Allegra Chapman and her business partner, Mo Kanjilal, who founded diversity and inclusion consultancy Watch This Sp_ce during the pandemic, won the Business Boost competition.
Almost 25,000 small businesses entered the competition to win £25,000, orchestrated by Simply Business.
The judges, including Dragons’ Den’s Piers Linney, The Apprentice’s Carina Lepore, and author Tony Robinson OBE, were unanimous in their decision to award the prize to the Sussex duo to enable them to develop a new education platform.
“This is going to change everything for us,” Allegra said.
“This money takes us from the initial start-up stage, armed with only our ideas, passion and optimism, to running a viable business overnight.”
Mo added: “It’s incredibly exciting.
“Getting a start-up off the ground is incredibly challenging, and we’ve been doing it all on our own around our day jobs and our families. Now we can concentrate fully on Watch This Sp_ce and on making it everything that we know it can be.”
Watch This Sp_ce was born from the pandemic.
As the world was forced to rethink the way it does business, Allegra, Mo, and their fellow co-creator, Rachel Pearson, knew that a 'fundamental reimagination' of the world of work was needed more than ever.
The team, which had previously run the networking group Brighton Digital Women since 2015, heard many stories of workplace discrimination, harassment and burnout from their members.
They had also experienced 'toxic and demeaning' work environments themselves.
“We heard time and again that there was no room in business for pandering to ‘woke’ agendas,” Allegra said.
"But all the research shows that organisations that make space for diversity and inclusion are more innovative, more productive, more successful and more profitable. It’s not about being nice or politically correct – it’s good business sense.”
Overcoming personal and economic challenges
It hasn’t been an easy 18 months for the Watch This Sp_ce team.
Starting a business in a pandemic meant that they were not able to meet many of their initial clients in person.
Their events all had to be online, and they were launching a new product at a time of economic uncertainty.
They also faced a number of personal challenges.
Rachel was hospitalised with Covid-19 in January 2021, and gave birth to her first child in August 2021.
Allegra gave birth to her second child in January 2021, who arrived five weeks premature and with a kidney condition.
"Thankfully, both mothers and babies are doing well now," the team said.
"After all the struggles they have faced in the early days of the business, winning the Business Boost competition is a very welcome change of fortune."
The national lockdowns didn't deter the pair from educating other business partners about the value of inclusion, and launched their Inclusion Audit to allow organisations to create roadmaps for change.
Mo said: “There has been so much talk recently about how diversity and inclusion training doesn’t work.
“And, on the whole, it doesn’t. You can’t fix deep rooted unconscious biases and become a diverse and inclusive organisation in a one-hour workshop, that’s impossible.
"To truly make change that will benefit your organisation, you need to commit to a long-term journey of growth and development.
"This is an approach that needs to be embedded in the fabric of your organisation, and that takes commitment.”
After winning the award, Allegra and Mo now plan to build a subscription platform, that will enable organisations to access training courses to 'support their diversity and inclusion journey'.
They said these courses will support everything from inclusive recruitment practices to inclusive communication and marketing methods.
"Organisations will learn how to increase innovation and to protect their business from potential crises in the future," they added.