Abi Begho, is the founder and CEO of “The Lake Foundation,” a not-for-profit health organisation. The Lake Foundation is working to bring awareness to the African and African-Caribbean community about health related issues. The Lake Foundation focuses on reducing the risk of developing chronic diseases that are common in said communities by offering a range of services that aim to improve the health and well-being of the African and African-Caribbean community. Their services include health awareness events, health information, keep active programmes, patient support and consultancy services.Prior to founding The Lake Foundation, Abi worked as a healthcare practitioner with a focus on cancer and ethnicity. She previously held positions with Ovarian Cancer Action, Paul’s Cancer Centre and Bettersday Care Centre. Her educational background includes a Masters degree in Public Health from Kings College, London.
AB: I’ve worked in the research and health care field for over 10 years. I worked in a variety of roles and industries including the pharmaceutical industry and charitable sector where I explored a number of health related issues. I developed an interest in the health of the black community and worked on a few projects that explored African and African-Caribbean health issues and also volunteered in the community to raise awareness of these issues.During this time I learnt that there are a number of health conditions that are more common in the black community, that some conditions may affect us differently and we’re more likely to be diagnosed at a late stage. As a result of this, our health outcomes tend to be poorer than our white counterparts. I wanted to do something about this and hence The Lake Foundation was born. The Lake Foundation is a charity that aims to improve the health and well being of the black community and the name was inspired by my mother’s side of the family. My mother’s maiden name is Lake and The Lake Foundation was set up in loving memory of all the Lakes we’ve lost too soon due to health issues.
RB: What major challenges did you face when setting up your business and how did you overcome them?
AB: A key challenge has been funding. Raising the necessary funds to be effective and reach our community is a serious challenge. I have to think creatively about this and it does keep me up at night. I have overcome this by starting small and keeping things very (very) simple and not overstretching. Additionally, I have made a conscious effort to build our track record with small, effective projects and maintaining a consistent presence online – we blog every week without fail, our social media is consistent and we attend relevant events. I’ve also tried to build strong, strategic partnerships. This has paid off as when we apply for grants we have a powerful story to tell and can easily provide evidence of our work ethic, capability and impact. This is because we blog about everything, events we’ve attended and organised, publications we’ve written, projects we’re running and give our opinion on government policy as well as discuss the health issues that affect our community. We also write reports about everything we’ve done. This helps strengthen our case when we’re looking for funding. As well as this we’re also developing an offering of charged services so that we become more financially stable.The other challenge is community support. Once we do get the funding to set up services that benefit the community, a major challenge is uptake of that service. The research we conduct shows that particular services are much-needed by our community but when we provide that service attendance is not always the greatest. That can be really soul-destroying but we hope that as our charity grows and people get to know us this will improve. We’ve already seen a huge improvement with projects like our fibroids support and information programme, where our recent conference was oversubscribed.RB: Who has been the greatest influence on you since starting your venture and why?
AB: My husband, the best husband ever! I really couldn’t have done it without him. He is my cheerleader, IT consultant, business advisor, brainstorming partner and much more. He runs his own business, is extremely creative and is very business savvy so he gives me very constructive, honest advice as well as practical support. He is taking this journey with me and it means a lot to have this kind of unwavering support. He’s my hero and inspires me every day.
RB: What is the vision for your business and where do you see yourself 5 years from now.
AB: In the next five years I hope The Lake Foundation will be the go-to charity for anybody in the black community who is looking for health information and support. Specifically in five years’ time I hope our fibroids information and support programme will have expanded throughout the UK, our diabetes work develops from the pilot it currently is to a full-fledged programme and we have more opportunities to conduct research. I also hope that we’ll be able to start looking into a children’s programme and finally I’d like to start an annual black health conference.