Barriers to business: The obstacles holding back ethnic minority entrepreneurs

Watch the report by ITV Wales journalist, Annabel Smith

Accessing finance is something that can be difficult for everybody at the moment, but for some entrepreneurs, it can be a different kind of challenge.

Rifhat Qureshi started her clothing business, Modest Trends, three years ago in Cardiff. It is proving to be a success, despite the financial barriers she faced as a female Muslim entrepreneur.

"Interest is forbidden in Islam", Rifhat said. "It's not something that we should take on a loan basis or any other method really. But there was also that challenge that there was nowhere else and nothing else I could do."

She added: "Being a Muslim I think definitely had its barriers, in my own mind as well, I think there's a stereotype as to what Muslim women should do and can do."

Elfatih Idriss arrived in the UK in August 2018 as an asylum seeker and has been working hard to build his skills.

One organisation helping aspiring business owners access finance and support is Assadaqaat Community Finance (ACF), which provides 'interest-free' finance and professional support to budding entrepreneurs within the community.

Akmal Hanuk, founder and CEO of Assadaqaat Community Finance, said: "We are supporting people to start their own businesses and take them through that entrepreneurship journey."

He added: "In the current climate, I think it is very important that people have an alternate plan if they don't get in employment and the alternate includes entrepreneurship and self-employment as a viable option.

"That creates a lot of challenges... because that is the key and the biggest barrier which people who are from underprivileged communities who do not have that kind of education or knowledge or network to go to, including the help from the financial institutions."

Elfatih Idriss arrived in the UK in August 2018 as an asylum seeker and has been working hard to build his skills and run his own hair business.

He said: "I work hard, really I work hard to grow my business. I started alone, now I have three employees."

Akmal continued: "As a founder I was very much keen to help people like Idriss [...] it is so nice to be stood here today, in his shop to see him doing so well."

Rifhat also helps support and encourage aspiring female entrepreneurs in their journey to success.

A recent report by The Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship and NatWest found more than two-thirds (67%) of all white business owners are running established firms of more than 42 months old, while the equivalent figure in the Black community is 43%. 

Gemma Casey from NatWest Cymru said: "Typically, a lot of ethnic minority entrepreneurs can be discouraged from approaching standard business support organisations and even high street banks, and there can often be a high element of distrust of those organisations and banks as well."

She added: "The key here is building trust-based relationships with those communities so that they feel much more comfortable and able to access the support that is out there and really building those bridges so that they don't feel disassociated from the kind of mainstream support that is there."

Rifhat now helps to support and encourage other aspiring female entrepreneurs in their journey to success.

She said: "The reason I wanted to help other women and be a role model for them was because I wanted them to know it's ok to want to be an entrepreneur. It's ok to have aspirations. It's ok to want to carve your own path with your passions and live your dreams if that's what you want to do."