From Exclusion To Entrepreneur, Lee Shows The Way

From Exclusion To Entrepreneur, Lee Shows The Way

LEE Blake is a Birmingham entrepreneur with a successful business and a determination to make a difference to the world around him.

The 34-year-old former teacher and youth worker is now a successful businessman running a designer clothing business from premises in Digbeth.

However, it has not always been that way because as a teenager Lee, whose father is from Jamaica and his mother English, was excluded from school.

“I was lucky because I had a good family and ended up getting a degree and a good life but it could have been so different. So I want to combine my business with showing young people in difficult circumstances that they can be successful and make money legally,” said Lee, who started his clothing business after being racially abused at a football match.

“50Fifty clothing started in 2004 after England beat Croatia in the European Championships. I was with a small group of multicultural Britons and on the way back, English fans racially abused us.

“We decided we had to do something to reclaim the Union Flag and flag of St George from these people who had hijacked these symbols of nationhood.

“Wanting a symbol that represented my identity I developed the United Kingdom of Jamaica design for a T shirt and it started from their. With a Jamaican father and an English mother, I am half-and-half 50/50 so the brand was born.

“We made a few T shirts and hoodies, selling them in Birmingham, London, Leeds, Manchester and Bristol and were overwhelmed with requests for more.

This led to designs that combine the union flags with the flags of Trinidad, Barbados, Poland, Nigeria, India, Pakistan and Italy – all aimed at young people who are fashion and identity conscious.

But 50Fifty is not a traditional business. It takes its social responsibility seriously and has a target to have all its garments free trade compliant by 2011.

More than this, the business works with young people throughout Birmingham, aged between 16 and 19 who have been excluded from school.

“We have worked with many teenagers who were just like me all those years ago and who could so easily go the wrong way. Our social dimension tackles issues like drugs, gang warfare and knife crime. These young people need to see that they can make it in life and can make money within the law,” added Lee.

“Social Enterprise is about running successful businesses but also having a social and community dimension.”

50Fifty will be taking part in the Social Enterprise trade fair “the revolution starts here” in Birmingham Centenary Square on Tuesday, February 10 where Lee and the team will be on hand to print logos and branding.

For further information please contact Ranjit Bansal – telephone 02476 633911 ext.113 or 07966 068950

To register visit http://sewm.eventbrite.com and for more information about Social Enterprise West Midlands visit www.socialenterprisewm.org.uk.

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Website: http://www.socialenterprisewm.org.uk.
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