The premise here is that racism is an institutional problem; in other words, rather than being defined by isolated overt racist encounters, racism is somewhat of an organised covert system, culture, or set of unspoken rules. Pertaining to entrepreneurship, this means that there are significant yet obscured barriers in place that hinder Black people’s opportunities to create and grow a successful business.
Take for instance the term a ‘smoke filled room,’ – a “place of political intrigue and chicanery, where candidates were selected by party bosses in cigar-chewing session,” per William Safire – which was created after the 1920 Republican convention. It was used to describe how a seemingly defeated Sen. Warren G Harding became victorious after a group of Republican kingmakers held a series of private meetings. With smoking indoors now banned in the UK, this term is now used metaphorically to describe a process of how certain decisions are made.
For example, according to The Independent, in a devastating year for so many businesses, the government awarded £18bn in Coronavirus-related contracts to private firms, most with no competitive tendering processes. Lord Bethel was quoted stating that the government relied on ‘informal arrangements’ to fulfil the need of PPE. Meller Designs, a company owned by a prominent Conservative party donor was awarded PPE contracts worth £163m after one of these informal calls with Lord Bethel. There are many other examples like these which merely exemplify the real way business is often conducted.
With Black people being less likely to receive referrals than their White peers, and holding less than 7% of director positions across FTSE 350 companies, this means that for new entrepreneurs from the Black community who may not have relationships with key decision makers, it is significantly harder to win contracts and grants. As such, overcoming these barriers will take a great deal of intentionality and nothing less.
If you would like to be an ally to Black businesses owners a great way is to become a sponsor. Look at your current networks both professionally and socially, and actively promote Black business owners you admire in those circles. Research has shown that Black people are just as likely to succeed in winning a contract or promotion as their White peers when they are referred or sponsored, as opposed to when they are not.
At Inspiring Action Media, we strive to have a diverse team and champion other Black businesses. In 2020 in collaboration with Oxford Brookes University we created the Young Entrepreneurs Challenge which gave young people from diverse backgrounds the chance to pitch to a panel of business leaders and win cash prizes. This is an example of championing businesses, providing access to kingmakers and creating access to funds.
If you would like any support on how you can become a sponsor or have any questions about IAMedia, please feel free to get in touch via Imisi.email@example.com.
Written by Imisi Adefala and Annette Funto Tony-Fadipe
Watch the Imisi Adefala interview Video at the B4 One: EDI Event: https://youtu.be/tb2JjpPw2yo