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The story behind the Rise Awards

By ellie pipe, Wednesday Oct 30, 2019

An awards ceremony that celebrates and showcases the achievements of some of Bristol’s inspirational entrepreneurs and business people returns to the city on November 2.

Rise is a not-for-profit social enterprise that was established in 2013 by Sandra Gordon and Lynn Mareno, who recognised the lack of visibility of black businesses on the high street and set out to provide a platform that highlights work taking place across the city.

Standing for Recognising Individuals Success and Efforts, the vision was to showcase work, support development and self-realisation, address social and economic inequalities and provide facilities for learning in business and the creative sector.

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Sandra (second from right) says Rise plays a pivotal role in ensuring achievements in the city are recognised

“While there is still inequality and a lack of representation in the mainstream award events in our region, Rise and our fellow award events play a vital and pivotal role in ensuring that total city representation and achievement is acknowledged and recognised,” explains Sandra.

“I am proud to be part of an organisation that has created this platform for awareness. So many people have commented after seeing the individual showreels online, ‘wow I didn’t know that is what you did, that is so inspirational’.

“It is about creating opportunities for our finalists to gain the type of exposure that can lead to other things.”

Rise works to provide opportunities for black, Asian and ethnic minority (BAME) entrepreneurs and business owners to promote what they do to a wider audience through organised events, exhibitions and a weekly radio programme on Ujima Radio.

The annual awards ceremony is a culmination of this work and, this year, takes place on Saturday, November 2, at The Marriott Royal on College Green.


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Sandra adds that it was important to facilitate recognition of the role models within the African and Caribbean communities and create aspirational beliefs, especially for the next generation – the annual awards event has been the catalyst to facilitate this goal.

The name, which stands for Recognising Individuals Success and Efforts, was inspired by the poem ‘I Rise’ by Maya Angelou, as well a speech by Marcus Garvey.

Lynn (right) says it’s important to recognise achievements of BAME business owners and entrepreneurs

Speaking about the awards, Lynn says: “To see somebody receive an award for something they have put their heart and self into, with no expectations except that of doing something they love, pushing boundaries and challenging the obstacles, this is the most gratifying reward for us.”

She says it’s important to recognise these achievements against a backdrop in which diversity is sometimes overlooked.

Rise has been awarded lottery funding and Bristol Impact funding to deliver business and personal development workshops to a number of women who have used the skills learnt to continue expanding their businesses and personal lives.

The 2019 awards ceremony will have mayor Marvin Rees and deputy mayor Asher Craig in attendance, along with businesspeople and some of the city’s biggest employers, including Hargreaves Lansdown, Burges Salmon, GWR, Geneco, and Bristol Waste.

Entertainment will be provided by British soul sensation Omar, comedian Curtis Walker, Bristol artist Vanessa Melody and Ujima’s DJ Style.

Categories include business of the year, new business of the year, entrepreneur and young entrepreneur of the year, outstanding contribution to the community, arts & community entertainment and lifetime achievement award.

The mayor’s award will be presented to someone who has gone above and beyond for their community.

The event showcases the achievements of BAME business owners and enterpreneurs

Read more: Celebrations all round at Bristol’s Rise awards

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