Ten Black-owned Businesses Driving Change in the UK

When we say that Black-owned businesses are changing the world, we aren’t exaggerating. In fact, a 2020 study by the Federation of Small Business reported that 30% of Black and minority-owned businesses engaged in recent product or service innovation, compared to only 11% of non-ethnic minority firms. Since 2002, minority ethnic groups have typically reported a higher Total Entrepreneurial Activity rate than their non-minority ethnic counterparts, meaning that a greater proportion of working-age adults in minority ethnic groups are engaged in business start-ups than non-minority ethnic groups. Black and minority ethnic entrepreneurs are contributing to the profitability of UK PLC, to the tune of £25bn in economic contribution to the UK’s Gross Value Added, or total value of goods and services produced in the UK. In addition to generating profits, many of these businesses are also acting with purpose: to drive change in the UK.

This year we launched our new initiative, the Enterprise Academy, to provide an online community where Black and minority ethnic entrepreneurs can find networks, tools, and advice to help them succeed. Initiatives such as these are especially critical right now, when businesses are struggling to adapt to a worldwide health crisis, a reckoning with racial inequality, and an economic downturn.

To mark this launch, we want to shine a spotlight on the ways Black-owned businesses are achieving profit with purpose and helping to make the world a better place. 

Driving change in investment and finance

Historically, Black and minority-owned businesses have struggled to gain financing to get their companies off the ground. The founders of Cornerstone Partners launched their business with the aim to address this gap. With a stated mission ‘to empower our community whilst creating generational wealth within it’ – Cornerstone provides angel investment to Black and diverse-owned businesses.

Money-transfer app Tranzfar recognised the need of the African Diaspora community in the UK to have a way to safely send money to friends and family in their home country. They launched the world’s first Nigeria-only money transfer service to give community members a reliable, and affordable means of sending money. 

Driving change in start-ups

Jen Scott and Jay Tav are helping more start-ups get off the ground through their company Hustle & Heels. Focusing specifically on underrepresented groups, they offer online courses, workshops, peer groups, and online resources business owners can use to grow their skillset and their network. With their help, more entrepreneurs are learning how to turn a side hustle into a full-time business.

Driving change in marketing and advertising

Addressing the issue of representation and diversity in the marketing and advertising industries requires a focus on both sides of the camera. Specialist agency VAMP launched in 2017 as the first agency to solely focus on the representation and development of Black digital talent in the UK. Since then, VAMP has been opening doors and creating opportunities for Black women through their entertainment PR agency and their new digital talent agency.

Casting Director Selma Nicholls was motivated to start Looks Like Me Casting when her young daughter noticed the absence of people who looked like her on television, in magazines and on billboards. Looks Like Me has helped brands like Sainsbury’s, Nickelodeon, Costa, Heathrow, George Asda, LEGO, and Masterclass cast underrepresented groups in mainstream content. 

Driving change in beauty and cosmetics

Finding beauty and cosmetic products designed for naturally textured hair in stores can be challenging. Jamelia Donaldson set out to address this problem by launching an online subscription services for women and girls. TreasureTress has grown to become a top online and offline safe space for black women led by black women, where they can embrace and celebrate their unique beauty.

Driving change in the creative industry

Globally recognised designer Chrissa Amuah gained fame for her use of Western African Adinkra symbols in her handmade textiles and print designs. She launched Africa By Design to create international commercial opportunities for African designers. Through offline and online exhibitions, Africa By Design is helping underrepresented African artists gain the attention of international press like Elle Decoration, Wallpaper and Elle Décor. 

Kojo Marfo created My Runway, to connect and expose the Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic youth community to creative industries. Over the past seven years, he has worked with over 10,000 young people worldwide. He found a unique way of highlighting youth excellence and community issues using creative initiatives such as Theatre Productions, Live Talks, Diaspora Engagement Programmes, Employability Campaigns, #BlackinCarnaby, and several other Charity Initiatives.

Driving change in hospitality

Africa has long been under-represented in the area of gastronomy. Ikoyi set out to change that. Since the restaurant’s launch in 2017, it has gone on to become the first African-inspired restaurant to earn a coveted Michelin star. Diners and critics alike have been won over by the unique flavour combinations and high-quality meals. Co-founder and Managing Director Iré Hassan-Odukale hopes to inspire other young restauranteurs from ethnic minority backgrounds and mentors young black restauranteurs who are just starting their journey, helping with contacts and guiding them through the process.

Driving change in real estate

Systemic racism and rising prices make it difficult for minority ethnic families to get onto the property ladder. The founder of Black Property Network, Ayesha Ofori, is making it easier. By providing education, advice, and consultancy services, they aim to empower people within the Black community to take charge of their finances and gain security through property investment.

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