MJN celebrates entrepreneurs week with EPIC Youth

MJN celebrates entrepreneurs week with EPIC Youth

This week, Martin James Foundation and EPIC Youth are celebrating Global Entrepreneurship Week 2020. Hear the stories about our EPIC Entrepreneurs Dion and Rennae who have been working with EPIC Youth over the last few months.


Dion Fanthom – Mindful Monday


Dion joined EPIC Youth in June 2020. Dion had already launched her business the previous year however required some further support to develop and grow her business. With the help of EPIC Youth we were able to trademark the name ‘Mindful Monday’ as well as providing intensive business and financial support.

The inspiration for Mindful Monday came about from bad experiences within the workplace, when it came to employee mental health and wellbeing. I had openly spoken about my mental health challenges and encouraged my colleagues to do the same but the support was non-existent. It seemed at the time that managers didn’t really care about or know how to approach the topic of mental health in the workplace.

I saw my colleagues burn out, experienced terrible anxiety myself and as a result ended up dreading going to work on a Monday morning. My one wish was to simply have a more mindful Monday, hence the name for my own business came to life.

When I left these toxic working environments I was filled with frustration towards my prior managers, I was left damaged by the poor experiences myself and my colleagues had been through. It was only after reflecting I started to think maybe it’s not their fault, maybe it’s not always about being ignorant, maybe it is about being uneducated. That is why I created Mindful Monday, to be proactive when it came to mental health. To create understanding and educated environments across all industries for individuals to thrive, completely shame-free.


Since launching at the beginning of the year we have held fully booked events, launched a project to give over 100 people a free box of positivity at the beginning of lockdown, created online content, and sold a range of products via our website.

Some of these products include mugs, coasters, pocket mirrors, and as we approach December we have created an alternative advent calendar that provides self-care and mindful prompts each day in order to inspire people to be kind to their mind over the festive period.

When it comes to Mindful Monday, success to me is achieved every day. With each message or order that comes through I get a sense of success as I know we are helping those who want to get a better understanding of mental health. Long term success would be seeing a real change when it comes to mental health in all industries and environments, normalised conversations and support systems, individuals thriving in work with constant support for employees mental health.

I have very ambitious plans for Mindful Monday and I am confident I will achieve them. There is a need for an organisation like the one me and my community have created, this pandemic has shown there is a clear demand for more organic mental health support and I am determined to continue providing that for as long as it is needed.

Rennae Smith – Tressamore

Rennae joined EPIC Youth in January 2020, she had a passion for hair extensions and wanted some support to launch her own business as she was unsure of how to do it on her own. Rennae received intensive support from the Martin James Network which included business and financial help. Some of the ways in which the network was able to help was by guiding her through trademarking her name, registering her business, helping her to design logos and branding as well as ongoing pastoral support.

When Rennae was asked why she chose to start a hair extension business she replied ‘ I chose to start a hair business as it was something I’m passionate about as I’ve always been doing hair from a little girl to make extra money on the side. And it’s a skill that I have naturally become very good at. I am very fond of the hair industry and origin; it’s something that I find really interesting’. 

Due to COVID-19 it has unfortunately delayed the launch of Tressamore as products have become unavailable or hard to get hold of but Rennae is still hoping to launch online after Christmas.

‘I’m excited to finally launch so everyone can see the amazing quality hair extensions I have in store as I have so many ideas up my sleeve. I am hoping to Launch after Christmas’  

Rennae has a clear idea of what being successful means to her. ‘What drives me is the idea of being successful and meeting my end goal that I have worked so hard for. Coming up with new creative ideas to improve business & just becoming the best version of myself and becoming a role model to my siblings.’

Lindsey Hyde – EPIC Youth: I am so excited for Rennae to launch her hair business, she has been committed driven and passionate to get this point. I am sure the business will be a massive success and I can’t wait to her see her launch and to finally start selling her products. Good luck Rennae!!

Please look out for more information on where you can purchase some of Rennae’s amazing products…………


Find out more about Martin James Foundation and our EPIC Youth scheme by clicking here 

Fearless Futures – A note from Jim Cockburn, Chair at Martin James Network

Fearless Futures – A note from Jim Cockburn, Chair at Martin James Network

I want to take this opportunity to unveil our newly clarified vision and mission for the Martin James Network, to which all of our companies and brands are proud to belong.

