Blog | Black History Month Spotlight – Celebrating Jen Ellin
By Carrie MokShare post:
Read time: approx 9 mins
With this year’s Black History Month’s theme being #SalutingOurSisters, University College Birmingham explores the journeys of some of our incredible black female alumni and puts a spotlight on their achievements.
Here we’re putting the spotlight on Jen Ellin, owner of Jen’s Tailored Events.
As a mature learner, Jen topped up her Events Management FdA into a Business Enterprise BA(Hons) at University College Birmingham, transforming her PA business into a fully fledged events business. Jen is now planning on providing opportunities for young people with difficulties in their life the chance to learn and develop new business and entrepreneurial skills, inspired in part by her own journey.
Hi Jen, tell us about where your love of events come from?
I had already started my business in Personal Assistance, which was Jen's Tailored PA. As I was looking to emigrate to Canada, I looked at universities to find courses that would help me towards that goal. I was interested because events was something I'd always done for family and friends; I was always the go-to person, sourcing a DJ, a venue or just a get-together.
From there I enjoyed learning more about the planning of events and all of the theory behind it, as opposed to just the practical side, was really useful. I then topped it up to a Business Enterprise degree at the University.
How did your business come about?
Although I'd started off in PA, I realised what I actually wanted to do was concentrate on the event side. Whilst I was a student on the events programme, I had to do a project where we hosted a charity event, and ours was for the Prince's Trust. My role was project coordinator. I had to reach out to local businesses, and one of which was John Lewis. I told them what we were doing and what we were raising it for.
They said they loved the idea but couldn't donate because they had their own charity. When I set up my own business in events and bought equipment, I went back to John Lewis and I reintroduced myself saying, “Hi, it's me, Jen. I was a student and reached out a couple of years ago, but now this is what I do. I'd love to have a meeting” and they said ‘‘yes’’!
It just took off from there. I really went in on the event side of my business and I rebranded to Jen's Tailored Events. I invested in having a bespoke mobile bar made and started hiring it out for special occasions such as hen parties, birthdays and attending festivals, where I would trade at.
I was on the BSEEN programme, and I had a mentor. I think having my mentor was one of the best things that I could have had, he really helped me look at my own strengths and what was holding me back. That's when I started to host my own events as opposed to just attending others and hiring out equipment.
People would say to me “Jen, do you want to do this interview? Do you want to come and speak here?”, I would say “no”. My mentor said “No, Jen, stop saying no, say yes.” And I did. I said, “I'm going to go on that radio. I'm going to go to university and give a talk,” so I did. Being on BSEEN and having my mentor was invaluable. Jen's Tailored Events was created, and that's what I was doing up until lockdown.
During the pandemic I helped my then 9-year-old daughter set up her sweets business. She had asked me to help her, so I did. I started to reflect and re-evaluate a few things and noticed that the things people come to me for, were always business related. So, I started doing business consultancy, and set up Tailored Business Consultancy, working with people who were leaving their 9 to 5s, helping start-ups. I could have really pushed that, but my passion is young people: helping young people start their business, just like I did with my daughter, and also teaching them about money and healthy relationships. From my own experience in being a young mum at 16 and not being in the best relationships, not really being taught about money and what opportunities are out there for you, being told by teachers that I would amount to nothing and not having any GCSEs, I have still achieved so much.
Having gone back to uni at 33 years old and having built a business, I just want to share those stories with young people to help them see a different way. Now I'm working on building a hub to offer a framework for young people to learn the skills of money management, entrepreneurship, and positive relationships.
You must be so proud of your achievements, having had the journey you’ve had!
People always ask, “Who's your inspiration?”, and when you ask people this, it’s usually a well-known figure. But when it came to me, my nan was, she had 7 kids, and my mom. They both had strong family values and gave me so much support when I had my daughter at 16 and were great models to me for that.
And then I thought, I've gone through so much that I inspire myself. People will say, “Oh, that's big headed’’, but it's not. I look back at my journey of overcoming some real challenges, but I think my personality, being resilient and just always keeping going, always wanting the best, I feel that's what inspires me because I know if I can do it, I can help others do it too.
What’s the most memorable event you’ve set up?
The charity event at university as it was in the local paper and we raised just over £1000 for The Prince’s Trust, a charity I believe in, and it was great seeing how everything works and the collaboration between students to pull everything off. . On a personal level, after I finished university, it highlighted what I had learned; it was memorable.
And then wedding fairs. I went into hosting my own and seeing the long queues of people waiting to get in, seeing the exhibitors and getting the feedback from them – those were all special for me!
Do you have any hopes for where you want your business to go?
Firstly, I have my mobile bars which I take to festivals, weddings, and other events.
I'm passionate about having a young person run one of them as their own bar and I will mentor them for 12 months, they will learn, and I will teach them all the things that they need to know about business. I reached out to the university, and they loved the idea, so they have put the opportunity to the students. The application closing date is 4th November, and then we will have a Dragon’s Den-type platform for students to pitch to secure the opportunity.
For my overall hub, I've just registered as a CIC limited company and that is where I will offer an online platform to mentor, guide and support young people that are at a stage in their life where they need some direction. They might want to go to university down the line, but for now, they're entrepreneurial and may have some difficulties in their life and don’t know what direction to go in. They need to understand what positive relationships look like and how that impacts on you being able to build your business.
I think that's where offering those four key frameworks within this online hub platform come in; where young people can connect with each other, network with each other, hear from experts, and do business with each other. That's what I want to focus on, connecting, helping and supporting as many young people as possible.
Want to follow in Jen's footsteps? Take a look at the courses in our Business School and discover how to take your aspirations to the next level.
Check out our latest news stories
Food, glorious food! Student chefs and bakers serving up feast of awards for 2023
From brilliant bakers to super seafood chefs and a patisserie prize-winner, food students from University Col…Read more
Hotel management alumna leads on developing hospitality in Botswana
A former hotel management student turned government employee is playing a pivotal role in developing hospitality and culina…Read more
Skills funding awarded to University will boost technical qualifications
The new qualifications are high-quality, job-focused qualifications. These new programmes are a part of University Col…Read more
Blog | How my chef apprenticeship took me to the South Pole
While cheffing can take you anywhere in the world, few have pushed the boundaries as far as former University College Birmingham ap…Read more
Business conference equips learners with skills to navigate their future careers
The Sustainable Futures Business Conference launches today at the University, packed with an impressive array…Read more
Trailblazers discuss improving access to nutritious food at university restaurant
Hosted at the award-winning Restaurant at the Birmingham College of Food, the ‘Food Security & Resilience’ Cr…Read more