Business management

Black History Month: Time for change, action not words

This year’s Black History Month theme focuses on the actions we can all take to tackle institutional racism and support the UK’s Black business owners.

As our Head of Enterprise and Climate Engagement and Partnerships, Julie Baker is intimately familiar with the problems that many ethnic minority businesses (EMBs) face.

“We can’t speak on behalf of the whole UK Black community,” says Julie. “But in terms of supporting, in particular, Black businesses in the UK, we want to champion the idea that the onus is on all of us to work towards a more inclusive enterprise landscape.”

What’s in store for Black History Month this October?

From promoting influential community leaders on our Business Show to showcasing Black businesses here on NatWest Insights, we’re keen to celebrate the achievements of Black businesspeople. But Julie is adamant that this change means more than simply finding the right words. “We must all take action as individuals and organisations. Let’s not wait around for someone else to drive the change we want to see,” she says.

During Black History Month, you can discover business profiles on NatWest Insights with these exciting entrepreneurs:

  • Valentina Hynes, founder and CEO of SVH Inc, a community interest company that provides mental health training to promote better well-being in the workplace.
  • Christiana Melam, Chief Executive of the National Association of Link Workers, the professional body for social prescribing link workers, who enable the NHS to deliver whole person personalised care to patients and communities.
  • Dr Youmna Mouhamad, founder of Myana Naturals and the designer of the patented Nyfasi Deluxe Detangler comb.
  • Jeniffer Makau, founder and Director of Revitalise Minds, a customisable, person-centred approach to mental health and well-being.

Building on Black History Month’s #TimeForChange theme

Key to delivering the change that many EMBs need has been the ‘Time to Change: a Blueprint for Advancing the UK’s Ethnic Minority Businesses’ by the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), in partnership with NatWest. It found that overcoming the multiple barriers faced by EMBs, particularly in accessing finance, markets and quality business support, could increase their GVA contribution from £25bn a year currently to £100bn.

Aside from that staggering headline statistic, the three key themes in the report, explains Julie, are a step towards creating the environment that EMBs deserve. The themes are:

  • Valuing diversity of enterprise and supporting ambitious EMBs to grow
  • Promoting long-term partnerships that build stronger networks of support for EMBs
  • Developing a UK-wide inclusive enterprise policy that signals the importance of support for EMBs

“At the heart of everything we do, the ultimate question we ask is whether we are doing right by our customers, and how can we improve,” adds Julie. “So we have a dedicated role to constantly assess and implement ways in which we’re supporting our Black community, and ethnic minority business communities.”

How we are making a difference

As well as partnering with CREME on the Time to Change report, NatWest – a winner at the National Diversity Awards – is actively involved in:

  • Working with its own SME Transformation Taskforce to break down barriers to finance for EMBs
  • Helping win the trust of Black business owners
  • Lobbying government and all-party parliamentary groups that support EMBs
  • Supporting organisations such as Black Seed in developing supportive networks for Black business leaders

Some people or organisations may wonder whether they have a role in Black History Month. But Julie urges them to participate: “Some people are afraid to say the wrong things, but we’ve got to learn to have those difficult conversations in order to achieve real progress. We need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“So have the courage to aspire to getting to where you want to, and tell your story unapologetically. Because someone out there is a few steps behind and wishing they were where you are now.”

The NatWest Group are also working with Black Seed to back Black business founders in the UK, supporting over 10,000 Black entrepreneurs across the UK to fast-track their businesses. The partnership kicks off with a start-up weekend in Brixton, London, 18th - 20th November. Free tickets are available to Black entrepreneurs and NatWest has provided a £10,000 fund that businesses can pitch for during the weekend.

Tickets are available here.

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