Taste of success: Monica’s journey to self-employment

Monica has always loved cooking traditional, flavoursome Caribbean food. She dreamed of one day turning this passion into a business and with the help of Universal Credit her dream has become a reality.

As a child, Monica, now 51, would spend her Saturday afternoons making salt fish fritters with her Mum. She dreamed of one day turning her love of family cooking into a business.

In June 2016, Monica began claiming Universal Credit and with the support of her work coach started to develop her business skills.

As recommended by her work coach Beverley, Monica attended a ‘How to set up a market stall’ training class, which kick-started her journey to self-employment.

Through the New Enterprise Allowance, Monica also received business mentoring and coaching to help nurture her business mind.

“My mentor has given me confidence, while guiding me through the journey of developing a business.”

Today, Monica’s Caribbean Kitchen is a popular and growing market stall in Nottingham. Her delicious fried fish, mutton curry, jerk chicken and Saturday Soup special ‘chicken and pumpkin’, have kept customers coming back.

She has also hosted a pop-up restaurant evening, catered for a vegan event and a ‘Women in Business’ event, with plans to do more vegan events in 2018.

Universal Credit has given Monica the flexibility to grow her business steadily as she can have varied hours and earnings each month. As her clientele grows, Monica plans to work more days on the market.

“This has been a journey for me where I have become more confident about getting my businesses up and running, thanks to the encouragement I’ve had from God, my family, friends and UC work coach.  The future looks bright – I’m looking into getting more equipment and working on outside catering, summer fetes and other events.”

For more information on how you could kick-start your journey to self-employment with Universal credit, like Monica did, visit: https://www.gov.uk/universal-credit


Lawrence cycled across the world to launch his business

Cycling 3,000 miles across desert wastelands, dusty plains and over towering mountains isn’t everyone’s idea of fun.

But it offered budding entrepreneur Lawrence Brand the perfect opportunity to put his prototype cargo bike through its paces.

The 27-year-old from Hackney spent three months road testing his invention, which features a 60cm deck built across a longer wheelbase to carry bulky and heavy goods in urban areas. 

He cycled from Romania through Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, before finishing in Kazakhstan on the border of China.  


After flying back to the UK and with the design fully trialled and tested, Lawrence was itching to put his business idea into full scale production, but needed help to get his company, Porterlight Bicycles, up and running.

Out of work at the time, Lawrence found out about the New Enterprise Allowance, a government scheme that gives jobseekers funding for their business ideas and on-going support from their own dedicated mentor.

Lawrence said: “There was a huge amount to consider when I started developing my UK cargo bike company Porterlight Bicycles.”

Lawrence in Central Asia

Each of his bikes is built by hand to the customer’s own specification using high quality materials the likes of which are used in the aerospace industry. 

And his business is going from strength to strength. 

In the two years since its launch, Porterlight has grown from the kernel of an idea into an expanding business that exporting to countries including France, Spain and even Australia.  

Lawrence has just taken on his first member of staff, Cam Jarvis, and has just picked up the keys to a new premises in Tottenham, in North London.

Lawrence in central asia

The Government has pledged to create 3 million more apprenticeships by 2020.

The new Employment Minister Damian Hinds visited Lawrence to hear how the NEA has benefited him and what his plans are for the future.

The Employment Minister said: “As we build a better Britain that works for all, not just the privileged few, the NEA is playing its part by giving tens of thousands of people the confidence and support that they need to be their own boss.”  


The NEA is open to jobseekers over the age of 18 who are claiming Jobseekers Allowance or Employment and Support Allowance, plus Income Support claimants who are lone parents or who are sick, and some Universal Credit claimants.

After showing their business idea is viable, NEA participants are eligible for a weekly allowance worth up to £1,274 over 26 weeks for claimants to establish their start-up.

Jobseekers have launched 90,000 new companies across the UK through the NEA, which was launched in 2011 in a bid to boost self-employment and drive innovation.

  • 62% were men and 38% were women
  • 69% were aged between 25 and 49
  • 21% have a disability

Find out more about the NEA