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 In the Caritas Aspire team, building on lessons from previous years and maintaining an open mindset has greatly improved programme delivery and outcomes.

In the 2023 edition, a more targeted approach was possible due to a full team capacity, resulting in a higher intake of participants. A mentor recruitment strategy refined using learnings from 2022 resulted in  successful collaboration with industry expert mentors across multiple niche areas. 

Looking ahead, our focus is on recruiting as many participants as possible for the on-demand programme scheduled to kick off in the new year and it will be a condensed version.

"This programme provided the knowledge, structure and the flexibility I needed, and it was an empowering  experience which was exactly what I needed, to not be defined by forced migration background but actually valued for my skills and experiences. It was a massive motivation for me to hear from my mentor who is a businessman and an investor, that my idea is valuable and possible"

2023 Graduate of UP Collective Manchester.

Highlights & Key Learnings

Memorable milestones, learnings and reflections from this year's UP Collective programme in Manchester.


‘Know your Customer’ and ‘Know your Competitor’ were pivotal workshops for many entrepreneurs as they enabled them to think more deeply about their business ideas and develop their ideas into more sophisticated business plans.

Mentors joined the workshops both as breakout room facilitators and to support their mentee on a 1:1 basis.

Test Events

In November, our live test event was kindly hosted by Co-op at their city-centre headquarters in Manchester. Entrepreneurs presented their unique ideas varying from heavenly tasting fried ice creams to roasted coffee from Ukraine, from innovative lifestyle products to hand-woven rugs and carpets imported from Afghanistan and many more. More than 50 people visited the testing event, trying the products and services and sharing formative feedback.

"It was an amazing experience and gave me a chance to present my business plan and goals as well as receive feedback from visitors which will help me to improve my business."

2023 UP Collective Manchester Graduate

“Testing Day helped me to present my ideas to the outside people and validate my ideas with them by getting their suggestions, feedback, opinions and that helped me to further refine my ideas. I feel more confident after understanding their comments and feedback.”

2023 UP Collective Manchester Graduate

A smiling entrepreneur wearing a hijab presents her food products to the public at a test event.

Innovations & Opportunities

Mentor Onboarding

This year we  took more time to build closer relationships with our mentors which meant they had more ownership on how they were to help participants; many went above their initial agreed time with mentees to provide further assistance.

A more in-depth recruitment and onboarding process enabled us to make more personalised mentor matches. One entrepreneur developing a health tourism website was strategically paired with a doctor who also has a business targeting health tourism in the UK and several other countries. This sector-specific mentorship has not only enriched the learning experience for the entrepreneur but also forged meaningful connections and potential partnerships for the duration of the programme and beyond. 

Test Events & Graduation

Involving alumni from the previous year in programme delivery has provided valuable inspiration for the new cohort. UP Collective alumnus Mahboobeh Rajabi, founder of DIPACT, returned to provide guidance at the ‘Test My Idea’ workshop and as a keynote speaker at the graduation. DIPACT is a social enterprise building a creative hub for underrepresented artists in Manchester. Following Mahboobeh’s speech, one 2023 graduate looked to collaborate with DIPACT, supplying coffee to the cafe in the cultural space.

We partnered with Co-op to have the same venue for the Testing and Graduation events; this meant that participants really knew what to expect at the graduation event and felt more prepared/less nervous going into the pitches.

For the first time, participants had the opportunity to sell at the graduation event using Paypal. Sales did not go as well as expected due to lack of access to card machines - a practical barrier we will look to address in future versions of the event.

An entrepreneur presents baked goods to two people at her event stall.

Looking forward

If you’re inspired by what you’ve read, and want to enable Caritas to continue to provide inclusive business support to refugee entrepreneurs in the Greater Manchester area, we want to hear from you. 

Contact our Partnerships team here.


UP Collective Manchester: 2023 Impact Report

partner, stories, alumni

UP Collective Delivery Partner
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