With the help of GC Business Growth Hub, Black Impact is a rapidly growing service with national and international ambitions, dedicated to championing Black students and graduates.
Founded in Salford in 2017 by Ceewhy Ochoga, Black Impact is an organisation dedicated to improving representation and support for Black students and graduates in the UK.
Ceewhy has been an advocate for students within the higher education sector for more than 10 years, initially becoming involved in organisations and student unions while studying at Middlesex University (Mauritius campus) in 2010.
While studying for her Masters in media psychology, she was elected to represent her peers at the University of Salford at the National Union of Students conference in 2016 before being elected as the first Black Student Union president.
Based on her experiences, and those of other Black students, Ceewhy launched Black Impact to empower African and Caribbean students across the country, provide advice and help them get into leadership, social activism, and political engagement.
Founded in 2017, Black Impact is about to celebrate its fifth anniversary. In that time, the business has evolved as an organisation.
Describing its foundation, Ceewhy says: “Black Impact was formed after I had first hand experiences of running a student union as president. Winning the election meant that I was thrust into this leadership role, only to find that there was much more to it on the inside, than there was looking at it pre-election. It came with many challenges that I had never experienced before, including various forms of racism.
It was during those times, that I found that there were other Black officers in similar positions across the country, who were going through similar challenges with no support.”
Ceewhy Ochoga, Founder and CEO, Black Impact
“We came together as people to form a hub and offer support and help to each other. That was the foundation of Black Impact, but since then it has grown and become a national network of African and Caribbean students and societies, which can often be the largest societies within a union.
“We are also partnering with unions, universities and public-private organisations to deliver support and services that advance the life chances of Black students.”
Working alongside growth advisor, Isabelle Farquhar, Ceewhy has benefitted from a range of Hub support designed to help Black Impact grow and become more resilient.
She has been working with the Hub since 2019 and it has proven to be a fruitful relationship.
Ceewhy says: “I got involved with GC Business Growth Hub through the University of Salford’s LAUNCH programme. Because I am originally from Nigeria, I was an international student and couldn’t launch a business because of the type of visa that I had. But my university was one of the organisations that could endorse you if it felt like you had a good business idea.
“The University endorsed me to set up a business and then put me on the LAUNCH programme as a new entrepreneur. Through that programme I got to know Isabelle and she has been absolutely fantastic.”
Isabelle worked with Ceewhy to help her understand how to test the viability of her business services and packages, undertake market research and identify her target markets. She also provided the tools and advice needed to complete a business plan and cashflow forecast to present to funders to get finance.
Talking about the influence of Isabelle and the wider Hub team, Ceewhy says: “Isabelle has helped me to turn my passion into a business and see new opportunities. She helped me to think about merchandising as an income stream and revenue generator. She even put me into contact with supplier and showed me how I could run it by dropshipping.
“She also put me in touch with networks that could enhance Black Impact’s recognition. She also helped me to create realistic business plans and be a friendly sounding board for any ideas.”
A big date on the Black Impact calendar, is the annual ‘Class Of’ celebration. Having successfully launched the initial event in 2020, the third celebration is now in the offing.
Ceewhy says: “Our ‘Class of’ events are national celebrations for Black graduates. Graduation should be a celebration, but because Black graduates navigate and deal with realities such as the attainment gap, racism within the HE sector, the wider society and then all the pressures of being a student, it’s often not so.
“We started these events as celebrations and we’ve successfully run events in 2020, 2021 and we’re looking at 2022.”
The Hub worked with Ceewhy to launch the inaugural event and offered support to build attendance and awareness.
For the Class of 2020 event, a total of 33,807 votes were cast, producing eight winners across 10 categories. The event drew nominations from across the UK and was viewed live by more than 30,000 people on TV. This provided a unique platform for some of Britain’s brightest and best talent and the calibre of the winners last year was both remarkable and quite exceptional.
The numbers are only getting bigger and more organisations are looking to partner with the event and provide sponsorship.
Ceewhy is now working with the Access to Finance team to explore funding options for future growth.
She says: “Isabelle’s colleague Joanne in the Access to Finance team has helped me to understand the different funding opportunities. Together we’ve explored what finance options are better suited for the business, and how we can make our budgets go further. The Hub has helped me to secure funding directly and indirectly.”
She is also working on the Class of 2022 event and building a student network for Black Impact alumni.
She says: “Our big goals are to become a successful membership organisation, to fully launch our merchandising opportunities and expand our reach even further. We want to keep growing and expanding our reach.
“By 2025 we want to be the number one organisation in the UK representing the interests of Black students and staff. While we are niche, the African and Caribbean population represent a major demographic in universities and across the UK.”