Business management

Paving the way: Dechomai

Social entrepreneur Bayile Adeoti explains how Covid has affected Dechomai, her social enterprise which helps empower ethnically diverse women, and why strategic partnerships are more important now than ever.

You’re likely to find those values of inclusivity and empowerment in every social enterprise around the UK, including Dechomai – from the Greek meaning ‘to receive (people) with open arms, open heart and open minds’. Founded by Bayile Adeoti – a School for Social Entrepreneurs alumna – the social enterprise addresses the lack of female role models and entrepreneurs from ethnically diverse backgrounds in the hospitality industry.

Adeoti recalls: “When I worked in the hospitality industry as a marketing manager, I’d have Black and minority ethnic (BME) females asking how I got that job because most wouldn’t be seen in those types of jobs; they’d be front of house, or in kitchens. They were asking about how to get in the door, for introductions. There weren’t many people of colour working in hospitality management roles in Scotland. It was about creating those opportunities,” she explains.

Supportive and celebratory

Since 2018, Dechomai has grown to deliver leadership and enterprise courses and programmes to help improve confidence and empower women from diverse backgrounds with the skills to advance their own businesses or ideas and become financially independent. It’s about focusing on the uniqueness of background rather than purely ‘living and surviving’.

The enterprise part of Dechomai creates events and products for businesses and individuals, generating revenue to put back into the social part of the organisation. But because the events industry has been shut down for a year, the business side of the social enterprise has paused, while the social side has been in demand like never before.

“The business side has suffered from Covid,” says Adeoti. “But it’s actually catapulted our social side to where we wanted to be – to invest back into the community, into women we work with. We started by providing tailored food hampers and packages for women from BME backgrounds on low income, who had been working in the hospitality industry. Later, we created accessible, foundational enterprise workshops. Nineteen women completed our pilot scheme – three in London and the rest in Scotland.

“It was a course many women had never seen or been able to access before. For me, it was a hand-holding exercise, the thing I had needed when I was setting up Dechomai. It helped them understand business and finance in a supportive, celebratory environment, before going on to something like the Royal Bank Accelerator scheme. I brought together every organisation that had ever helped me to be a facilitator on one of the workshops.”

The spirit of collaboration

An early Dechomai partner was Glasgow Caledonian University, and Adeoti is passionate about building networks so that like-minded organisations can collaborate to help make a difference. It comes back to opening doors, she says, citing two people in particular who believed in her and her ambition to help Black women develop the mindset of a successful entrepreneur. “I featured on a BBC Scotland film [by Stewart Kyasimire] called Black and Scottish – basically a love letter to Scotland by Black people who grew up in Scotland – and Simon McNamara from NatWest Group saw me on the show and contacted me straight away. He seemed to get what I was trying to do and introduced me to everybody.”

The business side has suffered from Covid, but it’s actually catapulted our social side to where we wanted to be – to invest back into the community, into women we work with

Bayile Adeoti
Founder, Dechomai

Kyasimire is now a director at Dechomai and Adeoti credits McNamara (the bank’s group chief administrative officer) with helping to move her social enterprise forward. “You’re always looking for an opportunity, to be introduced to rooms where you’re not present, and I would say Simon has done that. It’s an opportunity to do what we did last year on a bigger scale. To move our enterprise forward, but also move the community forward.”

Stuart Dearden, regional ecosystem manager at the Royal Bank of Scotland, says: “We are thoroughly looking forward to working in partnership with Dechomai. And we are delighted to partner on a programme of events that will support leadership and enterprise skills for the participants. The partnership will bring a wide range of topics and thought leadership to the forefront, and cover the vital subjects that we know helps set businesses up for success. It is always refreshing working with individuals such as Bayile and the Dechomai team; their passion and determination to create high-quality business support will undoubtedly make a big difference to those lucky enough to have the opportunity to take part.”

Good leadership

Dechomai coaches its students about what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. Adeoti herself knows what good leadership looks like – motivating and empowering others, showing appreciation and enthusiasm for your work and the work of others – and she’s also clear on the part all UK organisations can play to improve representation and opportunity.

“It’s opportunities that are lacking,” she says. “More organisations are looking internally and asking what more can they do: could they partner, could they invest? It just takes that one Simon McNamara to help.”

Long term, she adds, she would love to work with schools in Scotland so that kids can see role models. She describes how uplifting it was to take part in Black and Scottish, for example, and the power of representation. “In Black History Month, we featured people from all walks of life. We had dentists, pharmacists, a female construction worker – to show there is somebody your skin colour working in that industry; the youth can work in any sector because there are people already there, people who created a way and paved the way for them.”

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