“Through Company Programme, I found my voice. I realised pretty quickly that I was fairly innovative and a natural salesman.
That feeling for me was incredibly special because I found hope”, says Sufian Sadiq
“I remember starting my Young Enterprise company with my schoolmates, sitting in that classroom planning, or standing on that market stall selling our products,” recalls Sufian. “I remember clearly thinking, my family’s days of struggling are over because I am going to make something of myself… I felt like I could take over the world.”
Fast forward to his 38th year, and the educator and philanthropist is now a beacon of positivity as well as a champion of equity and diversity in his community, and it’s amazing to hear that his Young Enterprise experience shaped the person he would become so profoundly.
Sufian took part in Young Enterprise’s Company Programme while at Challney High School for Boys in the late 1990s. His team transformed the humble soap bar into a scented work of art, with pins around the edges and intertwining ribbons.
“We made it very cheap. We bought the soap and then everyone went home, put the pins in and weaved the ribbons. I felt like I was going to be a millionaire!” he smiles.
Hailing from Luton, Sufian recognises that his community faced high levels of deprivation and social deviance. He adds “I come from a migrant family; my parents moved here for a better life for us. I was born and bred in the UK, but I am first generation Pakistani. English was an additional language for me coming into education.”
“The aspirations for me from my family were really high, but I actually faced a lot of barriers,” he explains. “I grew up knowing that my chances of success weren’t going to be the same as others.”
When reflecting on his childhood specifically, he remembers the struggles faced in school, and being “quite naughty”. His energy and “innovative approaches to breaking school rules” needed to be channelled into a wide range of sports and activities. “I’m super competitive,” Sufian laughs.
That’s where Young Enterprise came into the picture, when a teacher suggested he participate in Company Programme.
What’s particularly striking is his vivid memory of the exhilaration of that lightbulb moment running a company with YE.
“I found my voice. I realised pretty quickly that I am fairly innovative and a natural salesman. That feeling for me was incredibly special because I found hope.
For a boy that’s perhaps lost in a world with lots going on – whether its trauma, grief, social challenges and trying to stay on the straight and narrow – a boy aspiring to things where the world is telling him you can’t do that, well, through Company Programme, I realised I am good at something. That feeling is important, particularly at a time in life where I can’t remember many feelings that felt so good.”
In true Sufian style, he warmly jokes about wearing a roll neck jumper to sell his products at YE Trade Fairs because he didn’t have a suit.
But even that couldn’t hold him back and he still proudly displays his YE Company Programme certificate on his walls – despite several house moves over the years.
Sufian is now the respected Director of Teaching School and Talent at Chiltern Education Trust, which comprises Challney High School for Boys – the school he attended.
He is also a proud supporter and Board member of many local charities, from The Luton Food Bank, to Discover Islam and the Luton Town Football Club (to name a few!) He dedicates his time to empowering young people and inspiring them to dream big.
“A real focus for me has been championing the voice of minorities, whether that’s ethnic minorities or those that are poorer in society, that need someone to champion their voice,” he says. “I say I am a positive disrupter and that started really early on when I realised that I have a knack of stopping someone – even if they are not interested! Telling them about my cause, and asking them to believe in me.
That sales technique that I learned at age 14 proved to be useful and beneficial throughout my life. I still use that ability aged 38 as I try to make a difference in the world.”