Speaking for Ourselves

Rafi Akbar’s story

Rafi Akbar’s story

By N. N. Dee

 Migrant Voice -
 Migrant Voice - Rafi Akbar’s story

I am 35, married and live in the London borough of Brent. I was born in Nottingham but my parents took me back to Bangladesh - land of the Bengal tiger and the longest sandy beach in the world - when I was a baby.

As I grew up in Dhaka, I came to realise that there weren’t enough opportunities in the line of IT work in which I was interested. The sort of work I was qualified for was in banks. But I’m not the banker type and since I had a British passport I wanted to explore opportunities in London. So I returned to the UK in 2003 after completing my BA degree with two majors: management and management information systems.

I worked for a social media platform provider and had the opportunity to travel to San Francisco. The offices were in a building owned by Google and Google’s HQ was literally around the corner. I met a few Google employees and although my stay was short I had various conversations about start-ups during which I learned of the Google campus initiative. When I returned to London I visited Google campus (or Campus London, as it is currently known) and soon organised my first WordPress workshop.

The gap I spotted in the market – which led to the birth of my company – is that people often have an idea for a blog or a website but lack the technical know-how to proceed. They thus seek out others’ help, which usually means paying someone to build a website and in the process lose control.

They also spend more because of lack of knowledge about website project development. I was in the same situation once and wished someone was out there to teach me how to build and manage my site. This is the service Luckywebs provides.

An average Londoner attending my course brings his or her own laptop, knows how to send and receive emails and open day-to-day applications like Microsoft Word, Excel and web browsers. They have attended courses in libraries, and watched video tutorials or had someone show them the basics.

The main barrier I encountered was not having a mentor to provide guidance through the perilous journey of setting up a company. For example, it took me a while to find out that a trademark was more important than setting up a limited company. Let’s say you have a limited company with a certain name and someone has a trademark of the identical name. Of course, various factors need to be taken into consideration, but ultimately a trademark owner will have more rights than someone who has a limited company with the same name.

Then there are accounts that need to be provided to Companies House every year and taxes to be paid. If you hire someone, let’s say an intern, you’ll have to pay them a salary, work out their taxes and keep all paperwork. You’ll have to protect yourself by having professional indemnity insurance and public liability insurance. If you’re paying a salary to an employee or intern, you’ll have to pay for employers’ liability insurance that protects you as well. The list is endless, but, fortunately, organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses provide free legal advice.

My course attendees told me about the Prince’s Trust, which I contacted and told of my interest in becoming a business mentor. After going through a selection process and running a couple of courses at the Trust, I was accepted as a mentor.

I teach people who are in desperate need to learn how to set up and manage their own websites without having to learn code. Over the years, I have improved the sessions so they are hands-on courses at which attendees bring their own laptops and leave with their own websites. They can then continue building their websites by adding pages, posts, images, videos and so on.

I am currently running a one-day WordPress course at Google campus that is free to attend for anyone who has the ability to invest £4 a month for their web-hosting account. This allows them to run a self-hosted version of WordPress which is far more powerful and flexible than WordPress.com.