As it comes to the end of the year, I like to look back on the BEC’s achievements and what we did in the year. It is so easy with the fast pace to forget some of the milestones, easy to remember the significant ones but sometimes the little ones which mean a lot get lost in the mix.
The two big achievements that spring to mind is that we won the SME News Best Business support initiative for East London in May this year. After a difficult couple of years throwing all our resources at helping the business community survive the pandemic we were delighted and for all involved in the BEC this was very welcome. We all like external validation let’s be honest.
Secondly, we opened Three Sixty workrooms in July 2022, we are immensely proud of the space it’s a great space. I am not going to wear rose coloured glasses it still is a challenge in making it wash its face financially, but we have everything in place to make it successful. We found a company to support with the branding and the marketing which really got behind Three Sixty, and all this without ever having met face to face and being in various parts of the world. The power of technology, and thanks go to Jax and her team at Innocom. However, opening a new space was always going to be a challenge in the middle of a recession but we are not giving up.
With regards to what the BEC does best well we continued to support over 5000 businesses in 2022. We delivered training on business planning, financial forecasting, brand story, social media and marketing and a few others to over 1200 business start-ups and SME’s. Our reach on this training stretches wider than Barking and Dagenham and the surrounding areas in fact on some of the courses it has gone global with participants logging in from the US, Japan, and South Africa regardless of the time differences.
At the BEC we do things differently when it comes to business mentoring; there are support services who provide business mentoring; but our model is to use industry experts to provide the mentoring support. We want business owners with current knowledge to deliver this vital element of our service and we are delighted that in 2022 we delivered 1035 hours of mentoring. In financial terms this is an investment for us of over £50k per year. Our mentors are fabulous, and we are lucky they are part of the BEC family, special thanks go to Andre Arundell and Paul Creavin for superb work this year in difficult circumstances and our congratulations to Andre for completing his MBA.
This was a great achievement with a family, a business to run and supporting the BEC and we are proud of him.
We are acutely aware of the situation in Barking and Dagenham with the recession and at the BEC we are committed to creating jobs for local people. We have begun work to bring all our outsourced roles in house and we have just recruited our caretaking team who will replace the security company we chose who were a start up themselves all those years ago. We will miss Blue Light and Sean Keelan, but the relationship will not be lost, I am sure.
We have continued to embrace partnerships there is one we are so proud of and that is the BD collective of which the BEC is a founding supporter. The BD collective is a network of networks which is reshaping how the social sector work together. In the last year we have seen such a change in the way organisations work together in trust and partnership as well as bringing in over £2.6 million pounds in contracts for services and through external funders into the borough supporting vital work with all residents. It has been a roller coaster of an initiative but its great to see it working in practice. The learning from this is brilliant and I would urge everyone who works for local government and public health to look at the art of the possible.
From a personal perspective it has been a year of highs and lows, I step down as Chair of a board after 15 years at the end of the year of which I am incredibly proud. It gave me a love of arts and culture which will be life long and I have met some great people. I am equally proud that the BEC is now the custodians of a great piece of art by Grayson Perry which was unveiled last week. The sculpture is a typical house on the Becontree estate which was one hundred years old last year. I still live in a road with houses like this, so it has huge sentimental value too. It was great to work with Create London to bring this to life.
Final note to thank my fabulous team at the BEC, we have a small core team who continue to be impressive none more than my work wife the long-suffering Donna Finley our fabulous Operations Director. Lastly to thank my great board of directors who support the BEC in a way that is hard to explain, always there but never micromanaging and that makes every day different at the BEC.
From all of us at the BEC happy holidays and here’s to 2023 whatever that may bring we can face it together 😊