Stephanie Itimi, founder of Seidea, talks to BQ about her goal to help thousands of BAME women to gain employment in the cybersecurity sector and how her personal experience inspired her to get her social enterprise started.
What does your social enterprise do?
We help BAME females build Cybersecurity and IT careers by offering e-learning lectures and webinars from industry experts for a membership fee of £14.99 per month and reinvest 35% of our profits on our community initiatives: Sei-Code, Sei-Policy and Seipod.
Sei-Code: an empowerment project which teaches BAME girls aged 9-16 how to code and build up their confidence through animated storytelling. Using Scratch, Google CS-First, the coding club introduces students to programming through fun video game development.
Sei-Policy: Birthed out of UN Women #16DaysOfActivism, Sei-Policy is an annual survey which aims to fill in the data gap on cyber violence against women. Focusing on BAME women in the UK and Women in Nigeria.
Seipod: a monthly podcast focused on empowering BAME women with the knowledge needed to be secure online.
What made you start your business up?
I started my business based on my personal experience, being both a woman and black in the cybersecurity space can be isolating because there are not many of us. The desire didn’t really take form until after my trip to Kenya. I was invited to join as a panellist at the UN Women Africa Youth conference, speaking on the topic of Understanding and Breaking the Cycle of Technology Assisted Violence, I hoped to encourage greater youth inclusion in projects to build safe digital spaces across the nation. What was brought to my attention from speaking to various important stakeholders is that women are being left out of the cybersecurity discourse due to so very few women being in the sector. This has led the digital safety of women to be position last in the cybersecurity agendas, especially in the case of developing nations.
The desire then turned into curiosity as to why there are not many BAME Women in the sector and after many discussions and surveys, Seidea was born. A membership organisation that goes beyond just offering information we also partner up with career coaches and certification trainers to offer our members discounts, thus giving them a much more personalised service in their journey within the cybersecurity industry. The end goal is that with more BAME Women in cybersecurity, more will be done to protect women online. This is why our community initiatives are a key element to Seidea, as we don’t only want to upskill women but to train them to be changemakers within the industry.
How do you measure your impact?
We measure our impacts through engagement levels, surveys and testimonials. The ultimate aim is to get our members a job within the industry.
What help did you have to start your social enterprise?
My social entrepreneurship journey truly started with the Red Bull Amaphiko London global programme that champions social entrepreneurs driving positive change in their corner of the world. I was fortunate to be selected into their London 2-day boot camp programme and it was an acceleration because it gave you the practical tools needed as an entrepreneur. We had the opportunity to understand the various legal structure, how to communicate ideas and where to find funding.
I have been fortunate to get help from our sponsors. Coventry University London has been a vital partner in this journey by helping Seidea with venue spaces for meetings and podcast space. Regarding our community initiatives, Kingdom Harvest Church has helped us a great deal with providing space for the girls. Google has been a key partner in Sei-code offering us the curriculum and learning materials. UN Women has been a great source of help and inspiration to Sei-Policy.
Seidea would be nothing without its advisory board which offers strategic guidance on the important decisions that the social enterprise must take like its legal structure, mission, aims and events. The board consists of Bushra Burge, Helen Babalola, Harry Phinda and Sonya Barlow.
How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?
It took a while to decide on a structure, however, after a meeting with my advisory board we settled on registering Seidea as a Community Interest Company (CIC). This is because our business is centred around serving not just the community which consists of our members but much wider than that.
What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?
The best thing about being a social entrepreneur is the joy of eating but ensuring that others eat too. What I mean by that statement is that social entrepreneurship is about having a mission with the desire to not only make money and become successful but to create social and economic access for the community around you.
What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?
The biggest challenge has been understanding the clear line between a charity and a social enterprise. There are many ideas to help BAME Women but the important questions we ask ourselves is that firstly, is it sustainable and secondly, do we have the capacity to finance it? When an idea does not meet these two thresholds we abandon it for the meantime, until we are in a position to actualise it.
What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?
The first advice I would give to an inspiring social entrepreneur is to conduct a business model canvas for your social enterprise. This would be essential to have a business plan but also to keep you grounded as although your company has a social cause attached to it, it is still a business at its core. The second advice I would give is collaborations, you are unable to do everything yourself, be reflective enough to understand which areas you lack and be open enough to collaborate with others in those areas. The last tip is self-care, the entrepreneurship life is hard, create a schedule. This would make things more manageable and write everything down in a diary so you don’t forget things.
What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?
Velocity by Ajaz Ahmed and Stefan Olander
The Bright Continent: Breaking Rules and Making Change in Modern Africa by Dayo Olopade
The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin
How to win friends and influence people by Dale Carnegie
The Leader in you by Dale Carnegie
Red Bull Amaphiko
What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?
Our plan in the next 2-5 years is to engage more with cybersecurity companies and hopefully partner up to create apprenticeship programmes and internships for our members, as one of the barriers to entry is not only the certifications but lack of experience. We also hope to increase our training providers and career coaches network to create more value for our members as we continue to grow.
The main goal is to help thousands of BAME Women gain employment within the cybersecurity sector.
Regarding our community initiatives, in five years we hope to have more impact globally.
These are our current goals:
Teach 200+ BAME girls how to code
Increase our podcast reach globally
Fill in the data gap on cyber violence against BAME women in the UK
Fill in the data gap on cyber violence against Women in the Global South
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