Tobias Batkin, Brent business owner and Conservative Local Election candidate in Brent Central's Dudden Hill Ward, outlines his thoughts on how councils can do more to support a new generation of entrepreneurs.
Brent is a fantastic place. To my mind, there are few places that encapsulate the vibrancy and charm of a bustling inner city “village” the way that Brent does. With Wembley seemingly destined to be a city in its own right and attractions, such as Neasden Temple and Wembley Stadium, that draw in crowds from all over the world, I truly believe that the coming years will be laden with opportunities for those who reside in our borough.
My grandparents moved here in the 1930s and would be astounded to see the transformation of the last 10 years. But, what are we doing to ensure that the growth of our borough doesn’t simply pass us by? Wouldn’t it be nice if all this new economic activity gave rise to a new generation of budding Brent entrepreneurs?
Naturally, some will point out that our education system faces far greater challenges than feeding our kids’ dreams and I don’t deny that making our education system function at all is a challenge. I remember what it was like! Truth be told though, there was only one thing missing from the education I received: a belief that I could go on to start the businesses of tomorrow.
It would be no exaggeration to say that I only learned the word entrepreneur once I left sixth form. That should never have been the case. Now that school is sadly an all too distant memory for me, I want my kids to learn what I never did: how to start and run a business. More than that, I want them to see the potential that living and working in a city like London offers them. To encourage this, we need to form stronger links between local businesses and local schools.
To kick things off, we could ask business owners to go into schools, tell kids how they started their businesses and how they too could achieve the same thing. After all, if our kids don’t believe they can, then why would they even try? As I’m sure you can imagine, greater possibilities exist than simple public speaking tours.
Brent Council recently tried to encourage businesses to pay the National Living Wage by offering them discounted business rates. But, frankly, this feels half baked. The Council, as ever, lacks ambition. Instead of a one-off token gesture, how about creating a sliding scale of business rates linked to the work businesses do in the local community? Here are just some of the things that businesses could be nudged into doing:
- Offering incubator space in their offices to local kids;
- Mentoring up and coming local entrepreneurs;
- Providing more work placements for kids from our schools; and
- Director’s giving their time to run local entrepreneur workshops or clubs.
You can see with these ideas alone the possibilities that stand within easy reach. Brent has good businesses. Those businesses possess experienced, knowledgeable people. If we can transfer just some of this knowledge and experience to kids in our schools then we will foster a culture of entrepreneurship.
Imagine what our kids could become if they are given the means and the motivation to succeed. We could inspire local school children by helping them to come up with ideas for new businesses. What about a borough-wide competition? Give classes £10 on submission of a business plan and whoever generates the best return wins. Maybe a trip to see a match at Wembley could be the prize!
My point is a simple one. Brent Council likes to pretend it’s poor. It’s not. The time has come for the Council to stop splurging on vanity projects and to start investing in the local community. Sure, it’s far easier to build a fancy bridge than it is to create deep links between the local business community and local schools. But, Brent is full of ambitious people who have travelled far and wide to come to this great borough to give their kids a chance.
It’s time that our Council matched the ambition of us locals. It’s time to say out with the old and in with the new. The big C’s coming to town: Conservatives!