133. Joel Blake OBE – Founder, GFA Exchange and President, Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce. Joel is a multi-award-winning businessman, public speaker and corporate advisor, with a passion for inclusive business support and financial technology. He started his working life at the age of 16, where he worked in a recycling factory, peeling stickers of hangers. At the age of 18, he walked into a recruitment agency with a dog-eared CV and pitched himself to the consultant. He walked out with a role as a Marketing Assistant for a FTSE 500 company with no prior experience. But at 21, he felt a calling to help business growth through inclusive business support. He accepted a role as an Employment Mentor with Connexxions, where he helped corporate firms source talent from disadvantaged communities.
Within 3 years, he became the leading Corporate Leadership Advisor for the Midlands region, delivering mentoring and personal development training to over 300 aspiring leaders every year. At 25, he founded one of the UK’s first diverse recruitment and advisory services, building an international client list including the BBC, HSBC and Essentra PLC, a global £1bn turnover firm. At aged 30, he became the UK’s first National Diversity Advisor for Golf, where his team helped to bring in over 5,000 new diverse participants into the sport. In 2013, he diversified his passion for inclusion into the world of Finance, co-founding a financial lending firm company that provided funding to launch over 650 new UK businesses in under 3 years.
After exiting the businesses, he went onto launch award-winning fintech, www.gfaexchange.com In 2017, Joel took on an additional role as Executive for Access to Finance and Growing Business for the GBSLEP, supporting the needs over 6,500 SMEs. He still supports the GBSLEP as a consultant with their inclusive business support strategies. He has lectured at Aston, Warwick and University of Birmingham Business Schools and advises professional and public sector bodies, on developing innovative business support models and strategies. He has also advised business policy teams at No 10 Downing Street. Joel is currently the President of the Commonwealth Chamber of Commerce, a Fellow of the National Centre for Entrepreneurs, and a Non-Executive Director of two companies. He was awarded an OBE for Services to Business Support and Enterprise in 2016. Leadership tip: Never forget where you come from but know where you are going.
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