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London-based entrepreneur meets with Liz Earle through BT & Google SME campaign

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Education entrepreneur and founder of The Uni Social, Ropa Ushe, recently met with beauty boss and wellness expert Liz Earle MBE for an exclusive one-to-one mentoring session to get advice and guidance to help The Uni Social thrive and grow post covid.

Ropa Ushe’s session with Liz is part of a national Get Mentored, Get Growing campaign by BT and Google to support small businesses through mentoring and digital skills. 

“FAILURE TO PREPARE IS PREPARING TO FAIL”: CANNING TOWN ENTREPRENEUR MEETS WITH LIZ EARLE MBE TO DRIVE BUSINESS GROWTH POST PANDEMIC

The Uni Social founder has exclusive mentoring session with beauty boss and wellness expert as part of BT and Google’s free digital skills mentoring initiative.

Canning Town-based Ropa Ushe, 26, is preparing to launch The Uni Social, an online platform where university students can connect, discuss and share ideas based on their course, level of study and university. The idea for the business came after Royal Holloway graduate Ropa realised that students don’t have a social media platform that is dedicated specifically to them. With the business idea in place, Ropa was looking for ideas on creating an effective marketing plan to increase brand awareness and attract users as well as what to expect as a new entrepreneur. 

According to BT research* almost half (49 per cent) of all UK small firms like The Uni Social are worried their business wouldn’t survive without external support, while 64 per cent said they’d be more likely to adopt new technologies if the IT and telecoms industry provided training. 

Ropa Ushe, founder of The Uni Social said: “I found the mentor session with Liz so insightful – she was really open about what The Uni Social needs to do next and it’s that kind of transparency that can really help move a business on to the next stage of its journey. You just don’t get that level of honesty from friends and family.

“I now have a better understanding of some of the business pitfalls in which I might otherwise have got caught out by. With Liz’s expert advice I’ll be able to spot some of the typical startup mistakes, as I know what to watch out for.

“Having a mentor has meant I’m a lot more prepared to take on the unexpected – I’ve been able to benefit from the experience of somebody who has already gone through what I’m going through and have been able to view my business in new ways. As Liz told me, failure to prepare is preparing to fail!”

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Liz Earle said: “It was a real pleasure to meet with Ropa, hearing about the business and sharing my expertise. When my wellbeing publishing brand was launched more than twenty years ago, our mail order business was based around paper forms and payments by cheque. Today everything moves at a completely different pace. You have to act like a publisher on your social media channels and be super responsive to customers who want a real-time answer, not a letter in the post! With my later publishing brand, we had to learn a mass of digital skills super-fast and I encourage small businesses like The Uni Social to grab all the available resources and training they can to help successfully navigate their way in the online world.” 

In October, Liz Earle joined BT and Google’s team of dedicated digital skills experts that provide one-to-one mentoring sessions for small businesses as a Guest Mentor, together with Dragons’ Den star Levi Roots. The Uni Social is one of eight UK SMEs that won the opportunity to meet with Liz and Levi after applying online to receive personalised advice on how to tackle the challenges and opportunities facing businesses in a digital-first world.  

The Uni Social now joins the thousands of small businesses that have already benefited from the BT and Google initiative, which aims to address the digital skills gap and help boost the UK’s post-pandemic economic recovery. Besides mentoring, the partnership also offers on-demand training webinars which cover a range of topics including, digital marketing, e-commerce and business strategy. 

Both BT and Google are jointly committed to helping small businesses across the UK get better positioned for growth by addressing the digital skills shortage. BT is aiming to reach one million small business owners and their employees by 2025. Since the launch of BT Skills for Tomorrow in 2019, BT has delivered free digital skills training to almost 300,000 UK small business owners and their employees, supported by webinars from Google Digital Garage, putting Google on course to achieve its target of enabling one million small British businesses remain open by helping them be found online. On top of this, Google has exceeded its target of helping train 100,000 UK SMBs. In total, over 700,000 business owners have been trained through the Google Digital Garage programme. 

BT Skills for Tomorrow is helping 25 million people in the UK make the most of life in the digital world by the end of March 2026. The programme is completely free and designed to help everyone from children and their parents, older and more vulnerable people, to job seekers and small businesses. Working in partnership with leading digital skills, enterprise and community organisations, BT have created and collated some of the best courses, webinars and advice in one easy-to-navigate place.

Since the Covid-19 crisis began, BT has provided support for all its customers – from providing unlimited data for broadband customers and offering unlimited mobile data for any NHS staff on EE, through to supporting the homeless, and connecting the NHS Nightingale hospitals and providing hundreds of free digital skills and educational resources. The resources provide support in a wide range of areas – from home-schooling to business webinars and include help for people with low or no digital skills to ensure they can keep in touch with loved ones and access vital health services.

Google Digital Garage is one of Google’s flagship investment programmes in the UK, providing free digital skills training to individuals and businesses.  Since its launch in 2015, they have visited more than 500 villages, towns and cities across the UK and trained over 700,000 people face-to-face and online.  

*Methodology: BT research carried out by Opinion Matters, based on a survey of 1,000 small business owners in April 2021. 

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