Thursday, August 26, 2010

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Working with New Migrant Businesses in the West Midlands: Challenges and Opportunities

In recent years, the West Midlands has seen a wave of migration from countries such as Somalia and Poland. This is sometimes called new migration, in contrast to established patterns from countries in the Caribbean and South Asia. Many new migrants establish their own businesses, a process of great importance for their economic integration but it remains a neglected contributor to entrepreneurial activity in the region. Yet there is little research on their enterprises or experiences of business support.

Studies by De Montfort University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) and early evidence-gathering by Minority Ethnic Enterprise Centre of Expertise (MEECOE)1 as mentioned in previous blog posts on new migrant businesses in the West Midlands has revealed:

• An alarming dearth of information on the scale and nature of new migrant business activity Considerable interest in entrepreneurship as a career option amongst new migrants
• Involvement of new migrants in a diverse range of business activities
• Unacknowledged human capital within many businesses
• A lack of awareness of the existence and role of ‘mainstream’ business support agencies
• Active interest in pursuing appropriate support to develop their businesses
• A willingness to engage with business support professionals

Barriers to enterprise

Access to finance

It was suggested that new migrants struggled to secure finance from banks and other ‘mainstream’ financial intermediaries. This led to reliance on informal sources, and the running of severely under-capitalised businesses.

Cultural constraints

Language was seen as a barrier for some groups, as was a lack of familiarity with rules and regulations surrounding the business activities. Equally, it was noted that business support intermediaries rarely had an appreciation of the different cultural traditions of new migrant communities.

Trading patterns

The tendency for new migrants to trade primarily with their own communities meant that their potential customer base was extremely narrow. There was a lack of attention to the need to diversify their businesses.

Lack of information

New migrants often struggled to secure information on the process of business start-up and functions such as marketing and business planning.


A number of issues merit further consideration:

• Self-employment is reputed to be an important economic activity for new migrants in the region. Its scale and dynamics need to be understood if appropriate policy interventions are to be devised.
• ‘Mainstream’ business support agencies do not appear to be widely utilised by such groups. This is a concern since the boosting of enterprise in disadvantaged areas (where new migrants are often located) is a key objective of such agencies. Further, such agencies’ knowledge of the new migrant business activities appears limited.
• There is considerable diversity in the experiences of new migrant communities in the region; this needs to be understood and reflected in policy interventions.
• There does not appear to be a clear mechanism to articulate the experiences and needs of new migrant entrepreneurs. Ethnic minority business intermediaries should reflect upon their links with such communities.
• Consideration should be given to new and innovative ways of engaging new migrant business owners.

1 Funded by Advantage West Midlands, the Minority Ethnic Enterprise Centre of Expertise is an exciting two-year project that aims to promote a strategic and innovative approach to supporting ethnic minority businesses in the West Midlands. A consortium led by De Montfort University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME), in collaboration with the University of Lancaster and CSK Strategies, will work with public and private sector stakeholders to enhance policy and practice for ethnic minority enterprise in the region.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Behind the scenes at CREME – Planning the Annual Ethnic Minority Business Conference

The Annual Ethnic Minority Business Conference is one of the main highlights in the CREME calendar each year. It is an opportunity for all of our stakeholders to meet up and hear about current developments in business support for ethnic minority businesses, new policy initiatives as well as CREME’s research projects.

It is now 14 years since the conference began and I have been involved in its organisation for 9 of those years. My first experience of this event was in 2000, when planning stages consisted of inviting a few speakers and sending out a mail shot by post. The planning, organisation and marketing activities have become far more detailed and sophisticated since then and each year we aim to continue to make the programme relevant for the conference audience.

The planning of the conference this year began in January with a search for a suitable venue and following an assessment of a number of options, the Ricoh Arena in Coventry was chosen. This year the conference will be showcasing the work of the Minority Ethnic Enterprise Centre of Expertise (MEECOE), a project led by CREME to develop strategic and innovative approaches to supporting ethnic minority businesses in the West Midlands. We therefore wanted to host the event in this region.

