In 2006, at the age 16, I set up a performing arts company Living the Dream which is run by young people, for young people. Initially launched to fund my own performing arts training, I immediately recognised, the company could provide affordable, accessible, fun and exciting opportunities for young people.
The company, now in its sixth year, has grown and is made up of a School of Performing Arts, Professional Dance Company, Media Company, dance wear brand and a charity. Living the Dream also produced a dance app on Virgin Media's TiVo.
I think it is vital to give young people a voice. So often in the media these days, teenagers and young adults are portrayed in a negative light, and this is entirely false. I wanted to make every individual working within the arts group feel valued and I have been rewarded tenfold. By putting young people's voices at the core of Living the Dream, their sense of empowerment has raised their aspirations and made them become more positive about their futures. I believe I have created something unique in that the organisation is exclusively run by young people and I want to encourage them to believe in themselves and promote the positive contribution that they can make through the arts.
As Living the Dream has grown, so too has my commitment to supporting and developing young people, which is why I established The Dream Foundation. The Foundation is as a registered charity that provides arts training and performance opportunities to young people who ordinarily do not get to experience it, due to a lack of funding, encouragement or positive role models.
Next year I am running a campaign called 'I Have a Dream', to mark 50 years since Martin Luther King's speech. I hope to raise significant funding so that around 5,000 people will enjoy it free of charge. This will also enable me to grow the Dream Foundation, which I feel extremely passionate about as a mechanic for providing extraordinary experiences for young people who would otherwise not have the chance.
As well as my passion for supporting young talent, I have continued to champion youth enterprise and last year I was chosen to represent Sir Richard Branson's Control Shift campaign as a spokesperson for young entrepreneurs. This lead to the launch of the Start Up Loans scheme of which I am now an ambassador working with James Caan. I am really excited about the prospect of thousands of young people being able to apply for a business loan to kick start their futures.
I am incredibly honoured to be a finalist in the 2012 NatWest everywoman Awards in the Artemis category for women under 25 running a business. Artemis stands for 'goddess of the hunt and protector of the youth'.
Currently, there are just under 1 million unemployed people aged 16 to 24 in the UK. Not only does this cost the country an estimated £11bn a year, but the damage it does to these young people's self-worth at this crucial character-building stage of their life, can be devastating. Older generations have a responsibility to support the nation's youth, and to give them the opportunities to demonstrate their skills and creativity. Young people of today are tomorrow's future and as a young person myself, being acknowledged in the NatWest everywoman Awards for my entrepreneurial skills is amazing. I can only hope the recognition I have received will help to empower and inspire other young people to believe in themselves and pursue their dreams.