THE achievements of young Oldham business people and enterprise projects backed by retired businessman and philanthropist Sir Norman Stoller were celebrated at a special presentation.
The ‘Stollerbration’ event was held at the Mahdlo Youth Zone. It highlighted how 140 businesses have been supported and 280 jobs created through a range of support from the Oldham Enterprise Trust, which is backed by the Stoller Charitable Trust.
During his career, Sir Norman built-up the Seton tubular bandage business in Oldham. Now retired, he spends considerable time on philanthropic activities in Oldham and Greater Manchester through the Stoller Charitable Trust.
In Oldham, the Stoller Charitable Trust supports a number of projects and organisations including the Oldham Enterprise Trust. The enterprise trust runs a range of programmes and support aimed mainly at younger people including business grants and loans, business and skills advice, and educational schemes.
At the Stollerbration, speakers included young Oldham people who have received help to start their own businesses along with representatives of the education sector and Oldham Enterprise Trust (which is also an Oldham Business Edge magazine partner).
Business and education consultant Kashif Ashraf, who works with the trust, welcomed guests and said the event would be led by youngsters who have benefitted from the various projects supported by Sir Norman’s activities.
So the main speaker was Eric Bishyika, who runs fashion brand Bishyika Ltd, and has been supported by Sir Norman-backed activities.
Eric is also the chairman of the Youth Enterprise Network Oldham (YENO) which provides a meeting place for enterprising young people, including those who have been supported with loans or grants.
He said: “This event was organised by YENO and Oldham Enterprise Trust to highlight the support Sir Norman has given to Oldham over the years. Sir Norman is a first-class businessman and has been involved in many good causes. It’s a privilege to be here today.
He added: “YENO brings together young people from different races and backgrounds who want to get involved in business and also give something back to the borough.”
The YENO group recently visited Google’s HQ in London with Wayra, the digital start-up business accelerator which is part of Telefónica Open Future. Wayra has opened its northern office at Oldham’s Digital Hub on Yorkshire Street and is looking for more technology based business to nurture (see separate story about the Google trip in the news section).
Eric also highlighted another programme in Oldham called the Business Incubator Group (BIG) which helps young entrepreneurs plus others, such as apprentices, whose skills, confidence or ideas may be less-developed and need support to achieve their ambitions.
Graham McKendrick, Oldham Enterprise Trust manager, said: “Funding from Sir Norman Stoller is the catalyst for a lot of enterprise activities for including YENO and work done by Kashif Ashraf with schools. These include work with primary schools, grants for under-25s and loans for 26 to 35-year-olds.
“One former recipient, Greg Cookson, now employs 26 people with contracts for special educational needs children in Oldham and Tameside. His business is now providing wages for a lot of people.
Graham added: “We have a big responsibility to make sure that young people can contextualise their educational learning in school, that their skills are transferrable into the workplace. Kashif is central to our work in developing links with schools to make sure young people are given a sense of what a quality business education is about.”
Two videos were shown featuring Oldham youngsters in business education activities in Manchester city centre, the Trafford Centre and at Oldham College’s Grange Arts Centre, ans science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) activities.
Then young business people spoke about the help they had received.
They included Connor Hall of digital enterprise Live & Now (Live Oldham), Dillan O’Connor of PE activities business Dream Big Sports, which has created 11 jobs; and Matt Street of Team Karting, who struggled at school with dyslexia but has enjoyed success running an indoor go-karting venue. His business now employs 33 staff.
Other young speakers included Adam and Jack Dunkerley of AJ 1-2-1 Coaching and Alex Hoskyn of the Chatty Café scheme to tackle loneliness, which is now supported by 1,000 cafes across the UK. Oldham mentor Andy Hall of Business Growth Hub was also thanked.
The next speaker was Dave Benstead, Oldham Enterprise Trust chairman. He said: “I want to thank Sir Norman and everybody who has supported Oldham Enterprise Trust over the years. We wanted to develop an entrepreneurial community starting with young people. It would have been little more than a vision without the support from Sir Norman.
“Funding is very important. But so is advice, mentorship and talent. The facts speak for themselves about job creation and funds given out. We’ve tried to give young people a platform to talk about their activities, inspire other young people, look at the risks and pitfalls of business, and how to survive and flourish.
“It’s important that we continue to support young people and develop community leaders who will go into schools and colleges and inspire other young people. All these activities need to be sustainable and, if we can continue this work, this will be great for the economy of Oldham and its journey with enterprise and skills.”
Then Sir Norman Stoller gave a speech. He said: “Nothing gives me greater pleasure than meeting young entrepreneurs. The satisfaction it gives me is enduring.
“Six years is a short time but we have achieved some great things in that period and I want to thank Graham McKendrick, Dave Benstead and Kashif Ashraf who have done so much.
“You have all been very kind to me today. But you’ve not been funded by me. You’ve been funded by the Stoller Charitable Trust team and all the hard work done by them and the enterprise trust. But it shows that through working together and combining your ideas, energy and skills, you can achieve great things.
He added “ I’ve also been impressed with Eric Bishyika and Oldham Council. The council has always been under-estimated and under-valued. It does enormous work for the area and the new leader, Councillor Sean Fielding, is working hard too.”
Sir Norman presented certificates to the young entrepreneurs and received a YENO T-shirt and nostalgic painting of the former Oldham town centre Mumps railway bridge area by artist Cliff Murphy. For many years, the bridge featured a welcome to Oldham message from Seton tubular bandages firm which he built-up.