Helping the next generation of business leaders

One of this year's cohort - Mursal Saiq - shares what the Panoply Future Leaders programme has helped her achieve

Sara Hassen
Marketing Manager at Foundry4

The pilot of the Future Leaders programme launched in October 2019, and since then we have received 130 applications and supported 10 Future Leaders over two cohorts.

The programme was created with a mission to shake up the boardrooms of tomorrow by investing in underrepresented talented future leaders today,  giving them the helping hand they deserve.

It seeks out young entrepreneurs and provides them with expertise, mentorship, network and support needed for them to successfully develop themselves and their businesses.

Mursal Saiq was one of the five young entrepreneurs who successfully graduated from the 2020 Future Leaders programme. Mursal was born in Kabul, raised in Mumbai and grew up in Hackney.

She said after becoming tangibly displaced fleeing her home in Kabul, she felt like she had spent the entirety of her youth trying to fit into spaces that were never intended for her. So she decided to create her own.

Cue Point is an inclusive BBQ focused catering company providing accessible and inclusive smoked meats and recipes to a wide range of individuals across the UK, whatever their personal, religious or cultural beliefs, as Cue Point is both halal and vegan-friendly.

Mursal ensures inclusion is what the company is all about. By taking part in events like Black Queer Christmas and teaching prisoners at Pentonville Prison how to cook, she is building a company that does more and wants more. She says as a millennial entrepreneur it is up to us to do things differently and show the corporate world that we can make systemic changes to the way things are done.

We asked Mursal a few questions about her experience of the Future Leaders programme and the impact it has had on both her and her business. 

What did you want from the programme?


I hoped to gain confidence in myself and my abilities as an entrepreneur. To expand my network and learn how the rest of the world runs business. Due to my background everything is self-financed.

I have never gone for something like this, or any kind of investment opportunity, so I am excited to see what people think of me and my company and its potential for growth with some guidance and direction. I’m quite proud of what I have done so far.

Why do you think programmes like Future Leaders who support underrepresented entrepreneurs are important?


I think these programmes are hugely important as they directly try to solve systemic racism internally. A lot of people (like myself) don’t have a large range of contacts, friends, family or connections to develop my company.

People from ethnic, black and minority backgrounds don’t come from spaces where they are encouraged to start a business and create something, it is a very risky undertaking. Most Black, Indigenous, People of Colour (BIPOC) have a safety and security mindset and are encouraged to keep this mindset by their families, who are experiencing their own traumas. If we don’t diversify the entrepreneurial pool, we allow for the same kinds of companies and individuals to continually grow and create the businesses that dictate our futures. Meaning changes don’t happen and we continue to forget about a large portion of the community.

Why did you apply for the Programme?


I applied for the programme because COVID-19 really disrupted the growth and development  of my business. I wanted some form of support to help me through this time and what I got was above and beyond what I expected. It was also a good opportunity to find out about investment opportunities before starting my business.

The more I research the more I learn that BIPOC individuals don’t tend to go for investment opportunities causing a gap in generational wealth within these communities. This further increases negative growth and also monopolised and over-saturated markets.

Why do you think it is important that business leaders of the future look different to the boardrooms of today?


I think business is very much dictated – in a long term sense- by population. If the population is getting more diverse than business needs to follow or it doesn’t make sense from a financial standpoint.

From a social perspective, Black Lives Matter is just one indicator of the social unrest that systemic racism and exclusivity has on our societies and communities. This will only get worse the more it’s ignored.

The lack of diversity also leads to a lack of creativity and innovation. By producing the same sort of businesses with owners from the same sort of backgrounds we basically recycle ideas and package them slightly differently.

 

Can you talk a little bit about your experience on the programme?


The programme was hugely fulfilling, opening me up to a world that had previously been hidden. The areas that I feared were brought into the light through Future Leaders, and I was able to tackle those worries, this is where the magic lies. The curtain fell down to a world that I was intimidated by, I can see that imposter syndrome is rife for BIPOC people and it’s one of the reasons we don’t have enough business owners.

I never imagined I would approach investors and have my very own pitch deck but NOW I am actually transforming my company model and seeking investment via a number of opportunities, I know it will be successful.


What’s happening now…


Clients from years ago in different parts of London became our first and most loyal customers pushing us through the pandemic. Via social media and even through emails they’ve shared great compassion and loyalty. As we are a small business it’s amazing to be able to authentically be so close to our clients especially during a period of turmoil: these conversations have kept me going through a truly turbulent time.

Through repeated lockdowns our competitors used different approaches to manage the situation. We went down the route of commerce and online kits, which was crucial to our development, as not as many people chose this option and it made the market much easier to navigate. Having moved quite quickly we were able to make our mistakes earlier and test what worked and what didn’t. 

Another major development was the decision to pursue a more aggressive National / Regional PR strategy with the commerce model, which paid off as it got us in front of Guardian and Sunday Times food writers. This approach massively increased sales and grew our following and subscribers.

It was jaw dropping how many orders we got. Our Instragram sales became a whole business model on its own, and we deployed a sales and marketing strategy just for this platform. What’s great is that new clients have now become repeat clients. This year is all about nurturing those clients, both with products and content and we’re hoping to move into subscription boxes. 

As we have grown our digital business model we have also seen that the ethical components of our business can be achieved more readily too.  

We have started lunch and learn sessions including digestible diversity and inclusion segments. This work is so close to my heart. Being able to impact individuals through Cue Point is mind blowing and I hope to develop this more, for example by employing and teaching refugees who can gain qualifications in the catering services. 

There’s a lot of work to be done for our dreams to be achieved. It’s weird to say but at times I’m grateful professionally for this turbulent period as like most disasters and chaotic economic periods, we are forced to innovate and be creative. We have to set clear goals, develop even better-defined plans and build a decent support system, and with all this nothing short of the stars is possible.

Looking to Future Leaders 2021


Mursal’s story is incredibly inspiring, and it is brilliant to see the positive impact the Future Leaders programme has had on her and her business. In December Cue Point had an amazing review by Jay Rayner in the Guardian, writing:


‘home-delivered Afghan-Guyanese fusion barbecue is exactly what we all need right now’ and ‘Generally, I roll my eyes when people bang on about food being thy medicine. If I’m ill, I want pharmaceuticals. But a Cue Point delivery did make me feel a lot better.’

The third Future Leaders programme will be launched again this year. We hope that even more people from across the business will get involved and experience supporting incredible young entrepreneurs like Mursal to develop successful businesses that are also making a positive impact in the world. 

 

Sara Hassen
Marketing Manager at Foundry4