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BAME businesses tap into finance and network support to succeed in uncertain times

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Case studies, Funding and support, Working safely

Profiles of Managing Director at KL Communications Dr Kevin Lin OBE; Cucumber Clothing co-founder Eileen Willett; and Pamper, Indulge and Give Director/Founder Charlene Charles

The impact of coronavirus pandemic on people’s lives cannot be overstated. However, the virus does not affect all population groups equally. Insight shows that people from a Black, Asian, or Minority Ethnic background (BAME) are not only at greater risk of infection but are also more likely to suffer severe symptoms and face a higher rate of mortality than white British people.

BAME businesses have also been disproportionately impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. A study by the Black South West Network (BSWN) found that the pandemic and social distancing rules have exacerbated inequality suffered by BAME businesses

The report raised issues such as cash flow, liquidity, and inability to deliver services as the biggest problems experienced by BAME businesses, and found BAME entrepreneurs and the self-employed overrepresented in sectors hardest hit by the pandemic.

Despite these challenges, BAME businesses have been working hard to ensure they can survive and even thrive during the pandemic. These businesses have drawn on government financial support and have engaged with networks to help revise their strategies and keep their business afloat.

Three British business owners share their stories below and reflect on the steps they have taken to overcome the adverse effect of the pandemic on their businesses:

KL Communications

KL Communications is a specialist supplier of Chinese language services to businesses and academic organisations in the UK. Two-thirds of its business comes from an oral interpretation service, with the remainder of its business involved in written translation work. KL Communications also supports a collaborative Masters degree programme at the University of Surrey and helps recruit students for the University.

Dr Kevin Lin OBEManaging Director at KL Communications Dr Kevin Lin OBE says: “Lockdown seriously diminished our core business. Normally, we would largely depend upon customers in the UK receiving visitors from China, but of course that line of business disappeared in January when China went into lockdown.

The early announcement of the Government's intent to provide financial support played a crucial part in our cash flow forecast. We received the Small Business Grant Fund of £10,000, which helped keep the business afloat. Without the grant, we would have made most staff redundant and we would not have had the manpower to develop the courses that are now helping us tick over.

To adapt to the disruption, we were spurred to change our business approach. We now provide online training courses for people in China. The income generated by adapting our business model, along with the government support, is helping us tick over.”

Pamper Indulge and Give

Pamper Indulge and Give is a non-profit charity company with a mission to introduce BAME children aged 5 to 11 to skills that will expand their horizons and opportunities as they grow up. It works with 24 staff members (including volunteers) to deliver various projects targeted at empowering these young children to make better decisions. It runs activities and projects in town halls and on school premises.

Charlene CharlesPamper, Indulge and Give Director/Founder Charlene Charles says “The very nature of our business is to be around lots of different children from the groups that we work with – just like an afterschool club. So, the disruption caused by coronavirus has meant a lot of adaptation, as we cannot be around too many people. This has meant moving our courses online to keep tutors and children safe. So we are still able to provide a safe space for our young people to find support, speak openly and address issues like anxiety, which affects a lot of the younger generation – and is especially important during this time of uncertainty.

I have also benefited from the support of the greater BAME business community during this time. Having business mentorship has been instrumental in the survival of our business. As a black woman, I have a business mentor who is black, and can relate to my challenges and support me. The training and advice provided by the London Road Business Association has also been a great support.”

Cucumber Clothing

Cucumber Clothing is an e-commerce retail brand that manufactures and sells women’s clothing with the aim of empowering women in their busy lives. Working from home is the norm, and meetings and other work-related gatherings are held at spaces such as the women’s network the AllBright Club, of which Cucumber Clothing is a member.

Eileen WillettCucumber Clothing co-founder Eileen Willett says "As a result of the disruption caused by coronavirus, we temporarily closed our business to figure out how we could change our working practices, to ensure our safety and the safety of our customers.

We accessed the Business Bounce Back Loan, which proved essential in seeing us through the initial period of lockdown. The loan was used to hire external resources to help us create a new strategy for our overall brand and website, so that we could meet the new challenges we faced such as retaining customer loyalty and meeting customers’ needs safely.

As an e-commerce brand our key point of contact with customers is through our packaging and product. Hence, we have put safety measures in place throughout our end-to-end process; from receiving an order through to its packaging and delivery, to ensure the safety of our customers and ourselves.

As a BAME business owner I have found that, though working in the retail sector in a female-founded and female-facing brand has generally been viewed positively, there have also been challenges. For example, as a BAME immigrant, I started a business with limited social connections, which is important to grow any business.

The key to overcoming this has been keeping a laser focus on joining relevant networks and growing as many connections as possible. LinkedIn was a great place to start, and for us, being a member of the AllBright Club and Small Business Britain has proven to be beneficial.

We have a network of women who support the business from AllBright Club, and we’ve received business advice particularly relevant for this unprecedented time from Small Business Britain."

The government has published COVID-19 secure guidance to support businesses to reopen, and keep workers and customers safe so they feel confident to return. To find out about measures your business needs to implement to reopen safely, there is an online tool, which will direct you to guidelines specific to your type of workplace.

If you run a business and would like to know which of the coronavirus support schemes you are eligible for, you can use the business support finder tool. It takes just minutes to complete and will help you easily find support for your business.

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