Young, gifted and black: Business and media choices

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Britain's black community is brimming with talented media and business people. And why shouldn't it be? And why, though this article is welcome, do we have to run special features to prove that fact? I partly blame my profession. The media can be lazy when it comes to portraying positively people who don't look like those who control it. The result is that the public has a skewed idea as to what we are really about.

The coming years will see more and more of us making our mark, but I suspect the real progress will come from those who form their own businesses

Michael Eboda is the editor of 'New Nation '

Tim Campbell, 30, Entrepreneur

Campbell was a graduate trainee at London Underground before being picked by Sir Alan Sugar as the winner of the first series of the BBC TV show The Apprentice. He has since launched a cosmetics business for Amstrad, started his own male-grooming business and launched the Bright Ideas Trust, an enterprise to help young entrepreneurs. Well-mannered, a good decision-maker and cool under pressure, Campbell is perhaps the most visible figure for black youth outside the sports and entertainment arenas.

Campbell says: "I don't really think of myself as young black talent. When I get up, I don't look in the mirror and say, 'Morning, black guy.' I just see myself as an individual trying to work diligently to maximise my opportunities. I was doing well at London Underground, but The Apprentice gave me the chance to go quickly up a different ladder. I couldn't pass up on the opportunity to work with Sir Alan.

"For me, the drive to succeed is not about proving something to others; I just want to make sure I don't lose out on the opportunities I've been given. I come from a humble background but given the opportunity, anyone can succeed. I've chosen the business route because the rules of engagement are clear: if your numbers stack up, you will succeed, irrespective of your background."

Michelle Ogundehin, 39, Editor-in-chief, 'Elle Decoration'

Ogundehin became editor-in-chief of the interiors bible this year, having been editor for the past three. Her tenure has seen the title feature top photographers, the latest designers and stunning homes from around the world.

Eboda says: "What Ogundehin doesn't know about interior design is not worth knowing. She has taken the magazine to another level. She's extremely passionate about what she does – and she's a nice person too."

Justine Mills, 33, Owner, Cricket

Mills launched Liverpool designer boutique Cricket 14 years ago, after dropping out of university. It has since become a second home for many footballers' wives.

Eboda says: "Behind all the glamour, Mills is a great businesswoman who is one of the shrewdest buyers in the industry."

Damon Buffini, 45, Private-equity don

As a managing partner of Permira, Europe's biggest private-equity firm, Buffini has become one of the most powerful businessmen in Britain. Worth £200m, he has staggering influence, and is said to have the ear of the prime minister.

Eboda says: "He is a very private person, but could easily become the first black British billionaire."

Jonathan Mildenhall, 40, Vice-president, global creative and communication development, Coca-Cola

Mildenhall, who grew up on a tough Leeds council estate, is now based in Atlanta, heading a $2bn department for one of the world's most-recognised brands.

Eboda says: "When he was about to become head of marketing for Coca-Cola, and while everyone was slapping him on the back, he was cooler than Samuel L Jackson. He is a great communicator and highly intelligent."

Eva Simpson, 30, Columnist, 'Daily Mirror'

The only regular black columnist on a daily national newspaper, Simpson was one of the Mirror's original "3AM girls".

Eboda says: "Some say that she was ultimately responsible for the demise of Sven-Göran Eriksson, as she broke the story about his affair with Ulrika. There was never a doubt when she was at New Nation that she would go on to bigger things."

Gary Younge, 38, Journalist

Younge is an author and columnist based in New York. He has won numerous awards while reporting from South Africa, Europe and America for The Guardian as well as The Washington Post, LA Times and magazines such as Marie Claire and GQ Style.

Eboda says: "Younge's opinions are respected both within and outside the black community. His writing is as sharp as his brain."

Dr Uchenna Okoye, 37, Dentist and clinical director, London Smiling

Dr Okoye has become the cosmetic dentist for London's rich and famous. One of the few British dentists with a Masters in aesthetic dentistry, as well as membership of both the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry and the British Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry, Dr Okoye is an ambitious businesswoman, running two surgeries and a consultation room.

Eboda says: "Dr Okoye is charismatic and one of the most positive individuals you will ever meet."

Michael Prest, 44, Physical oil trader

Prest runs Petrodel Resources, the biggest independent, black-run oil company in the world. Last year the company's turnover was close to $2bn.

Eboda says: "I confess that Michael is one of my oldest friends. I went to university with him, and he has always had a head for business. At university he would disappear, only to turn up a few days later with the latest clothes to sell. Eventually, we found out that he was flying from Nigeria to Rome, where he would pick them up."

Sonita Alleyne, 40, Co-founder and director, Somethin' Else

As head of the biggest independent radio and cross-platform production company in the UK, Alleyne is an influential figure in British media. Somethin' Else, which she co-founded in 1991, is now valued at an estimated £20m, and syndicates radio content to more than 65 countries. Alleyne has attracted clients ranging from the BBC and Disney to Virgin Atlantic.

Eboda says: "To start a company with £1,500 and turn it into the company's biggest independent radio-production firm in just over 15 years, you must be smart."

Research and interviews by Jamie Merrill

Comments