Our commitment has been there from the start.
In 1995, two of us, Ruth Djang and Vijay Amin, got chatting in our then employer’s kitchen about entrepreneurship and decided there and then that we ought to go into business together to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
We knew that not all businesses would come to business advisers. If we wanted to connect, we would have to go to them taking what we had to offer. These days, this kind of outreach sounds ordinary – but back then it was pioneering stuff – it seemed like ethnic minority-owned businesses were not on anyone else’s radar.
It was a time of high learning experiences and people used to come to pick our brains all the time – but they also provided support when we started ABi Associates. The late David Hill provided one of our first long-term contracts – which we successfully delivered as the Breakout programme. We had a lot of discussions with Jamsheed Engineer and Claude Lamshead, Peter Morgan helped us with marketing and copywriting, Brian Dear carried out our evaluations and did some bid-writing, Dave Hodson and Keith Littlejohns sorted our IT and design, Gerry Smith gave us the opportunity to deliver programmes in Europe, Mike Patel shared with us the concept of shared wealth. Their guidance, advice and ethos is embedded in the ABi DNA– we are grateful to everyone who has helped and supported us through those formative years.
We were very successful with the DTI/Small Business Service “Phoenix Fund” which provided the money for the groundbreaking Faith in Business programme that delivered business support in partnership with black-majority churches. If also funded Fit to Supply, our much-copied project to help small businesses prepare to win contracts from the public sector. We took on the huge Working Broadband ESF project and had to expand staff numbers to cope with delivery while also running programmes targeting the food sector, independent retail and other training programmes.
We needed larger premises and moved into the Grange in North West London (still our company HQ). Our networking events continued to grow and to reach out to different communities in different business sectors. We have had speakers such as Lord Archer, Bill Clinton, Lord Noon, Lord Bilimoria, Rev Jesse Jackson and Martin Luther King III.
Twenty four after those kitchen chats, we are still together and still so passionate about what we do. Our motto “Your Business, Our Passion” is as true today as it was way back in 1995. We believe entrepreneurs are the real change agents in our society. We are proud and privileged to have supported so many talented entrepreneurs and businesses.
We wish them all the best for the future and hope that we can continue to do what we love. It’s not work, it’s a way of life.
Ruth & Vijay April 2019