Award-winning entrepreneur Anisa Haghdadi set up local social enterprise business Beatfreeks a year ago. Now she’s taking it national – and then international
It was clear 10 years ago that Anisa Haghdadi, then just 15, had entrepreneurial blood coarsing through her veins and was destined for great things. Her first project back then was organising a Sunday dance class at her local YMCA. She’s come on a bit since then – today she’s a multi-award winning, successful businesswoman running Beatfreeks, one of Birmingham’s best and brightest social enterprise ‘businesses’. Founded in January 2013 and officially incorporated as a non-profit organisation in June of that year, Beatfreeks has blossomed in its first 12 months in Birmingham with an expanding national reach. Its mission is to pioneer new ways of engaging, empowering and developing young people through a blend of arts, media, training, leadership and enterprise. This is done through a whole raft of ground-breaking and ingenious projects, workshops and events.
A business and management graduate of Aston University, Anisa won the Birmingham Young Professional Award for Aspiring Talent in 2012, and last year received the British Empire Medal for her services to education and young people in the Queen’s Birthday Honours – not bad someone who is still only aged 24! Anisa was busy celebrating Beatfreeks first anniversary – by working harder than ever –when we caught up. “It’s always hectic. I’m always dashing around,” she said, almost apologetically. “As we are now one year old we’ve been going through a period of redefining and redesigning what we are about and where we want to go. We want to expand our reach still further with young people in Birmingham and we’re also looking to extend Beatfreeks nationally, and particularly in London. Eventually, I want Beatfreeks to go global through social franchising.” There’s certainly no shortage of organisations who are willing to hire Beatfreeks to run youth campaigns and programmes for them. “We have worked with all kinds of businesses, producing very different initiatives to reach young people,” said Anisa. These include Network Rail who asked Anisa and her team to get involved in engagement with the New Street station redevelopment project. “Social enterprise and working with young people is a real passion for me, it’s more than just about work,” said Anisa. “But it just so happens that now is a great time for the business. We are in a great position – the youth market and the arts market are booming in Birmingham. The city has a very large number of young people, and there are lots and lots of young entrepreneurial people around right now. What’s also great is that young people are becoming more and more motivated by the world we grow up in. They want to see fairness and freedom – they want money for need and not for greed. “Over the past year we’ve achieved some pretty awesome stuff, from working with BBC 1Xtra on a special edition of our regular music event Soul Sessions which saw artists get national airplay, through to working with a group of young people passionate about mental health over 12 weeks to set up their own official social enterprise Ripple CIC.”
INSPIRED BY BRUM
Anisa pays rich tribute to all those who have guided her along the way to realising her dreams, especially the help and support from Aston University. “Some of the best enterprise initiatives are borne out of you own personal experience. I am very lucky to have had lots of people in my life who have inspired me. I am totally inspired by Birmingham itself. I love the city and the people, especially the young people.” We couldn’t let Anisa go without asking about her company’s name – Beatfreeks, where did that come from? “Beat is all about the arts, the music,” she explained. “and freeks is kind of about the different and freaky way we do things – but it’s deliberately misspelt to show that we believe in being free to express ourselves how we want.”