Time to change" A new agenda for ethnic minority entrepreneurship

Ethnic minority businesses (EMBs) play a vital role in the UK economy, yet rarely do they receive the recognition they deserve. We will need the entrepreneurial qualities of diverse communities in the post-Brexit and post Covid-19 era, and action is required to encourage and support the creativity and talent in the UK's richly diverse ethnic minority communities.

Recognising the contribution of ethnic minority businesses is an important first step. My colleagues and I at the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) recently completed the largest study on the topic ever undertaken in the UK. We found that EMBs contributed £25 billion in 2018 to the UK economy. This is a sum equivalent to that of the city of Birmingham or vital sectors like the chemical industry. EMBs also make a vital social contribution, as we have seen in the heroic efforts of local retailers to support vulnerable communities at the height of the pandemic.

The perception of EMBs as being predominantly struggling firms in low value-added sectors also needs to change. Our study found that their ethnic minority entrepreneurs are more innovative, growth-minded and export-oriented than their counterparts. We will need these qualities in the post-Covid-19 era, and as British firms pursue markets overseas in the wake of Brexit. 

However, there remain a number of challenges. A recent report by the British Business Bank found that EMBs face systemic disadvantage and often struggle to secure the finance they need. Our study also noted that EMBs are overly reliant on informal networks and not fully engaged with the ?mainstream? business support sources. We found plenty of examples of this disengagement in our work with local businesses and community organisations during the pandemic. Government support schemes often failed to reach EMBs. 

Creativity, resilience and entrepreneurialism will be vital to the government's stated aspiration of ?building back better?. Ethnic minority communities have always possessed these qualities. It's time they were brought into the light and placed at the heart of debates on the ?new normal?. 

Professor Monder Ram OBE will be among the panellists at our Unlocking Opportunities for Ethnic Minority Business Owners webinar on 4 June. Details and how to register here.

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