Note: Originally written for the Ilford Recorder.
Growing up in Ilford is by no means plain sailing.
Booze, drugs, and gangs – there’s plenty to get you off the straight and narrow from an early age.
But don’t let that fill you with despair folks, because for every crooked criminal on our streets there are dozens of ambitious youngsters trying to get ahead.
One such person is 23-year-old Anees Ikramullah, who recently started his own business, Centre Sport Events, a sports events company based in Goodmayes.
When he’s not organising football tournaments he works for Interactive, a charity who promote disability equality in sport.
Anees graduated from the University of Essex in 2011, after which he worked a year at Wembley Stadium as a tour guide operator.
He says the experience gave him a lot of confidence.
In 2013, after a year of hard work and a meagre income, he successfully attained a Masters degree in Sports Management from London Met University.
“I’ve always been involved with football since a young age,” said Anees. “I learnt a lot from setting up tournaments for London ASPA, but felt there was a need for a tournament with a social ethos as well as competitive play.”
Anees’ first event took place last month at Dagenham Goals.
A total of 12 teams took part with a cash prize of £100. But he’s not wasting time revelling in his success, and has another tournament planned for June 1.
“Some say I take too much on, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than providing a platform of opportunity and enjoyment for others through Football.”
Up the road in Seven Kings, 20-year-old Uzman Kkurshiv runs the Coffee Hut, a café that has gained quite a following since it opened in January last year.
The young entrepreneur has settled into life as the manager of a busy restaurant, taking orders, managing the books and everything else that comes with the job.
“I originally wanted to get into property management,” he said, “but then me and my dad opened the Coffee Hut.”
While his dad may have funded him, Uzman is no stranger to the rigours of enterprise.
“My dad just supervised us – me and my brother. Ahmer would deal with staff and I sorted out the orders.”
That all changed however, when his older brother, Ahmer Kkurshiv, 25, got married and moved onto to another job. Uzman said he struggled on his own at first, but he persevered nonetheless.
“From when he left it’s been up and down, but my dad has been behind me the whole way.”
Despite building up the business himself, Usman doesn’t plan on staying at the Coffee Hut for too long,
“On the whole it’s been a great experience, but what I want to do now is use what I have learned to take on other challenges.”
Further afield, Daniel Berwick, a personal fitness trainer and bodybuilder, started his own urban gym in February.
Skadoosh Fitness, located off London Road in Romford, is a studio gym which offers personal training with an urban twist.
Daniel uses various techniques that try to bring a fresh approach to fitness, using battle ropes, kettle bells, and rubber tires to put the fun back into fitness.
“I want to take away the boring aspects of working out and turn them into challenging and rewarding sessions,” he said.
Originally hailing from Chadwell Heath, the 23-year-old first got into bodybuilding after leaving school at just 16.
After trying his hand at various jobs, and even training to be a plumber, Daniel decided to pursue his dreams in 2009, and started out as a personal trainer at Ilford’s Fitness First.
He excelled quickly however, moving on to Virgin Active after a year where he was also given the title of service manager.
But Daniel says that starting his own business was always his ambition.
“It’s something I always wanted to do,” he said.
“Start small, dream big.”