This is a series of stories told by leaders in the Doncaster area (City of). These stories have been curated by me (Kurt Ewald Lindley) as part of a collaboration between Doncaster Council, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, and other Team Doncaster members, to showcase not just the best of Doncaster but to inform the development of Doncaster’s Economic Strategy and
“make it the best place to do business”
We’ve all heard the saying ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’, this rings true here. I’m standing in the doorway to Dolly’s Spring Gardens office, not sure what to expect.
For those of you who know this area in Doncaster it’s a mix of buildings toward the end of their life and those being refurbished. A smiley client of Dolly’s arrives and we wait together swapping stories. Before I’ve even met Dolly I can see and hear the positive impact she is having for her (our) community.
Dolly greets us and we walk the creaky staircase up to her 1st floor office. As the door to the main room opens, I’m immediately greeted with a sense of welcome and life. This is Dolly. Larger than life, a smiley character, with patients and kindness flowing from her.
The Journey – I can’t stand injustice
Dolly’s journey to Doncaster is longer than her time living here, but she calls this place home. Dolly headed to our then town from London in 2017 in search of a quieter life. After the loss of her partner she was looking to buy a place away from the hustle and bustle of the capital, a place to settle and bring up her two children. However, life has been anything but quiet since then….
Today Dolly is the Director of 3 Businesses:
- A Law Firm, Mother Legal Services– which she does to pay the bills
- A Dating Agency, My Godly Spouse – which is a literal passion of love
- A Community Group, Black and Minority Ethnics United Doncaster (BMEUD) – which takes up much of her time now
And runs a charity ‘the Merciful Centre’ where she is a Pastor
In addition she holds multiple leadership positions on a variety of boards and advocacy working groups, both within and outside of Doncaster.
So why does someone looking for a quieter life end up here. When I asked this, Dolly’s response was…
“I can’t stand injustice”
In that moment she reflected with me, we realised pretty much all the work she was engaged with was about ‘advocacy’…
“I want to amplify the voices of those who need it”
It was about making things better for others, be it her clients at the law firm dealing with injustice, or the community members of BMEUD dealing with challenge. Everything was about positive activism in service of others.
I wanted to know how this chapter of her life came about, Dolly shared the following story;
“when I arrived in Doncaster I didn’t know anyone really, and I struggled to find other people from black communities to connect with. Out of loneliness I searched out people like me, I approached anyone that might talk and said hello. It came to October ‘Black History Month’ and I saw nothing was happening, so I asked myself why don’t I just start something”
Dolly reached out to Team Doncaster, met with the then Council CEO Jo Miller for support and invested £700 of her own money to get something off the ground. That year she celebrated Black History Month with 40 of her friends (old and new).
“If I didn’t do this and spend my own money, it would just be a dream today”
Its clear Dolly is not a fan of inequality and seeks out those with passion. She spots a need in the community and fills it. Her latest project is to bring together Parents of autistic children from ethnic minorities in Doncaster, those in need of help and support to give their children a more fulfilling experience in the borough.
To get a sense of Dolly it’s worth noting..
“By vocation I’m a lawyer, by ordination I’m a pastor “
Challenges in Business – Networking
It seems there is an investment opportunity our City may be missing. Dolly expressed, that as a person of colour she found it hard to network (to find ‘people like her’). She found it difficult to step into the current business groups in the area and still sees it today. She’s one of a few you may see in a corporate room who bring a Nigerian flavour. There’s an interesting story that goes with this…which Dolly shared.
“people of colour who are first or second generation residents of Doncaster, still see this as a place where they come to earn money to send (invest) back home (e.g. Africa). But really where is home. Home is not where you think it is, here is where you are, this is home”
Dolly would like to change the narrative of those first and second generation settlers, to one which see the City of Doncaster as home and a place to invest money (and not send it elsewhere). So maybe there is some work for us to do as a Doncaster community to make people feel at home here… because we definitely would benefit.
“we need a more diverse business community in Doncaster”
Lessons for others – just 3 words
When I asked about lessons she’d learnt, Dolly offered just 3 words:
- Consistency – keep doing good work
- Resilience – if at first you don’t succeed try again
- Focused – keep an eye on your destination
Advice to a younger you (and the ones who didn’t choose so well)
“Follow your passion, know who you are, destiny is a destination, discover this early. Its born out of pain, need and your natural response to your environment. I wish I’d discovered myself earlier than this”
The Legacy – Doncaster as a welcome place to invest
To reshare a phrase from the introduction of this blog, Dolly’s legacy would be to make Doncaster the best place to do business for minority groups.
To put some context to this I’ll share a quote from the BMEUD website:
“In the past few years, an average of four (black and ethnic minority group) families arrive in Doncaster in a month for settlement. Most of these families migrate for a better, peaceful, and affordable lifestyle. On arrival, however, they find the process of navigating the system very overwhelming as there is no focal point or voice to signpost or channel their needs which includes navigating the job centre, council facilities, language barrier, local markets and food, religious organisations, etc, as such they conclude that the system is hostile and not friendly.”
We should recognise that it is within these groups we may find businesses and investors of the future. BMEUD aims to work with the local authority, community groups, and faith groups to identify, support, and assist ethnic minorities in Doncaster to navigate and break the existing barriers.
The Call to Action – Bridge the gap
I asked Dolly “what’s your call to action for the business community”, her response:
“Help minorities stand on their feet, mentor if you can, bridge the gap between small and big business”
Your one ask of ‘Team Doncaster’
“The ideas are there but the system gets in the way”
Bureaucracy was the word that stood out here. Much of what Dolly has achieved has been off the back of her own passion and energy. And by gathering passionate people along the way. She has been lucky enough (in her own words) to build good relationships with council leaders that have led to the acceleration of some of her advocacy work. But the form filling takes too much precious time which is needs to do the actual work.
Rev Dolly (or Dolapo Agoro) is one of many who are making Doncaster the best place to do business. And its from her story and the stories of others that ‘Team Doncaster’ hope to create a robust, prosperous Economic Strategy for our City.
She came to our City for a quieter life, a place she now calls home and a place she would like others to see and feel is home. A place to settle, invest and prosper.
Do you have a story or know of a Doncaster Leader with a story to share for #DNBusinessTalks, get in touch here