We want to champion the work of Britain’s black entrepreneurs and throughout Black History Month will be celebrating black-owned businesses from around the UK.
On Black Pound Day, last Saturday (October 3), we invited businesses from across the UK to get in touch with us using the hashtag #IAMBOB.
The #IAMBOB campaign is part of the work BusinessLive is doing to represent all the communities it serves – and to highlight the importance of black-owned companies to the UK’s economic recovery.
BusinessLive has spoken to some of those companies to find out a bit more about the work they do.
London-based BOXD is an online store selling curated gift boxes for tweens and teens. The business was founded during lockdown by Mads Panchoo and now employs two people.
Mads had the idea for BOXD two years ago, but says she didn’t have the time to pursue her idea until now.
“During lockdown, I noticed a massive shift towards online shopping, and as I had my 14 and 10-year-olds at home, I asked them what they thought of receiving cool gifts by post. They loved the idea and BOXD was born!”
Mads says her goal over the next 12 months to three years is to work with corporate clients.
“Although the boxes are aimed at teens and tweens, the majority of what BOXD sells also works for adults and would make refreshing, modern gifts for clients and employees,” she said.
“I think there’s going to be a continued shift towards supporting smaller businesses and showing clients and employees you appreciate their work,” she explained.
She is also hoping to work with event producers and supplying gifts and goody bags to parties, weddings.
“If I’m dreaming big, it would be large scale events like the MTV Music Awards, MOBOs and the Brits.”
Althea Tomlin Skincare
Althea Tomlin, owner of Nottingham-based organic vegan skincare brand Althea Tomlin Skincare, was inspired to set up her company after a trip to Malawi in 2009.
Then in her late 50s, Althea said she wasn’t planning to found her own company but “felt compelled” to set up a business after her trip to Africa “changed her life” – and she launched in 2010.
The business, which also has an outlet in Hertford, employs one full-time and four temporary part-time staff.
“[When I went to Malawi] it changed my life and perceptions of nature and Africa itself. I spent weeks in a remote village, some 200km from the capital Lilongwe and 3km from the nearest shops, with local villagers.
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“I lived with the villagers in a mud hut as they did, and had been doing for centuries, without electricity, running water, or simple things like soap or toothpaste that we take for granted every day.”
She added: “It made me realise that everything that was good in life came from the land – roots, plants, trees, seeds, and even sand.
“This was my inspiration to create a brand with natural ingredients as close to nature as possible.”
Althea says over the next three years she would like to capitalise on growing the Althea brand online, improve my brand awareness within the independent beauty salon sectors, and promote her business to a wider section of the small independent beauty salon market.
Ametrine Coaching & Consultancy
Former police inspector Irene Afful is the founder and director of a coaching and consultancy firm in Liverpool specialising in equality, diversity and inclusion.
Irene, who became the first black female inspector in the history of her force in 2003, set up Ametrine as a sole trader in 2017.
It provides support to organisations to set, design and deliver on their equality objectives, developing opportunities to diversify.
She said: “[When I was in the police] I was dismayed at the lack of diversity within the force and particularly at senior ranks.
“I made it my mission to try and improve this situation and bring more minority groups into the service and to coach and mentor minority group staff for promotion.”
Irene developed a positive action leadership programme, the Phoenix Leadership Programme, which was instrumental in increasing the recruitment of minority groups in the police force.
After leaving the police, Irene says she felt compelled to do something to address the “dearth of representation” of ethnic minorities in all fields of business and employment.
“I didn’t see many business leaders who looked like me so I developed my coaching and consultancy business,” she said.
Over the next three years Irene says she would like to increase her portfolio to work with more organisations to increase diversity and develop talent pipelines for the progression of ethnic minorities, particularly women.
She said: “I would [also] like to be in a position to be able to take on staff from minority groups to build their skills and economic empowerment and to broaden the company’s reach.”
The Swansea-based start-up was founded in 2019 by Dr Youmna Mouhamad, who has created an applicator to help with the maintenance of Afro hair.
Dr Youmna is a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise fellow and has a bachelors degree in chemistry and physics from Marseille Aix University, an Mphys in Physics from Leeds University and a PhD in polymer physics from Sheffield University.
After obtaining her doctorate, she joined Swansea University College of Engineering as a research scientist, gaining expertise in the field of printed electronics.
Using her knowledge in the field of printing and coating, she developed the Myana Naturals applicator.
In July, she was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship from the Royal Academy of Engineering to bring the Myana Naturals applicator to market.
Youmna says she is planning to launch her product to the UK market in spring next year.
She is also the winner of the Women in STEM category at the Womenspire 2020 awards, which recognise the achievements of some of Wales’ most remarkable women.
PM Noble Consultancy Services
Patricia Noble set up her business in 2014 and is a self-employed practitioner, working with SMEs who need help with social media management, copywriting, promotional material and website content.
Based in Enfield, Patricia says she “barely recognises” the company she started six years ago.
“I now want to help empower other small business owners and start-ups through my day-to-day business journey by sharing resources and recommendations,” she said.
“I have grown along with my business while facing challenges and want to continue to be open to change and adapt accordingly.”
Patricia says “getting through these tough times” has made her even more determined to continue.
“Before lockdown, I started to think about the direction of the business. I thought back to when I started my business and my desire to work with under-represented people,” she explained.