We then invited some of CREME’s key stakeholders (who have also been actively involved in the MEECOE project) to attend a series of meetings to plan the sessions at the event focussing on Business Support, Access to Finance and Access to Markets. We have been engaging with Dr Richard Roberts, SME Research Director at Barclays, Simon Leggett, Sales & Marketing Director at The Consortium and David Darlaston, Regional Director West Midlands at Business in the Community on a regular basis to develop the programme further. In particular, we have been focussing on moving away from a traditional format of presentations to give participants the opportunity to interact and contribute to debates via Q&As and panel discussions.

Over the next 12 weeks, activity in the CREME office will increase dramatically as I work with my colleague, Liv, on a whole host of activities such as publicising the event, dealing with bookings, liaising with sponsors, creating packs for the participants and making arrangements for the Gala Dinner (being held after the conference).

We will be looking forward to meeting the numerous people that we will be in contact with over the next few months at the reception desk on the morning of Thursday 14th October 2010.

For more details about the conference, please contact us at:

Liz Frost

Friday, July 30, 2010

The Effects of the Efficiency and Reform Group on Public Sector Procurement

In a drive to cut the massive budget deficit, the recently formed coalition government has created a joint Treasury-Cabinet Office group called the Efficiency and Reform Group (ERG). The Group’s work is co-chaired by the Minister for the Cabinet Office and the Chief Secretary to the Treasury.

Three senior business leaders that will also sit on the board include:

· Sir Peter Gershon, Chairman of Tate & Lyle, former government efficiency adviser and first chief executive of the OGC;

· Lucy Neville-Rolfe, Executive Director, Tesco PLC; formerly a senior career civil servant; and

· Dr Martin Read, Non-Executive Director of Invensys, Aegis and Lloyd’s of London.

Working on the Selling to the Public Sector project[1], it becomes immediately clear that the decisions from this group will have massive consequences on public procurement and supplier diversity. Since it was created, the ERG has been granted control of the Office of Government Commerce and Buying Solutions, the two major government purchasing organisations.[2] The drive to ‘conduct, centralised procurement for commodity goods and services’ and ‘freeze all new advertising and marketing spend’ are amongst the group’s first priorities.[3]

While several benefits can result from the initiatives of the ERG, including cost cutting measures and increased collaboration between purchasing departments, these initiatives in the field of public sector procurement should be taken with caution. Prime Minister David Cameron stated, during the debates in Birmingham, that Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) should be given more opportunities to bid for public sector contracts. However, contrary to this, it seems that the ERG is focusing on major suppliers and combining different public sector purchasing organisations, thus indirectly decreasing the amount of procurement initiatives aimed at SMEs.

In the short term, these policies might lead to public savings due to increased efficiency of public services. However, by overly relying on major suppliers to deliver public sector contracts, the public sector will fail to maximise its potential as an economic driver for SMEs and David Cameron will fail on this campaign promise.

[1] The Selling to the Public Sector project aims to engage with Corporate Procurement Functions in the public sector and suppliers to develop and create capacity in SME’s in the Leicester City area to access public sector supply chains, whether it is through be-coming an approved supplier or to win a contract.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Prof Monder Ram Takes on Government Advisory Role on Equality

From the press release:

Professor Monder Ram OBE, Professor of Small Business and Director of the Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) at De Montfort University in Leicester, has been chosen to sit on a new government advisory group to shape best practice for equality and diversity.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) has established the Equalities Advisory Group (EAG) to act as an advisory body to the BIS Equality and Diversity Governance Board, responsible for advising and challenging approaches to progressing equality and diversity to support BIS’ strategic priorities and help deliver key outcomes identified.

The EAG consists of invited representatives from key organisations from across the BIS family that reflect its agenda as a whole, as well as key national equality organisations such as DMU’s CREME, the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Black Training and Enterprise Group, the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills (Ofsted), Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

Led by Professor Monder Ram, CREME, based within the Leicester Business School of De Montfort University, works collaboratively with policy-makers and practitioners to support ethnic minority businesses, combining outstanding community engagement with a strong commitment to academic rigour.

Professor Ram also has extensive experience of working in, researching and acting as a consultant to ethnic minority businesses. He is a leading authority on ethnic minority entrepreneurship research and has published widely on the subject. His work has been supported by grants from a full range of research funding bodies; including research councils, government departments, regional and local agencies and the private sector.

