Inclusive Entrepreneurship NI forms to tackle obstacles facing local entrepreneurs

  • A group of stakeholders from across Northern Ireland’s business support network have come together to help tackle some of the most challenging issues faced by local entrepreneurs.

    Inclusive Entrepreneurship NI (IENI) formed following a report which examined the profound effects which ethnic and economic background, gender and place have on entrepreneurial opportunities and outcomes.

    The report, Alone Together: Entrepreneurship and Diversity in the UK was published by the British Business Bank in October 2020. Its findings, coupled with a desire to drive real change here, led the group to examine the landscape facing Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurs.

    Inclusive Entrepreneurship NI includes representatives from Awaken Hub, British Business Bank, Bubble Bum, Diversity Mark NI, Raise Ventures, Startacus, Ulster Bank, Ulster University, Global Entrepreneurship Network UK and Women in Business NI.

    To help the group get a firm understanding of the potential barriers, they commissioned a local survey which looked at five key areas - gender, ethnicity, disability, socio-economically disadvantaged and neurodiversity.*

    British Business Bank UK Network Director for the Devolved Nations, Susan Nightingale is one of Inclusive Entrepreneurship NI’s founders and believes the group can make a real impact in Northern Ireland.

    She said: “We really want to help improve and shape Northern Ireland’s entrepreneurial and start-up space, so that it functions more effectively for a more inclusive and diverse community.

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    “A lot of our work at present is centred around evidence gathering so we can really get a solid understanding of the obstacles being faced today in Northern Ireland. Having reviewed the survey findings we have committed to progressing a number of workstreams.”

    A female-focused Introduction to Finance Programme is being developed, specifically looking at attitudes to finance, readiness and confidence as well as improving knowledge of funding options such as debt, equity and grant finance.

    A recent survey by Ulster University shows that 44% of females’ main fear prior to starting a business was financial risk. One of the first finance events, led by Roisin McDermott of Women in Business brought together several entrepreneurs and finance specialists to address this issue.

    Roisin said: “It’s important that women are not afraid of finance. Make sure you know all the sources of finance, seek the support of a mentor or finance specialist and don’t be afraid to ask the stupid questions.

    “There is a lot of business jargon used when applying for finance – you need to know your figures, learn the buzzwords or get the support of someone who is confident in finance. Learn ‘storytelling’ early and if at first you don’t succeed, make sure to ask for feedback, and consider applying again.”

    Engaging at community level to improve entrepreneurial pathways for those from socio-economically disadvantaged backgrounds will also be vitally important.

    Lecturer in Management Development at Ulster University, Steve Pollard said: “Entrepreneurship has a vital role to play in driving social inclusion through providing opportunities to earn income and contribute to society. Unfortunately, for many this potential is not being realised.

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    “The Inclusive Entrepreneurship working group on disadvantage is working with and through others to increase awareness of the potential benefits of entrepreneurial activity among under-represented groups along with building motivations to pursue it.

    “This also means looking at ways to address market failures, institutional failures and behavioural failures that disproportionately affect people in under-represented and disadvantaged groups.”

    The group also has plans to compile a central resource of best practice guides for those from diverse ethnic backgrounds and those who identify as neurodiverse and/or as having a disability.

    Startacus co-founder, Alastair Cameron said a lot of work has gone into researching and compiling a resource of information with the intention of bringing it to a wide audience.

    He said: “The intention is to help improve the awareness for both the individual entrepreneur and those within the startup ecosystem, of the opportunities, programmes, organisations and funds that are specifically aimed at supporting a wide and diverse array of founders.

    “Our goal is to make those resources as widely shared and accessible as possible.”

    Source: Written from press release 

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