Instagram announces the five successful businesses from first Small Business Mentorship Programme in UK


Today, Instagram announces the five successful businesses taking part in the first Instagram Small Business Mentorship Programme in the UK. 

Launched in partnership with Small Business Britain, the programme aims to support the country’s entrepreneurs to recover after an unprecedented 18 months and celebrate the remarkable creativity and resilience shown – as many businesses turned to digital commerce to survive and thrive. 

The winning businesses were selected from over 500 applicants and are all founded by inspirational entrepreneurs drawn from a range of sectors across the UK. Spanning multiple industries including homeware, children’s books, jewellery and fashion, the businesses address social issues including sustainability, diversity, representation and education. 

The winners are as follows:

  • Csilla Szabo, owner of boki, a sustainable gifts and homeware business, striving for a healthier planet.
  • Nathaniel Wade and Albert Later, co-founders of Wakuda, an online marketplace where you can  discover  Black-owned businesses in the UK. Launched as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020.
  • Eileen Willett and Nancy Zeffman, friends who met at the school gates twenty years ago and co-founders of Cucumber Clothing. The slow fashion clothing brand which uses cutting edge fabric technology and specialises in effortless style.
  • Vese Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu who founded Philly & Friends, the children’s lifestyle brand which empowers through representation. Following the birth of her daughter, Philly, Vese was encouraged to create characters that children can identify with.
  • Danial Naqvi, founder of Blacksmith London. A unisex jewellery brand that supports  minority creatives and businesses as well as donating 5% from every sale to YoungMinds, the UK’s leading mental health charity for children, teens and young adults.

Over a three month period from October to December,these five small businesses will each receive:

  • A content workshop afternoon with one of the UK’s top Instagram creators, Callie Thorpe (@calliethorpe), Stephanie Yeboah (@stephanieyeboah), Fisayo Longe (@fisayolonge), Abbie Clemmings (@abbiecurls) and Phoebe Parke (@phoebeparke) covering creative tips  and working together to develop a three-month Instagram content plan.
  • An hour-long virtual coaching session with business mentor, Emma Mills-Sheffield.
  • Three monthly hour-long sessions with an Instagram product expert, to discuss how to best use Instagram for Business.
  • £1,000 worth of ad credits – to support their growth ambitions.

Commenting on entrepreneurs’ response to the programme, Gord Ray, Instagram’s brand development lead, says: “After an exceptional 18 months, it’s been incredible to see the creativity and inspiration from the small businesses community on Instagram, shine through in the  application process. We’ve been overwhelmed with responses, and it is a testament to the determination of these entrepreneurs. This mentorship will equip these businesses with the tools, knowledge and confidence to grow their brands on Instagram. We’re excited to follow boki, Wakuda, Philly & Friends, Blacksmith London, and Cucumber Clothing on their journeys.”

Michelle Ovens CBE, founder, Small Business Britain, comments: 

“​​The standard of entry for this mentorship programme has been extremely high and the chosen five are really impressive business owners. We can’t wait to see these entrepreneurs thrive and go from strength to strength using the amazing power of digital. It’s been a wonderful process, which has seen some phenomenal engagement from small businesses across the UK, with a brilliant kick off event which brought hundreds of business owners together too.”

Winning businesses


Wakuda is an online marketplace where shoppers of all backgrounds can discover and purchase from hundreds of amazing UK black-owned businesses. Wakuda’s low barrier to entry platform allows underrepresented black-owned businesses to onboard and be seen by an ethically aware diverse audience.

Nathaniel Wade, co-founder of Wakuda, said: “I’m thrilled to have been selected for this amazing programme! I’m really looking forward to learning from the Instagram expert and gaining key insights for our overall content strategy at Wakuda.”

Cucumber Clothing

Cucumber is the brainchild of North London friends Nancy Zeffman and Eileen Willett. Friends who met at the school gates almost twenty years ago, they recognised the need for a stylish, sustainable clothing and sleepwear brand that used luxurious cutting edge fabric technology for modern multi-tasking women.  

Sustainability, circularity and slow fashion are at the heart of what Cucumber does. Every collection is designed, sampled, manufactured, graded and warehoused all within a 5-mile radius in London. Cucumber’s fabrics last up to six times longer than cotton, anti-crush technology means that they require minimal washing, little or no ironing and are hang-dry, all helping to reduce water and energy consumption. Cucumber produces small runs, with a view to limiting fabric waste and avoiding ending up with deadstock fabric. Cucumber’s new Loan-to-Own and PreLoved collections are increasing their circularity. All labels and trims are sourced within the UK, and packaging is recycled and recyclable.

Eileen Willett, co-founder of Cucumber Clothing, said: “We are so excited and delighted to have been selected for the Instagram Mentoring Programme! After 2020, our mantra has been, ‘embrace change’ and we feel this recognition  will be an amazing boost for us on all levels.”

Philly & Friends 

Philly & Friends is an award-winning children’s lifestyle brand that aims to add a drop of colour in the sea of children’s products. They create beautifully illustrated keepsake books, dolls, wall art, and affirmation cards designed to instil confidence in our little ones. 

The ethos of the brand is to raise wholesome kids through the power of positive representation. Philly & Friends believes children deserve to see themselves and others in the books they read, the toys they play with and the media they consume. Social impact is at the heart, and each product sold sponsors a book into the hands of an underprivileged child. 

Vese Aghoghovbia-Aladewolu, founder of Philly & Friends, said: “Wow! I feel so blessed to be one of five winners of the Instagram Small Business Mentorship Programme. Instagram played a huge role in launching and growing my business, so I am excited and look forward to what the programme will bring. Thank you so much.”


boki is sustainable, plastic free and purpose driven, aiming to be the go-to green brand. Bringing a wide range of uniquely designed eco-friendly products at affordable prices to the masses, the online shop focuses on sustainable clothes, tote bags, home decor and homeware items. 

Csilla Szabo, owner of boki, said: “I feel absolutely thrilled to take part in this programme and I’m super grateful for this opportunity. I can’t wait to learn from my mentors and to be able to share the love I create through boki with more people.”

Blacksmith London

Blacksmith London is a unisex, sustainable jewellery brand that donates 5% of every sale to support YoungMinds, the UK’s leading mental health charity for children, teens and young adults. Where social good is at the heart of the business, supporting diversity & inclusion is the soul of the brand. Blacksmith London partners with individuals and organisations from minority backgrounds to collaborate with and support underrepresented communities in the UK.

Danial Naqvi, founder of Blacksmith London, said: “I’m very proud and incredibly grateful to have been selected for this programme – thank you! Very much looking forward to learning as much as possible and taking my brand to a whole new level.”