AIA | News

How To Target Funding From Diverse Backgrounds

Last updated: 08 Jul 2024 08:00 Posted in: AIA

Disparity in access to finance is a problem that has impacted entrepreneurs across the UK for many years. In addition to this, businesses have been operating in a particularly unstable economic environment over the past few years. The Covid-19 pandemic and supply chain disruption from ongoing global tensions have all contributed to economic volatility and uncertainty. In times like this, it is more important than ever that entrepreneurs are able to access funding that will help their businesses grow.

Lack of diversity in funding

Over the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that issues remain in accessing business support and finance for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. While progress is being made in this area, an entrepreneur’s ethnic background, gender and location all still remain a key factor in how likely they are to access funding.

In particular, those who are female or from an ethnic minority background are much less likely to access funding. The British Business Bank’s Small Business Equity Tracker 2023 shone a light on this problem, revealing that the share of total equity investment value held by all-female founder teams has remained stagnant over the last decade. Furthermore, when looking at total equity investment, female-founded companies received just 9% of total equity investment.

A similar outlook can be seen in funding towards ethnic minority groups, with just 10% of first time equity deals going to all-ethnic minority teams in 2022. Based on these figures, it is no surprise that ethnic minority female founders are at the biggest disparity out of all demographic groups.

While this disparity exists at a national level, historically the divide between the north and south of England has placed northern businesses at a disadvantage when accessing funding. Northern businesses are less likely to access funding with significantly fewer equity deals taking place in the north of England. However, in recent years this divide has begun to decrease, and in 2023 equity deals in London were at 46%, falling from 60% in previous years, according to the British Business Bank’s latest Small Business Finance Markets report.

One of the leading reasons for this disparity is a lack of awareness surrounding different finance options available in the market. The British Business Bank’s Small Business Intermediary Research found that a staggering 60% of smaller businesses lack awareness of the finance options available to them.

Investing in a diverse future

Targeted support for entrepreneurs from a diverse background provides significant opportunities for the UK economy as a whole.

Business resilience and experience are built around the people behind them. To build a strong UK economy, the businesses within this ecosystem must be able to draw from a range of experiences and viewpoints.

By unlocking the potential of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds, this will bring a variety of new skills and perspectives to the business landscape. This, in turn, will create the conditions for businesses to unlock growth through taking on new opportunities, venturing into new markets, and providing products and services that may have previously been ignored due to certain groups struggling to access the necessary funds to start or scale up their business.

How to promote diversity in finance

Despite disparities still remaining, there is also a lot to be celebrated as progress is being made towards making funding more accessible for all entrepreneurs. This is being amplified by focused funding programmes directed at particular groups that have previously been under-represented.

In February, the British Business Bank launched a new partnership with Lifted Ventures. This is a Yorkshire-based funding programme aimed at increasing the flow of early-stage capital to female founders. This highly focused support will help more female-founded businesses access funding to grow their business.

Other programmes by the British Business Bank include the Start Up Loans programme, which is aimed at supporting entrepreneurs as they take the first step in setting up a business. While the scheme is open to all entrepreneurs across the UK, the British Business Bank’s strategy is to ensure that entrepreneurs can access the finance they need no matter where or who they are. Consistently over time, around 40% of Start Up Loans have gone to female entrepreneurs, and around 20% to entrepreneurs from an ethnic minority background.

Entrepreneurs supported by the Start Up Loans programme include Pankaj Hurria, founder of Tiana Halal Pet Food, which secured a loan to increase its stock and invest in its marketing functions. This helped the business grow after identifying a gap in the pet market, providing Muslim pet owners across the UK with premium halal options.

Other entrepreneurs supported by the programme include Dani Wallace, founder of I Am The Queen Bee, who started her career as an entrepreneur with support from the Start Up Loans programme. In her past, Dani experienced the adversity of domestic violence, homelessness and single parenthood but now uses her experience to inspire others through her mentoring and coaching business.

By having funding programmes accessible to diverse founders and specific groups, it not only increases their awareness of the funding options available to them but also increases their confidence, so they are more likely to apply for funding.

This means we can support entrepreneurs who may have otherwise been overlooked by more traditional lending sources, helping a wider range of ambitious individuals to turn their business ideas into a reality.

From a regional perspective, the recent launch of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund II (NPIF II) will help to continue regional support with a further £660 million set to be deployed to businesses across the north. While helping to balance the gap in access to finance between businesses in the north and south of England, NPIF II also helps to reach more rural areas that have often struggled to secure the same levels of funding as more populous urban areas.

The British Business Bank also actively supports diverse business founders through a number of initiatives and organisational partnerships. The Bank is a founder signatory, alongside the BVCA and UKBAA, of the Investing in Women Code, which is a commitment to supporting female entrepreneurship and improving female entrepreneurs’ access tools.

Looking ahead

The business finance sector is always evolving and there are now many funding programmes available that are aimed at businesses founded by people from diverse backgrounds or ones from regions that have traditionally had less funding available. As businesses continue to operate in uncertain economic times, now more than ever it is important that they feel confident in knowing the options available to them.

Continuing to build awareness with targeted support benefits both the individuals and the UK economy as a whole.


Author biography

Representing the British Business Bank across Yorkshire and Humber, Cat Smith works closely with funding delivery partners, innovation specialists and business support organisations to improve access to financial support for small businesses.

"Over the last decade, it has become increasingly apparent that issues remain in accessing business support and finance for entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds. While progress is being made in this area, an entrepreneur’s ethnic background, gender and location all still remain a key factor in how likely they are to access funding."

Cat Smith, Senior Network Manager, British Business Bank.