Last Updated on: 22nd November 2023, 03:16 pm

  • Ethnicity is a greater challenge than gender when starting and growing a business, say women of colour entrepreneurs
  • Nine out of ten say a lack of roles models is biggest challenge
  • Santander UK commits to provide tailored business support to women of colour entrepreneurs with advice from new Steering Group

Ethnicity is a greater challenge than gender when establishing and growing a business according to new research from Santander UK and PRECIOUS, the UK’s longest standing online platform for ambitious women of colour1, released today2. Over half (53%) of the women of colour entrepreneurs questioned said ethnicity had hindered them versus a third (30%) who said gender was a hindrance. Less than 1 in 10 (8%) said ethnicity had helped them to grow their business.

Nine out of ten (89%) women of colour entrepreneurs say a lack of roles models is the biggest challenge they face, and the same proportion were impacted by unconscious bias. This affects who women of colour turn to when it comes to accessing advice or support for finance, with more than a quarter (25%) choosing family or friends first and just 1 in 10 (11%) going to their bank.

Almost three quarters (70%) of those surveyed said women of colour need tailored business support. Santander has therefore established a Steering Group with 10 women of colour founders3 to gain a better understanding of the challenges they face and to help inform its support programmes. Santander has committed to work with the Steering Group on three key areas – to build trust in financial institutions, to promote positive role models and to tackle unconscious bias.

One of the initiatives already underway is the development of a tailored women of colour breakthrough business support programme. It will include role models talking about their own experiences, business masterclasses and fireside chats. Full details of how to apply will be shared on our website when it launches here.

Manroop Khela, Head of Specialist Business Units said: “Building a business is something that everyone should have the opportunity to do. But we know that some communities have more obstacles to overcome than others in achieving their entrepreneurial dream. Recent research, such as the Rose Review, has rightly highlighted the barriers faced by women in setting up and growing a business, but the particular challenges faced by women of colour also need focus.  As an industry, we have a significant job to do to make change happen. So I’m delighted that the establishment of our Steering Group has already been so influential in shaping our future business support programmes and ensuring that we do everything we can to help these vital businesses and their inspirational founders to prosper.

Santander Steering Group Members

Dr Ava Eagle Brown

Started her skincare business The Mango Girl in 2019.

 Chloe Elliot

Launched Odyssey Box in February 2020. The Odyssey Box provides the tools needed to care for naturally curly, and afro hair, as well as empowering, encouraging, and educating on hair care practices.

Grace Francis

Founder of creative education company, DramEd, which launched in 2019.

Danielle James 

Founded in 2020, KINKY AFRO Scents purpose is to create products and services to help soothe and relax you.

Camille Johnson

Started her consultancy, MCJ Consultancy and Pink Ribbon Lingerie, in 2010 and 2012.

Beatrice Ngalula Kabutakapua

Is a business storytelling coach for female entrepreneurs and started her business in 2018.  

Kalkidan Legesse

Started ethical fashion retailer, Sancho’s, in 2014.

Sophia Loren

Started her photography business Just Nevaeh in 2017 and as part of that a product called Brand Nuwe. 

Lisa Newton

Started her bookkeeping business Boogles Bookkeeping in 2003.

Dijonn Taylor

Started her business, Savvy Guest, in 2013. The digital platform enables adults to apply for pre-career conversations with company employees.

In addition to the Steering Group, Santander has worked closely with Foluke Akinlose MBE, founder of the PRECIOUS network and Collette Philip, Founder of Brand by Me and a recent graduate of the Santander Women Business Leaders’ Mentoring Programme, first as a mentee then mentor, throughout early stages of this initiative and will continue to work together as it progresses.

Foluke Akinlose MBE, founder of PRECIOUS said: “I am very excited to have launched this research in partnership with Santander. We began this journey two years ago to gain an insight into the challenges and opportunities that women of colour face when starting or growing a business in the UK. It’s an area that has scant research and I am delighted to share the insights we uncovered. I believe women of colour in business are a rich, diverse, yet largely untapped and in some ways invisible sector of British business. It’s time to shake off this cloak of invisibility, co-create and collaborate to provide the tools and services that will enable these entrepreneurs to thrive.

As part of the bank’s overall commitment to being a genuinely inclusive and diverse organisation, last year Santander launched its Black Inclusion Plan (more information online here). The plan focuses on three key areas: Leadership, Allyship and Networks, which all shape the bank’s ongoing activity in creating a culture that champions everyday inclusion. Since then, it has launched a Santander Universities Black Inclusion programme and an internal leadership talent development programme – Accelerating You: Black Talent Programme4.

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