Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

Over 2,000 young people have benefited from our social impact programmes, which aims to give aspiring creatives a step-up into the industry. Here are some of their stories

Friday 10 May 2024   By Sagal Mohammed   Photography by Hannah Norton

Since launching in 2018, Soho House’s dedicated mentorship programme has been committed to supporting a new generation of creative talents in cities around the world, providing everything from guidance and community to real-life opportunities. 

The creative industries are notoriously difficult to break into: class, ethnicity, disability, and more have long been barriers to entry – something we aim to address through House Foundations, Soho House’s social responsibility and sustainability programme. As part of our social responsibility initiative, we created Soho Futures, with the aim of providing wider access to the creative industries. A key part of Soho Futures is the Soho Mentorship: run in partnership with Creative Mentor Network, Creative Futures Collective, Routes In, and OWN Academy. The 16-week social impact programme pairing established Soho House members with young, aspiring creatives from underrepresented backgrounds to help them hone in on their passion, grow their confidence and experience, and provide them with a route into their chosen creative field. 

Each of our mentees is given a Soho House membership to help grow their network, while members who choose to participate in the mentorship programme receive training on how to deliver advice and coaching. The programme – which currently runs in 18 cities globally – has, along with Soho Fellowship, offered over 2,000 young people the support they need to excel as creative innovators. 

‘As of 2023, at the beginning of their programme, 55% of UK mentees felt able to build positive relationships and make industry connections. This had risen to 85% by the end of the programme,’ says Min Shrimpton, Director of House Foundations at Soho House. ‘Meanwhile, 100% of mentees in the Americas would recommend Soho Mentorship, and 92% of mentees in Asia said it has helped them feel more confident.’ 

The programme supports our 2030 ESG goal to have 5% of Soho House membership intake be part of a creative access programme; as of 2023, this stands at 2.8%, with our largest cohort of mentees to date. The full Soho House 2023 environmental, social, governance (ESG) report is now live and can be read here

Here, some of our past and current mentees share their experiences with Soho Futures. The photographs accompanying their interviews were shot by photographer Hannah Norton in locations that are personal to each mentee and their creative journey so far. Norton is currently in residence at the late fashion designer Lee Alexander McQueen’s Sarabande Foundation, which is a partner of our Soho Fellowship programme.

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

UK 
London

1. Nyasha Ngondonga 

London-based Soho House mentee Nyasha Ngondonga has been a part of the programme since 2019. Passionate about music and culture, his dream was to work in the music industry and eventually become an entrepreneur, but with no direct contacts and little experience, getting his foot in the door proved difficult. 

‘The mentorship programme paired me with legendary British composer David Lowe,’ says Ngondonga. ‘Having a mentor who is in the industry and knows what it’s like has been so impactful for me.’ In 2020, a year after joining the programme, Ngondonga set up his music production company Plus TRBE Productions with guidance from Lowe, who acted as a consultant for the launch. 

‘We create music for films and TV shows that are rooted in Black culture,’ he explains, ‘Since launching, we have signed deals with the BBC and Sky to produce library music for them, which has been featured on shows including Black Ops, The Rap Game UK and Nail Bar Boys, among others.’ 

On his shoot location:
 
‘I picked my local cafe near my team's studio – it’s a place where we often meet, talk, and have lunch.’

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

2. Jeng Au 

‘One of the barriers I've faced as an advertising creative is not seeing myself reflected in the industry,’ says Soho House mentee Jeng Au, who joined the London cohort in 2020. Creative director and graphic designer Au had spent years perfecting their craft but the lack of diversity in the industry had been challenging to navigate as a queer person of colour. ‘When I applied to the Soho House mentorship, I was at a low point with my relationship to creativity and so close to quitting. All I knew was that I wanted to make things and be around other creatives.’ 

Since becoming a mentee, Au, who is currently an art director at Amazon, has launched various creative ventures with the support of their mentors. ‘My mentor encouraged me to develop my gourmet mushroom-growing hobby into a branding project,’ they say. ‘As a result, I created SPAWN, a fungi project that explores and shares the mighty world of mycology through growth, education, community, and experimentation projects. I also began exploring ways to express my trans identity, which led to myself and some friends starting an all-trans+ arts and camping festival called Camp Trans CIC.’ 

On their shoot location: 
‘A House For Artists is a project in Barking, east London, set up to provide flexible live-work spaces for resident artists who, in turn, offer free or low-cost creative programming to the neighbourhood, such as ceramic courses, film screenings, and photography lessons.’ 

