THE HUFFINGTON POST  March 11th 2013

Supporting Our Leaders of Tomorrow: The 2210 Foundation

With ever decreasing government support for young startups, education and creative projects — now, more than ever before, there is a need for the 2210 Foundation — a charity for young men and women aged between 18 and 30, who are embarking on their first business, creative project or a course of higher education. Marc Cameron, the foundation’s founder and chairman, explains the vision for this new, dream facilitator charity.

As a young entrepreneur, who has launched his own print magazine and is currently working on an e-commerce fashion startup, I know firsthand the challenges young people are facing as they attempt to get their first businesses off the ground. From finding funding to getting the right advice and people to work with, there are so many hurdles to overcome. Some, especially securing finance, deter young people from taking a leap that will change their life for the better.

I’ve also experienced the expense of the higher education system that many people use as a platform to get into that dream job/set up the business that will raise funds for their first startup or be the first step in the journey to being financially independent. The challenges and hurdles you face as a young business person are wonderful and fulfilling, but they also make you aware of the lack of support there is out there for talented individuals, especially those facing financial hardship. If the bank of mum and dad isn’t open to you, even if they’re a supportive element in your life, the barriers can prove a true deterrent.

It was a scholarship of £2,000, awarded to me in recognition of my first class honours degree, achievements and lack of financial resources/family support system to get on a Masters degree, that led to my presence on a leading MA in Journalism course, an internship in New York, sitting in the boardrooms of some of the most successful people in the publishing industry, and being mentored by two business greats. It gave me the time to think up an award-winning magazine, which later went on to sell in the UK and Ireland, and secure a well-paying contractor role at a major Internet company. Since then I’ve worked with artists on arts projects that have appeared in major publications and come into contact with some truly wonderful people on a daily basis, for which I’m truly grateful. Everything I do to this day, including the e-commerce fashion business I’m developing and this foundation I’m about to launch with my colleagues, can find its roots in the moment I received that award. It changed my life forever. And now I want to help others achieve their dreams.

As a young guy from a broken home (middle class families mess up, too) and with no bank of mum and dad available to me, that award made the world of difference. It was a dream facilitator — and in the current climate, with ever-increasing cutbacks and constraints on the bank of mum and dad, and less support for young people going it alone, we need more dream facilitators than ever before — both for higher education and at business startup level. That’s where the 2210 Foundation comes in.

The 2210 Foundation’s core aim is to invest awards of between £1,000 and £5,000 in individuals/partnerships who are setting up their first small businesses, creative projects or undertaking higher education in the arts, technology, science, medicine and sports sectors.

Though we’re intent on backing both young men and women, we see young females launching their first businesses as a priority. I’m very lucky to have a number of female friends who are successful entrepreneurs. They remind me of my aunties, who are were both successful in their teaching and publishing fields in a male dominated era. But, as open minded as we all like to be, there are still obstacles preventing young women from getting into business/taking that leap, and we want the 2210 Foundation to facilitate real change in bringing more young women into the business sphere.

Through cuts in government funding for higher education support, a lack of support for young people and small businesses at ground level, and increasing pressure on family incomes, there is now more than ever before a need for a charity that will help talented young people who do not have the financial means to achieve their dreams.

According to the Young Invincibles website, more than half of 18 to 34 year olds have the desire to start a business, but in a poll conducted on their website at the end of 2011, 38 percent of young Americans said they were putting their businesses on hold until the US economy stabilises.

Meanwhile, in the UK we have our own issues. Prime Minister David Cameron himself has said the instability of the economy during 2008/9 has left a gap in the funding for startups sector, so we want to be there for those who aren’t in a position to get funding from the bank, their families or other forms of funding.

A recent report on enterprise by British politician and businessman Lord Young found that if the UK had the same “rate of entrepreneurship” as the USA, then there would be 900,000 extra businesses in this country. Think of the positive impact that would have on the economy! If the 2210 Foundation can play a role in stimulating that growth, while reducing youth unemployment (currently at a figure of over one million people, according to Lord Young’s report), by furthering the education of a future businessperson, or supporting the business of someone who may not have access to help otherwise, then we’ll have achieved our goals.

While Crowdfunding is evidently helping more and more young people get their projects off the ground, the beneficiaries are often those requiring more funds — and, it comes at the risk of losing a percentage of equity/or paying a charge once investment is secured. Only for £5,000 investments will we ask for any form of equity, and this is in order to bring back the funds and invest them in another start-up. If the young person does not make this money, then we will not demand it of them.

We intend to raise funds from high net worth individuals, organisations, fundraisers featuring high-profile individuals from the sectors we’ll cover, and, in the long-run, the 2210 e-commerce fashion business I wrote about here a few months back and intend to launch later this year.

The foundation and the 2210 fashion business will operate separately, with the only crossover being mine and my CFO’s involvement with both. Once the fashion brand is a success, after the first two years we’ll introduce a crossover opportunity, where we’ll run clothing promotions that push a percentage of profits into the charity.

For now, our first target is to raise £6,500 to fund the launch of our website and invest £5,000 in five different arts projects.

From there we want to raise £10,000 on a quarterly basis, to fund between five to 10 projects each quarter. But our long-term aims are uber-ambitious with the plan to raise millions to help young people achieve their dreams.

Working alongside the 2210 Foundation’s vice chairman, Naveed Ahmad, trustees Bruce McCombie and Andrew Subramaniam, the next few months will present an exciting period of growth for the 2210 Foundation.

I also have to credit the inspiration for the foundation to two dear friends, Iona and Sophia, who I am truly grateful for. Without their presence in my life, I would not have had the resources, whether emotional or business-related, available to me to make my dreams come true. Iona, who was with me when I started this journey and gave me crucial support at a time when I needed it the most. And, Sophia, a great friend and supporter of mine who also backed me at a crucial point in my life, for posing the question — as I talked about making millions and billions from my e-commerce fashion company: “Yes, but what is your higher purpose?”

The answer? The 2210 Foundation.