“Women of mixed ethnicity are over two and a half times more entrepreneurial than white women (ibid GEM, London Business School, 2006)”
Congratulations if you are one of those actively pursing your entrepreneurial dreams and looking for new ways of growing your business. It’s not easy starting a business so well done for taking the leap. You are an inspiration to many women out there who are looking to do the same.
If so many of us are entrepreneurial, why are so few minority businesses represented in the upper echelons of entrepreneurial businesses? According to the Office of National Statistics more than half of women choose to start their business part-time, compared to just 12% of men. This may be because more women start their businesses because of the flexibility you have to balance the business around your family.
Despite this fact, could we do more as BAME business owners to grow our businesses so that we can be represented amongst some of the best? I believe that we could if we could overcome challenges that are peculiar to our demographics.
Being hardworking, motivated and enterprising is clearly not enough. We need to work hard to overcome an additional set of challenges that are unique to women of colour, in addition to the usual trials of entrepreneurship!
However, I believe the challenges are mostly attitudinal and can be solved with the right mindset and support.
Here are some of the barriers:
1. Access to finance
“Fear of debt is the single largest barrier to entrepreneurship for both men and women, although women are significantly more fearful than men. (ibid GEM, London Business School 2004)”
Women irrespective of ethnicity are fearful of debt, which means that our businesses are generally less capitalised. This sometimes makes it difficult to pursue growth beyond certain levels. The fear of debt itself is not entire a bad thing in my opinion as unmanaged debt can quickly spiral out of control so some sort of balance is needed. If your business genuinely needs funding and you have done the groundwork to ensure a reasonable return on investment then put your act together and be brave about seeking funding to fund growth. Sometimes you can bootstrap it in business but sometimes you JUST can’t.
2. Asking for help
“Minority ethnic women appear to use formal business support less than their white counterparts!”
Why is this? There is help, so why not access it? This attitude really baffles me. There are lots of women and men out there who are willing to help you but only if you take the initial step of asking for the help. There is a mix of both free and paid business support everywhere you look. I cannot guarantee the quality of some of the support available but do your research and find the right support for you. It may be what is lacking from your efforts and why you are struggling on your own. I have mentors from all backgrounds because they all offer different perspectives. Who is cheering you on in your business?
3. Lack of confidence
“25% of ethnic minority owned businesses report a lack of self-confidence with finance, which is above the average level (16%). (Dr Stuart Fraser, Finance for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, 2005)”
Confidence is such a vital part of pursuing our goals unreservedly. Without confidence, the self-doubt and lack of belief could halt you in your tracks. To me confidence is like a savings account. There are activities that develop your confidence and deposit in your confidence account. The more deposit you make in the bank the more you’ll have to draw on when faced with challenges. Confidence isn’t developed overnight. Every little win is a deposit in your confidence account so go out there and try your hands at things that challenge you and take you out of your comfort zone. Educate yourself and invest in learning the skills needed in the areas where you lack the most confidence. The more knowledge you gain, and the more regularly you apply that knowledge the more deposit you’ll be making in that deposit account. In terms of lacking self-confidence with finance, you need to understand the basics of accounting and finance to run a profitable business. So invest in yourself, attend a seminar or find someone who can expose you to the principles step by step until you feel confident about the handling your businesses finances.
Don’t limit yourself to operating only in the ethnic minority market unless this is your niche. There are potential customers or clients all over the world who need the solutions that you have to offer them. The ethnic minority network may provide the support your need but the business may sometimes need to come from elsewhere. This is why you need to be super clear your target market and be unrelenting in finding the networks where they already congregate. It’s ok if your target market is the ethnic minority market. If its not, then you need to go network outside the ethnic minority networks as well.
Diversity is a positive thing in business no matter how you look at it so don’t be too inward looking in your approach to building your business. Give yourself and your business the best chance.
5. Make You a priority
As Jim Rohn says, “The best gift I can give to you, really, is my on-going development”
So everyday, make YOU a priority. Don’t be too conscious of what is currently lacking or seems impossible to achieve but rather focus on what is possible and develop yourself to achieve just that.
Griselda Kumordzie Togobo (ACA, MPhil) is a Business Growth Consultant to independent professionals and small business owners. She is a chartered accountant and holds an MPhil in Industrial Systems, Manufacture and Management from Wolfson College, Cambridge University. Check out her blog athttp://www.awovi.com.