CFE Autumn Newsletter 2019

It’s all go & grow at the Centre for Entrepreneurs!


Autumn has arrived all too soon, and with it the start of the newest NEF Fast Track cohort. Throughout the summer, the CFE team have been busy preparing our annual report for 2018/19, which has given me the opportunity to reflect on our positive progress in the past year. I’m absolutely delighted to be able to share some of our key results:

NEF Fast Track alumni have launched more than 140 live businesses which collectively have created over 2,200 jobs and raised more than £100M in early stage fundraising. The valuation of these businesses stands at over £350M;

The impact of CFE research is bringing tangible and positive outcomes – our global Refugee Entrepreneurship Network has grown to 47 member organisations across 21 countries and we look forward to our second annual summit later this month and are delighted to have gained additional financial support from the Saïd Foundation for this work. We have just launched our UK refugee entrepreneurship pilot programme, supported by funding from the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund. Our Incubator and Accelerator Network goes from strength to strength – growing to 35 member organisations, and we have agreed a follow-on support agreement with the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.

The NEF Fast Track Class of 2020 have begun their journeys, starting with bootcamp in late-September – this is the ninth NEF cohort, and given the collective impact of the previous eight, they have quite a challenge to live up to!

We’ve had a busy few months keeping track of news updates across our network, and have included a small sample of the most newsworthy updates this quarter’s newsletter.

Our 2019/20 speaker series is up and running – our first event is on 22nd October and I hope to welcome you to that, or one of our later events.

Warmest wishes,


annual report 2018/19

research & policy update

NEF Fast Track update

partner company

cfe in the spotlight

speaker series are back!

cfe team news

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annual report 2018/19


We recently completed our annual report and financial statements for the period of April 2018 through March 2019. The preparation of the report and audit is a labour-intensive, but vital activity which gives a real sense of both the breadth and scale of CFE’s impact and our charity’s financial health.


Annual Report CFE 2019
annual report cover 2018/19


We’re proud to show that CFE’s impact is growing year-on-year – 2018/19 was the first full year of our combined and enlarged organisation, and we delivered significant progress across all of our key areas of operation. 

  • Entrepreneurial development – the eighth NEF Fast Track cohort completed the programme, swelling our alumni ranks to nearly 280 members. Our alumni remain predominantly active and engaged in the startup world, both in the UK and internationally. Alumni have founded over 140 ventures that are currently live, creating more than 2,200 jobs in the process and raising an aggregate £101M in early-stage funding. This year, for the first time, we have collected valuation data for those ventures that have raised external funding – the total stands at an impressive £355M – we consider this to be a healthy indicator of the stability and growth rates of the businesses founded by NEF Fast Track alumni.
  • Research – the publication of the CFE Report ‘Starting Afresh’ in March 2018 has led to a series of positive outcomes in the refugee entrepreneurship space. A parliamentary launch event in July 2018 was followed by a small-scale summit with key international support organisations; this led to the inaugural global refugee entrepreneurship summit in October 2018 and the subsequent formation of the ‘Refugee Entrepreneurship Network’ – all of which was delivered with the support of the Said Foundation. In addition to CFE’s championing of refugee entrepreneurship, our Incubator and Accelerator Network (IAN) grew in size and scale – we are now proud to welcome 35 member organisations covering leading university incubators etc. In February 2019 we held the 2nd annual IAN conference. Our IAN activities will accelerate in the coming months following the conclusion of a new support agreement with the Blackstone Foundation.
  • Events – November 2018 saw CFE host our first annual lecture on entrepreneurship, delivered by Eric Schmidt followed in January 2019 by NEF Live where 60 NEF alumni founded ventures exhibited to a 400+ person audience, alongside a dozen pitches to early-stage investors and supporters. Large scale events like these are a vital part of our entrepreneurship development agenda, and we will continue to expand our events portfolio in the coming months.
  • Finances – as a registered charity, we take our financial responsibilities very seriously, holding ourselves to high standards. Each year we commission Buzzacott LLP to undertake a full audit of our accounts and financial processes and we are pleased to confirm that we again received an unqualified opinion on our accounts. 

We also made significant progress in other areas – the launch of our new, unified brand, the creation of a trading subsidiary to enable commercial activities supporting our charitable work and we have expanded and strengthened the CFE team. 

You’ll see in the other updates that we have an exciting pipeline of activities and programmes, all of which bodes well for continued improvement in our impact.  I hope to be able to write an even more positive set of results in a year’s time.