Here at the Martin James Network, every one of our employees is united in the desire to make a positive contribution to society and amplify the voices of the mould-breakers and change makers of the world. We are now also unified in our vision and mission statement.

The individual groups and companies within the Martin James Network, often pioneers with their own vision, can clearly link back to this unifying purpose. It only serves to demonstrate further the powerful sense of connection and community in our unique and diverse network.

As a lifelong advocate for change I’m proud to be associated with our new vision statement. The vision of ‘a society in which every individual is valued and where all dreams can be realised without fear, limitation or prejudice.’

I love the wordswithout fear’. I’ve always believed in the quote ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’, because too often we are constrained by internal and external fears. And this feeds into our new Martin James Network strapline:


“Fearless Futures”

Our new mission is to improve social outcomes by reimagining what’s possible and utilising disruptive technology and practice, to unlock human potential.” 

This is a fantastic statement which surprises me as an old technophobe but I’ve learnt lately, especially and unsurprisingly during lockdown, that a pivot to technology is essential even in human powered organisations.

Providing real-time answers to global problems, the Martin James Network harnesses a talented team of digital winners whose VR, Chatbots, Apps, AI, innovations and more, will only increase in popularity during the unconnected, changing information age. Aligned with the ability to reimagine futures, which we have always been able to do, we become an unstoppable force for good.

Our values describe how “we’re fearless pioneers with a social conscience”. This simple sentence highlights the prominence of the care, courage and creativity that drives our employees. But it is also essential for us to work collaboratively, challenge existing ideas curiously and candidly, and adopt an unwavering commitment to succeed whatever barriers we may face, in order to really change the world.


On a personal note, I am blessed to be working with Ayyab, my wife and business partner. She is a constant inspiration, in turn conquering new technologies and driving forth our social mission. She is a passionate advocate of the need for diversity of thought; to develop understanding, create better solutions and ultimately grow as people and communities. Valuing the power of our differences whilst recognising our common ground of improving human outcomes, strengthens the collective power of our network.

The Martin James Network will continue to advocate for change by pushing boundaries and breaking moulds. By encouraging our employees and partners to be courageous and creative, we empower a truly fearless community which collaboratively bounces from one another.

We have come so far and achieved so much already, but through our new overarching vision and mission, we can and we will continue to build fearless families, fearless communities and ultimately fearless futures.

Meet one of the Martin James Network’s very own entrepreneurs, Tim Luft

Meet one of the Martin James Network’s very own entrepreneurs, Tim Luft

I have always had a passion for technology – from my early days in school operating a BBC Microcomputer where I would play the latest games (many of which were extremely basic, 2D, with very poor graphics). 

Jump 20 years on and the games industry has changed beyond all recognition, new games consoles have appeared, Apple iTunes have brought out mobile games and computers that are able to process highly engaging 3D graphics.  It is from this that I recognised an opportunity to create highly innovative products from the skill set of the games industry. However, instead of building entertainment games, I felt we should look towards gamification and 3D virtual environments to assist with everyday tasks such as teaching and learning. 

Before I set up my own Virtual Reality Studio I went through the process of running other businesses – my first being a French Restaurant (but my cooking skills were pretty questionable and I am not sure whether Wolverhampton was quite ready for Crepes in the mid-1990s), I ran my own consultancy business (advising blue chips and the UK Government on Innovation and IT) for many years and then decided the time was right to go it alone with a technical development studio in the West Midlands. 

As a small business focusing on Virtual Reality and Simulation I was able to slowly build up a company and generate a mix of clients from Arriva Trains to the Gwent Police. But it was clear, I needed to invest in products if the business was going to grow, at this stage I started with the Rail Industry, developing a learning tool using a virtual 3D environment to increase safety on railway platforms – it worked, our first client experienced a 60% reduction in incidents on the rail stations as a result of training their staff with our software (Result!). This gave us the confidence to explore similar products for the UK Police and before long we had two titles in the market. 

As I progressed the business I often presented at events, conferences and workshops, it was at such a presentation that Jim and Ayyab happened to be in the audience. They had an interest in VR/ AR and it wasn’t long before I had a call from an old friend of mine, Faye. One thing led to another and the opportunity to join the MJN family of businesses became real – this was an easy option for me, I recognised that as a small business with little or no investment we can only grow at a certain pace, but being a smaller part of something bigger (TalkOut Group) we could grab with both hands the real opportunity to innovate and scale. Jim and Ayyab recognise the potential of technology as a source for good if developed properly, they have also created an enviable group of companies, all of whom I felt could be great partners and collaborators going forward. 

