Where did your personal inspiration, entrepreneurial/leadership purpose come from – what shaped your views?
After receiving the phone call from my mother telling me my brother had been murdered, I remember that I said to myself that life will never be the same, however, I didn’t quite know how.
It’s now a little over five years since those events and much in my life has changed. We have been fortunate enough to meet some very inspiring people both young and old, people who have dedicated many, many hours to serving others to make their lives a little better, safer and more rewarding.
What’s the purpose of your organisation?
My family set up The Jimmy Mizen Foundation in the months following his death. In the immediate aftermath of Jimmy’s death we needed answers about what had happened and how, who was responsible and what would happen to them. These were questions for the authorities – for the police, the lawyers, and the courts.
But we soon began asking deeper questions that no government or public body could answer alone: what has gone so wrong that our young people are killing each other within our communities? What can we do to ensure young people do not resort to violence against each other? What sort of values should govern our society and how do we ensure they are instilled in all our young people? How can we stop a child born today from becoming a violent adult?
In the last 5 years (4 years as a registered Charity), The Jimmy Mizen Foundation has worked with schools, prisons, local business people and the voluntary sector to improve the choices made by all young people and to make the communities of England safer.
Recognition for our work in the area of social reform has come in the form of a commendation in 2011 from the Longford Trust for outstanding qualities of humanity, courage, persistence and originality. Furthermore my parents, Barry and Margaret Mizen, were asked to address over 80,000 people during the Papal visit to Hyde Park in 2010 and 10,000 young people at the Flame conference at Wembley Stadium in 2012. Up until April 2012 the JMF was entirely run on a voluntary basis by my parents and family members and with help from many others in the community.
The past five years have been a steep learning curve for us and the organisation as, with no previous experience of running a charity, we grappled with finances, fundraising; setting up a Board of Trustees (with now 7 trustees), developing projects and working with other voluntary sector organisations.
In addition to milestones reached in our work, there have been organisational successes – setting up a commercial branch of the charity in the form of a community hub coffee shop and successfully bidding for 2-year funding for peer support work from the Ministry of Justice. But there have been enormous hurdles as well – for example, lack of experience in fundraising leading to many failed applications, to at times overreaching in planning work, and to financial shortfalls.
However what has kept me and my family focused, and to answer the question, is the promise that good will come from Jimmy’s death, that if our work can save just one young person then it is not in vain. My views and beliefs have been shaped through many high and low points over the last five years but ultimately are shaped by the inspiring words of my parents in the immediate aftermath of Jimmy’s death; words of hope, peace and non-retribution.
What have been your critical lessons learnt along your entrepreneurial journey?
Over the past five years I have learnt much and have tried to share that knowledge with others. Amongst some of the critical lessons has been to never forget why you do what you do. There have been many difficult times we have faced, where we have been lied to, and where others have used my brother’s name to get their organisation more funding.
However, being from a large family (6 brothers, 2 sisters and a much loved nephew) we have been able to support each other. When we have thought things were going badly we have been able to balance of each other and support each other in a way only family can. We have learnt that for all the times someone has treated us poorly there have been 10 times more people who have supported us.
The most critical lesson however, has been to enjoy what you do and have fun!
What are the characteristics that in your experience entrepreneurs require now and in the future?
I believe conviction in what you do is paramount, if, as a leader, you do not believe fully in what you or your organisation is about then how can you inspire others to join you on your journey? How can you genuinely build an organisation that is respected and grows to have a lasting impact? Without conviction in our words and actions we will never get over the minor failures that nearly all businesses (both corporate and third sector) face along their journey. Conviction gives us the drive and determination to get to where we want to get too!
What would be your 5 top tips for purposeful entrepreneurs?
In no particular order:
- Build a talented team
- Remain focused
- Believe in your own abilities
- Get a mentor
- Have fun!!
Jimmy Mizen Foundation
Address: 214 Hither Green Lane, Lewisham, SE13 6RT