Why a strong network is important for ethnically diverse businesses

Attendees at the Addleshaw Goddard roundtable

A strong network and mentorship can be key in overcoming challenges faced by Black and ethnically diverse businesses.

In a recent diversity roundtable in partnership with law firm Addleshaw Goddard, business leaders spoke of the importance of a network of likeminded businesses and individuals.

Otis Thomas is business development director of the TAP Project, which seeks to promote social inclusion within Manchester’s African communities through local networks that encourage and enable effective participation with the wider community focusing on three key areas of health, education and business.

He said: “We started life as a WhatsApp group discussing what we can do to help people engage better with the wider communities.

“That has led to several projects from our Black Achievers Dinner to taking young people on outdoor pursuit activities that they wouldn’t normally engage in.

“We realised a long time ago that we needed to create a space for people to come together and provide them with the skills and connections they wouldn’t normally have access to

“It’s about connection, and we can only do that through our networks and accessing service through the TAP Project and similar organisations that want to help.”

Monique Kufuor

Monique Kufuor founded BOB Expo (Black Owned Business Exhibition) because she struggled to find specific products for Black women.

BOB Expo is now an annual event bringing together hundreds of Black owned business owners to showcase their products to 3,000 attendees.

“The reason I set this up is because I personally would always go that extra mile to shop with business owners that looked like me and catered to me as a black woman.

“I’d get really excited when I found a new business or a new product and I soon realised is that while these businesses had a passion and a vision, they tended to remain small businesses for longer or forever because they’re not visible. These businesses are out there, so why don’t people know about them and why are they not growing? That’s when the idea for an expo came.

“Businesses do not know where to be visible such as attending networking events, and expos and not being in the loop for what’s out there for them to attend

“We’ve helped more than 500 businesses and we continue to work with them outside of the expo connecting them to organisations and resources that can help them to grow.”

Mike Crawford

Mike Crawford, also from BOB Expo, said networking opportunities where a chance to signpost people to get help and support.

“We can’t always do it on our own, but as a collective we have got real power to help share the knowledge and point people in the right direction.

“Often, that is done when there are networking groups or organisations with like minded people who can help do that.”

Harold Brako, Partner and Head of Manchester Office at Addleshaw Goddard, also spoke of the importance of having a network and mentor.

He is a member of the Black Solicitors Network, a platform for lawyers to come together to share and advocate equal access, retention and promotion of BME’s within the profession as well as helping young people with mentors and sponsors.

He said: “I do a lot of talks about mentors and sponsors and how far they have gone, even in my own career, to help. They do things for you that you don’t even know about sometimes.

“So, in terms of our positions and where we have got to and the lessons we have learned, how we then use that to sponsor and mentor other young people is invaluable.”

Natasha Chahal, an associate at Addleshaw Goddard, spoke of the importance of giving back.

She said: “One of the things I’m extremely passionate about, and what we want to achieve is making sure as a firm we are doing what we can to help all businesses and that includes assisting Black, Asian and ethnically diverse businesses.

“As a large organisation we want people to know they can come to us because we have so much to offer and to give back. It’s something both Harold and I are passionate about, and we want to help people who won’t necessarily think of coming to us. We want to make sure there is representation everywhere, and yes, we’re lawyers but we have the resources to be able to give back.”

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