48-year-old Paphitis has as intimate an understanding of what the words “social mobility” mean as anyone could.
After starting out as an assistant tea boy, Paphitis is today worth a cool £125m after carving out a name for himself in turning failing companies into highly profitable businesses – La Senza and Millwall FC being the two obvious examples.
And he’s not the only entrepreneur chosen to make up the task force led by David Davis, the Shadow Home Secretary – another member is Sir Anwar Pervez, a former Bradford bus driver, who has built Bestway into a cash-and-carry behemoth and is now worth an even cooler £175m.
Indeed, the spirit of entrepreneurialism is increasingly being seen as central to stimulating social mobility – read our story on Gary Newlove and entrepreneurship.
In an interview with the Yorkshire Post last week, social entrepreneur Andrew (Lord) Mawson stressed: “Don’t be put off because you think you are not qualified enough or rich enough or famous enough to have an impact. People often think they are just one small voice in the wilderness, but if you can gather people around you, ideas can grow.”
With versatility, tenacity, single-mindedness and innovation as their hallmark traits, it is not surprising that entrepreneurs are being picked out as ideal candidates for effecting social change.
“There are many businessmen who want to use their significant expertise in the social sector and many communities who could make good use of project management and other business-related skills,” adds Lord Mawson, who was rewarded with a life peerage last year for his considerable success in community regeneration schemes, most notably his transformation of Bromley-by-Bow during his tenure as a minister there and the Community Action Network he subsequently established.
“Where many people see only problems, social entrepreneurs see opportunities for change,” reflects Lord Mawson.
Meeting for the first time this week, the task force will develop policy on education, particularly vocational training, removing barriers to setting up businesses and extending home-ownership.