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The rise of black business owners

SUPPORT: From left to right, Chief Supt Jeff Boothe, Area Commander, Tony Brown of Brown Signs, Julie Agbowu and Dr Diahanne Rhiney speak at one of the forum’s panels

REMY WILLIAMS is the creative director of Fluent Studio, a London-based design team that creates inspirational campaigns for corporate clients such as Nike, Adidas and Marvel.

His presence at a recent black business networking event in Croydon, south London, along with rap artist Konan, is an indicator of the growing confidence among black and minority ethnic (BAME)-owned businesses.

Speaking to The Voice at the event, called A Celebration of BAME Business and Entrepreneurship, the entrepreneur, right, said: “In the past blackowned businesses had to work through a middle man to acquire contracts, but this is now changing.

“More and more businesses like ours are willing to approach corporate brands directly, to offer their services and they are winning contracts.”

Williams’ optimism is backed up by recent findings from Aston University in Birmingham, which revealed that people from minority ethnic communities are twice as likely as their white counterparts to be early-stage entrepreneurs.

The findings using data from the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM), highlighted that in 2017 the Total EarlyStage Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rate among non-white Britons was 14.5 per cent, compared to 7.9 per cent for white Britons.

Commenting on this emerging trend Mark Hart, Professor of Small Business and Entrepreneurship at Aston Business School, said: “We’ve seen a big rise in people deciding to start their own business since the financial crisis.

“This is particularly pronounced among UK-born people from ethnic minorities and immigrants to the UK; both of these groups are now nearly twice as likely to be earlystage entrepreneurs as white British people.

“So what this tells us is that minorities and immigrants are making a big contribution to the prosperity of the UK; growing new firms and creating jobs in our communities. “Often they are setting up their businesses with the express aim of having a social impact beyond simply making money.”


PICTURED: Chrisinda Alexander-Omoh speaks at the event

Councillor Patsy Cummings, Croydon Council’s BAME Champion, who was present at the launch of A Celebration of BAME Business and Entrepreneurship, at Braithwaite Hall, believes the growing numbers of black people starting their own businesses reflects an entrepreneurial spirit that has been passed down from the Windrush Generation and later arrivals from Africa.

The councillor said: “Entrepreneurialism is in the blood of people from the Caribbean and their descendants in the UK need to maintain this mentality and ensure they are not always employees.”

Cummings added that the aim of A Celebration of BAME Business and Entrepreneurship, which was organised by the Croydon BAME Forum, was to support growing levels of entrepreneurial activity among the BAME community in the borough.

Andrew Brown, CEO of the Croydon BAME Forum, said: “Over the last year I have worked with approximately 100 start-up businesses and the majority have expressed a similar concern.

“They have said ‘where can BAME entrepreneurs come together to network, share ideas and support each other?’”

The recent event at Braithwaite Hall focused on new businesses and entrepreneurs and how challenges to growth can be addressed, particularly during negotiations.

Brown says that an essential part of the Forum’s strategy is to encourage the circulation of the ‘black pound’ in Croydon, highlighting the increasing economic influence of BAME consumers.

Clifton McLeod, the CEO of MMCO World, a corporate events company, believes that events like A Celebration of BAME Business and Entrepreneurship represent a progressive trend for the black community.

He said: “There are a lot of wealthy Caribbean and African business people in the UK and many communities possess high concentrations of black-owned businesses which generate large amounts of revenue.

“But we also spend large amounts of money as consumers. To encourage further growth we need a reliable guide of black-owned businesses in the UK, and a willingness to regularly spend within our community.”

The businessman continued: “If we can revive networking among prominent black business people and join our finances there is no reason why the black community cannot have its own shopping malls and banks. It is within our power.”

Numerous attendees at the event agreed with McLeod.

Chrisinda Alexander-Omoh, director of Echoclean Property Services, was one of those.

She said: “Many cultures trade amongst themselves to encourage each other. Why shouldn’t this happen within the black community, where many struggle to stay in business?”


SHARING KNOWLEDGE: The audience at the event listening to a speaker

Calvin David, a financial advisor at OWL in Sussex, expressed a similar view.

He said: “Within the black community there is trust and confidence on an individual basis. This can be lacking on a wider scale because some believe black business owners are unprofessional.

“If black sports personalities and artists can work together within a business framework, it can create very powerful images to offset these negative perceptions.”

For example, Croydon rap duo Krept and Konan combine a successful music career with running a popular restaurant, Crepes and Cones in Croydon.

Speaking at the networking event the MOBO Award winner Konan recalled his experience as an unsigned artist, breaking into the charts and enjoying sell-out shows across London, which recently included Alexandra Palace.

He said: “A lot of people need inspiring, because there’s a high expectation these days. Hopefully my story will reveal that whilst it can be hard to break through there can always be light at the end of the tunnel. We heard amazing stories from our speakers today, who will certainly act as inspiration for those looking to follow their dreams of entrepreneurship.”

Konan added: “We’re proud to be one of the most diverse boroughs and it’s great to be able to celebrate diversity and entrepreneurship together.”

TALENT
Samantha Williams, owner of This Is Book Love, praised the efforts of the new generation of entrepreneurs. The former journalist said: “Despite experiencing a torrid history the black race continues to harness an abundance of talent in various sectors and open thriving businesses in this country. Can you imagine what the black community could achieve if it had a bit more support from financial institutions?”

She added: “It is imperative that our youngsters are aware of what financial opportunities are available and networking can help in this regard.”


PICTURED: Samantha Williams of This is Book Love

Author and entrepreneur, Julian Hall, believes there needs to be a focus on marketing high quality goods and services to wider markets.

He said: “From my own experience if a high-quality product or service is provided then it attracts customers and an economic base is formed.

“We need more successful businesses that serve the UK market. Lastly we need to encourage young people to become more entrepreneurial so they have better choices when it comes to employment and making money.”

Janey Williams, whose 11-year-old daughter Jasmine Redman exhibited her work at the Braithwaite Hall, agrees with Julian Hall’s assessment.

The pre-teen, a talented artist, has been selling her own brand of colouring books, postcards, greeting cards and tote bags under the Adventureville brand for over two years.

Williams said: “Jasmine can be a bit shy, but her involvement with entrepreneurialism has built her confidence.

“Her communication skills are developing and at a young age Jasmine appreciates the importance of collaborating with others to achieve her goals.”

Discover more black businesses at The Voice Black Business Fair taking place December 8 from 10am-6pm! Get your FREE tickets available here

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