Nurturing the unicorns of tomorrow

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Nurturing the unicorns of tomorrow. What it will take to support the entrepreneurial talent of Ethnic Minority Businesses to nurture them into the Unicorns of tomorrow?

Determination, diversity and driven to succeed, are some behaviours you might associate with any young and eager future entrepreneur. But the difference for young, enthusiastic, future entrepreneurs of an Ethnic Minority Business (EMB) is that these are three qualities they will have to heavily rely on whilst building their business when political and economic odds can be against them.

In the MSDUK Minority Report, it was revealed that eight of the UK’s 23 tech unicorns – private start-ups valued at $1 billion (£740m million) – were co-founded by minority entrepreneurs. But what isn’t so well discussed are the barriers they’ve had to navigate in growing their company into a successful and internationally recognised brand. Think Deliveroo or fintech giant Oaknorth. They’ve all had to overcome common obstacles, including direct and indirect discrimination, disconnection from critical financial, business, and political networks, and disproportionate levels of doubt. However, another asset they have in common is that they didn’t take no for an answer, which made them even more driven to succeed. So what can be done to help more to help EMB entrepreneurs succeed?

Support is a necessity

In the UK, minority businesses contribute at least £74 billion a year to the UK Economy. They will undoubtedly play a significant role in the government’s “levelling up” agenda, make no doubt about it, and with the right help, could make an even more significant difference to the UK economy, local communities, and people from ethnic minorities.

The current significant growth sectors include health and social care, accommodation and food services, while Slough and Bradford are the top cities EMB’s call home.

Critical to fostering entrepreneurial talent and supporting them in their journey to building a sustainable business is tackling notable discrimination, disconnection, and that little voice of self-doubt. Financial areas EMBs would also greatly benefit from being continued coronavirus-crisis support, lower business rates, greater incentives for investment in training and research and development (R&D) and more effective export-credit measures.

Shining a spotlight

Businesses have come a long way from when the first post-war minority businesses were often corner shops and curry houses. Even today, more than a third of the 33,000 independent convenience stores in England are run by Asian entrepreneurs. At the same time, there may also be as many as 12,000 Indian restaurants.

Step beyond your comfort zone

Many minority entrepreneurs start niche events and lifestyle businesses, which can mean missing out on mainstream opportunities. Rid yourself of fear of the unknown and step out of your comfort zone.

Be aware

Think about political agendas and how you can add value, e.g. is there an opportunity in the “levelling up” agenda that could tap into creating opportunity in your community and bring socio/economic benefit? Think about gaps in the supply change market and keep abreast of the news.

Find your people

Make sure you are part of the ‘the club’, joining mainstream organisations that you think could benefit your business, such as the CBI, the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) and of course MSDUK. Network with businesses you aspire your business to be. Find a mentor who believes in you and your business, has experience in the sector, and has valuable networking contacts to help you upscale your business.

Investment

Seeking external investors who will provide you with the equity to grow your business is always a wise move. For example, the British Business Bank, the UK’s public investment bank, will invest in promising new businesses depending on the strength of the business plan.

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