The PRECIOUS Awards recognises success in the workplace and inspires women of colour to launch their own businesses.
Foluke Akinlose MBE is passionate about shining a spotlight on the successes of women of colour. She launched the awards because she was tired of going to business awards ceremonies and never seeing any women of colour featured. Knowing there were women out there doing brilliant things who she regularly discovered through the PRECIOUS network she decided to set up the awards in 2006.
With the 12th awards about to kick off, TBB Talks spoke to Foluke about her journey thus far…
Who are you?
I’m the founder of PRECIOUS, a digital magazine, and awards programme that exists to profile the achievements of women of colour in entrepreneurship, leadership, and work. It’s all about changing the narrative around who British women of colour really are and getting those success stories out there locally, nationally and internationally.
At 16 what were you thinking?
I was thinking how cool it would be to launch a magazine about and for women that looked like me and if I could truly do it as a proper full-time job.
Which came first the Precious magazine/platform or the awards?
PRECIOUS magazine came first. It was the first digital magazine for women of colour to launch in the UK. Looking back I think we were way ahead of our time. There was so much resistance. I remember having my first meeting with my business advisor – he told me straight up that he could not understand why there was a need for a magazine that only spoke to women of colour. It was our first and last meeting. The awards came about because I was sick of attending ‘mainstream ’ awards events and never seeing any women of colour being recognised. I knew there were lots of women of colour dong inspirational things in business and work as I met them every day through PRECIOUS magazine. I just thought it was a ridiculous situation and wanted to do something about.
If you founded your brand today what do you think you would have done differently?
I would have found a mentor straight away instead of 10 years later.
Why did you accept your MBE and how did your FRSA come about?
I had to think very hard about it. I have always been anti-establishment so it wasn’t an instant yes. I thought the phone call from the Cabinet Office was a joke at first and I gently put the phone down. I accepted for my parents its acknowledgments of where they have come from and anything that could make my mum smile like that is fine by me. Secondly, I accepted as I knew that anything that could help me propel the visibility of the work I am doing to celebrate the achievements of women of colour could only be a good thing. I was invited to be a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2011. It’s an honour to be part of this community of creatives, purpose-driven people trying to change the world.
You’ve won so many awards, not to downplay any of them, but which has been the most impactful?
Winning a Media Pioneer Award in 2012 was special for me. I don’t think the awards I have won have been impactful and that is probably because I have gratefully accepted the accolade and done the opposite of what I advise PRECIOUS awards winners to do and that is never speak about it again.
Diversity is the ‘in’ thing currently, but you started Precious when it wasn’t. Were you ever met with resistance to your idea?
Lots of resistance, particularly because I was intent on celebrating and putting the spotlight on the success stories of women of colour. Lots of organisations were not just not up for that. The stories I could tell. It was very draining and at times very lonely but I just had to keep going because it really wasn’t about me.
What’s bothering you about the world today, and what are you most hopeful about?
Lots of things. The amount of knife crime in the UK and the lack of an answer to tackle it. Young people are dying what can we do about this? l find it deeply affecting; I worry that the NHS is being eroded before our very eyes. Brexit. I worry about the brutal right-wing agenda that is seeping into our world.
I am hopeful about young people. I do think the future world is in safe hands. There are lots of things that they will not stand for in the hope of a better, fairer world. I was inspired by the number of young people in the UK who were motivated by Jeremy Corbyn and his campaign and went out to vote. It wasn’t just the Stormzy effect. This was young people looking beyond the headlines and questioning things. I am hopeful about the increasing numbers of people of colour who are setting up their own platforms, getting their voices out into the ether, it has never been more necessary.
When you’re not running precious you’re…?
I consult on content strategy for various brands and organisations.
What’s next for you and how can people get behind and support what you do?
There’s lots of great stuff coming up for PRECIOUS. We are expanding into new territories nationally and internationally and growing the team. I am seriously excited by the future.
The 12th Precious Awards take place Thursday 27th September. Find out more about Precious and the awards here.