Commenting on his appointment to the EAG, Professor Ram said: “This is an excellent opportunity to work with a key government department to ensure that diversity features in all its key operations. I'm particularly interested in pursuing this issue in relation to enterprise.”

Professor Ram was responsible for initiating the annual Ethnic Minority Business Conference in 1998, which has developed into the most important event in the calendar for disseminating policy and research on ethnic minority firms. He also holds the positions of Visiting Fellow at the Industrial Relations Research Unit at Warwick University, and the Herbert Felix Visiting Professor at Lund University in Sweden.

Monder served in the former Department of Trade and Industry’s Ethnic Minority Business Forum and Small Business Council. He was also named as one of the country’s most influential Asians by the Institute of Asian Professionals and was awarded an OBE in the 2004 New Year Honours List for his services to black and ethnic minority businesses. 

Monday, May 10, 2010

Thoughts on the New Equality Act

The Equality Act is a recent equality initiative proposed by the Government Equalities Office that will come into force starting October 2010. This Act was initially introduced in the House of Commons on 24th April, 2009 and the Equality Bill received Royal Assent on the 8th of April, 2010 and formally became The Equality Act (Government Equalities Office 2010). This initiative will have far reaching impacts on a wide range of areas including gender and racial equality in the workplace and would form the basis of straightforward guidance for employers, service providers and public bodies.

As of 2010, there were nine major pieces of discrimination legislation, around 100 statutory instruments setting out rules and regulations, and more than 2,500 pages of guidance and statutory codes of practice. This includes the Race Relations Amendment Act 2000, which amended the Race Relations Act
1976. The amended Race Relations Act outlaws discrimination in all functions of public authorities, including procurement. It also gives public authorities a positive legal duty to eliminate discrimination and to promote
equality of opportunity and good race relations in carrying out all their functions.

The Equality Act will also have a large impact on public procurement. A report from the Equalities Office from April 2009 provides an in-depth look at the Equalities Bill (Government Equalities Office 2009). According to this report, the Equality Act will have three main objectives concerning
public sector procurement:

. Introducing a new public sector duty to consider reducing socioeconomic inequalities
. Putting a new Equality Duty on public bodies
. Using public procurement to improve equality

The Bill makes it clear that public bodies can use procurement to drive equality. With an annual expenditure of around £175 billion every year on goods and services - about 13% of GDP - the public sector has an important opportunity to use its purchasing power to promote equality where possible. Moreover, the Equality Bill would also take the current legal obligation for the public sector to consider the needs of women, disabled people and ethnic minorities, and extend it to also cover age, sexual orientation, gender, and religion or belief.

-Alex Kiselinchev

You can find the full text of the Equalities Act here. (.pdf)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

CREME Hosts Two-day Visit for Swedish Delegation

As part and parcel of globalisation, there has been an unprecedented rise in the volume of international migration throughout the world over the past two decades. Cheaper travel and the rise of cyber communication have “shrunk” the world, enabling growing numbers to move in search of economic opportunities and freedom from persecution. Increasingly, this is being reflected in new migrants establishing businesses, often in a desperate attempt to make ends meet and find economic refuge in their new ‘home’. Many western Europeans have witnessed this phenomenon, resulting in renewed attention to the role that academics and policy-makers can play in casting light on this process.

De Montfort University’s Centre for Research in Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship (CREME) is a leading contributor to policy and academic debates in this field. Its international work was boosted in 2008 when CREME’s Director, Professor Monder Ram, was appointed Visiting Professor at Lund University in Sweden. In addition to initiating a programme of research on ethnic minority entrepreneurship at Lund, Professor Ram’s role also involves supporting policy and practitioner initiatives at the Herbert Felix Institute (HFI), located in the Skåne region.

Following a series of successful exchanges between the institutions, CREME hosted a two-day visit of a 17-strong delegation from Sweden on 12 - 13 April 2010. The Swedish delegates comprised researchers from the universities of Lund and Malmö, members from national, regional and local government, and practitioners involved in supporting new migrant businesses. The delegation was interested in diversity, entrepreneurship and community cohesion, and were keen to learn more about CREME’s work and related initiatives from other UK stakeholders with an interest in this field.

