How BIPOC Creatives Are Leading the Way in Entrepreneurship

The Foundation for Future London knows that Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) creative and social entrepreneurs can often find it difficult to get the proper funding and support their businesses’ needs.

It’s not all bad news, however, as highlighted in Entrepreneur’s feature on the “creator economy”. Consisting of self-owned businesses and operating mainly on social media, the creator economy is reimagining entrepreneurship by opening doors for entrepreneurs from more diverse backgrounds — most of whom are BIPOC women.

Outside of the creator economy, BIPOC entrepreneurs are slowly making moves and getting what they need for their businesses and ideas to thrive through local initiatives and schemes, such as our Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund, supported by Westfield Stratford City, and our Foundations Programme, co-funded by City of London.

Today, we’ll go over some of the ways these diverse leaders are making positive changes in entrepreneurship.

Discovering new goals

In social and creative entrepreneurship, there are always concerns or problems to fix. Having more BIPOC entrepreneurs in the sector to address these issues means hearing about more diverse needs in the field instead of adhering to goals traditionally set by those in power.

With the number of BIPOC entrepreneurs growing across creative industries, the future of business should have the potential to focus more on helping other marginalised and underrepresented communities instead of being too revenue-focused. LHH’s leadership strategies for diversity and inclusion note how goal-setting encourages us to ask about growing markets and customers. To implement our values as a society, all stakeholders should understand who they serve and have access to them to implement them fully. In other words, it can be difficult to accomplish productive goal-setting that is also inclusive — unless we see minorities in leadership positions who can raise these concerns.

At Foundation for Future London, we support local entrepreneurs and organisations from many diverse communities. One of our recent grantees The Switch is running a project, which aims to build an Alumni Network and Portal to help East London youths network and get their foot on the corporate ladder. This helps connect partner employers with a pool of diverse local talent, propelling us towards a more inclusive future workforce.

The Switch is a charity committed to helping children and young people in Tower Hamlets to fulfil their potential. Working with 40 local schools and 100 local employers, they provide a vital link between education and the world of work.

“Tower Hamlets is a borough of significant contrasts. Home to many of the world’s leading FTSE companies, it’s also a borough with entrenched levels of deprivation and disadvantage. One of the key barriers to employment for Tower Hamlets youth is their lack of networks (family and friends) to lean on and learn from. Many of the young people we support grow up in poverty in households where no one has ever had sustained employment,” said Abi Whitehouse, Alumni Project Manager at The Switch.

“One of the core aims of the programme is to promote non-traditional career sectors, such as creative, media, digital, the arts, the green economy, well-being, and self-employment so our website gives insights into roles and careers. The website acts as a marketplace for employers wishing to recruit local young talent, and it also signposts young people to school leaver programmes, apprenticeships, paid internships, and work experience.”

Tower Hamlet’s social enterprise, the British Bangladeshi Fashion Council, has partnered with the charity Streets of Growth to create the INSPIRE Textiles Cooperative & Start-Up Accelerator, also funded by our Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund.

“The fashion and textile industry in East London is always growing, but it can still feel inaccessible for many of the women we work with who are working-class, often unemployed, and from Bangladeshi or other ethnic minority backgrounds,” says Eleanor Tull, Creative Programme Coordinator at Streets of Growth. “One local woman and mother, Ruhela Begum, who was supported to grow her enterprise with work opportunities and access to studio space, is now a key partner in delivering this project and will be a role model for women involved in the project.”

Giving back to the community

BIPOC communities and other underrepresented communities, such as the LGBTQ+ community, know firsthand the difficulties that arise with constant rejection and neglect — including lack of confidence or not having enough resources or support for entrepreneurial endeavours. Many social businesses operate to reach out to others and give back when they can with this empathy to others. A feature from TIME on pandemic entrepreneurship indicates this mindset doesn’t escape BIPOC business owners, who are often the first to jump in and provide for their communities in ways that the government doesn’t. This is refreshing in a landscape that was once crowded solely by entrepreneurs whose business goals were more likely to be profit-driven rather than community-building.

Recent grantees from our Westfield East Bank Creative Futures Fund are giving back to their communities through their project work.

Art Clubbers’s SYNC Creatives brings an innovative solution to embed fusion skills into budding creatives. Their project will give new opportunities to young people who are looking to kick-start their own creative enterprises.

In many ways, investing in BIPOC initiatives is also an investment toward healthier and happier communities. We’ve seen what this can do for our grantee Maya Productions and their Diverse Voices project. Diverse Voices aims to reduce inequality of access to theatre and the performing arts by empowering BIPOC youth through educational attainment.

Newham-based Digiroots’s Future Founders Accelerator’ will develop eight BAME startups through a bespoke digital toolkit. Beneficiaries will also attend workshops and secondments and be given specialist support to produce logos, websites, and marketing plans.

Championing inclusivity

Ultimately, today’s BIPOC entrepreneurs are paving a more accepting and inspirational way for future entrepreneurs. Instead of sticking with the bare minimum token diversity hires and inclusion quotas, letting BIPOC take centre stage to enact their ideas can bring positive results that help their communities beyond mere representation. Supporting BIPOC businesses means creating a future of inclusive and accessible products or services that serve minority communities as much as the general demographic. Having more BIPOC leaders and entrepreneurs in the sector will also lead to a more diverse pool of mentors that future generations can look up to.

Copy by Joan Blake

Image credit: Pexels

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