Courtesy of Bejay Mulenga
Bejay Mulenga is an impressive 24-year-old serial entrepreneur, who has already celebrated a decade of establishing businesses across industries – such as recruitment, marketing and media production – and with his latest venture Supa Network, has provided services to some of the world’s most influential brands, including Apple and Facebook. He works with such companies to offer key advice on how they can best connect, recruit and understand the next generation of young people.
Mulenga’s journey started in secondary school when aged 12 he organized his own talent show. As a young teenager Mulenga began nurturing a valuable skill: the ability to utilize whatever resources he has available to pull a project together. Mulenga managed a variety of tasks such as recruiting premature performers, finding and booking a venue at the right price, marketing the event and working out the finances to make the event worthwhile and, hopefully, profitable. Mulenga’s own talent for event management meant that the talent show a sold-out success and was the first step in his entrepreneurial journey.
Mulenga’s next venture involved opening and running a small tuck shop whilst at secondary school, which soon began generating a comfortable profit. A Business Studies student at the time, Mulenga considered the course to be highly theoretical and found that he was acquiring more practical business knowledge through his entrepreneurial efforts. Around the same time, he became familiar with the concept of franchising—a business expansion strategy involving an arrangement where a business owner grants another party (a franchisee) the right to trade under its licensed business name in exchange for a flat fee and/or a cut of the profits. Mulenga was fascinated with the potential this presented for his business to grow, by opening his brand of tuck shop across a number of schools in the area. In addition, he wanted to offer students like himself a practical education of the fundamentals of business. He registered his business under the name “Supa Tuck” in 2012.
Courtesy of Bejay Mulenga
Eager to market his business idea, Mulenga organised speaking engagements at a number of schools around the country, sharing his tips on how students could turn their grades around, as he had done himself by transforming from an average pupil to an A* student. During these talks, he would also share his business idea and presented it as an opportunity for students to develop entrepreneurial skills. By the time he was finished, many of the schools were eager to have a shop set up for their students. Within four years, Mulenga had worked with over 5,000 students and had even been invited to Downing Street to meet Lord Young, Enterprise Advisor to former Prime Minister David Cameron.
“As a young black boy from London, I never envisioned being invited to Downing Street” he recalls. Pursuing his business idea as a young teen had made the seemingly impossible possible, and the cliche “hard work pays off” became his reality. The invitation to Downing Street was followed by a speech delivered at the Conservative Party conference, at just 19 years of age to discuss enterprise for young people.
Around this time, some of Mulenga’s peers who had either entered university or recently left school, were struggling to find full or part-time work. He reflected on the skills he had developed whilst running his tuck shop business and figured that he could share the information, support and expertise with others. He set up the “Supa Market” to do just that, and in 2015 arranged a pop-up market operated by teenagers at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch, East London. The pop-up worked as a mini department store, where several young entrepreneurs pitched and sold a variety of products. The pop-up had over 10,000 customers, and in 2016 his efforts were recognised by the Queen of England when, at 21, he was the youngest recipient of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise.
Bejay Mulenga meeting the Queen
Courtesy of Bejay Mulenga
The feeling of having his success recognised in such a way fuelled Mulenga’s enthusiasm to seek new business opportunities. The Supa Academy pop-up was focused on retail products, for which demand is highly seasonal; in his case busy during the summer months and less so in the winter. In addition, during 2016, the influencer industry was picking up pace and Mulenga noticed that some of his peers had been capitalizing on this new area and working with prominent retail brands. Many of the influencers were either teens or in their early 20s and Mulenga spotted a gap in the market, where some influencers were unable to obtain fair payment terms. Mulenga saw that he was both well equipped to negotiate with established brands and able to relate to influencers in a similar age group. Thus, Mulenga set up his own marketing agency called Filli Studios. The company has now worked with some of the best-known influencers in the U.K. Still desiring to help young people gain business experience, and set up their own, he founded his next business, Supa Network.
Supa Network brings all of Mulenga’s business endeavours under one roof, spanning creative content production, event production, Gen-Z marketing, influencer marketing and recruitment for large companies. It is comprised of three in-house brands:
- SupaSpaces, focussing on bespoke events and workshops
- SupaNetwork Creative, focussing on content production for online, social, video and performance artists
- SupaInsight, a consultancy for brands and client, providing insight and support on areas such as recruitment and how to effectively engage with younger generations
Supa Network has worked with global powerhouses including Facebook, The Office Group and the government’s Cabinet Office. A highlight of this was training 3,000 people in the last twelve months on digital skills in partnership with Facebook.
Looking ahead Mulenga describes how the last 10 years have been setting him up for the next 20, and that he is excited to build on his legacy. He feels fortunate to work on something he loves and believes in, and intends to expand Supa Network into other high-growth regions across the U.K., such as Milton Keynes and Manchester with an aim of reaching thousands of people across the country in the coming years.
This article is part of a series featuring diverse people making a difference. You can find more articles here and if you have a story to tell or want to be updated as soon as new features are released message/follow me on Twitter @TommyASC91