CREME convened a programme for the visit that combined presentations on practitioner initiatives combined with academic discussion. Fiona Hodgkinson of the East Midlands Development Agency commenced proceedings with an overview of the work of the national Ethnic Minority Business Advocacy Network (EMBAN). Delegates heard about EMBAN’s plans to develop a strategic approach to supporting ethnic minority entrepreneurs across the nine English regions. Charlene Arnold, East Midlands Business Ltd., provided a regional perspective on business support for small enterprises, and outlined the impact of a recent project on new migrant businesses that her organisation had undertaken in collaboration with CREME. Ethnic diversity in Leicester was the key theme of Dr Trish Roberts-Thomson’s talk. From her vantage point as lead Policy Officer for Community Cohesion at Leicester City Council, Dr Roberts-Thomson gave a fascinating account of Leicester’s imminent transition to becoming the UK’s first ‘majority-minority’ city. Leading UK researchers on ethnic minority businesses, Professors Trevor Jones and Dave McEvoy, joined the delegation in the afternoon to discuss a major Swedish project to enumerate immigrant entrepreneurs. The delegates had a more informal experience of local diversity in the evening, when they sampled the cuisine of one of Leicester’s leading curry restaurants.

The morning of April 13 was taken up by contributions from representatives of the four Centres of Expertise established by Advantage West Midlands (AWM). These Centres represent a major investment by AWM to promote diversity in the small business population. CREME runs the Centre responsible for ethnic minority businesses; there are others on gender, social enterprise and young people. The Swedish delegates were extremely keen to share their experiences and explore how they might translate some of the lessons arising from their visit to their own context. As the programme drew to a close at lunch time, they spoke enthusiastically about hosting a reciprocal visit. Fortunately, they were able to return to Sweden just before the untimely arrival of volcanic ash from their Scandinavian neighbours.

-Prof Monder Ram

Friday, March 5, 2010

New Migrants in the East Midlands: Contributions of New African Entrepreneurs to the East Midlands Economy

Contributions of New African Entrepreneurs to the East Midlands Economy

In late 2008, CREME was awarded funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to embark on a one-year innovative research project on new migrant entrepreneurship in the region. As part of the bid that CREME put forward East Midlands Business Ltd (EMB Ltd) offered additional funding and they were active partners during the duration of the project from October 2008 up to October 2009.

The arrival of new migrant communities has heightened concerns about community tensions and there have been renewed debates among policy makers, practitioners and academics on multiculturalism, integration and community cohesion. The renewed debates are a reaction to the sheer size posed by new migrant communities, yet little is known about the people behind the statistics often quoted in mainstream media. Prior to this research there was no up-to-date profile of new migrant businesses in the East Midlands, and it was one of this research’s main aims to fill that gap.

The emerging results from this piece of research are pretty staggering and novel to say the least. When we started this research little did we know of what we would encounter in terms of what and how the new migrants have transformed the East Midlands inner cities and the impact they are making on the regional economy. It is no wonder that streets like Narborough road in Leicester, Normanton Road in Derby, Radford Street in Nottingham and the Hyson Green area in Nottingham have been massively transformed by new migrant business activity.

In this article, the term new migrants refer to those migrants who have recently come to the UK in the last decade (1998-2008) and have set up ‘new migrant communities’. Examples of such communities include those of new migrants from countries such as Somalia, Zimbabwe, Nigeria, Ghana, Afghanistan, Iraqi, Kenya, Zambia, Angola, Iran and Democratic Republic of Congo and other African nations too numerous to mention here. [editor's note: other 'new migrant' groups came to the UK from Eastern Europe (the A8 countries), they were the focus of a companion piece of research.] Most of the new migrants this research focused on, and who came from the countries mentioned above, currently have refugee status and, as such, this article will use interchangeably the words ‘refugees’ and ‘new migrants’.

But...first things first

In the media, much has been said about the new migrants with some saying that the new migrants are here:
· 'to drain on the UK national purse or to ‘fleece the economy'
· 'as refugees to increase unemployment and take our jobs'
· 'to take advantage of our generous benefits system'
Strong terms indeed!

Some may be wondering 'why study refugees?' Reasons for that are many but it suffices to say that refugees face multiple constraints with regard to integrating into the society in which they live and work. They constitute a distinctive immigrant subgroup, yet there has been little research carried out on refugee entrepreneurship and self-employment.

So what are the facts behind the headlines?

