Many of America’s most successful and influential entrepreneurs are African American.
However black British entrepreneurs are, by comparison, almost invisible. But this is slowly changing. The last decade has seen black Britons seek out entrepreneurial opportunities in increasing numbers.
According to recent research from the UK’s Aston University, people from black and minority communities are twice as likely as their white counterparts to be early-stage entrepreneurs. Indeed, they are often setting up their businesses with the express aim of having a social impact beyond simply making money.
However, the economic impact they are making is significant. Businesses owned by people of African and Caribbean origin generate more than £10billion for Britain’s economy each year, according to the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME).
Here UrbanGeekz profiles 15 of these game-changing entrepreneurs who are making a difference to Britain’s startup and business landscape. These talented innovators are helping to form a diverse business community in the UK that reflects black talent and entrepreneurship. Check them out below!
Over the last decade, the digital technology sector in the UK has grown quickly creating thousands of jobs and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
However, the sector can often feel out of reach for many, particularly people from black and minority backgrounds and women. This is what inspires the work of Izzy Obeng.
Central to the mission of her company Foundervine, an international training consultancy that specializes in startups, is removing the social barriers to entrepreneurship faced by people from diverse communities. Support takes the form of access to networks, learning opportunities, and investment-readiness projects as well as other initiatives.
Since launching in 2018, Foundervine has helped over 2,000 diverse, future leaders create, test, and sustain enterprises.
Obeng, a passionate diversity campaigner, has been involved with the Prince’s Trust as a mentor to young people entering the workforce.
Femi Oguns has won acclaim as the man behind a recent crop of diverse British actors who are making their presence felt in Hollywood.
Oguns is the founder of the London-based Identity School of Acting and talent agency the Identity Agency Group. As an agent, he represents clients such as Letitia Wright (Black Panther), John Boyega (Star Wars), and Cynthia Erivo (Widows).
Oguns was driven to create the school in 2003 as a response to the deficit in minority acting talent being picked up by mainstream drama schools. The school has grown from its initial roll of 10 students to a broad multicultural mix of 900.
He has also achieved success as an actor, appearing in a number of award-winning television dramas.
Award-winning entrepreneur Bianca Miller Cole founded The Be Group, a specialist branding, image consultancy, and employability skills training company in 2012 at the age of 23.
But after appearing in the 2014 final of BBC One’s The Apprentice, based on the hit US show of the same name, Miller became a household name in the UK. She eventually lost out to fellow competitor Mark Wright who took the £250,000 prize. Despite not winning, her business ventures blossomed.
The Be Group went on to attract an impressive roster of clients that include HSBC, American Express, and the University of Cambridge.
In 2015, Miller launched Bianca Miller London, a hosiery brand catering to women of all complexions, from “English Rose to Sub-Saharan African.” Her bestselling book, “Self Made: The Definitive Guide to Business Startup Success” co-authored with Byron Cole was published two years later.
Last year Anne-Marie Imafidon was named the most influential woman in the UK’s tech industry for 2020 by Computer Weekly magazine.
The accolade was the latest in a long line of many for Imafidon, who, in 2013 co-founded Stemettes, a social enterprise dedicated to inspiring and promoting the next generation of women in STEM industries.
Since its launch, Stemettes has exposed over 45,000 young people across Europe to a more diverse and balanced science and tech community through a range of innovative events.
A respected thought leader, she delivers keynote speeches at leading companies and conferences all over the world.
Imafidon was just 11-years-old when she passed A level computing. She went on to earn a Master’s degree in mathematics and computer science from Oxford University when she was 20.
She was awarded an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) in 2017 “for services to young women within STEM careers.”
Combining an approach inspired by platforms such as Masterclass and Spotify, The Nest is aiming to make entrepreneurial education and access to funding available to a much wider group of people than at present.
Prior to creating The Nest Stewart was the Director of Wayra UK a corporate accelerator backed by Telefonica (O2). His time there saw him invest in 185 start-ups that raised $265m and were valued at more than $1bn.
Before becoming an entrepreneur, Stewart worked as a lawyer in NY, London, Madrid, and Barcelona. He is currently a governor of the University of East London and on the Board of Advisors of One Tech.
The tech entrepreneur has twice been featured on the Power List of the most influential black people in the UK.
Some of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Mark Zuckerberg, dropped out of college.
Steven Bartlett is further proof of the fact that you don’t always need to complete formal education to succeed in business. The 28-year-old is the founder of Social Chain, one of the UK’s largest publicly listed social marketing agencies & media publishers.
After dropping out of university he built the group’s two flagship companies – Social Chain and Media Chain – from a bedroom in Manchester when he was just 22 years old before taking his company public five years later with a market valuation of £200m.
Its impressive roster of clients includes Amazon, Coca Cola, and Nokia.
Bartlett is also an in-demand speaker and investor, who has amassed a following of over 2 million people across Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.
It’s often been said that angel investors often overlook the potential of female and underserved minority entrepreneurs.
It’s something that Andy Ayim, raised in a British-Ghanaian family in London, is passionate about changing. Ayim is the founder of Angel Investing School, a company that trains professionals with disposable income on how to get started investing in startups.
