MOBO Awards founder Kanya King has credited her poor upbringing for making her determined to succeed as an entrepreneur.
The MOBO music awards, the largest urban music event of its kind in Europe when it was set up, are now broadcast in 50 countries worldwide. King, who came up with the idea in 1995, received an MBE in 1999.
But speaking at this year’s Advantage conference, Kanya, told delegates how she grew up in a council flat in north-west London, the youngest of nine children, and had a far from easy childhood.
She said: “I have been successful because I refused to quit not because of any extraordinary talent. I recognised there was a gap in the market and there were people not being catered for.
“I don’t think there is a blueprint to being an entrepreneur. What really matters is having the right attitude. The truth is I just had a desire and a passion to make a difference.”
At an early age Kanya began finding ways to make money; at seven years old she collected bottle tops in the park and returned them for 5p each. Later on, Kanya found other ways to make money, such as selling whistles for a profit of 65p each at the Notting Hill Carnival in London.
“I had to become an entrepreneur at a young age. Because we could get 5p return on each bottle top I could generate a nice income,” she said.
Her savings even helped pay the family utility bills when times were tight. “Every Saturday I put £5 in my account and I was able to prevent my family’s gas and electricity bill being cut off,” she recalled.
At 13 years old, Kanya ended up in care when her parents temporarily split up and left school with no qualifications. She became a single mum at an early age, and was kicked out of university as she was unable to focus on her studies.
“As my elder siblings got into trouble, I was determined not to be the stereotype of a new mum on benefits,” said King, who was told by a careers adviser she would never set up her own business. “She told me to be realistic and if I was lucky I would get a job in Sainsbury,” she said.
King added that she does have an “exit strategy”, which could involve leaving the business in the next couple of years, but she added: “I love what I do and I am continuing doing it.”
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