What happens when conscious or unconscious bias hinders growth?

Delight (Dee) Mapasure

Delight (Dee) Mapasure, founder of K’s Wors – authentic South African Boerewors sausages – had to take drastic measures when she wanted to get hold of a supplier.

The Manchester business woman had been emailing a supplier for several months to set up a meeting but failed to get a response.

She already had an inclination that she wasn’t getting a reply due to her African heritage. So, she created a fake email address with a western name and asked for a meeting.

Within an hour of doing so, she received a reply from the supplier with a date and time.

Dee said: “I went to see the supplier and eventually told them what I had to do to set up a meeting in the first place.

“They were really shocked and tried to explain to me that they would never discriminate against someone due to their name. But the fact was, as soon as I emailed with a western name, I got a meeting immediately.

“I had a feeling bias, whether conscious or unconscious, was playing a part, and I also knew I had to do something about it too.”

Dee spoke about her experience during a recent roundtable discussion held in partnership with Addleshaw Goddard exploring the journeys of Black entrepreneurs as we mark Black History Month.

Reflecting about the inspiration behind K’s Wors, Dee said: “I founded the business because I missed home. When I came to Manchester it was cold and dark, and the winter is pretty hard.

“And so, when you miss home, you think about the food whether that’s your mother’s cooking or your grandmother’s cooking, or just the chippy down the road. I missed the meals because mealtimes are big in Africa and so I decided to start a food brand, but I wanted to introduce something that represented me, something that really connected with my heritage.”

Dee started producing sausages in her kitchen in 2016. Since then, the business has grown organically and is stocked by Ocado and exported to several countries.

Last year, Dee appeared on Dragons’ Den but didn’t convince the judges to invest. Despite that, Dee says she has continued to thrive.

“I tend to follow my instincts,” she said.

“The Dragons didn’t think I had enough experience in the food and drinks sector, but I know my business and I know where I want to take it and what I am after.

“I seek opportunities where I feel my business needs it the most, and that is what has helped us to grow even through the pandemic.”

Ngozi Weller

Ngozi Weller also spoke about bias.

She launched her wellbeing business Aurora Wellness in 2017 having suffered a mental health breakdown whilst working for an oil and gas company.

Ngozi spoke about reaching the ‘Black ceiling’ when she saw her white counterparts rise through the ranks while her own career became stagnant, despite working twice as hard.

She said: “I was working twice as hard and getting brilliant results. I even had managers telling me I was doing a brilliant job and that I should be getting a promotion. But when I went for more senior positions I was being overlooked for lesser experienced white colleagues.

“When I questioned it I was told that I wasn’t getting the roles because I was too ‘jokey’ and after a while that breaks you down.”

Following a breakdown, Ngozi launched Aurora Wellness with her cousin Obehi Alofoje to help organisations with mental health awareness.

“I was off work for more than a year after having a dramatic episode where I found myself crying on the kitchen floor. I took therapy and medication to get me back into a good place. That’s when I teamed up with Obehe so we could help people a lot sooner.

“We work with SMEs across the UK to provide wellbeing support, a service that wasn’t there for me in my time of need.”

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