Migrant entrepreneurs already make a positive impact in the UK, providing new jobs and skills development within local communities. With the support of existing businesses, they can contribute even more.
Unfortunately, the socio-economic impact of migrant entrepreneurship is often underestimated among the British public: research by DueDil and the Centre for Entrepreneurs shows that 44% think immigrant entrepreneurs make a positive contribution. However, with businesses started by migrants contributing to 14% of employment creation, there is good reason to invest in their success.
For UK businesses, there is a strong case to do so. As well as a range of skills and experience, migrant entrepreneurs can bring with them extensive international networks and language abilities. In the context of Brexit, the need to engage with these business-owners is more pressing than ever, if UK businesses are to maintain a global advantage.
There is potential for improved growth and further success if migrant entrepreneurs are supported – but how can existing businesses in the UK play a part?
The first step to making the most of this opportunity is to recognise the many areas in which migrant entrepreneurs can add value to UK businesses and to the local community. This is partly a case of addressing the misperceptions and negative stereotypes that exist around the topic of immigration.
A report by Ashley Community Housing (ACH) and the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) shows that of a sample of aspiring or current migrant entrepreneurs, over half (57%) had completed higher education degrees before coming to the UK, and several had previous entrepreneurial experience. Although they possessed these qualifications and competencies, most interviewees were working in low-level and low-income areas, with limited growth.
Among the barriers identified were a sense of disconnect from mainstream support networks, and of previous experience and qualifications being overlooked. For this reason, it’s important that UK businesses use their existing platform to spread a positive message, and help others see migrant entrepreneurs as experts with specialist knowledge.
By participating in dialogues that challenge negative perceptions, businesses of any size can promote migrant entrepreneurship and the societal benefits it brings.
Develop your supply chain
Incorporating migrant businesses into your supply chain is not only a case of supporting this entrepreneurial talent – it also makes sense as a business choice. Involving diverse groups in your business has 3 key benefits:
- Improve adaptability: Relying only on the same, familiar organisations comes with risks, and places limitations on your business. A diverse supply chain improves agility and adaptability, which in turn creates better quality of service.
- Increase innovation: Involving a broad range of ideas and abilities in your business allows for a more innovative approach to problem-solving, and increased productivity through diverse thought. At the same time, focusing on diversity has its benefits for your own workforce, developing cultural intelligence and awareness.
- Open new markets: Migrant businesses bring specialist, global expertise, and open up access to new markets through personal and professional networks. Tapping into this wide influence will ensure your business maintains a competitive advantage both locally and internationally.
More specifically, businesses can engage with refugee entrepreneurs to create these outcomes, while also making a valuable societal contribution. A report by the Center for Global Development highlights several sectors in which refugee-owned businesses can be incorporated into supply chains. It also suggests considering SMEs run by refugees when sourcing other services related to offices and factories, including waste management, catering, back office processes and office supplies.
This is a valuable, practical contribution that will enhance your business’ reputation as a leader of positive social change, and fulfil statutory commitments to diversity and community engagement in a meaningful way. Making a strong case for your social value also gives you an advantage in tendering to local councils, allowing for further development of your business.
Create future talent
Enabling migrant businesses to grow sustainably will create long-term outcomes that are positive for the community at a regional and national level. On top of creating jobs, they facilitate social inclusion for migrants both in the business and in the local community, and generate further training and skills.
As it stands, a lack of diversity in high-level roles is holding many UK businesses back. Green Park’s ‘Leadership 10,000’ report shows that FTSE 100 companies have significantly low levels of ethnic minority employees in leadership roles: in fact, 58% of main boards have no ethnic minority presence at all.
Focusing on diversity training and hiring practices is one way to change this, but businesses can also make higher-level positions more inclusive by developing talent at an early stage. Investing in minority businesses produces a more diverse range of highly skilled and experienced candidates, and this talent can be tapped into by larger businesses later on, in order to fill high-level roles.
By promoting, engaging with and supporting migrant entrepreneurs, businesses can fulfil statutory duties, improve productivity and flexibility, and develop their own talent and diversity, all while creating a genuine improvement to society.
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