Barjis Chohan
Founder/Chief Executive Officer

Welcome to TBI!

My name is Barjis Chohan, I have been running a Fashion & lifestyle brand – BARJIS for over 20 years. 

When I joined the Fashion industry, I quickly realised that the creative industry is not for people like me and it is my duty to change the status quo and break this cycle of elitism and a lack of diversity in the industry. I wanted to understand why there was a lack of diversity not only in the creative industry but at senior level in all industries. From my observation, at the top of an organisation, the senior positions are held by Etonians, boarding school graduates, middle/upper class white leaders. There is nothing wrong in this but where are the people who come from BAMME communities? There is an extra M in BAMME, it stands for marginalised – I didn’t want to eliminate OUR white community coming from less privileged backgrounds. 

In 2018, I launched The Barjis Initiative. TBI is a not for profit organisation, it is a social enterprise ( not a charity). We do not rely on public donations to run our small organisation. Our members play an important role in adding value to our community and our cause.

 I do not believe in charity to solve all the issues in the world. My belief is that enterprise is the way to empower the disadvantaged in our comminities. Our role is to inspire, empower and transform  lives by not hand outs but by giving them the tools, resources and access  to lead  a satisfying and independent life.

The ‘access’ or we can call it ‘division’, starts at the 11+ exams and continues throughout our lives. At this age, our schools determine our future and children coming from privileged backgrounds, already have an upper hand to succeed in the game of life. At this critical point, if we can give children access to positive role models, support in gaining tuition to compete effectively , remove streaming at selective schools then we’ll give that access to everyone.

In order to understand the systemic inequality, I started holding workshops at schools to understand why there is a class gap and why there was an issue between class and attainment. There was also cultural barriers within the Asian communites in terms of entering the creative industry. Equally, there was a lack of role models for children coming from disadvantaged backgrounds, who didn’t have the mentorship and inspirational role models who could steer them in succeeding in their academic studies. Furthermore, in some industries there is an unconcious bias towards how you speak and what you look like in terms of their recruitment process. This is prevalent in journalism and PR roles.

By working with schools at a grass root level, I hope to inspire children to follow their dreams – irrespective of their backgrounds. To not let their class, race or gender to hold them back in following their goals. 

Finally, the lack of diversity at senior level is deep rooted and by working with the industry and government, we hope we can support BAMME leaders, with the know hows, tools, skills and build their networks to empower them in their careers. We are not a recruitment company, our role is to empower and offer programmes working with industry to level the playing field and give opportunities to BAMME  communities in the workplace.

“We do not start our lives with equal opportunities but we should not be penalised or thrown back in the queue because of how we look , how we speak, our age, gender and our class. We must fight for our dreams and make space for everyone…” – Barjis Chohan