Our research was not to dispel these myths but to establish the entrepreneurial capacity of these new migrants and establish how policy makers, stakeholders, practitioners and academics can play a role to. Well, with our research we were not disappointed and we found some positive contributions that the new migrants are making to the East Midlands economy.

In the short space of a year, we unearthed over 350 businesses run by new migrant entrepreneurs from Africa and the Middle East. Out of this sample, we conducted 81 in-depth semi-structured face-to-face interviews.

Data from the above interviews has shown that:

· Over 40% of the new migrants left behind businesses in their countries of origin, and most (75%) had skilled jobs in their home country and are keen to start work here and earn a living.

· New migrants' previous work experiences in the UK showed that 60% work in arduous and low-paid jobs in cleaning, catering and the care sector. These sectors are traditionally shunned by ‘locals’ and they often struggle to attract qualified workers.

· Despite many barriers that the new migrants face, over half (55%) of the new migrants start up a business within two year of being in the country.

· Our evidence showed that the most entrepreneurial are the Somalis (27%) followed by those from Zimbabwe (17%), Nigeria (14%) and Iraq (12%).

· The most common business activities run by new migrants are in the service sector where they run internet cafes, international call centres and mobile phone accesory shops, money exchange shops, and some are into the low-order retail business. There is also greater diversity with some new migrants having established businesses that range from garages, beauty salons, barber shops, restaurants and bars, estate agency, care homes, higher education colleges, and butcheries. A few of the new migrants run social enterprises that focus more on child care and home based homework clubs.

· Our results showed that 50% of the new migrant entrepreneurs are self employed with almost a quarter (14%) of those entrepreneurs working to supplement their business income.

· A majority of new migrant business owners are working very long hours with the mean being 47 hours per week for African and Middle Eastern entrepreneurs. Our data shows that there is, however, a gender difference with women entrepreneurs working an average of 5 hours a day on their businesses while a majority of male entrepreneurs works an average of 8 hours a day.

· Women entrepreneurs constitute a quarter of the businesses we interviewed. The majority of these women are from Somalia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

· New migrants-run enterprises bring both economic and social benefits such as job creation, advice centres, regeneration, social cohesion, inclusion and they also promote a sense of community; they do a lot to foster good community relations. An overwhelming majority (80%) of interviewees expressed satisfaction on the big role they are playing in the community by providing a service.

Last word from the Government’s own advisor - Paul Wiles, Director of Home Office Research, recently commented: "The public debate over migration into the UK is often overly simplistic and ill-informed, sometimes distorted by myths about the extent to which migrants draw on our welfare state and without sufficient appreciation of the benefits they can bring."

Still need to know more? Well, look forward to the forthcoming series of this project where I will share with you more concerning the following themes:
Educational background of new migrants
Social and human capital
East Midlands mapping data
Business start up barriers and how the new entrepreneurs are coping.
New business opportunities with new migrant communities and

Watch this space for more..........

By Lovemore Muchenje, Researcher - CREME

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What Are the Success Factors when Working with Large Purchasing Organisations? Lessons from the Ethnic Minority Suppliers

By exploring the prospect of ethnic minority businesses (EMB) ‘breaking out’ from the ethnic enclave, low-value-added markets, recent research has identified entry into the large purchase organisation (LPO) supply chain as a rewarding route (Ram et al., 2007), with potential access enhanced by a growing requirement for public sector LPOs to comply with official directives on diversity through engaging minority suppliers (Ram and Smallbone, 2003). But the entry into, and operating in, mainstream markets by the EMBs is found to be challenging because of a number of reasons. First, these firms lack the required capabilities, resources and managerial skills. Second, they face constrained opportunity structures. Third, they lack prior experience and knowledge of operating in such markets.

Recently, at CREME, we sought to examine what factors enable EMBs to ‘break-out’ and identified a number of success factors that help EMBs to operate in the mainstream market. The empirical work was based on interviews with 18 EMBs drawn from three contrasting sectors: business services, ICT, and food manufacture.

