Virgin Unite's commitment to advancing equality and economic empowerment
Virgin Unite is committed to embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion and today we share the story of our close friend and board member, Nathalie Richards, the work she does with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London, and the Virgin Unite initiative she helped to create, Founders Unite.
Throughout her career Nathalie has played integral roles in steering organisations toward more inclusive futures. Her background and expertise in entrepreneurship, social impact, and philanthropy have been especially instrumental in shaping Virgin Unite's approach to supporting minority-owned businesses and she was the driving force behind the creation of Founders Unite, ensuring it became a tool for advancing equality and economic empowerment.
Founders Unite launched in November 2022 as a program to help promote diversity and inclusion – celebrating and empowering aspiring minority entrepreneurs to realise their dreams by providing resources, mentorship, and a platform to launch and grow their businesses. The initiative celebrates innovation, but also recognizes the importance of creating opportunities for underrepresented groups. “Entrepreneurship is one of the most powerful tools available to lift communities out of poverty”, said Nathalie, reflecting on the mission of Founders Unite. "It is for this reason that promoting and celebrating social entrepreneurship felt like an invaluable way to drive systemic change for Black community".
Ultra Education, one of the UK’s leading providers of entrepreneurial education for children and young people, was named as the winner of the first Founders Unite Award – in honour of the work that it is doing to tackle the systemic, entrenched barriers faced by founders from Black, Asian, and other minority ethnic communities. The other shortlisted organisations: 1,000 Voices, and Foundervine, are also doing incredible work to level the playing field for underrepresented founders.
Nathalie’s work with Sponsors for Educational Opportunity London (SEO London) is another example of an organisation working to level the playing field for young people from underprivileged backgrounds. Through mentorship, internships, and access to educational resources, SEO London aims to provide the opportunities and support necessary for young talent to thrive in various industries.
SEO was founded 60 years in the US during the civil rights movement, connects students from ethnic minority or low-income backgrounds with roles in elite organisations in Finance, Law, Consulting and Technology that, without their support, they would never be able to access. This month SEO is focussing how, given the current cost of living crisis and challenges facing underrepresented youth, we access those who are most in need of mentorship and support.
“Black History Month is a crucial time to think about the history, triumphs, and contributions of people of African descent, but increasingly I think it as Black Futures Month, where we can all think about how to inspire and create pathways for Black entrepreneurs and voices so that everyone, irrespective of ethnicity, has access to Martin Luther King’s dream of equality and opportunity,” said Nathalie.
SEO, like the Founders Unite finalists and so many other great organisations, are bridging the gap between education, mentorship, and entrepreneurship, and ensuring that talents from all backgrounds can access the tools they need to succeed
Join us in celebrating Black History Month, our fabulous Founders Unite organisations, and the influence and work of Virgin Unite board member and director of SEO London, Nathalie Richards.
By creating opportunities for aspiring minority entrepreneurs and professionals, Virgin Unite and our partners will continue to work to pave the way for a more inclusive and equitable futures and in doing so help shape a better tomorrow for all.