According to Ayim, the vision behind the Angel Investing School is to train up “the next generation of diverse investors because that will influence them in investing in diverse founders,” he says.
The school strives for a 50% gender and ethnicity mix in every cohort.
Since its January 2020 launch, The Angel Investing School has quickly grown into a respected brand, empowering those who previously knew little about investing to become fully-fledged angels providing startups with much-needed capital.
Prior to founding the school, Ayim worked as product manager for World First and managing director of Backstage Capital, where he led its London Accelerator program that invested in the city’s startups.
The Black Young Professional (BYP) Network, launched in 2016, is often heralded as the ‘black LinkedIn’.
Founder Kike Oniwinde was inspired to create the organization after studying abroad and meeting talented black students, who faced similar challenges to those in the UK in networking with each other.
After returning to London she was determined to take action to ‘change the black narrative.’ BYP, which users join via an app, now has over 30,000 members. It also works with organizations such as Google, Facebook, and Accenture to support their diversity initiatives.
Oniwinde recently received major backing for her plans to grow the network. It won investment from Sky Corporation and the London Stock Exchange.
And in July last year BYP surpassed its equity crowdfunding target of £500,000 on Seedrs. Oniwinde, was named in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for 2019.
In the four years since digital marketing agency Fanbytes was launched by young entrepreneur Timothy Armoo, the company has made a huge impact.
Fanbytes, a digital marketing agency that helps brands connect with younger audiences on platforms like Snapchat and Tiktok has won a host of awards for its breakthrough campaigns. Its client list includes major names such as Deliveroo, McDonald’s, Warner Brothers, boohoo, and Nike.
Fanbytes’ success led Bloomberg to describe it as “leading the charge for Gen Z and millennial marketing.”
At the age of 25, Fanbytes is Armoo’s third business. His first two businesses – an online tutoring company and an online magazine called Entrepreneur Express were created while he was still at school.
Speaking about his entrepreneurial success, Armoo cites his computing background and his love of maths as the foundation of his business model.
Silas Adekunle has been hailed as one of the most innovative minds in the field of robotics.
He co-founded Reach Robotics, a company that fused robotics, augmented reality, and video games to create a ground-breaking entertainment experience.
Born in Nigeria and raised both there and in the UK, Adekunle graduated with first-class honors in robotics at the University of West England, Bristol.
In 2018 he teamed up with Apple to launch Reach Robotics’ inaugural product, MekaMon in both the UK and USA. MekaMon is a competitive gaming platform that is controlled by smartphone.
Reach Robotics shut down in September 2019 due to what Adekunle described as “inherent challenges in the consumer robotics sector.”
But the acclaimed tech entrepreneur is now focused on using MekaMon to develop robotics education across Africa.
Sharmadean Reid is the founder and CEO of Beautystack, a platform that uses technology to economically empower women in the beauty and wellness industries.
A former fashion stylist and brand consultant herself, Reid founded WAH Nails in 2009. Dean also organizes business events for young female entrepreneurs through futuregirlcorp.com.
In 2015 she was awarded an MBE for services to Beauty.
William Adoasi has won several plaudits as an entrepreneur who aims to combine business success with social justice.
Adoasi is passionate about changing a scenario where many talented children in sub-Saharan Africa lack access to the basic necessities that people in richer parts of the world take for granted.
His company Vitae London produces beautifully designed but affordable high-end watches.
The sale of each product sees a child in an African country through the school year with two sets of school uniforms or provides them with a solar light.
Adoasi, who grew up on a south London council estate, began his business journey after deciding to take a leap of faith and pursue his long-held dream of founding Vitae London.
He applied for a loan through Virgin Startups and was one of two to be personally mentored by Richard Branson himself.
Richard Serunjogi is the founder of Business Score, connecting fast-growth online businesses with funding opportunities.
The entrepreneur says he is on a mission to make funding for online entrepreneurs fair, fast, and simple.
He spent his early years as a youth MP for Croydon, south London where he grew up. Serunjogi went on to join management consultancy firm McKinsey and Company where he worked with third, public, and private sector clients.
Backing from Y Combinator, a program that provides seed funding to startups helped him get Business Score off the ground.
A recent study from the WealthiHer Network revealed that three-quarters of all females in the UK surveyed struggle to understand the world of investments and lack financial confidence.
It’s an issue that Bola Sol has long been passionate about.
The Essex University maths and finance graduate had noticed from her observations on the media and society in general that women were rarely included in conversations about money and financial planning.
Determined to do something about diversifying a sector dominated by men she launched Refined Currency, a website that delivers advice on debt budgeting, saving, and increasing sources of income.
She also founded sister company Rich Girl Chronicles, a money accountability group for women to discuss budgeting, saving, and getting rid of debt.
Yvonne Bajela is a co-founder and investor at Impact X Capital, a UK-based venture capital firm investing in early-stage companies and underrepresented entrepreneurs.
Bajela has played a pivotal role in leading Impact X Capital investments in companies such as Predinea and Marshmallow.
Named one of Forbes’ 30 under 30 in 2020 she has a degree from Brunel University and the Executive Education Programme at the University of Oxford. She is a guest lecturer at the University of London and an advisor for the Mayor of London’s Access to Finance program.