A new report commissioned by the LLEP Business Gateway provides a blueprint for future support for the Black Business Community in the city and identifies some key challenges. The main issues include finding and securing funding; a lack of networks for support, and awareness of the business support already available. The report was produced by University of Leicester intern, Lara Anubi, following a number of interviews with leading figures in the Black Business Community locally.
A new research report has highlighted the challenges faced by Leicester’s Black Business Community in starting and sustaining businesses across the city. It was commissioned by the Business Gateway to ensure that all local businesses are made aware of the support available to them regardless of ethnic origin or any other characteristic.
Sue Tilley, Chief Executive of the LLEP and acting Business Gateway manager, explained: “We know that we support a lot of SMEs classified as white British and also a lot of Asian businesses, particularly in the textiles sector, but we felt that the black community were not using our services as much. We wanted to find out if this was because we needed to communicate differently or because we need to adapt our offer.”
The contributors included Annie Otum of Black Owned Leicester, Mark Esho MBE of Easy Internet, Pamela Sharpe of Mela & Sharpe, Dorothy Francis MBE of CASE, Byron Dixon OBE CEO of Micro-Fresh, Chintu Lamba of Initiated Nation, and Abdikayf Farah representing the Somali business community. Lara Anubi who undertook the interviews commented: “It was fascinating for me as a young black woman to talk to these inspiring people and identify the common issues that need to be addressed if more black businesses are going to thrive in Leicester.”
The key findings in the report include:
- The black community is Leicester’s fastest growing ethnic community.
- The main communication issue appears to be that large parts of the community are not aware of the support that is already available from the Business Gateway and others.
- There is a lack of active business networks for the Black Business Community in Leicester.
- Funding is a very big issue for this community. There is a lack of generational wealth (i.e. help from parents) and a lack of ‘financial education’ about where to find the right type of funding.
- Black enterprises typically only survive for 3 years as opposed to the 7 years for Leicester’s average businesses.
- Black female businesspeople are under-represented in this community.
- The local Somali business landscape is far more varied than the black business community in Leicester in general in terms of its variety.
The Business Gateway is now proposing a number of actions to provide support to this community and these include:
- Increasingly engagement where gaps exist. For example, the Business Gateway have agreed to provide a workshop for Somali founders to support the existing business network.
- Speaking to banks or other finance providers about finance pathways. This includes local grant providers which would help address the issues around taking on debt.
- Ensuring business support information is cascaded via wider networks, including those highlighted in the report.
- Engaging more frequently with business leaders in the community around strategy and inclusivity.
- Ensuring BAME businesses are reached by forthcoming new LLEP and Business Gateway business support programmes.
Consideration is also being given to commissioned work to:
- Reignite networking and peer support for local black owned businesses.
- A report on finance options specifically aimed at the black community.
- Workshops in a highlighted area, for example financial literacy.
Sue Tilley commented: “Several of the contributors to the report very kindly offered to help us with networking events and other activities and we would strongly encourage anyone from this community to make sure they get involved; building your network is one of the best things you can do at the start of your journey to launching your own business.
“We are also going to make sure that all the information points used by ethnic communities get regular information from the Business Gateway so that they can refer their clients to our free impartial support.”
The full report is at: https://bit.ly/3MIbepI
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