I feel that we are still on an exciting journey and with the support of the Martin James Network, and the wider teams across the globe I am very excited to see where this journey takes us. The appointment of Paul Putman as our new TalkOut CEO and a focus on combining our VR tech team with world class experts in mobile development also offers tremendous potential for growth. We recognise how significant the TalkOut App will become and are fully onboard to support the company with a portfolio of Virtual Reality Worlds. Watch this space!

Black History Month at the Martin James Network

Black History Month at the Martin James Network

At the Martin James Network, diversity and inclusivity has always been a priority. But this year in particular, we’ve been educating our employees around race, culture and the importance of diversity in the workplace.

In October, we supported and celebrated Black History Month. We had events, workshops and support going on throughout the month, as well as encouraging colleagues across the business to talk about their experiences. In this blog post, we take a look at some of the projects that have taken place and the initiatives taking shape within the network.

Going back to the classroom

There’s no denying that school curriculums are failing at teaching us the very basics when it comes to black history. In fact, according to The Black Curriculum, 73% of people in the UK learnt about the Great Fire of London, but only 10% learnt about the role of slavery in the British Industrial Revolution.

We believe that knowledge leads to understanding and change. So, to mark Black History Month, we’ve been taking employees back to the classroom (virtually, of course) to give them the opportunities to learn more.

We held an Inclusive Webinar Series with sessions around understanding white privilege, exploring black culture, and using mentoring and reverse mentoring to drive inclusive cultures. We’ve also shared resources and links to events taking place in Birmingham on our internal engagement app, TalkOut.

Progressing our diversity charter

Our diversity charter has been in development for some time but has really evolved over the last six months. The charter demonstrates our commitment to leading the way when it comes to diversity, equality, and anti-discriminatory practices within the workplace. It outlines both our business commitments and the personal commitments we want our employees to adopt to support diversity.

As part of the charter, we have run several events and webinars to give all employees the chance to explore and discuss diversity in the workplace. As part of the Charter, we have also joined Inclusive Employers giving us access to leading edge resources on diversity and allowing us to benchmark our processes against other organisations.

Encouraging employees to share their dreams

Whether it’s our website, social media or internal engagement tool, we’re always encouraging employees at all levels to share their personal experiences and raise awareness of important issues. In October, network employee Cliff Faulder kindly wrote a blog post discussing what Black History Month means to him and what having a dream is really about.

He talks about growing up as a black child in 70s, 80s and 90s Britain, and explores society’s misconceptions of people of colour and how they’ve contributed to the world we live in. Click here to read Cliff’s blog post in full.

Whilst Black History Month has given us a platform to promote diversity, we know that this isn’t just once a year and we have events planned across the year to promote diversity and to continue the discussion around race and culture.  

Martin James Network launches creative incubation centre to nurture young talent

Martin James Network launches creative incubation centre to nurture young talent

In December, we launched Epic Youth – a charitable project to help disadvantaged young people with business and entrepreneurial success. Fast forward to today, and we’re delighted to have launched CoLab – a creative incubation centre to mentor and support entrepreneurial talent across the Midlands.

As a network, we strongly believe in supporting young people who have experienced adversity. We work to transform the social and emotional health and wellbeing of disempowered and underserved communities so they have access to equal opportunities within society and can flourish, prosper, and realise their dreams.

We do this by providing pathways to employment and personal development aimed at business and entrepreneurial success. CoLab will play a huge part in helping us to achieve this. But on top of that, it will provide a dedicated safe space to cultivate entrepreneurial mindsets within the Martin James Network too.

CoLab is equipped with all the tools and inspiration people need to get creative and turn ideas into opportunities. It’s a space for people to work collaboratively on projects, express themselves candidly, and pursue new ideas. We’ll also soon be introducing Creative Bites – a series of taster workshops to help people develop skills in disciplines ranging from photography and cinematography to coding and virtual reality .

We’re hugely excited about the potential of CoLab and we can’t wait to see the impact it has. Not only will it serve as an incubation centre for budding entrepreneurs through our Epic Youth programme, it will boost internal wellbeing by giving our people opportunities to get creative, learn new skills and express themselves.

Take a look at the video below to see what CoLAB looks like.

Martin James Network – connecting minds, shaping futures