"New European" entrepreneurs: creating jobs, breaking stereotypes

27 October 2009

Pascal Beckers, a research Fellow at the Maastricht Graduate School of Governance, Maastricht University, said the steady increase of entrepreneurship among people from ethnic communities “has significantly transformed the urban landscape” and contributed to the national economy, by creating jobs, revitalising impoverished urban neighbourhoods and innovating in products and services. These entrepreneurs also provide role models.

He said that unfortunately this contribution is underestimated, and that given the prevalence of entrepreneurship among ‘New Europeans’, “effective dialogue between policy-makers, entrepreneurs and other stakeholders is essential”.

Ahmed Larouz, founder and Chief Executive of communications agency Bridgizz Ltd., said networks of minority entrepreneurs were mutually stimulating for their members from a business point-of-view.

He said that many ‘rising stars’ are emerging, but they are more likely to be working in ‘behind-the-scenes’ industries, such as the creative industry, than in the ethnic markets like past generations. Mr Larouz criticised the education system for not teaching entrepreneurial skills to young people and urged banks and financial institutions to be more open to minorities.

Parvin Ali, founder and Chief Executive of UK-based FATIMA Women's Network, said female entrepreneurs from minority communities face additional hurdles such as traditional patriarchal structures, access to finance and a lack of information on national business practices and structures. She called for the EU’s post-Lisbon Strategy to help ethnic minority businesses and for ‘affirmative action’ programmes.

Ms Ali said Chinese, Indian and Somali entrepreneurs are particularly successful in the UK, as they can tap into sophisticated diaspora networks, which has also cushioned them in the financial crisis, as small local businesses can often be a trading hub.

Chuck Mills, founder and Chief Executive of the US-based Salera Capital Management, said small businesses have an important place in American society, providing 75% of all new jobs, so legislation has been designed to support them. The Small Business Act seeks, among other things, to “level the playing field for (�) minority owned businesses”. He said that the challenges facing these ethnic businesses are ‘access to cash and to training’, as while there are many training programmes they must be promoted more effectively.