Natalie Campbell is the CEO of Belu Water, a social entrepreneur, broadcaster, author and all-round inspiration. She is a multi-award-winning businesswoman, whose name often appears in power lists of the most outstanding women in business today. In 2011, she co-founded A Very Good Company, a global social innovation agency putting sustainability and inclusion on the agenda. In 2018, Natalie joined The Royal Foundation as their first Director of Insight and Innovation and in 2019, she became the Founding Director of Sussex Royal.
It's no secret that in the world of business, relative to their white counterparts, Black women have to work twice as hard to get half the recognition. Having experienced first-hand those barriers, Natalie makes sure diversity and inclusion are at the heart of her entrepreneurialism. Here, she sets out her vision about how companies should act in light of the Black Lives Matter movement, the importance of protecting women's mental health and how to be more inclusive in the workplace.
The first thing is to listen. Don’t feel like you have to rush to the front of the line and start immediately doing things because the reality is, you’re going to get it wrong. It’s highly likely that if you’re running an organisation and your board is predominantly white and your executive team is predominantly white, that you didn’t realise you were part of the problem. So have conversations – listen, explore. There are people who work within the diversity and inclusion space that can help you build something that is meaningful.
The other thing I would say is don’t just set up and do things without clearly evaluating what’s working. There’s no point having a conversation if you have zero understanding of the checkpoints and the actual change of what could happen from the result.
Personally, I think that people should be looking at the CLORE social leadership fellowship. They offer online training programs, where you can actually go online and do the work yourself first. There’s no point trying to do stuff for other people if you haven’t worked out your own relationship with leadership, with race, with gender, and your world view. I also think organisations like Fearless Futures deliver amazing training programs of helping you understand your own bias and the things that you don’t see – courses that help you understand the ways to take action when you realise you don’t have the right people in the room.
The best tool and resource is another person with lived experience. So it’s just looking around the rooms that you’re in and finding a way to have a conversation which isn’t ‘teach me please’ but ‘let’s chat.’ Treat people like humans, use your common sense.
Black women have to jump through more hurdles than their white counterparts. And so at the point when a Black woman says she wants to go for a promotion, or she’s thinking about moving into a different bit of the organisation before you say ‘Oh well you need to do this course, or you should be doing this...’, just wonder ‘would I be saying this to Simon?' 'Would I say the same thing to Dave or John?' Or would I say 'Great John! Sure you can do this thing.’ There are so many barriers for Black women – including those voices saying 'You’re not good enough', 'You’re not quite ready'. Actually just remove those barriers and wonder whether you’re putting them in place for that person specifically.
I also think that organisations need to look at the top table because I know a lot of organisations will run out and say, ‘we need to set up an internship program tomorrow.’ But if those interns – those young Black men – those young Black women – turn up on day one and the organisation doesn’t understand them, doesn’t support them, they don’t have the right mentors, then the whole thing falls flat – they walk into an organisation thinking/feeling they are the 'other'. And they’re treated like an 'other'. So, you have to look at the systems to make sure they’re supported. And by the way, doing these things helps everyone in your organisation. It’s not just a thing that will help Black people. It helps everyone.
Go back to the vision and values of your business – the organisation you run should reflect what you want to put out into the world. And if they don’t, if the vision and values just align to the commercial bottomline, then you’re already starting in the wrong place.
I’m being introduced to a whole new host of women, of Black female entrepreneurs, building businesses through the YSYS network, which is run by Deborah Okenla.
YSYS essentially exists to accelerate the number of Black businesses reaching scale. It’s also a network. It started off as a community but now they accelerate programs for the Mayor of London. And what they’ve done is unpick all of the crap stuff about the accelerators – and they’ve created the most accessible accelerator program – not just for Black entrepreneurs but for anyone who’s faced a barrier getting into those sorts of programs. Through that I have met the most amazing women who will be scaling businesses bigger than anything I’ve ever run.
On my leadership journey, I had to find ways to cope with the pace of being an entrepreneur. I'm lucky enough to be able to invest in therapy. I invested in coaches, I invested in fellowships, I invested in having a really strong network of women running other businesses around me – spaces where you can just take the mask off, you can take the lipstick off, you can take the earrings off, you can take the sass off, and you can just be yourself, and decompress and be vulnerable.
So, if you’re at home and thinking: 'how do I get through this? I want to drive change and I want to be a voice but also how do I look after me?' Cultivate those things. Have that network of people around you where you don’t have to fight, where you don’t need to be challenging, where you can actually say ‘I'm not working, I'm just going to chill’. That is so important.
We have launched the Digital Sisterhood to provide women everywhere with the community and support they need at the moment. Be that a safe space to ask questions – and receive honest answers – or somewhere to find a digital event that will offer you the information, or perhaps the encouragement, you need to get you through the coming days and weeks. We’re here for you, so please do head to digital.allbrightcollective.com to claim your 14 day free trial and join our community.