Mon | Sep 26, 2022

Support for black businesses after inaugural summit

Published:Saturday | August 13, 2022 | 12:07 AMGlen Munro/Gleaner Writer
Dr Carlton Brown (right) leads a panel discussion of business experts at the UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference in the City of London.
Dr Carlton Brown (right) leads a panel discussion of business experts at the UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference in the City of London.
Dr Carlton Brown gives the opening remarks at the UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference.
Dr Carlton Brown gives the opening remarks at the UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference.


Organisers of the recently held UK Black Business Entrepreneurs Conference (UKBBEC) say they are encouraged by the outpouring of support and engagement for locally owned black businesses from both public and private sectors across the UK.

The confab, hosted in London, was aimed at addressing the findings of a report which pointed to a disparity in the numbers of registered black-owned businesses and limited access to support for local entrepreneurs.

According to the B lack Entrepreneur Report 2021, 300 certified ethnically diverse businesses are registered in the UK, compared to the 71,467 that exist.

The UKBBEC is modelled on the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit (BEES), which is the largest gathering of black-owned businesses, entrepreneurs and wealth creators in the United States. That annual event takes place in Atlanta, Georgia.

The UK event was organised by Dr Carlton Brown, founder of Marshall & Brown, distributors of Jamaican fine foods, and attracted hundreds of entrepreneurs from across the UK. The management consultant, of Jamaican heritage, is also the publisher of the Black Entrepreneur Report 2021, which provides insight into enterprise within the UK.

Dr Brown said the response has been good: “People have reached out to me, both from public- and private-sector organisations, keen to provide support with diversity and inclusion.

“We are looking forward to discussing how our entrepreneurs can have better access to finance, skills, mentoring, and the procurement of contracts.

“The response from attendees at the conference has been very positive. They have already met buyers and new business relationships have started, with the goal of building genuine and progressive relationships.”

Ambassador of UKBBEC Bola Abisogun, OBE, believes the inaugural event at the NatWest Conference Centre is a stepping stone to address the concerns identified in the report.

Speaking to The Weekly Gleaner, the CEO of Urbanis, a construction and project management organisation, said: “When I was introduced to Dr Carlton last year, I said that if he was serious about taking the report to another level then a business event needed to be organised. I was humbled and surprised by many of the ideas discussed at the conference, which, in my opinion, brought the Black Enterprise Entrepreneurs Summit from Atlanta to London.

“It will help build confidence for future generations, by encouraging them to fulfil their potential.”

Attendees at the business event were able to network, and enjoyed discussions with policymakers, representatives of financial institutions, and decision-makers within public- and private-sector organisations.

Paul Hargreaves,the CEO of Cotswold Fayre, a speciality food and drink wholesale business which supplies over 1750 retail sites in the UK, and who attended the conference, believes the event has the potential to do even more.

Hargreaves is a B Corp ambassador, helping companies demonstrate their value to society and the environment.

Speaking to The Weekly Gleaner from Kenya, where he is encouraging African youth to aspire, Hargreaves said he was impressed by the conference: “It was fantastic and massively inspiring, and will encourage entrepreneurs to take financial risks in a bid to fulfil their business aspirations. He said there needs to be further discussions, on a wider platform, to fully address issues such as finance and the procurement of contracts, which were raised at the conference.

“There are companies who are keen to discuss contracts with minority-owned business, but who are unsure how to facilitate the process. Raising awareness of databases containing minority-owned business needs to be talked about more frequently. The conference was a good start,” he said.

The Federation of Small Businesses, Institute of Directors and chambers of commerce are being encouraged to maintain databases.

MSD UK, one of the exhibitors at the UKBBEC will host its 2022 conference and awards in September to connect diversity professionals with ethnic minority suppliers.