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The University of Southampton

Overcoming stereotypes and changing perceptions

Enterprising Law student shines light on underrepresented communities

3 November 2020

Southampton Spotlight shines a light on the impact our University is having across the world through the achievements of the individuals that make up our vibrant and diverse community.

Our students don’t just work toward their degrees; they gain life experiences and skills that allow them to go on and change the world for the better.

One such individual is Law student Avila Chidume, Southampton University Students’ Union (SUSU) Vice-President Education and Democracy, and Founder of Avila.Diana, a greetings card business. Set up in 2018, its aim is to overcome stereotypes and change the world's perceptions on underrepresented communities through the greeting card designs.

The University has opened so many doors for me; I’ve gained a lot of confidence and skills, as well as the support and funding I need to develop and grow my business

Avila Chidume - SUSU Vice-President Education and Democracy, Founder of Avila.Diana

“When I started at Southampton, my goal was to just pass my studies. Then I realised there are so many opportunities the University offers, so I started taking advantage of them. The journey really started when I got the Students’ Union enterprise grant. That was amazing because it really allowed me to pursue my business.”

Positive change through action

Avila is a strong advocate for human rights and representation, and firmly believes that positive change can only be brought about through actions and commitment.

Avila has always found it difficult to buy greetings cards for herself, her family and friends. She explains that the industry doesn’t really reflect the diverse cultures that make up the UK. “You can find people in the UK from every background you could imagine and more, but this isn’t represented in consumer products,” she says.

Avila’s hand-designed cards feature individuals from BAME, LGBT+, and disabled communities (among many others), filling a huge gap in the existing greetings card market.

“I make sure I represent people who wouldn’t see themselves reflected in everyday products available in society. My whole brand is about making something that is personal to you, so I even offer personalised cards if someone wants a really individual message."

Avila Chidume
Graduate entrepreneur and human rights advocate, Avila Chidume.

Help to grow a business

Following a SUSU internship and £400 to help grow her business when she was a student, Avila took part in the University’s Enternship Grant Fund Programme, which helped develop enterprise skills, provided mentoring and advice, as well as grants to grow businesses.

“I was awarded a £2,500 grant, which allowed me to focus on my business, produce my website, and market my products. This has really allowed my business to grow. My cards can now be bought from the SUSU shop on campus and I am in discussions with retailers in London about stocking my products,” says Avila.

She is also collaborating with Future Worlds, the University of Southampton’s on-campus start-up accelerator, helping Southampton entrepreneurs change the world with their ideas.

Through her business she wants to hire artists from minority groups. 

“Future Worlds is working with me to design a platform to help me locate these artists and give them a space to produce their art. I will also negotiate with large brands such as Card Factory, on their behalf to get their products into the shops.

My ultimate goal is to spread awareness, create dialogue and encourage all businesses to reassess their diversity ethos. Additionally, I hope to create positive change through my work and to one day employ a team of artists from these marginalised groups to create artwork which shares their stories on this platform

Avila Chidum - SUSU Vice-President Education and Democracy, Founder of Avila.Diana

Read more about how the University supports its entrepreneurial students in developing their ideas.

Watch Avila Chidume speak about her work with SUSU

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