PBC and Morley mark first year of cohabitation in North Kensington

In January 2023, Portobello Business Centre moved their offices permanently into Morley’s newly-refurbished North Kensington Centre for Skills, kicking off an intensive year of collaboration between the two organisations.

One year later, PBC Executive Director Dr. Sheela Sharma and Centre Principal Craig Hanlon-Smith reflect on a year of successful partnership.

Dr Sheela Sharma, Executive Director, Portobello Business Centre (PBC)

Explaining the role of the organisation she leads, Sheela Sharma said: “Portobello Business Centre is a not-for-profit social enterprise that exists to support individuals to start-up, grow and expand their business ventures.

“It’s our mission to provide aspiring and existing business owners with the support they need to navigate today’s business environment, and since the 1990s we’ve supported a range of businesses into existence, including household names like Innocent Drinks, Charlie Bigham’s and Karen Millen.”

A natural partnership

Craig Hanlon-Smith, Centre Principal, North Kensington Centre for Skills

Craig Hanlon-Smith: “Morley’s relationship with PBC started during the pandemic: we were invited to an online event with businesses local to North Kensington, and had the opportunity to ask whether those businesses would like to become Work Experience partners for our students.

“65% of those on the call said yes, which we were very excited about given it can often be a challenge to find placements for young people. Hence the partnership was born.”

In late 2022, that partnership moved into a higher gear thanks to the £13m refurbishment of the North Kensington Centre for Skills. Craig: “Colleges need to be working with industry, with businesses across the board, and it’s not unusual for colleges to bring the outside world into the college. So extending the partnership through relocating PBC as part of our refurbishment just felt like the natural thing to do.”

Sheela: “Our headquarters are more than just an office…they’re a bustling hub nestled near the lively Portobello and Golborne Roads in London, brimming with creative and business energy. This unique setting provides an ideal mix of educational resources and a business-oriented atmosphere, ensuring each day is filled with new and exciting challenges.”

The year to come

Speaking about the next year of partnership, Craig said: “We’ve got a work experience programme starting with PBC and our students starting in March and running right through into the summer; we’ve got some professional skills workshops – CV and cover letter writing and interview skills, for example – designed separately for 16-18 year olds and adult students reflecting their differing needs; and there will be more to come in terms of events and workshops too.”

Sheela: “An event I’d point to particularly is our Meet the Experts Live event on Wednesday 27 March (10am-4pm). This is where we get a group of experts together in one place – finance experts, social media experts, legal experts – offering half hour slots of free advice to anyone involved in setting up a business. There are also presentations from people who’ve navigated that journey before.”

Click here to register your interest in Meet the Experts Live.

Workshops available to the public

Many of PBC’s events are available to members of the public too. Sheela: “We have a calendar of workshops over the next 12 months, and they address all the pain points that individuals starting businesses might experience…from managing your business tax affairs, to how to write a business plan.”

Tickets for these online sessions are £10 per person (plus booking fee), and are refundable for residents of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (who co-fund the workshops).

See below for a flavour of what’s available in the first half of 2024, and click here to browse and book your place.