icebreaker exercise which demonstrates the many barriers facing aspiring entrepreneurs, such as lack of finance, lack of knowledge and business skills and lack of confidence. During the introductions, it’s clear that most of those attending are receiving benefits.
A lot of previous thinking has clearly gone into what business start-ups the attendees want to pursue, the ideas are sensible, the enthusiasm is obvious. Suggestions include opening a play area for children, selling handmade gifts, starting a decorating business, becoming a personal trainer and opening a restaurant. We begin the course with Jayne discussing the broad problem of ‘Barriers to Self Employment’. She puts everyone at ease by sharing her own story. “I’ve had many jobs, I’ve worked at everything up to Director level and I’ve started and failed with three businesses in my life”. Talking about how Banana Enterprise Network was started “with a couple of hundred quid” and within a couple of years “we are forecasting over one hundred thousand in turnover”, the audience sits up, taking notice. Jayne is quick to tackle any ‘can’t do’ feelings. “People said to me, ‘you’ll never be able to get this off the ground.’ Even my own mother said, ‘can’t you get a proper job?” (but her mum helped Jayne obtain her funding to start Banana) “And I say to you: be resilient. Don’t let people grind you down. Keep going.”
The course content, which covers everything from generalities such as what an entrepreneur is, to specific principles of accounting and designing a business plan, is made easier and more accessible by Jayne’s encouragement. The warming combination of direct no-nonsense ‘this is the hardest thing you can do’ and inspiring anecdotes showing how the support and training can really make a difference leaves the room on the edge of their seats. It’s no surprise the course attendees quickly participate, sharing their own stories, making jokes – this is learning in action.
As the course progresses, we turn to our packs in front of us. The very first section is called, Your Current Skills and Knowledge Level. It asks people to score from low to high their understanding about subjects such as ‘what self employment involves’, ‘what a business plan is’, ‘budgeting skills’ and ‘what a cashflow forecast is’… At the beginning of the course, many people are circling low numbers (indicating ‘you don’t understand’) across the many questions. By the end of the course, people are circling high numbers – between 8 and 10, showing a huge boost in confidence that they ‘understand completely’ and the evidence for this improvement is in the course content.
The second day of the course puts attenders into the thick of it. Learning about how to market a business, they look at FROGS (Friends, Relatives, Organisations, Groups), with Jayne noting that “the official return from flyers is 1%”. The group discuss legal structures, such as sole traders, limited companies and partnerships, before turning to their homework, based on a designed cashflow for their start-up. Jayne leads the discussion about bookkeeping and pointing to the number marked ‘Total’ on the powerpoint presentation, she adds, “It all comes down to this number here. If it’s black, we’re good. If it’s red, we’re in trouble”.
Banana Enterprise Network is clearly very inspiring. When asked why ‘Bananas’, Jayne says bananas give you energy, they support mental health and are always thought of in a positive way. Attendees learn, improving their confidence by participation and by hearing the true stories of businesses, some have failed, some have succeeded. It’s also undeniably fun, we had a good time. Banana Enterprise Network is part of a wider story GMPA is seeing across Greater Manchester. They play a vital role as a connector by working with people whose current levels of engagement are so low that they feel excluded from accessing services designed to support them. Where applications to the Government’s New Enterprise Allowance Scheme are rejected because prior knowledge is too low, there’s a real contribution to be made encouraging a first layer of support for the individuals who want to be entrepreneurs. Banana Enterprise Network then fills in missing steps on the business ladder, it creates a social glue between the individual, their business and the state and that is a vital contribution in the mission to tackle poverty.
For more information please visit Banana Enterprise Network’s website or follow them on Twitter @Bananaprise
1 5.1 million of 5.4 million total businesses. House of Commons Briefing Paper number 06152, 7 December 2015, www.parliament.uk/briefing-papers/sn06152.pdf
2 With 86,100 businesses of the 105,400 total. New Economy Manchester, Greater Manchester Key Facts, January 2016