Growing up in Hackney, one of London’s most deprived boroughs, Bola Abisogun has always been aware of the key socio-economic issues that affect young black men in the UK. Being a father of three young men, he often asked himself - “how can I make a sustainable difference given that the imbalance in society is so profound?” This self-assigned mission was not only aimed at his family but also at his community, and it contributed greatly to his self-growth. Indeed, Bola’s aspiration was to grow an international business and in 2000, sixteen years ago, he embarked on a trip to Atlanta seeking to find the largest black owned construction companies in the US, which – at the time – confirmed that to be H.J. Russell. His conversation with the company’s founder, Mr. Herman Russell, inspired him to come back to London and make a contribution to the industry. He later founded UrbanIs, an organisation which has successfully established two US companies in the field of Economic Development and Construction Cost Management. Bola’s success led him to share his journey into business in local schools and empower young black men through BTEG’s Routes2Success project.
For Bola, it is and has always been important to ‘turn, look back and pass the baton’. The idea of taking a group of young black men from Hackney over to Atlanta arose from a series of conversation that Bola had with the young men that he has engaged with over the last 3 years. While sharing their individual stories, the cohort pointed out that there is a lack of opportunity for young black men in London, which stops them from making positive changes in their lives. Therefore, Bola sought to raise the aspiration in these young men by offering them a life-changing experience through which he hopes they will find their purpose and take their life plan to the next level. The trip will lasts six days during which the young men will visit the Federal Reserve Bank, attend the 2016 Construction CareerExpo at the Georgia Convention Center, have several meetings with ‘African American men from the Diaspora’, visit the Allen Entrepreneurial Institute, the Center for Civil and Human Rights, Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Social Change and visit many other places and meet local businessmen. Upon their return to London, each of the participants must identify five other young black men who could benefit from the same experience, all in pursuit of establishing a lasting legacy in the London Borough of Hackney.