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.”

Latest Stories

25 minutes ago
The cyclist's helmet camera captured the sickening moment that a car slammed into him [Picture from Youtube]

A cyclist was hit by a car in Romford, slammed into the windscreen and miraculously landed on his feet - and caught the whole thing on his helmet cam.

Read more
11:22
The trio lured their victim to a secluded part of Hampstead Heath (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A woman lured her fiancé to a secluded part of Hampstead Heath before beating him to near death with the help of two other men so they could steal £200 from him.

Read more
A million passengers are expected to fly out from London airports this weekend (Picture via Getty Images)

Expect travel chaos this weekend as almost one million Londoners are expected to fly out from the capital, with roads and railways also expected to be jam-packed as the summer getaway begins.

Read more

TOP Stories

25 minutes ago
The cyclist's helmet camera captured the sickening moment that a car slammed into him [Picture from Youtube]

A cyclist was hit by a car in Romford, slammed into the windscreen and miraculously landed on his feet - and caught the whole thing on his helmet cam.

11:22
The trio lured their victim to a secluded part of Hampstead Heath (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

A woman lured her fiancé to a secluded part of Hampstead Heath before beating him to near death with the help of two other men so they could steal £200 from him.

A million passengers are expected to fly out from London airports this weekend (Picture via Getty Images)

Expect travel chaos this weekend as almost one million Londoners are expected to fly out from the capital, with roads and railways also expected to be jam-packed as the summer getaway begins.

Three unconnected attacks occurred at Green Park Tube. [Picture courtesy of Sunil060902 and Wikimedia Commons]

London’s Tubes and trains are now a little safer after police arrested 13 people for sexual offences last week – including three men accused of filming up women’s skirts.

Frank Dobson is set to quit to quit as an MP for Holborn and St Pancras at the next election (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Frank Dobson, the veteran Labour MP for Holborn and St Pancras, has confirmed he is quitting politics at the 2015 general election.

David was a DJ in the Soca scene in north London (Picture: Metropolitan Police)

A fresh appeal has been launched to find out the ‘horrifying circumstances’ which led to a part-time bus driver and DJ’s badly burned body being found under a railway arch in north London four years ago.

Yesterday, 15:13
The cyclist was killed by a lorry in Richmond (Photo by Bethany Clarke/Getty Images)

A cyclist who died from injuries sustained in a crash with a bin lorry in Richmond during rush-hour has been named as 40-year-old Henry Lang from the Twickenham area.

Promotions

Renault Zoe

The Renault ZOE follows on from the introduction of the electric Fluence ZE and Twizy, but unlike the former, the Zoe was designed from the ground up as an electric vehicle.

Always wanted to create your own beer? Perfect Pint are giving you the chance.

When no simple way to find Real Ale was at hand, 4 Ale enthusiasts got together to allow anyone with a smart phone to find Real Ale no matter where they happened to be, this was the birth of the Perfect Pint app.

The Week subscription offer

London24 have partnered up with The Week magazine to offer you a complimentary issue – delivered free to your door.

Quizzes

How much do you really know about QPR legends like Les Ferdinand? Picture: Neal Simpson/EMPICS Sport

Test your knowledge of QPR’s greatest players with our fantastic legends quiz.

Read more
How much do you know about films in London? (Photo by Fox Photos/Getty Images)

Do you know your Lock Stock from your Long Good Friday, Sliding Doors from Shakespeare in Love?

Read more
How much about this great city do you really know? Take our true Londoner quiz and find out (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Do you know your apples from your pears? Take our Cockney quiz and see how much of a Londoner you really are.

Read more
Guess the manager quiz. Here's a hint, it's not these four.

The managerial merry-go-round spins quickly these days so do you think you’ve got the knowledge to recognise the faces of all these football bosses?

Read more
A normal day at London Liverpool Street station

This quiz is for people who think they know the Tube and rail inside out.

Read more