Leobanda cleans up in Dragons’ Den contest for London housing association residents

15:52 16 June 2012

Leobanda Balcazar collects a £16,000 contract from Arhag vice-chairman Robert Johnson

Leobanda Balcazar collects a £16,000 contract from Arhag vice-chairman Robert Johnson

Archant

A north London woman has won the chance to change her life after triumphing in a Dragons’ Den-style competition.

Islington resident Leobanda Balcazar answered a Start Your Own Business challenge put down by her housing association Arhag, which works across 13 London boroughs.

She has landed the top prize, funding towards establishing her business Maid Direct in the form of a £16,000 contract to provide cleaning services for a year to Arhag’s refugee hostel and three blocks of flats in Newham.

The competition saw residents from five different housing providers take part in free training, followed by a meeting with business ‘dragons’ to pitch for funding to start their own businesses.

Leobanda, aged 54, of Moreland Street, Islington, arrived in London in 1996 from Colombia with her young son, but no English or prospects.

She spent seven years as a volunteer for the Latin American Welfare Group as she built up her English and began to take on domestic cleaning work.

As her English improved, Leobanda moved into clinical cleaning, working at UCL Hospital, and is now a supervisor in charge of the cleaning of three wards.

It is a far cry from her previous life in Colombia where she worked as a journalist and built up a medical clinic specialising in hyperbaric medicine and alternative therapies.

Leobanda said: “When I came to England, I could not continue work as a journalist, I did not have the language skills.I was used to being busy and I really struggled.

“Arhag has given me everything. In 2005, when I had nothing, they gave me a home of my own, and now they are giving me the confidence to build up my own business. I hope to be able to train and employ others, including Arhag residents. I am so full of ideas to build up the business.

“When I first started cleaning, I was shocked at how people treated cleaners, how they were not valued. I became determined to take pride in cleaning, and that is what I now try to inspire in the cleaners I supervise in the hospital.”

Arhag chief executive Dorian Leatham said: “All who took part are exceptional people. Leobanda is an extraordinary person, and her presentation to the dragons gave us all the confidence we needed to place a contract with her.

“As unemployment grows and welfare reforms bite we are planning to commit additional funds to develop new opportunities to support and encourage small businesses, training and employment which improves the quality of life for residents.

“We will be looking at additional ways in which we can provide employment opportunities for residents to work with Arhag.”

Sign up for our news alerts today!

Our editors' picks for the day's top news delivered to your inbox or phone.

Sign up for email alerts Sign up for mobile alerts
1
2 3 4 5 6
7

Latest business news

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
Conference on how start ups can make the most of collaborating with corporates

Start-ups were advised to be confident and know their worth when doing business with bigger companies at a conference about how they could effectively collaborate with larger corporates.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015
Meg Hillier, representative for Hackney South and Shoreditch, during a photocall for Labour MP's at The House of Commons, Westminster.

MPs for Tech City have voiced their recommendations on how to ensure the technology powerhouse continues to thrive under the new Tory government.

Saturday, May 9, 2015
Russ Shaw speaking at Tech London Advocates conference

A new report has highlighted three major issues that could seriously affect the growth of Tech City.

Friday, May 1, 2015
Jessica Ellis and Tom Hankin are the brother and sister team behind Ambam

Looking for something extra special from shops on your local high street? Then try new social network Ambam, created especially for Londoners.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Yesterday we issued a police appeal to help find Simon Smithers, who had gone missing from Hillingdon Hospital with a serious head injury.

Thursday, April 9, 2015
London's top companies are struggling to find staff, a ComRes poll has show [Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images]

Over half of the London businesses which tried to recruit new staff struggled to find suitable candidates, a poll has shown.

Competitions

The sell out 2014 event 32 Londoners, returns to the Coca-Cola London Eye!

The Coca-Cola London Eye is proud to announce that 32 Londoners will be returning this June, following last year’s sell out event. The event will feature 32 talks, in each of the London Eye’s 32 capsules on 32 extraordinary Londoners.

Read more
You could take in stunning views of London over brunch at the Sky Garden

Celebrate lighter, brighter days with the chance of winning an indulgent brunch for two with a bottle of bubbles at Darwin, the cool and casual brasserie 36 floors up at Sky Garden.

Read more
Time to experience the dizzy heights of London's tallest attraction!

Morgan Pryce, commercial property experts based in London are offering one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to The Shard viewing platform in the city itself.

Read more

London Bloggers

Monday, April 13, 2015
Vintage fashion shopping is a joy in London (Photo by Graham French/BIPs/Getty Images)

In with the old, out with the new. This is the mantra of the best London vintage shoppers today, whose aesthetic of effortless chic is becoming more sought after.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
Eating the right foods can significantly improve your mood

Think sweet treats make you feel better? ‘Comfort foods’ could be adding to your misery.