All of this would not be possible without the generosity of our donors. We would like to thank the Blackstone Charitable Foundation for their increased support this year, which helps all our programmes, in particular, CFE’s Incubator and Accelerator Network which supports university incubators across the UK.  CFE’s Refugee Entrepreneurship programme has received further endorsement from the Saïd Foundation who have further support this year, helping us to extend the impact of our refugee entrepreneurship support activities. We continue to look for additional financial support in this area – this is a wonderful fundraising opportunity for other donors to support this vital programme. 

 Thank you to the Blackstone Charitable Foundation and the Saïd Foundation, and to all of our supporters for continuing to share our vision. 

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research & policy update


Refugee entrepreneurship pilots

Four pilots to encourage refugees to establish businesses have been launched across the UK today. The pilots are part of a one-year programme overseen by CFE and funded by the Home Office and The National Lottery Community Fund. The pilots, run by a mix of enterprise agencies, refugee integration charities and local Chambers of Commerce will deliver tailored startup programmes that will take refugees from idea stage to business launch. 

The four programmes will be based in Belfast, Bristol, East of England and Staffordshire. 


Refugee Pilot 2019
On the photo: Matt Smith CFE director of policy & research with Silvia Paloschi operations manager together with CFE Refugee Pilot delivery partners – ACH, East Belfast Enterprise, MENTA, Staffordshire Chambers of Commerce


Read the government announcement here:

Learn more about the pilots here:

refugee entrepreneurship pilot

Global refugee entrepreneurship summit

On October 31st, CFE will host its 2nd annual Global refugee entrepreneurship summit at NatWest’s London conference centre. This one-day event will convene 140 people from 22 countries to discuss how best to support refugees into entrepreneurship. This builds on the success of last year’s summit where CFE partnered with BEIS to convene 80 practitioners from 20 countries, with attendees joining from Australia, Japan, Rwanda, Turkey, the US and beyond.

There are limited spaces available for the post-summit drinks reception running 6-8 pm. To express interest in attending, please email Patrick via

Learn more about the Refugee Entrepreneurship Network here:

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NEF Fast Track update


Bootcamp to kickstart the year

We are delighted to finally welcome the NEF Fast Track Class of 2020 – our ninth cohort! The group began their NEF Fast Track journey with a Bootcamp in mid-September. As part of the ecosystem discovery phase, the group visited a series of leading incubators (Level 39, Imperial College Innovation, TrueGlobal, WeWork Labs) and were hosted by several NEF alumni-founded businesses (Sideways6, Cudoni, BYP Network, Pollen8).

On the photo: Richard Cull Thomas – CFE deputy CEO, Véronique Rapetti – CFE Programme Director, Learning & Partnerships, Mike Bandar – NEF Fast Track Alumnus and Founding Partner at Turn Partners, Laura Campbell – CFE Head of Marketing and Partnerships, Sabina Samek – CFE Social Media, Communications, and Operations Lead – with the NEF Fast Track Class of 2020


Bootcamp was a fast-paced and fun introduction to the programme, covering topics from placement experiences to creating the right culture, identifying and exploiting megatrends, ideas generation using effectual thinking, lean canvas methodology and how to set goals. We also spent some time looking at the Emotional Quotient element of great leaders including insights into each NEFer’s personality with the Type Coach questionnaire.  Becoming a self-aware leader will certainly help our nascent entrepreneurs when it comes to recruiting and leading their teams. The programme has continued at speed post-Bootcamp; we held a ‘meet the coaches’ event in late-September where the NEFers were able to meet and network with their executive coaches. The first workshop, held last week, explored Mullin’s seven Domains framework to validate ideas and analyse business opportunities and was delivered by Jeff Skinner of London Business School. 

We’d like to thank all of the people and organisations that helped make Bootcamp a huge success, particularly: Gareth Coombs of Camstrats (Cambridge Strategy Centre), Mike Bandar (Class of 2012), and Sarah Perrott, (Cresco Consulting & Chair of the Coaching Panel). We’d also like to thank the team at Microsoft Reactor for an amazing venue and being so helpful, and Sullivan & Cromwell for their hospitality. It is inspiring to see the energy, passion and engagement of Class of 2020 and we wish them good luck in their NEF Fast Track entrepreneurial journey.

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partner company 


The Centre for Entrepreneurs aims to promote business and thus economic growth. We are always proud of the mutualistic value that our talented NEF Fast Track scheme participants add to our partner companies through their placements. It’s all growth at NEF; growing leaders and growing business.

On the photo: Josh Turner, NEF Fast Track Alumnus, founder of Stand4Socks



A fantastic example of this is Teague Sheldon, NEF Class of 2017, who joined the partner company Rotageek, a successful and growing staff scheduling company, in 2017. Rotageek has been a long-term partner company for NEF Fast Track and an essential member of our startup community, with both Ben Leibowitz and Sam Taylor, Class of 2018, also completing placements there. Teague has been a huge asset to the company, rising up the ranks and now leading the Rotageek web and app product delivery and development. He set up his own startup “Student2Startup” whilst remaining an essential part of the Rotageek team. The NEF programme helped to develop the business and leadership skills that Teague brought to Rotageek. 

