The Black Welsh businesswomen proving 'unconventional' business ideas are the way forward

  • Video report by ITV Wales Journalist Eugenia Taylor

Two Black entrepreneurs have told ITV Wales about the barriers they have had to overcome while starting a business - as statistics show that Black female businesses owners experience the biggest inequalities in the UK.

Business owners from ethnic minority backgrounds are less likely to be successful than their white counterparts, according to research from the British Business bank.

These inequalities can be attributed to:

  • A lack of confidence

  • Education

  • Access to finance

  • A lack of representation in the workplace

Kwabena Devonish from Cardiff says she "lost her confidence" after she was discouraged from starting her business, which helps style women using suggestions of Black-owned branded clothing they might like to try.

She set up 'Noir Lux Life' two years ago to cater to clients who wanted a luxury shopping and styling service. She helps women to create an outfit or new wardrobe using ethically sourced Black-owned brands.

Kwabena says she was told her business idea was 'too niche'.

The 24-year-old says she was "upset" when her university told her that she shouldn't pursue her business idea, which she believed offered something unconventional and different.

"It was really upsetting, especially when you're told uni is the place where you're supposed to be supported," she said.

"But every time I brought up my idea, it was knocked down or I was told, 'you shouldn't really be doing that'.

"I came to realise it wasn't critique to help me, it wasn't creating a better idea, it was making me lose my confidence.

"At the time I found it really hard. I didn't realise how much it had taken a toll on me.

"I did question whether I should focus on this, but then at the end of the day if I don't then who will?"

Kwabena has now created a network of brands she helps to promote through her business. Creating this community, she says, has made a huge difference to her confidence.

She said: "I would reach out to people on email and social media and ask to showcase them. At the start, I was so shocked by the reception I got.

"Some of them gave me free clothes, they would reach out to me, and ask me how it was going and they would promote my business as well."

Kwabena helps her clients with fashion advice online using her website and video calls.

Kwabena says there was a gap in the market for a personal styling service that is tailored to Black-owned brands.

"It taps into a market of people who want to create change with the clothes they wear," she added.

"It's not about buying something that looks nice - it's about buying from a person who you have a connection to, buying from someone who has a story to tell."

Research carried out during the pandemic shows that less than half of Black entrepreneurs say they met their non-financial aims, compared with 69% of white entrepreneurs.

Black female businesses owners also experience the biggest inequalities in the UK, figures show.

Youmna was studying for her PHD in engineering when she came up with her business idea.

Youmna who lives in Neath, says she felt lonely and intimidated during the beginning stages of starting her business.

She had come up with the idea for an innovative new comb for afro hair while doing a PHD in Physics. Inspiration struck when she worked as a nanny alongside her studies and the little girl she looked after would cry with pain when her hair was washed and conditioned.

Youmna said she wanted the little girl and Black women with afro hair to enjoy their hair care experience and came up with the design for a specialist detangler.

"As you detangle, the conditioner, it's applied to the hair which acts as a lubricant and is able to make the caring of hair a breeze," she said.

But Youmna says she needed investment and people to believe in her product in order to take it to the next step.

She sought help from the Centre for African Entrepeneurship (CAE), which is the only service in Wales that specialises in supporting people from ethnic minority backgrounds wanting to start a business.

"The idea of registering a business at the beginning was so scary, and intimidating," she said.

"At the beginning you don’t need much funding you need people who believe in you and believe in your idea.

"If I didn't have the support from the CAE I think I would be lonely. Having someone from a diverse background. Frank [the CAE's chief executive], being a father of three beautiful girls with textured hair, he understood my problem."

The special comb dispenses conditioner while detangling hair of all types.

She said the CAE has helped her to overcome any hurdles within her business, and they even organised an event that helped her to "understand the landscape of support across Wales."

Now Youmna wants to make her own social impact and has decided to manufacture in Pontypridd.

She aims to inspire other young people wanting to start a business and will donate 5% of the profit to provide one-to-one coaching to young people.

She added: "For me it’s as important to actually be here and show people from diverse backgrounds that it is possible and they can contribute a lot to this economy and too the country."

The CAE is now working towards helping other mainstream business support providers to become fully accessible to people from ethnic minority backgrounds.

Kimberley Mamhende from the CAE says that a 'lack of confidence' has become the main barrier in people starting their own businesses.

"One of the reasons being, sometimes their ideas may be a bit unconventional to what is around them," she said.

"People might not have much confidence in them, and hence they won’t go forward with the idea."

"And that’s where we come in and give them the one-to-one support telling them, okay, you can actually do it. It’s us helping them in that step-by-step journey.

"We’ve supported quite a lot of people. And that’s where the crucial stages are. And also we provide a supportive network and we can show you a similar person who has gone through a similar journey."