Black business owners and professionals converged in London for the inaugural UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference on 14 July.
Hundreds of Black entrepreneurs joined a jam-packed day full of inspirational speakers, networking opportunities, and celebrations as part of the first-ever UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference at the NatWest Conference Centre.
Effective support and practical mentorship sadly continues to elude many Black business owners, particularly during the early years of their enterprise even though this demographic makes up a good 16 per cent of all registered businesses in the UK. This is despite the fact that they only make up about 3.3% of the UK population.
The maiden UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference is expected to be an annual event that will focus on highlighting the issues that face Black businesses and seeking solutions to overcome them. Building on some robust facts, this year’s conference centred on The Black Entrepreneurs Report 2021 by the CEO of Aspire Consultancy, Dr Carlton Brown, who along with partners, founded the event.
The landmark report stated that only one percent of the public and private sector spend is with diverse businesses. It concluded that major changes are needed in the way that Black businesses are integrated into the macroeconomic business landscape within the UK – and the lack of access to finance was cited as a key barrier to entry, alongside a deficiency of social capital.
Attendees to the UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference benefitted from hearing a range of engaging speakers including former President Obama appointee and host of Channel 4 business show The Money Maker, Eric Collins, British African broadcaster Henry Bonsu, and Lord Michael Hastings CBE, chair of the London Black Business Association (BBA).
Other keynote speakers included Wilfred Emmanuel Jones – aka the Black farmer. The inspirational 63-year-old, who lives in Cornwall and farms in Devon, discussed “building an empire and access to market” before noting that “business is a battlefield and you have to fight for every piece of success.”
Another speaker, Dr Clare Anyiam-Osigwe, an award-winning serial entrepreneur, film director, writer, and founder of Premae Cosmetics, the world’s first allergen-free, vegan-friendly beauty brand – which she founded when she was just 26, talked about the importance of removing bias and barriers in business for Black women.
She said: “It’s so important that we share our stories of success and struggle to help inspire and uplift other Black entrepreneurs.”
Marketing maven, Nicola Millington, whose company, FP Comms, is currently celebrating 15 years in business, was another keynote speaker who stressed the necessity of having these types of events. She said: “This has been about levelling the playing field – not just seeing and hearing from Black entrepreneurs who are thriving in their fields but coming away armed with practical tips to implement in business.
“Standing still is going backwards. To see people just be excited and leave empowered and inspired, with actionable steps, is amazing.”
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Summing up the event, Dr Carlton Brown, was positive about the future of Black businesses but stressed that more needed to be done. “The future looks bright for Black-owned businesses, but work is needed in order to create greater equity and less disparity and to try and ‘level up the agenda.
“Annual events like today will help us all to continue to navigate the structural and systemic challenges and keep moving the agenda forward in a more synergistic, transparent and progressive manner.”