Emerge (Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurship in a Rapidly Growing Economy)
EMERGE was aimed at helping those from an ethnic minority background who wished to start up a business, or had already started a business in Ireland. In addition to direct training, the Enterprise Development and Training Officers provided one to one mentoring support to each client. This allowed for further development of the business. Participation on these courses was free to eligible candidates. All training was delivered through English and programmes varied in duration.
EMERGE was a Development Partnership (DP), funded by EQUAL Community Initiative. The DP itself was made up enterprise support (PARTAS and BASE Enterprise Centres in Dublin); public bodies (FAS, South Cork Enterprise Board, Cork City Enterprise Board); a local development company (Galway City Partnership); a business representative body (Small Firms Association) and a representative of ethnic minority entrepreneurs (Metro Eireann). The sector within which the project operated was the enterprise development sector and the project focused on the needs of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs (EMEs) in Ireland, developing particular strategies for three distinct stages:
- Start-up (launch to 1 year)
- Growth (2-4 years)
In terms of geographical spread, training was located in Dublin North; Dublin South; Cork and Galway.
The main aims of the programme were to:
· develop methodologies for the development and expansion of Ethnic Minority businesses
· to assist Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs (EMEs) in overcoming business obstacles and operate within the regulatory and cultural environment.’
The Specific objectives which the project worked towards to achieve the overall aim were as follows:
- To raise awareness of the barriers faced by EMEs among mainstream support services and agencies.
- To develop a best practice model of training for EMEs.
- To develop a strategy for integrating EMEs into mainstream business networks.
- To create open communication channels with Mainstream Financial Institutions in order to improve the situation regarding access to finance for EMEs.
- To inform policy in this area and contribute to achieving national and EU targets as set out in various agendas.
- To improve the support infrastructure for EMEs in the pilot areas.
- To inform the target group on ways to develop their businesses and breakout into mainstream markets.
- To mainstream the successful outputs of the project.
The activities of the Emerge Partnership fell into two broad categories:
- Training, mentoring & networking.
- Influencing policy & practice.
Training, Mentoring & Networking
Through a wide-ranging outreach campaign, Emerge attracted enquiries from over 268 members of ethnic minority communities, 207 of who subsequently availed of training, mentoring and networking opportunities provided by the programme. In consultation with ethnic minority entrepreneurs, specific courses were designed to meet the needs of the target client group at pre-enterprise, start-up and growth stages.
Pre-enterprise courses attracted the highest levels of demand with a total of 16 rotations being delivered in Tallaght, Blanchardstown, Cork and Galway. The start-up stage was addressed primarily by a series of evening seminars in Dublin in conjunction with the DIT Institute of Minority Entrepreneurship and Cork, while the growth stage took the form of a residential masterclass in Athlone. All participants enjoyed access to mentors to assist with business planning and other specific issues throughout the programme. A key learning of the programme was that targeted training provision for ethnic minority entrepreneurs should be focused on pre-enterprise and early stage entrepreneurs.
Participants were also able to avail of networking opportunities both with fellow participants and through numerous networking events hosted by the SFA, thus allowing participants to engage with mainstream owner-managers.
Influencing Policy and Practice
Informed by our own experience in delivering the programme and by our interaction with transnational partners in France, Netherlands and the Czech Republic, we have sought to promote positive change within the national policy environment and across the actions of all service providers to small businesses in Ireland.
At a policy level, submissions were made to the EU Green Paper on Entrepreneurship, the Small Business Forum and the consultation process on ‘Immigration & Residence in Ireland’ initiated by the Department of Justice, Equality & Law Reform. Through such submissions, we highlighted the very positive contribution that ethnic minority entrepreneurs can make to the Irish economy and called on government to ensure that state agencies provide suitably adapted supports to this target group, while also ensuring that the regulatory framework does not present unnecessary obstacles to minority entrepreneurship.
As regards positively influencing the actions of support providers, our partner organisations worked with a number of mainstream support providers interested in incorporating tailored pre-enterprise courses for minority entrepreneurs into their suites of support. Emerge co-operated with the Institute of Minority Entrepreneurship at Dublin Institute of Technology, which now delivers specific programmes for minority entrepreneurs.
Emerge trainers, who enjoyed a high degree of insight into the needs of participants, have developed a trainer’s manual giving practical advice and tips on the delivery of the training programme to any ethnic minority entrepreneur group. This will be an invaluable resource for any organisation wishing to deliver targeted training to ethnic entrepreneurs.
Securing suitable financial support is an area of particular difficulty for immigrant entrepreneurs. Emerge developed open communications with AIB, Bank of Ireland, Ulster Bank and First Step to explore how this issue might be addressed. While banks have shown themselves as increasingly willing to offer information in different languages and in some cases provide multilingual staff, there has been no significant shift in lending criteria in order to facilitate entrepreneurs with no credit history or security to offer. This will require further lobbying activity and reinforces the need for a general review of the availability of micro-finance in Ireland.
Finally, through the course of the programme, we have sought to exploit every opportunity to raise the profile of minority entrepreneurs in the general media. We have no doubt that the entrepreneurs with whom we have worked have an immense contribution to make to the Irish economy and to Irish society. It is important that their role in this respect is highlighted, so that all of those involved in Irish business might embrace this opportunity to enrich and enhance entrepreneurial activity in Ireland.