Rotageek Co-founder and CEO Chris McCullough, a huge fan of the Fast Track programme, said, “We were introduced to NEF Fast Track three years ago. Several companies that we knew spoke very highly of the Nef candidate “NEFers” and the NEF programme. Teague Sheldon was our first hire and I still remember his second-round interview. We gave him a Rotageek demo account and asked him to present the platform to us. He totally nailed it. It was a presentation that I’d be happy for a client to see. Over the past three years Teague has progressed from a junior member of the product team to now holding a senior Project Manager position. He has a critical role in setting the direction for the product and more importantly in realising that vision. He is a critical thinker and regularly challenges the established view – something that we value at Rotageek. Most importantly, he adds to our team culture. What NEF offers us is an opportunity to attract bright, inquisitive and driven people like Teague and the NEF programme offers training outside of Rotageek. It is an amazing programme and we would take on another NEFer as we have done every year in the past three as I really value having Teague as part of the Rotageek team. I hope that the experience he gains here will set him in good stead for a no doubt glittering future running his own successful business one day.”

Class of 2020 candidate Ina Bierylo joined Rotageek this September as Customer Success Manager, working closely with Teague and the team. Ina is the successful co-founder of Co-Cup, with Julian Godding, Class of 2019, showing clearly that the entrepreneurial ecosystem fostered by the NEF Fast Track continues to thrive. The CFE team, mentors and coaches are proud of you Teague and of all the NEF future leaders who help grow businesses. Keep up the good work. 

Looking for partners: Recruitment for Class of 2021 starting soon

The NEF Fast Track Class of 2020 may have only just started, but we are already planning recruitment for our 10th cohort, and actively looking for fast-growing, entrepreneur-led partner companies who need exceptional talent to support their growth. IF  you are interested in coming on board or re-signing as a partner company, please ping Laura an email at and she will be delighted to follow-up. There is a specific breed of partner company CEO and senior teams that we attract at CFE NEF Fast Track; the best ones. These are the visionary CEOs who see the bigger picture and want to grow people, grow entrepreneurship, network and add to economic growth as well as expand their own business. We look forward to continuing to foster this entrepreneurial community in 2021. 

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cfe in the spotlight


Neeta Patel is “Woman of the Year 2019”

Our wonderful CEO Neeta Patel was honoured this month in the 19th annual Asian Achievers Awards on Friday 6th September 2019 at London’s glamorous Grosvenor House Hotel with the “Woman of the Year” award 2019.

Annual Report CFE 2019
On the photo: Neeta Patel, CEO of CFE, a winner of Woman of the Year category with Dr Rami Ranger CBE (Left) and Pragnesh Modhwadia, Axiom Stone Solicitors (Right).  © New Asian Post


This prestigious award, highlighted in the New Asian Post, with other winners including BBC News Economics Editor, Faisal Islam and Anil Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta Resources, highlighted outstanding people who make a huge contribution to society. Neeta rightfully received this for her dynamic efforts to enhance people, business and the economy through her work with CFE and the NEF Fast Track over the last decade. Despite Neeta’s characteristic humility on such matters, her award is displayed with pride in the CFE office. Full details of the awards can be found here


Darren Tenkorang’s TRIM-IT continues to grow after successfully securing funding 

We are also proud to announce the success of Darren Tenkorang (NEF Fast Track Class of 2017), founder of TRIM-IT, a tech-enabled barber service that allows its customers to order a haircut right to their doorstep.

On the photo: Darren Tenkorang (Class of 2017)


Darren, who grew up in Brixton, South London, found a niche and formed a business, combining his passion for male grooming with a marketplace for convenience. After first overcoming the odds to become Lambeth’s Youth Mayor and then Tessa Jowell’s personal assistant in 2012, he went on to study Business Management at Sussex University and even secured a one-year placement at an insurance firm and it was here that the idea of setting up a modern barbershop business came to him.

