Tag Archives: Birkbeck Community

“I’ve been given the skills and confidence to put my ideas out into the world”

MSc Culinary Innovation Management student, Annabel Ola, shares her experience of taking part in Birkbeck’s Pioneer Programme and winning the 2022 Pioneer Award. 

Tell us about your business idea, what is BEKIRI?  

BEKIRI exists to expand the boundaries of modern luxury patisserie. The fusion of classic recipes and African ingredients will offer a new dimension of cultural discovery and appreciation for customers. 

How did BEKIRI come into existence?  

I’ve always loved food. On a trip to Paris, I was in local patisseries, impressed by everything but also unable to find anything I really identified with. So, I started my own specialty cheesecake market stall in my local area, hoping to fill that gap. It worked for a while, but I realised I wanted something a bit more intricate. That’s how I came upon the idea of BEKIRI.  

You had the idea, then what?  

I decided to do the MSc Culinary Innovation Management at Birkbeck, a course run in conjunction with Le Cordon Bleu London Culinary Arts Institute. While it’s not a programme on how to make a patisseries, it is about how to manage and run a food establishment – perfect for what I wanted and needed for BEKIRI.   

How did you get involved in the Pioneer Programme?  

My course was great at providing skills and knowledge for the practical management and operational side of things. But I also wanted something to help me with the vision and implementation of a business strategy. I knew Birkbeck offers lots of support for students with entrepreneurial ideas, so I was actively looking at the different schemes and came across Pioneer on the Enterprise webpage. EnterpriseEnterpriseEnterprise webpageEnterprise webpage page. One of my lecturers also recommended the programme, so I signed up. 

How was it?  

So useful! Through the programme, I was able to take something that was just an idea, identify the different areas to consider, then take action to make it a reality. I learned how to make a really clear business plan, and even got support on developing knowledge in areas like finance and marketing. We were matched with buddies – other students who had their own expertise and knowledge in specific areas – and I’ve created a marketing strategy and set up the financial side of things with the help of mine. I also got feedback and a session on pitching. I’ve never been keen on public speaking, and it was obvious that I was nervous during my entry pitch. By the time I did my final pitch, I was praised for being calm, confident and clear! 

 

Other than practical skills, what are some of your biggest takeaways?  

I’ve been given the skills and confidence to put my ideas out into the world. It’s given me the self-belief to put resources or pitch packs together, contact people, and make unique connections. The fact that I was doing all of this alongside a community of fellow entrepreneurs was also really helpful. All the finalists are still in touch and so supportive of one another.   

Would you recommend the Pioneer programme to current or prospective students?  

100%! It’ll give you a support network, contacts and knowledge to build your confidence. When I joined the programme at the start, I wasn’t convinced I’d enter the competition. By the end, my confidence had grown so much that I decided to enter – and I ended up winning! Even if you don’t win, it’s so valuable. You pick up so many skills and contacts, it’s a great springboard.  

What’s next?  

The prize money is going into product development to get an initial menu together. I’ve pitched for BEKIRI to trade at Mercato Mayfair – an upscale foodhall with a focus on sustainability and uniqueness – and there’s interest from them. I’m also looking for more opportunities to pitch my business and figure out what strategy is best to get more funding. Someone that I met on the programme is helping me figure that out too! I’m so excited that it’s coming together… I can’t wait to see where I can take BEKIRI next. 

More Information 

 

Share

Five things you may not know about Ramadan

Ramadan is the ninth month in the Islamic calendar and one of the holiest months of the year for Muslims. This year around two billion Muslims, including Alumna and Barrister Hauwa Shehu, are observing it. Muslims follow the lunar calendar, therefore the start and end of Ramadan changes each year depending on the sighting of the moon. The end of Ramadan is marked by a celebration called Eid Ul Fitr. In honour of this special month, Hauwa shares five things that you may not know about Ramadan. 

photo of Hauwa Shehu

Hauwa Shehu

  1. Purpose of Ramadan

Although many people associate Ramadan as being the month in which Muslims fast for around 30 days, from sunrise to sunset, many are unaware that this is not the main purpose. The main purpose is to attain something which in Arabic we call “Taqwa” and can be translated into English as being “God-consciousness” (Surah Al-Baqarah –  Quran 2:183). During Ramadan, Muslims make every effort to do good deeds and actions that would be pleasing to God and abstain from bad things. And we try to think of God, who we refer to as Allah, our creator, in everything that we do.

