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

18:17
A whopping £25million worth of cocaine was hidden in plastic bananas, among real fruit (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

A massive haul of cocaine, thought to be worth £25million, was found by Met police officers hidden in plastic bananas shipped over from Columbia.

Read more
The orginal tweets in which @MPSinthesky made their reply to @anyabokepublic [Image from Twitter]

A Twitter user has accused the Met Police of encouraging their 91,000 Twitter followers to bully her.

Read more
The Job Centre at 120-122 Deptford High Street in its original incarnation in 2008. Although the pub keeps the name, it has not kept the distinctive green and yellow sign [Photo from Google StreetView]

Campaigners have criticised a ‘poor taste’ pub that has opened in a disused Job Centre on Deptford High Street – and kept the name.

Read more

TOP Stories

18:17
A whopping £25million worth of cocaine was hidden in plastic bananas, among real fruit (Photo by Sandra Mu/Getty Images)

A massive haul of cocaine, thought to be worth £25million, was found by Met police officers hidden in plastic bananas shipped over from Columbia.

The orginal tweets in which @MPSinthesky made their reply to @anyabokepublic [Image from Twitter]

A Twitter user has accused the Met Police of encouraging their 91,000 Twitter followers to bully her.

The Job Centre at 120-122 Deptford High Street in its original incarnation in 2008. Although the pub keeps the name, it has not kept the distinctive green and yellow sign [Photo from Google StreetView]

Campaigners have criticised a ‘poor taste’ pub that has opened in a disused Job Centre on Deptford High Street – and kept the name.

18:15
Londoners can not afford to get divorced once- let alone twice like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. 
They married twice, but both marriages ended bitterly. (Photo by William Lovelace/Evening Standard/Getty Images)

Londoners are becoming stuck in loveless relationships because they can’t afford to divorce and live alone, research claims to reveal.

Planned engineering works could affect your journey this weekend.

There is a relatively minor programme of planned closures on the Tube and Overground network this weekend - but they could still affect your journey. Read on for the lowdown.

The street is partially closed after an accident  (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

The A4 Strand is partially closed this morning after a collision between a scooter and a van.

The luxury hotel is a London landmark  (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

It seemed like a unique crime: moped-riding thugs descended on the Dorchester, one of London’s most luxurious hotels, and smashed their way through glass cases with sledgehammers, stealing thousands of pounds’ worth of jewellery.

Promotions

You could be the lucky winner of a brand new shiny iPad Air!

London24 has teamed up with leading online electrical retailer Ebuyer to give you the chance to win a sleek 16GB Apple iPad Air!

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

Take our quiz and see how much you know about the Wimbledon Tennis Championships (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Do you know SW19 like the back of your hand? From Henman Hill to Centre Court, Fred Perry to Andy Murray? Well then you should ace our Wimbledon quiz:

Read more
Croatia's Daniel Prajnic, France's Paul Pogba and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo... three hair-raising World Cup stars (Picture: Archant/Getty)

The World Cup is a showcase of fantastic football... and terrible hairstyles. Try this quiz and test your knowledge of the wackiest barnets in Brazil.

Read more
World Cup countries quiz

It's about time you refreshed your brains about the countries competing in Brazil.

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
Instead of actually going to a park, take our quiz about them... (Picture: Warrick Page/Getty Images)

Think-Kew have got what it takes?

Read more