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A platform to help make the right connections

ASPIRING: Young professionals at a recent BYP Network meet.

IT WAS the American businessman and author of the multi-million selling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad who once said: “The richest people in the world look for and build networks; everyone else looks for work.”

His words highlight how important it is for aspiring professionals and entrepreneurs to create and be part of networks. A quick look online reveals a host of networking organisations for professionals in a range of fields. However, there seems to be very little aimed at black professionals and certainly not many aimed at young people at the early stages of their career.

Kiki Oniwinde, a young London entrepreneur, is aiming to change this. The 25-yearold recently created the Black Young Professionals Network (BYP Network) app. Oniwinde believes the new network will empower young people and provide an online and in-person platform where they can learn and grow with each other.

EXPERIENCES

She told The Voice: “I studied in America on a sports scholarship a few years ago, where I met some amazing people and had great experiences. When I came back to the UK I wanted to meet new like-minded people, so I tried a few networking events here in London, but they were all very formal.

“The app provides an interactive and supportive environment for young black professionals to engage with each other both personally and professionally. We invite young people aged 18 to 35, who identify as black to sign up to our platform where they can network, socialise or date.”

The platform caters to a wide range of professionals, from doctors to lawyers, and creatives to support workers. To create a profile, users can do so by signing in to their Facebook account, or by creating a new account via email. As part of the registration, users are asked to upload a picture, set their location, and tick the reason for joining out of networking, socialising and dating – users are welcome to tick one option or all three.

SUCCESSES

“I know such a range of people, doing inspiring things, but there’s never been a place for us to share our successes as a community. BYP Network does exactly that.

“We can share our stories, networks and resources with each other, with the hope of cultivating a stronger community, helping us to be future leaders, but play a role in leading others at the same time.”

Oniwinde feels that the platform represents a generational shift. She said: “The older generation were mainly immigrants and they had to work hard to provide for their family. Basically, to create the best future for their children, us. Now that we are grown up we realise that the working world is not so simple and there are still major barriers to progress.

“We didn’t realise how disadvantaged we were from the secondary schools we attended to getting into the top universities and jobs.

“Now that we are in the same predicament, the only way to break these boundaries down and become the success we truly want to be is to work together, support each other and build it up.”

She continued: “I think we have always wanted to support each other, but it hasn’t been so simple. Someone working 12 hours a day in finance only knows about their personal struggles and not really their peers in other firms or industries. There hasn’t really been a vessel for us to connect across industries.”

PARTNERSHIPS

Since launching the app in September nearly 2000 people have signed up in over 30 different countries – with most users located in the UK or USA. Oniwinde also plans to run online networking forums that are a career specific, allowing more experienced professionals to assist and support those who may be on their first step of the career ladder.

Some users also offer CV tips, career advice, partnerships or general networking. This can all be found under the hashtag function which enables users to match their hobbies, interests or specialism using keywords or phrases.

“I know that in the future, BYP Network will evolve into an even bigger black platform, attracting a range of sponsors and investors.

“We as a black community of hard working, positive, young influencers do exist and we welcome everyone who is interested in joining us on the journey.”

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