Black-led mentor programme launched in Bristol

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image copyrightMichelle Curtis
image captionBristol artist and Rise2 Inspire mentor Michelle Curtis is the curator of the Seven Saints of St Pauls murals

A new black-led mentorship programme will support aspiring entrepreneurs to “be their true selves”.

Founders of Bristol project Rise2 Inspire, Lynn Mareno and Sandra Gordon, will work with 12 mentors and mentees over a year.

Mentor and Bristol artist Michelle Curtis said: “It’s important for all communities to see people of African descent represented positively.”

The free scheme, aimed at BAME entrepreneurs, launches on 14 January.

Rise2 Inspire, supported by Avon and Somerset Police Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, investment company Hargreaves Lansdown and Bristol venue Lakota, was created after the 2020 Rise Awards were cancelled due to the pandemic.

An annual event that recognises black businesses and achievements in Bristol, The Rise Awards are led by Ms Mareno and Ms Gordon.

The Rise2 Inspire mentors will all be previous Rise Awards winners.

Miss Curtis said: “We need to see positive examples of what can be achieved.

“When I was growing up I saw a lot of creative people within the black community that inspired me, but I didn’t see anyone as a professional practising artist in the industry.

image copyrightLynn Mareno
image captionRise2 Inspire co-founder Lynn Mareno (pictured right) said: "It's important to be mentored by someone that makes you feel safe and not part of a box ticking exercise."

“To be able to support somebody to build their confidence and skill set so they can be their true selves - that is going to be the best thing.”

Ms Mareno said people need to feel “supported enough” to challenge themselves by someone that understands them from a “cultural perspective”.

She said: “I was with the Bristol Black Business Association in the '90s and they helped me open my own business in Clifton, even though people said not to because I would face racism there.

“Mentor programmes like that and Rise2 Inspired give people the space to be themselves and means if they do face challenges they won’t go into that default of 'I’m not good enough'.

“In the black community, people feel they have to prove themselves more and if that’s where a young black person has to come from before they can even challenge themselves, this doesn’t help them to grow.”

Ms Mountstevens said: "It is an honour to support such an innovative programme and I would encourage any BAME individuals who are looking for support and guidance to get involved."

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