Minister hails Visionnaires ‘crucial role’ in boosting entrepreneurship as it rolls out across the UK

Minister for Small Business Paul Scully MP gave his overwhelming support as 12 colleges officially united to launch Visionnaires across the UK during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Visionnaires is a not-for-profit organisation that has already helped more than 400 people start new businesses through its free programmes run through Capital City College Group (CCCG).

Earlier this year CCCG, which comprises three colleges and an apprenticeship provider, formed a community interest company with United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG to bring Visionnaires to eight further colleges.

The new partnership was officially launched at Westminster Kingsway College on 11 November.

Mr Scully said: “Visionnaires has already enabled innovative entrepreneurs to prosper through networking and support. These are initiatives that the Government strongly supports because being able to draw on the experience of others and connect with likeminded people is so invaluable whether businesses are starting up or scaling up.

“Projects like Visionnaires play a crucial role in complementing the support that’s given by the Government, for example our new Help to Grow programmes that will boost productivity by supporting SMEs across the UK with skills development and reaching new customers.

“It’s this Government’s ambition to make the UK the best place to start and grow a business. We want to create an enterprise culture where everyone who wants to be an entrepreneur has the confidence to start a business regardless of their background.

“I’m grateful to Visionnaires, and organisations like them, which can reach out to all parts of our community and help business founders get the practical help they need.”

CCCG, which comprises City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College, College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London and apprenticeship provider Capital City College Training, has been running Visionnaires programmes since 2019.

Visionnaires will now also be available through City of Westminster College, College of North West London, South Thames College, Carshalton College, Kingston College, Lewisham College, Southwark College and Carlisle College.

The partnership has also been backed by Cllr Matthew Green, Cabinet Member for Business, Licensing and Planning at Westminster City Council, and Sophie Shrubsole, Director of Operations at Westminster Business Council.

Visionnaires’ support extends beyond the classroom with a business incubator offering further support to participants’ businesses after they have completed the programme.

Dani Glasser joined Visionnaires and launched her own business GetStuft selling healthy and nutritious food platters online from a kitchen in Clapham, south London, earlier this year.

She said: “I previously ran a digital marketing agency with a friend in Australia but decided to make a change and follow my passion for food. I also had a catering business and wanted to take what I’d learnt from that and refine it into a more streamlined model to get food out on demand.

“I joined Visionnaires because I wanted to set up a business with scale in mind, rather than with a small business mentality, and give it a strong foundation with the best chance of growth. It’s been great having someone help me fill gaps in my knowledge, such as finance, and think about things in different ways, which has really helped shape the future direction of GetStuft.”

In the run-up to the launch, Visionnaires hosted a series of introductory masterclasses on How to Succeed, Sale and Growth, Money and The Perfect Pitch, featuring panels from business leaders and entrepreneurs, including previous Visionnaires participants.

Helen Tomazos, from Maida Vale, west London, took part in the masterclasses to get some advice on starting a business selling Greek pastries inspired by her parents’ Cypriot background.

She said: “The format to the masterclasses was very good, the questions were precise, and the feedback has given me the motivation I need to formulate and kick-start my business idea.

“One of the panel’s quotes was ‘just start’ but they were also realistic that it requires hard work and commitment and there will be highs and lows. They’ve also invited me to observe their place of businesses, which is phenomenal. It’s absolutely inspired me.”

Visionnaires was established by Pablo Lloyd OBE, a social entrepreneur with 20 years’ experience in starting and leading purpose-driven organisations.

He said: “The UK is seeing a real surge in people wanting to set up their own business. Visionnaires has already helped many new entrepreneurs from our diverse communities turn that dream into a reality. Every day we’re helping more of them get their ideas off the ground in our innovative programmes.

“I am delighted that Capital City College Group, United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG have joined forces to expand Visionnaires as an inclusive community of best practice. This will lead to more exciting new start-ups and support the UK’s economic recovery.”