  1. Fasting exemptions – not everyone fasts

There are many exemptions for people who may not be able to fast, therefore you shouldn’t assume that every Muslim is fasting during Ramadan.  Examples of reasons why some Muslims do not fast include if they have a health condition, are elderly, pregnant, breastfeeding, travelling or menstruating. Despite this, they are able to observe the holy month in many other ways, e.g. by praying, reading the Quran, giving charity, supporting their family and community, and avoiding things like gossiping, telling lies or speaking / thinking badly of others.

  1. Month Quran revealed – Laylatul Qadr

The Quran was revealed to Prophet Muhammed (PBUH) during the month of Ramadan. In particular, Muslims believe it was revealed during the last 10 nights, on a night known as “Laylatul Qadr”- “the night of decree” (Surah Al-Qadr – Quran 97:1). A night in which Allah decides everyone’s fate for the coming year. In light of this, Muslims increase in acts of worship and good deeds more so at this time, as the Quran tells us that any actions and deeds carried out on this night are greater than if you did them for 1000 months.

  1. Health benefits of Ramadan

For those who do not have any pre-existing medical conditions, fasting has been medically proven to have a number of health benefits including improved blood pressure, metabolism and brain function. It also benefits mental health and wellbeing. Psychologists state that any action undertaken consistently for 30 days becomes a habit. Therefore by engaging in positive behaviours throughout Ramadan, Muslims also benefit psychologically and try to maintain the positive habits throughout the year.

  1. Zakat Ul -Fitr

A big part of Ramadan is charity. Muslims try to increase their charitable giving during this time. Zakat Ul Fitr is a charitable donation of food that all Muslims who can afford it, must give. It amounts to approximately £5 and reminds all Muslims to think of and have compassion for those less privileged than them.

Supporting Muslim friends, peers and colleagues

  1. Share celebratory greetings

Wish them ‘Ramadan Mubarak’ at any time throughout the month. At the end, during Eid, you can use the phrase ‘Eid Mubarak’.

  1. Join in with a fast-a-thon

Many non-Muslims choose to fast for 1 day during Ramadan. Either from sunrise to sunset or simply by missing lunch. The idea is to give an idea of what it is like to fast and try and abstain from bad or negative thoughts/ actions for a period of time. Money saved from not having lunch that day can be donated to charity

  1. Attend an Iftar

Iftar is the name for the meal in which Muslims break their fast. There are many iftars taking place around the country. You can check online on sites like Eventbrite or ask at your local mosque. But the biggest public Iftars are run by Ramadan Tent Project –  Open Iftar. Take a look, and join one of the events for delicious free food and heart warming company.

  1. Work flexibly

Many Muslims engage in prayers late into the night (Taraweeh) and wake up very early to eat before sunrise (suhoor), so consider avoiding extremely early starts if working with Muslim peers and colleagues. It is also common for some people who are fasting to get tired later in the day, therefore it is considerate to avoid scheduling meetings or deadlines in the later part of the day.

  1. Check in

Check in on Muslim contacts during this time. Never make assumptions about how someone is observing Ramadan. The best thing to do is ask questions when unsure.

 

References and Further Reading

https://www.muslimaid.org/media-centre/blog/the-benefits-of-fasting/

https://quran.com

https://www.islamic-relief.org.uk/about-us/what-we-do/zakat/zakat-ul-fitr/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/fasting-benefits

https://britishima.org/ramadan/compendium/

https://mcb.org.uk/resources/ramadan/

https://www.zakat.org/valid-exemptions-for-not-fasting-ramadan

Share