The key insight which emerged from the above study was that EMBs have a great potential to ‘break out’ and enter the mainstream product market, including engaging in supply chain relations with the LPOs, given their resources and knowledge base and availability of the learning opportunities. Moreover, the entry into a specific product market is driven by the combination of owner-managers’ decisions that reflect their perceptions of the product market (Ambrosini et al, 2009) and the nature of product/service offerings which are value-adding or knowledge-intensive. These key insights, in turn, have a number of implications in terms of what factors and capabilities enable the ‘break out'. The study, thus, identified a number of success factors that enable EMBs to work with the LPOs in particular and serve the mainstream market in general. These success factors include:-
  1. EMBs’ ability to identify gaps in customers’ needs and products, service or process problems that they themselves could address in the market place. In other words, EMBs’ business opportunity identification and development capability is crucial. The owner-managers need to develop ability to access external knowledge through business networks and create capability for adapting routines that would enable them to recognise and exploit business opportunities.

  2. EMBs’ ability to develop two levels of resource development and integrating capabilities is crucial. These are: 1) possessing the threshold minimum level of resources stock to enter the intended market and, 2) combining or integrating existing resources with new resources and knowledge. Typical resources and knowledge required to enter a specific product market included financial, informational, human resources, knowledge about technology (ICT), knowledge about market (product market) and accreditations. EMBs also should be able to understand the differentiated impacts of industry accreditations on their tendering and winning of the contracts from the LPOs. For instance, while for firms offering knowledge-intensive ICT, or those subject to auditing and regulation, the employment of accredited staff is often a necessity, this might not be the case for some firms in business services.

  3. Having in place employees with appropriate skills and talents, and those who are able to build and maintain the supply chain relationship, is found to be a key success factor. This entails EMBs to develop a new relationship with the labour market and new ways of deploying and managing employees.

  4. Ability to demonstrate their knowledge to their larger customers through highly-developed firm-specific qualities and bespoke offerings: EMBs’ ability to supply high-value, knowledge-intensive, products and services, and developing strategic service delivery capability are found to be key success factors.

  5. Developing and using networking and bridging capabilities: Network resources have a significant influence on where and how EMBs organise their resources and what new resources and skills they could draw on. Moreover, EMBs with developed ‘bridging’ capability are able to identify product markets in which their products and services get exchanged. Relatedly, relation building with customers and suppliers, and working with strategic partners provide EMBs with a chance to better serve the identified market and help them position themselves in the new market place. Of special importance here is the owner's developed ‘know-who’ competence and his or her social networks beyond a narrow circle of personal family ties. This competence was ably demonstrated by several of our respondents in ICT and Business Services. The above two success factors suggest that EMBs ‘network competence’ enables effectiveness of entrepreneurial capability and signifies the crucial importance of the owner-managers' ‘know-who’ competence to operate in a new product market.

  6. Learning about collaborative approaches of larger customers and adopting and integrating them into their relationship management approaches are key developmental issues for many of the EMBs.
The process of developing and use of a combination of the above success factors by the EMBs, however, could be recursively fluid, emergent and challenging for number of reasons. First, EMBs tend to develop narrow core capabilities to aid their specialization under intensive competitive situations (Crick and Jones, 2000). Second, the return from their investment in developing an array of capability might be uncertain (Chen and Chen, 2002). Third, transaction-based supply relations with the LPOs is one of the constraints for developing partnership-based relationship that enables learning. However, this said, EMBs would benefit from using the combination of the above mentioned success factors as they fit to their organisational context when engaging in a supply chain relationship with the LPOs and serving the mainstream market.

- Kassa


Ambrosini, V., Bowman, C. & Collier, N. (2009) ‘Dynamic capabilities: an exploration of how firms renew their resource base’, British Journal of Management, 20 (Special Issue): S9- S24.

Chen, H., & Chen, T. -J. (2002) ‘Asymmetric strategic alliances: A network view’, Journal of Business Research, 55(12): 1007−13.

Crick, D., & Jones, M. (2000). Small high-technology firms and international high-technology markets. Journal of International Marketing, 8(2): 63−85.

Ram, M., Jones, T., & Patton, D. (2007) ‘Ethnic managerialism and its discontents: policy implementation and Ethnic minority businesses’, Policy Studies, 27(4): 295 – 309.