“The new generation, like me, just want a trim and to get on with their day,” Darren told BBC. “We live our life fast-paced.” He proposed the idea of an app that would allow people, including those who use Afro-Caribbean barbers, to book an appointment at a salon for a fixed time with a particular barber. In his proposal, he also added the idea of a mobile barbershop where barbers would drive to clients in a van. The idea, which he called Trim-It app, won Darren the University of Sussex’s Student Entrepreneur of the Year. Darren recruited fellow student, Nana Darko and Peter Lloyd, and used the £10,000 prize money to turn his idea into a reality. Together, they signed up barbers and built the business, working mainly by word-of-mouth as a lot of men, mostly young professionals, made bookings. TRIM-IT continues to grow from strength to strength, having successfully secured further funding in 2018, and Darren has since worked with celebrity customers such as musicians Charlie Sloth and Sneakbo. Darren, like all those selected for the highly competitive NEF fast track programme, uses his entrepreneurial spirit, ambition and drive to lead this business forward and all at the Centre of Entrepreneurs are very proud of him. He is an inspiration to others on the programme. For more information about Trim-It, visit 

See more of TRIM-IT’s story here:

More NEFers in the news

As well as Darren we have had a lot of other alumni in the press in recent months, with Lauren Roden (Class of 2015 founder of Baby Sensory Box) being nominated for the “Rising Star Award” in the Nottinghamshire Live Women in Business awards. Shortbread House Fennel & Chilli Cheese Sablés , run by Rupert Laing (Class of 2013), have been awarded the Golden Fork for the best Scottish product of 2019, following a record-breaking 12,772 Great Taste Award entries. This was excitingly in addition to the 10 Great Taste Awards they won for their products this year.

Additionally, Coddies – the imaginative footwear company set up by serial entrepreneur Jack Bennet (Class of 2018) – continues to grow and be featured all over the press including in the Metro, Huffington Post and Stylist magazine. Jack himself was also featured on CNBC for his unusual startup style, choosing to work remotely from Indonesia to save on startup costs. You may have also seen Coddies on This Morning and they have received endorsement by celebrities including the singer Dua Lipa

There are countless other success stories from NEF Fast Track alumni to share. 

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speaker series are back!


We are pleased to announce the start of our free community Speaker Series talks which both compliment the NEF Fast Track learning programme and are open to all NEF alumni, partners in our community, mentors, coaches, trustees and stakeholders as part of our network perks. 

Make a date in your diary for “An Audience with Oli Barrett MBE,” a long-standing friend and supporter of CFE and GQ’s  “most connected man in Britain” with a network of over 20,000 (and growing) contacts. On 26th November 2019, Oli will be sharing his hints, tips and secrets about how to grow your business networks and connections. Those of you with good memories will recall that Oli joined us for a similar event two years ago, which everyone found so useful and entertaining that we asked him back!




Our first event How to create a business that adds value is on 22nd October at 7 pm in London EC1N 8QS. This event, discussing how to sustainably build and scale an ethical business, has a great panel of speakers with Erik Fairbairn of PodPoint (the UK’s leading provider of electric vehicle charging),  Marco Rovagneti of PoaPoa (ethical body care) and Nathasha Goldstein of Karma foods (reducing food waste), all of whom are making positive progress and solving societal, community and environmental problems through their fields. Come along to reconnect with friends, knowledge-share, network, learn and be inspired.

These events are a fantastic upskilling and networking opportunity and we look forward to catching up with as many of you as possible. Keep up to date on the speaker series schedule and register your interest here.


CFE Speaker Event Oct 22nd 2019


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cfe team news


From top left: Laura Campbell, Patrick Swain, Ffion Fabian, Alex Holland, Caroline Rollag, Robin Maitland


CFE continues to grow in team size as well as impact. We’ve welcomed a number of new joiners in recent weeks. Patrick Swain joined us as a research assistant in July, bringing with him his public affairs experience and enthusiasm for discovering where entrepreneurship can help undeserving communities. Ffion Fabian has joined us as CFE’s head of operations, adding efficiency and enthusiasm to our operational activities and events delivery. Ffion has made a big impact already with her extense experience in event and office management while getting married shortly after joining CFE – congratulations Ffion! Laura Campbell joined CFE as head of marketing and partnerships, bringing with her extensive startup connections and communications skills as well as her characteristic energy and positivity. We welcome Bryony Nicholson to the team as our new community manager for our incubator and refugee networks who is due to start at the end of October. 

We’ve said goodbye and thank you to several members of in recent weeks. Robin Maitland and Ieva Paludneviciute, who did an exceptional job managing the placements for the Class of 2020 left us in September. Robin has returned to Instant Impact where he will continue to thrive and Ieva has embarked on a new adventure in Zurich. We also say farewell to the lovely Alex Holland, community manager at the end of this month. Alex has been instrumental in the set-up and growth of our incubator network, and we wish him well in his new entrepreneurial adventures. Caroline Rollag will also be leaving us after nearly three years working with CFE as development director. Caroline has been a huge asset to CFE and will be hugely missed by all in the CFE community. 

All the best, 

Team CFE