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

3. Tele Lawal 

London mentee Tele Lawal was introduced to the Soho House mentorship programme through a friend in 2021, at a time in which she was looking for support on how to take her business to the next stage. ‘I knew I needed some creative direction and guidance to kickstart my company, and having a mentor from Soho House seemed like the missing piece of the puzzle,’ she says. 

During the programme, Lawal was mentored by Charlie Beeson from FutureBrand, who she credits for helping her successfully navigate the challenges of running a creative business. ‘Charlie provided invaluable support for me,’ she says. ‘He helped me refine the brand identity, craft the value proposition, and frame my ideas.’ 

Armed with new tools and an expanded network, Lawal was able to leave her day job in consultancy to focus her energies on building her experiential e-commerce platform Kouture Paradisé alongside her second business, Faith Book Club, in 2023. 

On her shoot location: 
‘I chose Fulham Library. It holds a special place in my heart and shooting there brought back a flood of nostalgia. I made the move to Fulham in 2022 after spending my entire life outside London, in Noak Hill. Transitioning from a small town to the city was quite daunting; the library provided a sanctuary for me.’

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

Amsterdam 

4. Ammar Bader 

Ammar Bader joined the Soho House mentorship programme in the summer of 2023, just after emigrating to the Netherlands from Syria on his own. ‘At the time, Amsterdam felt overwhelming yet full of potential,’ he says. ‘I was surrounded by opportunities but lacked direction. I needed guidance to navigate this new chapter of my life.’ 

Becoming a mentee helped Bader through some of those barriers, while inspiring him to actively pursue his passions. ‘Being paired with my mentor Ajay Shrivastav provided me with invaluable guidance and support, helping me to navigate challenges and build my confidence,’ he says. ‘The programme has ignited a hunger within me to seize every opportunity that comes my way and to embrace whatever serves my path and journey. Connecting with other mentors and mentees has provided me with a network of like-minded individuals, which I hope to continue to grow.’ 

On his shoot location: 
‘More than just a physical space, my home in Amsterdam symbolises resilience, perseverance, and the beginning of a new chapter in my life, after enduring a challenging period of living in refugee centres for over a year. It’s the first place I can truly call home.’

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

New York 

5. Adina Farinango 

New York artist Adina Farinango uses art as an act of resistance, healing, and self-expression. Her work is informed by her lived experiences as an Indigenous woman. ‘As a Kichwa-Otavalo woman, my art is an extension of myself and my entire being,’ she says. ‘Through it, I express myself unapologetically, whether it's with digital illustrations or mixed media, such as embroidery in photography.’ 

Farinango joined the Soho House Mentorship programme in 2023 to not only connect with a mentor but to also engage with fellow creatives from different New York City boroughs. Aware of the challenges she faced within the art world, both as a self-taught artist and an Indigenous woman, Farinango was looking for guidance to help navigate what – from the outside – appears to be a very closed shop. 

‘The Soho House mentorship programme has created a safe environment for young creatives from lower-income and marginalised backgrounds to connect and learn from one another,’ she says. ‘This space has empowered me to fully embrace my artistic journey as an integral part of who I am. Interacting with fellow mentees in different fields and hearing about their experiences working with their mentors has been inspiring and informative.’ 

On her shoot location: 
‘I chose Union Square because it’s my favourite place in the city. It holds deep significance for me beyond just being a park. It's a place where artists have always sold their creations as a means of survival. It also brings back memories from my childhood.’

Soho Mentorship: meet some of our mentees | Soho House

6. Mika Zembic 

When Mika Zembic joined Soho Mentorship three years ago, they were building out an art media company while working as a film director and editor. Despite this, their real passion was always music. ‘I have been a musician for the past 15 years, though my career feels like it is just now starting to move forwards towards that,’ they say. ‘I applied for the Soho House mentorship programme to connect with someone who would understand my vision and support me in my creative goals.’ 

It paid off. One of the most challenging aspects of pursuing a music career for Zembic had always been about getting paid for the music they create – since completing the programme, they have toured across North America with Arlo Parks, and Zembic continues to benefit from the doors opened and opportunities that being a mentee has led to. ‘Soho House has connected me with so many incredible friends, and it's been an honour to learn and grow alongside them,’ they say. 

On their shoot location: 

‘My home studio means so much to me. I’m so grateful to have a dedicated space in my home where I can work on music and creative projects. I’ve lived in my space for about five years, and it’s gone through so many iterations. But the place it’s at now – I feel like I’ll be creating my best work yet.’

Apply for Soho Mentorship here.