Ram, M. and Smallbone, D. 2003 ‘Supplier Diversity Initiatives and the Diversification of Ethnic Minority Businesses in the UK’, Policy Studies, 24 (4):187-204

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Migrant Communities: Polish Entrepreneurs in Leicester

In autumn 2006, the BBC highlighted a large increase in the number of Polish immigrants coming to the United Kingdom. This finding is mirrored by anecdotal evidence and personal observation in Leicester and the Midlands; an area that is often associated with immigration. Unlike other ethnic minorities, the demographics of the Polish immigrants, in particular the size, age and gender composition, as well as the skill level and educational background, are subject to much speculation. This inevitably also affects our understanding of the professional activities of those people. Although a variety of shops have been opened by Polish immigrants, indicating their entrepreneurial activities, our understanding of these businesses and with it their potential impact, was underdeveloped, if not to say nonexistent. The proposed study aimed to gain a first insight into Polish businesses and business aspirations in Leicester and the Midlands, thus providing first answers and, perhaps more importantly, a route map able to inform future research.

In 2006, CREME sponsored the research into a qualitative assessment of Polish businesses in Leicester with the objective to examine the skills, aspirations and potential of Polish nationals towards entrepreneurship; investigate their business experiences in Leicester; assess barriers to business development and identify business support needs for those ethnic-owned firms.

To meet the aim and objectives, a two-phase approach was used:
  • Initialising the project was the assessment of the scale of Polish entrepreneurial activity in Leicester and the Midlands. Starting with communal focus points like Polish shops, bars or restaurants, interviews were used to identify and map Polish business in Leicester.
  • In a second phase the team selected a group of 10 Polish companies, representative of the Polish business community in Leicester and the Midlands. Interviews were conducted with the respective proprietors in early 2007.

Dr. Natalia Vershinina and Dr. Michael Meyer devised semi-structured questionnaires based on forms of capital framework (Bourdieu, 1986). This built on the work that was already carried out by Prof. Monder Ram and Dr. Nick Theodorakopoulos on the state of Somali enterprise in Leicester. The interviews were carried out using narrative approaches in the form of the life-story and immigration history with this select group. The interviews were recorded, typed, and analysed with the help of NVivo qualitative software.

Portraying the Polish immigrant society has raised awareness for particular needs of this group, as well as their contribution to Leicester. Filling this picture in with facts, rather than relying on speculation, helped to fence off the real impact these people have on communities in which they operate. Moreover, we can clearly see the ways in which forms of capital are used by different Polish nationals to create different entrepreneurial activities and that these are time bounded and relate to the period of their entry into the UK. This study is limited by the sample size as well as the selection process. This did reflect the lack of information available on Polish immigrant entrepreneurs within this geographically bounded area. Despite this, the findings suggest that ‘super-diversity’ needs to be acknowledged – as ethnic communities are not homogeneous and this needs to be addressed by research and policy. Moreover, the diversity within ethnic communities is a changing phenomena and this affects the means and modes of capital available: the value of capital changes with use, while forms can increase or decay with storage, therefore that what can be used at one point in time may not be available or valuable at another. Conveying the key characteristics of Polish businesses, especially barriers they encounter, to governmental bodies may contribute to an informed integration of these people, as well as help to actively improve the areas business conductivity.

For more information on the research project please contact the corresponding author:
Dr. Natalia Vershinina on

To date the study resulted in an Occasional Paper, two conference papers and a journal paper currently under review:

Vershinina, N., Barrett, R., Meyer, M. “Polish Immigrants in Leicester: Forms of Capital Underpinning Entrepreneurial Activity”, under review in Work, Employment and Society.

Vershinina, N., Barrett, R., Meyer, M. (2009) “Polish Immigrants in Leicester: Forms of Capital Underpinning Entrepreneurial Activity”, Leicester Business School Occasional Paper Series, N86 (August), ISBN: 978-1-85721-401-7 9 [PDF link]

Vershinina, N., Barrett, R., Meyer, M. (2009) “'Researching Immigrant Entrepreneurial Development: An Ethnographic Study of Polish Entrepreneurs in Leicester”, EIASM RENT XXIII - Research in Entrepreneurship and Small Business Conference, Budapest, Hungary (19-20 November 2009)

Vershinina, N. and Meyer, M. ( 2008) “Polish Entrepreneurs and Social Capital” , International Entrepreneurship - promoting excellence in education, research & practice, 31st International Small Business Conference, Belfast, Northern Ireland