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What it takes to ‘Grow Your Business’ in east London

We’re recruiting again for our next Grow your Business support programme – and we’re looking for applicants who want to grow their businesses based in Hackney or Tower Hamlets.

So it’s a good time to meet the team who deliver our 3-month programme focused on supporting local job creation and growth in east London. Here’s Alex Potter, programme manager and Ashton Galloway, programme support lead to tell us about the programme’s local impact and what’s in store for the next cohort.

Could you tell us about the impact of the programme?

Alex: Primarily the focus is job creation. Specifically, jobs in East London. But we’re flexible when we talk about jobs. It doesn’t have to be a full-time classic nine-to-five role. Things like work experience, internships, contractors or consultancy – all of these different types of jobs can be impactful for the local community, creating opportunities that will help people to make a living.

For a lot of these business owners, these types of roles are the way they make a living. A lot of them have said, “If I wasn’t doing this, I couldn’t be doing anything else”, and some of them have been out of ‘regular’ work for so long, that they would struggle to get a traditional job, but still need to support their families. So it’s about giving them the support they’ve never had.

Ashton: Many people in the community turn to something that they are passionate about, which helps them to drive forward. It’s important to let someone to follow their passion, because as Alex said, that’s how they make a living.

You often refer to the businesses on the programme as ‘real businesses’ – can you explain what you mean by that?

Alex: I’m not saying that the fast growing and scaling tech companies that tend to be on support programmes aren’t real businesses. But often they are built upon this idea of super-fast growth, investment-ready businesses and that isn’t always the case. When I talk about ‘real businesses’, they’re the people who are embedded in their community, and are providing people with what they really need day to day, but also creating jobs as their businesses grow, all within the local area.

Ashton, as someone who has just joined Allia, what do you think is most exciting about the ‘Grow Your Business’ Programme?

Ashton: For me personally, it’s being active within a place that I’ve grown up and I’ve got connections in, and I know what’s going on in the community. It makes me feel good to be able to interact with people within a place that I’ve spent a lot of time growing up, and to be able to give back – which is something that other jobs can’t offer me.

Do you have examples of businesses that have been particularly successful on the programme?

Alex: Lou’s Pots and Pans, an awesome Caribbean food business, was on one of the very first cohorts in Hackney. Lyndon hadn’t been making much in terms of revenue, and was operating from his own house. After the programme, he’s now on sites like Uber Eats making a significant amount of revenue every weekend. He has now employed people to help him and has got a bigger kitchen – so he has seen a significant impact from the support he received on the programme.

Even after the 3 month programme is over, I’m very keen on all alumni still feeling like they’re part of the family. Even though it’s been a year since the first cohort graduated, we still welcome them into any new sessions and workshops; it’s important for them to know they’ve still got the support even after the programme officially ends.

For the upcoming cohort, you are combining two boroughs – Hackney and Tower Hamlets, which you haven’t done before. What do you think this will bring?

Alex: Integration. Some of the best things about this programme is having a photographer from the Newham cohort do the product photography for someone on the Hackney cohort, or a filmmaker from the current cohort produce films that helps someone from the first cohort. If you’ve got businesses from Tower Hamlets and Hackney meeting and networking with people that they wouldn’t otherwise, I think some great synergies will emerge.

What kind of businesses should apply for the programme?

Ashton: It’s simple – applicants just need to know that the programme is there for them to scale and grow their business. And we’re here to support them to grow. I would love to see all types of businesses. The other day I came across someone that was doing some cool things with wallpapers, so it really could be anything!

Alex: I’d like to get more businesses that we haven’t supported before. Just looking at Ashton, he’s got some really cool glasses on – so I’d like to get an opticians or maybe a shoe shop or a tattoo artist – that would be really cool.

Ashton: If you’ve got a business and you’re passionate about it, and you’re looking to develop it and grow it, then you should be part of the programme.


Applications are now open for the next ‘Grow Your Business’ programme, starting in July. Exclusive to businesses that are based in Hackney or Tower Hamlets, or are supporting the local area in some way. Click here to find out more and apply