Founders Unite: Meet Ultra Education – inspiring the next generation

Ultra Education
Ultra Education
Natalie Clarkson
by Natalie Clarkson
17 April 2023

Virgin Unite launched the Founders Unite Award at the end of 2022 to find organisations working to tackle the systemic barriers facing entrepreneurs from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities. Virgin Unite has since announced the three finalists for the award, who will present their ideas at a roundtable event later this month.

One of the finalists is Ultra Education, which inspires young people to consider entrepreneurship. We caught up with CEO Julian Hall to find out more.

Tell us about Ultra Education.

We teach entrepreneurship to children and young people. We do that because we believe that entrepreneurial skill set and mindset can help to increase the life chances of people from underrepresented communities.

Ultra Education
Ultra Education

We know that there's a really high aspiration within the Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities, but there isn't as much opportunity for access to training skills, or ways to realise their passions. And often because of historic barriers that have been faced by people from these communities, traditional routes to careers and employment has been more difficult.

So we’ve been showing children and young people that there’s another way – entrepreneurship is an alternative to achieving their ambitions. Life comes with challenges, but we help young people to navigate them and to leverage the skills that will help to increase their life chances, and overcome some of the traditional barriers to success.

How are you supporting entrepreneurs from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities?

We’ve worked with over 30,000 young people over the last eight years and we’ve rolled out a number of really successful events and initiatives. Recently we were invited to partner on a Black-led co-working space in the heart of Wembley Park in partnership with Brent Council, and a youth platform called Slinky. It’s a co-working space for digital entrepreneurs and we’re offering free desk space for a year, and they also get free support and training. It’s a safe space for culturally diverse digital entrepreneurs.

That’s alongside the work we do for young people. I think one of the reasons that entrepreneurs find their journey so difficult is because entrepreneurship is usually only introduced in adult life. But if it’s introduced earlier, then you can have a go. You can practise some of those skills, and experiment to see if it’s something you want to do later in life. Or you could take that skill set and that mindset into a career.

Ultra Education
Ultra Education

Why do you think it’s important to support people from these communities?

The barriers that have existed for Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities have been in place for decades. For us, it’s about creating equity and getting us to a point where the support can be in place very deliberately, and is also delivered by those who have the same lived experience.

It’s done in a way that can genuinely support from a place of experience, rather than a lack of understanding. And we know that there’s a massive appetite for entrepreneurs from Black, Asian and other minority ethnic communities to be ambitious and to be able to create generational wealth.

Why did you enter the Founders Unite Award?

When it comes to business and entrepreneurship, the Virgin brand has an obvious history in creating a really strong and visible brand around entrepreneurship. People are familiar with the brand and are inspired by Richard Branson.

I think that the award would help young people to realise that there are big brands out there who believe in them – and I think that’s massively important. It’s like standing on the shoulders of giants. For us, we can carry that message back to the young people we work with. It’s less about what it means to me, and more about what it would mean for the young people we work with and the communities that we support.

The Founders Unite roundtable event will take place during April 2023, where the winner will be selected by attendees, including Holly Branson and Karl Lokko. The winning organisation will receive a package of support from Virgin Unite to help further their work in levelling the odds for Black, Asian and other minority ethnic entrepreneurs.