September and October political round-up

As one of the UK’s largest further education organisations, it is important for Capital City College Group to engage with politicians as well as others in the education sector as well as in the wider economy. In particular, MPs of all parties help shape public opinion and Ministers in Government make decisions that affect the funding of colleges and the lives of our staff and students, so meeting them and explaining to them the important work that we do, is very valuable.

The first two months of the new academic year have seen us meet – and impress – many new political contacts and make some friends along the way. We’ve also commented on Government announcements and London’s skills gap. Here’s a summary of our activities.

In September, our Chief Executive Roy O’Shaughnessy published a joint blog with Joysy John, the CEO of the 01Founders coding school which we are a key partner of. The blog, published by the business campaigning group London First discussed what we and 01Founders are doing to help bridge the two digital skills gaps which London is facing. You can read the blog here:

Also in September, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, Nickie Aiken, visited Westminster Kingsway College’s Victoria centre. The centre is home to the college’s renowned School of Hospitality and Culinary Arts and Nickie spent time with us discussing a number of areas including the range and high quality of the college’s hospitality courses, as well as how we helped students continue to learn during the lockdowns caused by the COVID pandemic.

In the middle of October, we had the pleasure of hosting almost 200 people – again at Victoria – at a big event organised by the Department for Education for their stakeholders. The event was a unique opportunity for the group to raise its profile among so many important political contacts at the same time.

As Neil Cox, Head of Policy and Communications for the Group explains: “The event’s attendees was a who’s who of education politicians and opinion formers. As well as the new Secretary of State for Education Nadhim Zahawi MP and his ministerial team, the Permanent Secretary to the Department for Education was there too, and the guest list had people from early years, schools organisations, colleges and the higher education sector. We talked to many of these people and were delighted to give Mr Zahawi a chance to visit the kitchens and chat to some of the students who were working on the food for the guests.”

The event was a great success and we had a lot of wonderful feedback from the DfE and the guests, who were very impressed by the students’ professionalism.

Also in October, we met Kate Green MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Education. Kate is Labour’s key education spokesperson and she spent three hours with some of our senior managers – again at our Victoria centre, which is our closest site to Parliament – discussing a number of important areas including:

  • Apprenticeships and what we think of the current levy system for funding them
  • The Skills and Post-16 Education Bill, especially the role of colleges and other key local stakeholders in the Local Skills Improvement Plans
  • The complex and short-term nature of how further education is funded and how we can encourage a longer-term and more sustainable settlement.

Kate also enjoyed a tour of the kitchens at Victoria and spoke to some of our culinary students about their studies.

And at the end of the month, we commented on the Chancellor’s budget and Comprehensive Spending Review announcement. You can read what CEO Roy O’Shaughnessy thought of it here:

Over the coming months, we will continue our political engagement activities. If you would like to find out more about our political activity or would like us to work with you, please contact Neil Cox, Head of Policy and Communications at

Colleges unite to roll out Visionnaires to help aspiring entrepreneurs start their own business

Twelve colleges have united to become founding partners of Visionnaires, a not-for profit organisation with the potential to help thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs across the UK.

Visionnaires provides free programmes for people wanting to start their own business or become self-employed, which include workshops, seminars, resources, support and advice.

Figures show that:

· Nearly two thirds of UK adults want to set up their own business

· 83 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds dream of self-employment

· More than 650,000 start-ups were founded in the UK from 2019-20

· Start-ups have created 40 per cent of new jobs in the UK.

Visionnaires was originally founded within Capital City College Group (CCCG) in 2019, with United Colleges Group, South Thames Colleges Group and NCG joining to form a community interest company in August this year.

CCCG already runs programmes through City and Islington College, Westminster Kingsway College (WestKing) and the College of Haringey, Enfield and North East London (CONEL), and its apprenticeship and training provider Capital City College Training (CCCT).

The new partner college groups are now rolling out programmes at eight further colleges – City of Westminster College, College of North West London, South Thames College, Carshalton College, Kingston College, Lewisham College, Southwark College and Carlisle College.

Colleges from across the UK are invited to join Visionnaires to encourage entrepreneurship in their communities and grow local economies.

