The SEW Peer to Peer Learning Programme provides a funded opportunity for younger CICs to spend a day of learning with more experienced CICs to discuss for example, business planning/organisational development; developing the ‘offer’ or enterprise; financial modelling; market development and marketing; social impact measurement etc. 

Guest Blogger John Paul, Beatsabar Music Project CIC visits Yasin El Ashrafi, HQ Recording

I was fairly new to the concept of peer to peer learning, when Sharon from WVCS contacted me about an opportunity to take part in the SEW Peer to Peer Learning Programme. Peer learning is still a fairly new concept within my children’s school but I understand that there are many benefits to this way of learning, as students can accelerate their learning by discussing their ideas with other students and taking part in peer to peer activities.

I had recently been made aware of HQ Recording by Natasha, a key worker who has been helping us with a Key Fund application and thought HQ Recording would be the perfect organisation for us to learn from. I contacted the organisation and spoke to Yasin. He was very friendly and happy for me to come and hear his story. I booked a photographer to come with me and document our meeting and drove to Leicester. 

What happened?

The journey was slightly hampered by the continuous rain, but our spirits were not dampened. We were warmly welcomed by Yasin and his team. After brief introductions, we were given a tour of the facilities. On ground level we were shown around the open space training room. This had 4 music production suites used for group workshops and to do a one-stop shop for anyone looking to design adverts or do a photoshoot. There was a smaller basic studio on the ground level.

On the top floor there was a flagship studio. I was very impressed with the layout and the equipment on offer. There were also two other studios which were all well designed and fully functional.  The finish was of a very high standard. We saw how great the set up was and how wisely he had used his space.

During the tour, we spoke to some of the clients in the sessions and took pictures. We asked clients about how the project was for them and what they had learnt from Yasin and the team. Later we talked with Yasin about how he got started, his challenges and his current direction. I asked questions about his current business model and where his income came from. We both talked openly and frankly about the similarities and differences in our businesses and the pitfalls/successes we have had.

We listened to the music of his artists he has been working with on his record label. Yasin also showed me his Key Fund social investment bid. He talked about what happened during this process and what he would have done differently. Yasin talked about the importance of PEST and having a Political, Economic, Social and Technological approach to community projects. There may be some political instability so we must have a contingency plan in place to steer us through any place.

What did I learn?

I learnt a lot about how Yasin manages his staff and the importance of having contracts or working agreements. Working with friends and not making them aware of what is expected of them is not very smart. A positive environment is key to having happy staff. Personal growth is also something which I learnt is key and this is for everyone including facilitators, clients, artists and stakeholders.

In the short time I was with Yasin, I learnt about the value of having a clear communication channel with all the freelance workers in the project. By having a signed written agreement before they start working for us, it will help to get them on the same page as the managers. Working with friends as a family can sometimes lead to problems. Leadership skills are required to keep creative employees motivated.

I also feel that my confidence has increased, as I found that by speaking with Yasin, I am already doing a lot of the right things to progress the business. Through self-reflection I discovered, that I was in a similar position to Yasin and am someone who has done significantly well with little or no knowledge of the correct way of doing things in this music industry. We have very similar business models but I have not been as proactive in speaking to organisations such as the Prince’s Trust, who can put us up for awards. I will be looking into the ‘Get into’ Programme in the future.

Another thing that was highlighted is that I need to be careful when taking out a social investment loan. I need to look at the loan repayments carefully and assume that I will need to be able to cover the loan repayments twice before taking the loan. Yasin has had to ask for repayments to be made lower, as the money went out quick so I will only look to take out money which I know we can more than cover. Yasin said that ‘combining a loan with a grant’ is an effective way to achieve the goals of the community project.

I learnt about the importance of having the money-making side of the business as well as the community side. This means that a Record Label should be our next addition to the brand. As a CIC business you can only make a certain amount but as a Limited record label your earning is both residual and uncapped.

Contact details:

John Paul, Beatsabar Music Project CIC Email:

Phone: 01902 423826 Website:

Yasin El Ashrafi, HQ Recording Email:

Phone 07835 243805/ 0116 3196063 Website:

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