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Project to boost female entrepreneurship in Leeds launches at Unity Business Centre

Unity Business Centre has hosted the launch of a new programme designed to empower female entrepreneurs in Leeds to achieve their business goals.

The Fund Her Leeds project – a combination of virtual and in-person events – has been developed by Fund Her North in partnership with the Yorkshire Asian Business Association (YABA) and backed by grant funding from Leeds City Council’s Innovation@Leeds programme.

It aims to provide focussed support for selected female entrepreneurs, particularly those from Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic backgrounds, in areas including access to bespoke finance, readiness for growth and pitch deck preparation.

The launch event included speeches from two senior elected members of Leeds City Council – Cllr Salma Arif, Executive Member for Public Health and Active Lifestyles, and Cllr Mohammed Rafique, Executive Member for Environment and Housing – together with contributions from YABA Board member Dally Purewal and Fund Her North co-founders Jordan Dargue and Helen Oldham.

Welcoming participants, Jordan Dargue said: “To be able to grow a business successfully, you have got to bring investment in – whether that is grant-based investment, community investment or private equity.  However, for every pound that goes into a male-founded business in the UK, only one penny goes into a female-founded business which is clearly very unbalanced.

“That is why it is so fantastic to see such see a diverse group of women in the room.  I am delighted we are doing this programme at Unity Business Centre.”

The building is one of three centres operated by Unity Enterprise, the not-for-profit subsidiary of Leeds-based housing association Unity Homes and Enterprise, to support entrepreneurial activity in the city.

Sharon Jandu OBE, Unity Enterprise Chair, told the gathering: “I believe in powerful business partnerships.  This is a fantastic partnership with Fund Her North, YABA and Leeds City Council who are all doing amazing things.

“Unity Enterprise is proud to be teaming up with them to run this programme right in the heart of the local community.”

Cedric Boston, Unity Homes and Enterprise Chief Executive, said: “Fund Her Leeds is a first class initiative which we are really pleased to host.

“Unity is wholly committed to inclusive growth by helping people set up and grow their own successful business.  Each new enterprise has the potential to transform life chances by boosting career opportunities, creating jobs and increasing local prosperity.

“The outstanding speaker line-up and the impressive group of participants at the launch of Fund Her Leeds highlights the depth and quality of female entrepreneurs in the city and the collective determination to achieve even greater business outcomes.”

The Innovation@Leeds support is financed by the UK Government through the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, administered locally by the West Yorkshire Combined Authority.

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Cllr Salma Arif, Executive Member for Public Health and Active Lifestyles at Leeds City Council, addressing the Fund Her Leeds launch event

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Unity Housing Association was formed in 1987 with the objective of building a strong, BME-led, community housing association to address the needs of black and minority ethnic communities in Leeds. The initial focus was on Chapeltown, but this has widened to other areas of the city including Harehills, Beeston, Holbeck, Chapel Allerton and Pudsey. Alongside two schemes in Huddersfield, a new affordable housing development has recently been completed in Cleckheaton. With a turnover of £6.8 million and an annual investment in new and existing homes of around £6.5 million, Unity now manages more than 1,300 properties for tenants from all communities and ethnic backgrounds. In 2000 the association established its not-for-profit subsidiary company, Unity Enterprise, to support local entrepreneurial activity. It now provides 142 affordable business units for more than 80 diverse businesses employing more than 750 people across three centres in Leeds. Unity Employment Services (UES) was set-up in 2011 to support Unity tenants and their surrounding communities in accessing employment and training opportunities. It has since supported more than 1,700 individuals into work and training.

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