How did the journey start?
Mel Ellyard, the founder of ‘Include Me’ and the ‘D-List’ has 25 years’ experience in investment, banking and finance, science, and technology during which time she has built an extensive network of key decision makes and influencers within the Leeds Digital ecosystem, and deep ecosystem knowledge, of Leeds and the North of England particularly in working with innovative SMEs, large corporates, government, and academia.
Mel is herself a diverse founder and has first-hand experience of running her own business and later helping co-found and grow an innovative biotech company. Mel founded Include Me in 2020, a community and platform addresses significant barriers faced by diverse entrepreneurs daily. A place for everyone who feels unheard or invisible in their struggle as an entrepreneur. A practical approach for corporates, banks, and investors to better understand bias and realities of a diverse entrepreneur and be better equipped to support them. Include Me now has ~1,100 active supporters these include diverse individuals, communities that support inclusivity, local and national government organisations providing funding and business support to diverse innovators, CICs and charities offering services to diverse entrepreneurs, Corporates and SMEs offering accelerators, incubators, and other forms of business services to diverse businesses, academic institutions, and investors who are actively supporting diverse businesses.
D-List was founded in Leeds in 2021. A deep sense of purpose, driven by lived experience and amplified by the challenges and isolation of diverse founders who are building and looking to scale their businesses. The D-List now boasts over 100 exceptional entrepreneurs and innovators, representing a variety of backgrounds, sectors, emerging technologies, ethnicity, and abilities. Each founder is a standout success in their field and a role model within the Leeds ecosystem.
What is the D-List?
The D-List is a collection of exceptional entrepreneurs from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life who are innovative and successful in their area of industry.
The D-List exists to showcase regional unique business leaders through sharing their expertise, sector specialism, and dedication in their field. This in turn allows them to act as role models, inspiring current and future generations.
What does it mean to be on the D-List?
Innovation is for everyone, yet the reality is that the people we use to explain entrepreneurship are not often representative of the diversity needed to support innovation and business objectives. We know that diversity, equity, and inclusion are critical determinants of innovation and entrepreneurship and lead to the success of individuals, teams, and ecosystems at large.
Being on the D-list is more than a badge of diversity, it’s a commitment to change every day. The D-List showcases regional, unique business leaders – facilitating their expertise, sector specialism, and dedication in their field. This builds their confidence to become role models, inspiring current and future generations.
Role models play a central role in shaping a young professional’s career and are especially important if you belong to an underrepresented group. A lack of representation in the workplace can lead to feeling isolated and lacking in confidence, lower levels of productivity and satisfaction which lead to de-motivation in the workplace.
The D-List represents the full spectrum of diversity - ethnically diverse, disabled, neurodiverse, gender diverse, of all ages and from any background - innovators of all kinds are welcome. The D-List community includes people from various STEM sectors, female founders, ethnically diverse entrepreneurs, neurodiverse business leaders, innovators with disabilities, LGBTQA+ thought leaders. Our platform of ‘role models’ ensures full representation and creates a safe space to discuss new ideas, so that non-diverse environments become a thing of the past
Mel Ellyard, Founder of Include Me and D-List.
What are others saying about the D-List?
Dr Emma Taylor-Steeds, Head of Diversity and Inclusion, Innovate UK KTN says “Diversity and Inclusion is a core part of our values at Innovate UK KTN. We have worked with the D-List on a couple of occasionWs so far, including supporting the launch event in Leeds in September 2022. The D-List offers a critical communication channel to match innovation support, funding, and network support with underrepresented and hard to reach entrepreneurs. We look forward to the growth of such a service and engaging with D-List to reach new communities and diverse innovators.”
Gordon Bateman, Director, Investor Ladder says “Having worked with high growth tech companies across the North, nationally and internationally, we understand the barriers faced by entrepreneurs. Diversity continues to be a challenge. Specifically, through our network of 800+ investor community we can see how the D-List can be used to increase awareness, improve collaborations, and unlock funding for these talented businesses in Leeds. We have never come across an initiative like this before and feel it is a big win for Leeds to be paving the way for others in the area of diversity and inclusion. We have been blown away by the quality of the events and service delivered by D-List and give the D-List our full support and backing.
How can you get involved?
Through our platform D-Listers are visible to large organisations looking for diverse business leaders to represent at conferences, speak on panels, become mentors and more. Organisations can start using the D-List to connect with diverse innovators across the region. Simply register to access the list d-list.uk/d-list
Role models play a central role in shaping a young professional’s career and are especially important if you belong to an under-represented group. A lack of representation in the workplace can lead to feeling isolated and lacking in confidence, lower levels of productivity and satisfaction which lead to de-motivation in the workplace. We want many more talented entrepreneur’s, business leaders, innovators, and individuals at the top or their game to represent all areas of diversity on the D-List. Nominate or self-nominate by visiting d-list.uk/nominate and become a role model to inspire future generations.
We are delighted to be working closely with Silicon Yorkshire, our vision creating a diverse ecosystem align and together we hope to promote diversity, inclusivity, and an equitable future for our talented tech community in the North. Collaborating and bringing together business communities to discuss the topics that matter most is the best way to bring about impactful change.
Connect with us!
Visit D-List website d-list.uk
Contact Mel Ellyard if you would like to get involved or have feedback and/or ideas www.linkedin.com/in/melanieellyard/