Since 2016, the unemployment rate for people belonging to Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic (BAME) groups has fallen by 23%. Parallel to this is a rise of 21.9% in BAME people’s self-employment. Amy Catlow, Director of Expert Market, believes that these figures are connected, and that the fall in unemployment is ‘down to entrepreneurialism‘. Sandra Kerr, race equality director at Business in the Community, says that this drive to entrepreneurism is in turn caused by BAME employees finding that they are ‘not able to progress in traditional work environments.’
While racial inequality within existing businesses remains, supporting BAME entrepreneurialism is vital. Last Christmas, The Voice published an article urging buyers to support black businesses over the holiday period. One black entrepreneur they spoke to, Oliva-Zara Burgher, raised some important advantages of ‘circulating the black pound‘, as any financial support of black business would be ‘helping black families to pay their mortgage or their child’s schooling’. Not only does the businesses benefit from your financial support, but the families behind them do too, improving the education and prospects of future generations.
Additionally, many BAME entrepreneurs have been inspired by their own experiences, and their businesses may help tackle issues of diversity in the industry. For example, Kerry-Ann Graham was inspired by her daughter, Gabby, to respond to the lack of diversity in children’s toys. Graham launched Gabby’s World to collect and sell BAME dolls and toys, and plans to manufacture her own. Similarly, after identifying the lack of diversity in children’s books, Michaela Alexander launched a book series inspired by her two children, Miles and Mia. Her first book, Miles and Mia A to Z, was published in 2016, and explores the children’s Caribbean and British culture as they move through the alphabet. Alexander wants her books to celebrate diversity, and give children of colour a chance to see themselves in the books they read in school.
Bianca Miller, a finalist of the UK’s Apprentice, launched an eponymous hosiery brand that provides nude garments for a diverse range of skin tones, ‘representative of all women’, now sold at Topshop. She has also created a range of nude nail polishes and founded ‘The Be Group’ in 2012, ‘on the premise that all people should be able to access services to aid their personal development and to build their personal brand.’
Furthermore, some BAME-led businesses exist to offer employment opportunities to BAME employees. Mursal Hedayat, created Chatterbox to train and employ refugees as teachers of their native language through an online language school. Tori Oredein and Bola Awoniyi co-founded Black Ballad to counter the 94% white British media industry. They publish newsletters, hold events, employ many black, female writers, and have partnered with 25 black-owned businesses so far, with the aim ‘to create a media platform that helps black women in Britain live their best life’.
Even if their products or services do not directly support people from BAME groups, as Sandra Brown Pinnock notes in her interview with The Voice: ‘supporting black-owned businesses […] can […] inspire our youths to also become entrepreneurs.’ Supporting today’s BAME entrepreneurs increases the chance of younger generations belonging to BAME groups founding their own businesses, thus filling more gaps in the industry for BAME consumers.
While around 13% of the population of the UK belong to BAME groups, only 5% of the country’s small businesses are BAME-led. However, with 20% of government-backed Start Up Loans received by BAME entrepreneurs in 2018, this percentage may be on the rise. Supporting BAME entrepreneurs supports the industrialists and their families, supports the production of products representative of the BAME population of the UK, and increases the employment of BAME workers in these companies, now and in the future.