Network support for ethnic minority businesses and entrepreneurs

Boost for ethnic minority and businesses

The Enterprise and Diversity Alliance has improved ethnic minority entrepreneurs’ access to finance, markets and business support, providing a unique support network.

Ethnic minority businesses contribute an estimated £25-32 billion to the UK economy annually, but face challenges in accessing finance, markets and business support. The Enterprise and Diversity Alliance (EDA) has a simple ambition – to lift these barriers and make diversity and enterprise everyone’s business.

For EDA co-director Professor Monder Ram, it’s an ambition with very personal roots. Professor Ram’s father came to the UK from India in the 1950s and, after years of difficulty and discrimination, managed to establish a profitable clothing business.

He said: “What I learned is that minority enterprise is a game of winners and losers, and it’s vital to understand the conditions and circumstances that generate both outcomes. Also, who you know matters. Minority entrepreneurs are often excluded from important networks – like banks, mentors, and gatekeepers to large organisations. This relegates their businesses to the margins.”

Launched in 2010 with ESRC funding, EDA works to ensure that minority businesses can become mainstream enterprises through better access to money, markets and management skills. It is the only nationally-recognised resource promoting diversity and enterprise good practice.

Professor Ram and EDA co-director Professor Kiran Trehan have brought together a unique network of corporations, banks, professional associations and academics – with partners including the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants, Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group, the British Bankers’ Association, and the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The network provides practical support in areas such as access to finance, human resources, marketing and IT support, workshops and mentoring.

Recently, the Ethnic Minority Business Conference brought together the managing director of the British Banking Association and a newly arrived migrant from Somalia who was setting up a project for Somali women. “Without the EDA, their worlds would never collide,” Professor Ram stresses. “Facilitating those meetings and the opportunities they open up is what the EDA is all about.”