Pressure is mounting on the new Local Enterprise Partnerships to develop ways of engaging with and supporting businesses run by entrepreneurs from ethnic minority communities.
The initiative is being spearheaded by the Ethnic Minority Business Advocacy Network, which was set up by the soon to be abolished Regional Development Agencies.
EMBAN is staging a series of meetings for ethnic minority entrepreneurs, business advisers and networking organisations and has already held one meeting with around 40 representatives from within the Sheffield City Region.
Cornelius Muyunda, EMBAN manager, says RDAs like Yorkshire Forward did a lot of work on inclusion of ethnic minority businesses in growth and advice initiatives and those lessons need to be preserved and built on.
Speaking in Sheffield, Mr Muyunda said he was concerned about the lack of diversity and ethnic minority members on LEP boards.
EMBAN chairwoman, Parvin Ali, says LEP board members face a steep learning curve and don’t have any sort of road map or template outlining what is expected of them.
“They have got to hit the ground running and they haven’t any experience of how ethnic minority business networks can provide solutions rather than just highlight problems,” said Ms Ali.
She wants EMBAN and local ethnic minority business communities to be able to work in partnership with LEPs and says there are many opportunities for other businesses to capitalise on the cultural knowledge of people from local ethnic minority business communities when seeking to do business abroad.
EMBAN was supported by the RDAs in the past and becomes an independent organisation in April. In addition to promoting the need for LEPs to respond to and support ethnic minority enterprise, EMBAN also plans to spread the word about successful ethnic minority enterprises, through its www.emban.org.uk website.