Visionnaires has already helped more than 400 entrepreneurs from many diverse backgrounds start new businesses. A huge 96 per cent of participants have endorsed the programme as ‘excellent’.

Participants take part in practical workshops and receive expert advice and resources on topics including marketing, selling, finance and business planning. They can also promote their business in the Marketplace section of the Visionnaires website and continue to receive support and resources from Visionnaires indefinitely.

Visionnaires also runs workshops to inspire entrepreneurship among young people.

Nicolas and Julia Vendramin launched their fashion business LABELL-D after joining Visionnaires. The company sells collections from top designers made from recycled and sustainable materials.

Nicolas, 40, who previously worked for fashion houses including Hugo Boss, Bally and Harrys of London, said: “The fashion industry is very polluting in its nature and we wanted to do something about that. We’ve always been passionate about sustainable living and decided to set-up our own company to sell sustainable fashion.

“As I’ve always worked in big companies and thought big too – 10 steps ahead – but Wendy, my Visionnaires tutor, brought me down to earth and reminded me that a new business has to start from zero. The six-week course she taught was very pragmatic and helped me focus on the basics and get them right first. It was also great to learn with other entrepreneurs.”

Jay Patel, 29, joined Visionnaires to help him start up his culinary business Flavour Street to enable cooks to sell and deliver their own home-cooked food.

He said: “I have always been a massive foodie. I have family in hospitality and always been around it, but had never really done anything about it. I think the marketing part of the programme was the most helpful for me. I learnt how to plane out a campaign in a structured way. Also, I learnt a lot from the other participants on the programme too.”

Visionnaires’ CEO is social entrepreneur Pablo Lloyd OBE.

He said: “We’ve been running Visionnaires in partnership with CCCG for the past two years where we have seen a lot of demand and very encouraging feedback from participants. We have now developed a rich ecosystem of support for people who want to start their own business or become self-employed.

“Over the past year a number of other colleges expressed an interest in working with Visionnaires, and off the back of that I am delighted the programme is now available with 12 colleges to enable many more people in their communities to fulfil their entrepreneurial hopes and dreams and contribute to their local economy. We are now in discussion with other colleges across the UK to reach even more budding entrepreneurs.”

Click here to find out more about Visionnaires.

Waltham Forest College and Capital City College Group win partnership bid for professional development pilot

Waltham Forest College and Capital City College Group (CCCG) have won a partnership bid for professional development pilot.

The partnership is one of 22 winning bids chosen to take part in a £9.5 million government pilot to bolster teacher training in further education.

World-class further education is essential if we are to meet England’s skills needs and ensure that everyone is empowered to succeed.

The Further Education Professional Development Grant (FEPDG) pilot has been designed to support the commitment made in the Skills for Jobs White Paper to strengthen the professional development of teachers working in the sector to boost teaching practices, and so that young people and adults receive top class education and training.

This is important because evidence shows that the quality of teaching is the single biggest driver of student outcomes.

The FEPDG pilot supports groups of further education providers to develop collaborative approaches for teacher professional development and to share good practice that already exists within the sector.

Waltham Forest College is leading on a successful collaborative bid in partnership with Capital City College Group.

The development project will focus on subject specific professional development to improve the quality of curriculum design and teaching, learning and assessment, helping colleges to further develop a world class workforce ready to deliver the skills needed for future generations.

Janet Gardner, Principal and CEO of Waltham Forest College said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Capital City College Group on this important pilot that will help to further develop the skills of our valuable workforce.

“I welcome the recognition and support for the Further Education Sector with this much needed boost, developing expertise in higher level technical skills and specialisms which will further support economic recovery and support a world class workforce, preparing students to compete in a global market.” 

The pilot will strengthen professional development in key areas of need and test approaches that could be extended to other providers in future. Evidence and resources created through projects will be shared with other FE providers in order to maximise reach and to make sure the sector as a whole benefits from the pilot.

Kurt Hintz, Executive Principal of CCCG, said: “We are delighted to join Waltham Forest College in this project. Our teams are really excited to be collaborating with their peers and partnerships like these show how joined up the London FE sector can be in when given the opportunity.”