Ulster Bank has partnered with four organisations to support investment opportunities for entrepreneurs across Northern Ireland.
Belfast Multicultural Association; LEDCOM and The Simple Series; Awaken Hub and Enterprise North West, have each been awarded £15k through Ulster Bank’s Enterprise Fund to support projects aimed at promoting and encouraging entrepreneurship.
As part of Ulster Bank’s purpose-led strategy to support enterprise funding, the new partnerships also align with Ulster Bank’s commitment to increasing representation for females and ethnic minorities within the field of entrepreneurship in Northern Ireland.
Each of the four successful organisations will put this grant money towards delivering fully-funded programmes for new, underrepresented entrepreneurs.
Established in 2019, the Ulster Bank Enterprise Fund came as a direct result of the Rose Review which found that access to finance was the number one barrier recognised by female entrepreneurs and those from ethnic minorities, with only 6% of all-female teams receiving funds.
Moreover, the Rose Review, which was first published in 2018, revealed that only 13% of senior people in UK investment teams are women while around 50% of investment teams have no women whatsoever. To date, the funding has supported almost 1,500 women throughout Northern Ireland either directly or throughout involvement with the programmes it has supported.
John Ferris, Regional Ecosystem Manager with Ulster Bank, said that given how clear the disparity is, Ulster Bank has ramped up efforts to help entrepreneurs overcome these challenges.
“Since the publication of the Rose Review, Ulster Bank has made a clear commitment to levelling the playing field so that anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur can have these ambitions realised, regardless of their gender, ethnicity or location.
“We’re proud of the work we have done to date but fully accept that we are still too far from the finish line and need to continue to provide support for these groups, especially in light of the pandemic.
“It is increasingly clear that there is an urgent need to address the imbalances around accessing investment. We hope that through our Enterprise Funds and by working in close collaboration with our four new partners we can deliver more progressive opportunities for entrepreneurs, create jobs and drive further investment, particularly in the North-West where two of our recipient organisations are based.
“We are excited to work with these organisations over the coming year and looking forward to seeing the full impact of their endeavors.”
Supporting the Belfast Multicultural Association
Ali Khan, a trustee of the Belfast Multicultural Association which was the subject of an arson attack earlier this year, explained that the Ulster Bank Enterprise grant would help the organisation reach out to entrepreneurs from within the local minority communities.
“We know from our day-to-day community work that lots of our service users have great ideas and ambitions to start or grow their own business but don’t know where to turn to for support. We know the value that business ventures can have a hugely positive impact on these communities and so our mission is to equip any potential entrepreneur with the skills and networks they need to get their idea off the ground.
“Thanks to the funds received from Ulster Bank, we can now deliver a fully-funded programme which aims to support anyone with a business idea and empower them to take the next step on their entrepreneurial journey. Our goal is to improve the overall representation of ethnic minority led businesses within Northern Ireland and thanks to this support from Ulster Bank, we are now even closer to making this happen.”
Other beneficiaries of the fund include the Awaken Hub which is going to pilot its SheGenerate programme for female founders, LEDCOM and The Simple Series who have partnered together to launch the Seed Formula; a support programme targeted at female entrepreneurs in rural areas and the Enterprise North West who are creating opportunities for FE college students around Northern Ireland.