Big Idea For Manchester Entrepreneur

By Simon Byrne

AN ASPIRING entrepreneur from Manchester has been given a unique chance to realise her catering business dream after winning a £10,000 prize.

Melanie Ngangen, from Miles Platting, won The Big Community Idea competition, which she will now use to help run a community café.

Melanie hopes her Bistro Ensemble Café, based at the Mustard Tree charity facility in Oldham Road, will act as an invaluable focal point for people from disadvantaged backgrounds across East Manchester.

Melanie, 34, said: “I was very surprised when I was told I was a winner just because of the number and quality of other entrants.

“However, I was obviously delighted as there is so much work to do to get Bistro Ensemble up and running as I would like.”

Melanie was one of around 50 entrants who entered the competition; an initiative by Connaught Partnerships Ltd to reward sustainable, community-focused business ideas.

She hopes to offer training through carefully designed cookery classes while also helping to reduce isolation, improve community cohesion and help local people to develop a wide variety of skills. 

Mark Foster, Connaught area partnership director, said: “Melanie’s presentation was hugely impressive and we are excited to be in a position to work closely with her to help fully realise the potential of her Big Community Idea.”  

Mother-of-two Melanie learned to be a cook growing up in Cameroon but moved to England in 2001 and already she has overcome language barriers to put her skills to use and to help communities in Manchester.

Melanie set up Ensemble, a Miles Platting-based community education organisation to support francophone families and to protect them from social exclusion.

She hopes that in the next three years, with the help of her prize, to become a community cooperative running independently from funding and generating a modest turnover.

The Big Community Idea competition was launched by Connaught on Social Enterprise Day 2009 (November 19), during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Jane Walton, Head of Region for Enterprise UK said: “The Big Community Idea has proved to be a great opportunity for people to showcase their ideas and really turn their passion into profits. We know that people from the region have the ambition, skills and determination required to develop and grow a successful business and this is what we were looking for.” 

The Mustard Tree charity where Melanie plans to open her café was set up by Dave and Shona Smith in 1993 with the aim of helping Manchester city centre’s homeless population.

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