“I’d love to collaborate with compatible charities and social enterprises as I feel there is a lot of scope there to make a real difference over the coming year. Uncertainty has a way of bringing people together.”
Suzanne Lamba is the creator of Lyah’s TV – a new family-run black Barbie doll show on YouTube.
Suzanne, who is based in London, says she started Lyah’s TV in July 2020 to fill the gap in representation when it comes to doll shows on YouTube.
She says her show aims to promote black families, black dolls and black history in a “fun and educational way” for children.
“We aim to work with black-owned doll companies in our shows to encourage not only the watching of more diverse dolls on TV, but also playing with dolls that look like them,” she said.
“Our ambition for Lyah’s TV is to become more than just a YouTube channel but to also become a regular on children’s TV channels.
“This can be through Netflix, BBC and others. Our aim is to reach as many children as possible and to extend to different platforms.
She added: “As we will be working with black-owned doll companies we hope that this growth will also help to support them.”
Clothing brand Lorénzo Black is based in Preston, Lancashire.
Founder Leonard Reid said he had always thought about starting his own clothing company and decided to finally launch his business during lockdown.
“I had no work, gym, football, tennis or any forms of social interaction to keep me busy.
“This was the perfect opportunity for me to sit down and put pen to paper, thinking how I could build a brand.
“I reached out to a few friends to ask for their opinion on my brand name and what kind of image I was going for, and after receiving a lot of positive feedback I decided to go for it and get some products made.”
Leonard says he launched three weeks ago with four hats and has now sold more than 60, as well as launching two more styles.
“I believe this is phenomenal considering the short time I have been working on the brand.
“I am also in the process of having some t-shirts made, hopefully these will be ready for purchase within the next two weeks.”
Bistro Noir is a restaurant run by Maria Julienne in Liverpool serving world cuisine.
The business has been trading for nine years and currently employs five staff.
Maria, who has worked in the food industry for 21 years, says her dishes are inspired by her multicultural background.
These include curry goat, jerk chicken, Korean chicken, lentil dhal, salt and pepper chicken burgers.
Maria says “getting through Covid” is her biggest priority at the moment.
Birmingham-based Luther Marketing Group was founded by Michael Melhado in April 2017 and provides a range of telemarketing services for UK SMEs.
The business, which is named after US activist Martin Luther King, employs four people and is 95 per cent owned by Michael, who has worked in direct marketing for more than 25 years.
Before setting up his business, he spent 15 years working in senior business-to-business client delivery roles.
He has worked in hi-technology, logistics and material handling, and professional services, with companies such as ADP, Capita, Dell, Jungheinrich, Microsoft, Oracle, SAP, Samsung, XPO, and Volvo.
He said: “There are two main business goals: firstly, I would like create a digitial plaform for my business so effectively moving much of what we do online and secondly, I hope to open two further offices that could give, in time, ownership opportunities for the managers of these sites.”
Before moving into direct marketing, Michael spent seven years working as a college IT lecturer. He is currently undertaking a part-time professional doctorate in social practice.
The YT Group
Melissa Bent runs hair loss, hair replacement and advanced aesthetics clinics in London, Leeds, Crewe and Sheffield.
Melissa said she started educating herself about hair loss when her own hair began falling out, causing her distress.
She said: “I started to think how others feel if this happened to them and my hair loss education journey began.
“I now help people all over the country. We have the very best technology in today’s market and offer services like hair restoration, scalp micropigmentation and laser hair retention therapy.”
The YT Group is also a national contractor for the NHS for cancer and alopecia patients and manufactures custom wigs.
Melissa says the company has also started a register to donate areola tattoo for mastectomy patients once a month for people who have breast cancer.
She added: “In this industry a lot of people are all about the money, we put people first and run an ethical business, giving advice and treatments to people who need it.”
Gabby Simmons-Bird, 27, said she wanted to use her artistic and design skills to personalise trainers and produce distinct products.
She set up her online custom trainer business earlier this year and is currently doing all the design work, marketing and selling herself.
She said: “I wanted to give people the opportunity to have designs unique to them, using traditional skills – stitching, painting, sewing – with a variety of fabrics – leather, fabric, cloth – to transform off-the-shelf trainers into distinct, beautiful and personal items that stand out.”
Gaby said she “got a taste” for running her own business when setting up and running a music video company which fell foul of Covid.
Looking to the future, Gabby says her plan is to continue making “beautiful trainers, good profit, extend her range of personalised products, and raise the profile of BAME entrepreneurs”.
The Hot Seat Hairdressers
In September 1995, Andrea Griffith decided to become a freelance hairdresser.
She converted a room in her home in Reading into a fully fitted equipped salon.
“I have single-handedly managed to build up a very successful business for myself with the help of my dedicated clientele most of which have been with me from the beginning,” she said.
“My clients include all nationalities and I am now appointment-only as I have been fortunate to run a continuous diary. I also do home visits for clients unable to come to the salon.”
Andrea says she attends seminars to update and improve as fashions change, with her particular interest being colour technique.
“I enjoy my work and feel proud to be a successful black woman and encourage others in our black community to follow their dreams.”
Do you run a black-owned business or know someone who does? Email firstname.lastname@example.org and share your story. Tell us your company name, date your business was founded, where you are based and what inspired you to set up. We would love to hear from you!