Boom in Black, Asian and minority ethnic social entrepreneurs looking to start up

Rosalind Holley

Head of External Affairs

21st October 2021



The next generation of purpose-driven business could be significantly more diverse as people identifying as Black, Asian or from minority ethnic backgrounds were more than twice as likely to have considered starting a social enterprise (23%) than their white counterparts (10%), according to new research. 

The polling from UnLtd, the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, also showed that people from these backgrounds were more likely to have acted on their ideas (66% vs 44% among those from white backgrounds).  

In the last 12 months UnLtd supported over 146 social entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Asian or from a minority background who are creating clear impact, including: 

  • Izzy Obeng and Cecil Adjalo from Foundervine, whose vision is that ambitious leaders, creators and innovators have the tools to build the organisations of tomorrow. They work to remove the social and economic barriers to innovation. 

  • Pranav Chopra, founder of NEMI teas, who use the simple cup of tea to offer employment and support to refugees and create an inclusive, welcoming society. NEMI Teas are working to a goal of providing employment for 1,000 refugees by 2025. 

  • Tarik Kaidi of Minds United FC, a community football club in West London who actively support adults experiencing mental health issues or substance misuse, using sport as a way to reduce social isolation and recover wellbeing. 

  • Poku Osei of Babbasa, formed to tackle Bristol's rising levels of youth unemployment, educational underachievement and the rapid decline in youth aspirations for ethnically diverse communities. Through partnerships with the business community, they foster change and shift attitudes in employers and recruitment.  

Over a third of those polled (37%) said that personal finances were a barrier to starting up and growing, with access to funding and investment a close second (34%).  

Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd, suggested the findings were optimistic for the diversity of the sector, but that there was much more to be done to ensure people could scale their impact. 

The Government says it is committed to levelling up the UK. This is important and it requires Government to create pathways to growth for businesses run by diverse teams. That’s not been done historically – the Government’s own report demonstrated that UK entrepreneurs from Black, Asian or minority ethnic backgrounds are less likely to access finance, that they are less likely to make a profit, and that their businesses face worse outcomes despite similar success rates to their white counterparts.1 "

"We want to see an inclusive recovery in which social impact and economic growth work hand in hand. We need continued investment in the sector to help social businesses reach their potential, and that must extend to all social entrepreneurs, no matter their background.” 

UnLtd, alongside Big Issue Invest Fund Management, is calling for the creation of a £25m growth impact fund targeted at historically underfunded entrepreneurs, including far reaching non-financial support to help all social entrepreneurs become ready to scale and take on investment. Research from research & design agency Shift during the development of the fund, showed that marginalised groups including women, disabled entrepreneurs and those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds face disproportionate barriers when accessing investment.  

Danyal Sattar from Big Issue Invest added: “Our United Kingdom is a place where entrepreneurs have a chance to shine, and that should be regardless of race, colour or creed.  We just need to make sure they have the finance to back their enterprises. They don’t need levelling up – finance them, and they will rise.”  

Notes to editors 

Yonder (formerly Populus) polled 2126 UK adults between 6-7 September 2021. All results are weighted to be representative of the UK population. 


UK population 

White respondents 

Black, Asian or minority ethnic respondents 

Have had an idea for a social venture that generates income and has a social and/or environmental benefit 




Went on to start up a social venture 




Factors most likely to make you consider starting a social venture (top five answers) 

Better personal finances 




Access to funding including grants and investment 





Training/ education/ skills 




More time for me to commit 





Coaching and mentoring to develop my idea 





About UnLtd 

UnLtd is the foundation for social entrepreneurs. We empower people from all backgrounds to change our society for the better through sustainable, purposeful business, in local communities or across the UK.  

We know social entrepreneurs offer some of the best solutions to loneliness, employment, community resilience and our nation’s long term economic, social and cultural health. To help them succeed we provide:  

  1. grant funding and access to blended finance,  

  1. wraparound business support from our 1-to-1 advisors  

  1. access to professional and peer support networks  

By making business leadership more accessible for a diverse group of entrepreneurs, we can generate a diverse range of solutions that address societies complex needs. 
In 2020 we supported 662 social entrepreneurs and committed to giving 50% of all our early-stage funding to entrepreneurs who identify as Black, Asian or from a minority ethnic background and/or disabled entrepreneurs. 

About Big Issue Invest 

Big Issue Invest extends The Big Issue’s mission by financing the growth of sustainable social enterprises and charities across the UK. Big Issue Invest offers loans and investment from £20,000 to £3 million. Since launching in 2005, it has invested in over 400 organisations, all of which have positively influenced the lives of people across the UK. Big Issue Invest currently manages or advises on £350 million of social funds.

Big Issue Invest is also bringing the mainstream to social investment with the UK Social Bond Fund, in partnership with Columbia Threadneedle, and the UK Equity Impact – Employment Opportunities Fund, in collaboration with Aberdeen Standard Investments.

It is also helping to pave the way for 3.4 million social housing tenants to potentially improve their credit, by partnering with Experian on The Rental Exchange.

The capital raised by Big Issue Invest comes from mainly private sources and not from sales of the magazine and Big Issue Invest pays any dividends generated by investments to its parent company, The Big Issue Group. Created by social entrepreneurs, for social entrepreneurs and a steadfast champion of social enterprise.    

For more information go to:   

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