THE MISSION (Tx Sept 19th, Channel 4)
In a new four-part series, eight wealthy British business leaders are embarking on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. They’ve been challenged by leading development agency World Vision to improve the living standards of an African village.
With a combined fortune of over £600 million, and expertise ranging from construction to marketing, and travel to computing, the group will need to use their proven business skills to make a difference. They’ll be exchanging five-star lifestyles for three weeks living in a remote Ugandan village without running water or electricity.
They’ll be looking at problems affecting the community, from access to drinking water and markets for local produce, to innovative ways of increasing income. But the entrepreneurs will need to be ruled by their heads, not their hearts, if they are to succeed. And they’ll have to get used to the idea that it’s not quite business as usual so far from home.
They’re putting their reputations on the line, but when their time in Africa is up will the business leaders help to change lives, or will it all just end in tears.
Yvonne Thompson arrived in London with her mother aged four years old from Guyana, and laughing in the face of adversity, went on to achieve career greatness which was applauded in 2003 when she was included in the Queen’s Honours Birthday list and recognized with a CBE.
Whilst raising her daughter alone, Yvonne set up ASAP Communications in 1983, and directed the marketing and PR company with a specialised focus on government, public and private sector contracts. Under Yvonne’s rule, the company flourished and has grown to the extent that today Yvonne is an influential advisor in government campaigns such as New Deal In The Community, Supply London, Learning & Skills Council and Women’s Enterprise Task Force.
Until the recent successful sale of the UK’s only legally black owned radio station Choice FM, Yvonne was a Director and Founder Member of the station and played an instrumental role in the station’s sale to the UK’s premier radio group – Capital Radio. However it was arguably the creation on the EFBWBO (European Federation of Black Women Business Owners) which cemented Yvonne’s place as one of the UK’s most celebrated self-made millionaire, black business women. Set up 12 years ago to facilitate access to black women business owners by mainstream business organisations and vice versa, the EFBWBO aids cooperation between untapped ethnic business potential and mainstream business organisations.
The European Federation grew from The National Federation of Black Women Business Owners, a Washington DC based group which awarded Yvonne for her ‘Outstanding Achievements’ as a black, female entrepreneur in 1996, and envisioning the need to expand such a platform throughout Europe, the award served as the catalyst for her to set up a similar group for Europe. In 1996 the EFBWBO was formed, and the rest as they say, is history.
The Federation’s aim to increase the economic visibility of Black women in Europe and their access to information and resources, has led to its exponential growth. From a 120 seats Award dinner in 1996, the Federation now welcomes over 900 guests at its award ceremony. The Federation rewards black women business owners or executives from the UK, France and Holland and holds numerous events across Europe which include business breakfasts, influential diplomatic dinners, business expos and embassy networking receptions and debates. The Federation has become a continuous networking platform to be reckoned with, creating links among black women like never before, giving true meaning to the adage that the world is a village.
Asked how she has dealt with the glass ceilings so prevalent in the world of business, Yvonne states; “It is difficult, and always will be, however it’s about standing your ground whilst being flexible, knowing when to move on, but also knowing your strengths, and playing to them.”
The mother of one, is on a constant mission for self improvement, and her most recent personal challenge came from taking part in the Channel 4 reality show ‘The Millionaire’s Mission.’ Eight wealthy British business leaders were invited by leading development agency World Vision to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime challenge to improve the living standards of a village in Uganda, Africa. It was an experience which Yvonne relished;
” I had no hesitation in signing up for The Millionaire’s Mission as it was worthwhile, adventurous and humanitarian. Plus I felt a need to dispel the myth that black people don’t “do” humanitarian. It’s very rare to see a black person on missions such as this so I was determined to change those views – I hope this programme went some way to achieving that. The whole Mission experience just reinforced my appreciation of how privileged I am. It’s a privilege to turn on a tap and see water coming out of it, in fact it’s a privilege to have a tap! It took me out of my comfort zone, it was a fantastic, character building experience, and one which I would be keen to repeat again”
Never one to rest in the glare of self accomplishment, Yvonne continues to break barriers and forge unions between the black community and mainstream business world. As Chairwoman of the government’s London Central Learning and Skills Council , Yvonne oversees the dissemination and approval the £322 million spend in the London Central area, and contributes to the budgetary decisions, which make up the London Regional budget of over 1.3 billion pounds.
Yvonne is also in her third term as board member for The Mayor of London’s ‘The London Development Agency.’ Bringing her expertise on small business, minorities and women’s issues to the round table, Yvonne was often invited to advise Baroness Amos – Leader of the House of Lords, SoS Department of Trade and Industry: Rt Hon Patricia Hewitt, now Harriet Harman QC – minister for Women and Deputy Prime Minister.
An undoubtedly remarkable woman, Yvonne is at the forefront of the thriving female, black business community in Britain and embraces her responsibility as a role model;
“Black women in business is the fastest growing sector of the small business arena. In the last five to eight years black women in business have raced ahead, and I am proud to be a part of that movement, there is still much more to be done.”