Ethnically diverse businesses are also better businesses, a conference was told.
But Piers Linney, one of the dragons on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den and joint CEO of Outsourcery, said ethnic minority-owned businesses (EMBs) faced a number of barriers, including perceptions and a lack of role models.
Speaking at the MSDUK conference in London, he said: “There is a real business benefit, not just a social benefit: diverse businesses at the end of the day are better businesses.”
“Unless you have role models, unless you can see someone to inspire you, it’s very difficult to aspire. I haven’t had many. They were my mum and dad." Talking about his background, he said his father was working class and got a scholarship to Cambridge University and his mother, who was from the Caribbean, was active in the community.
Linney said a “cycle of privilege” formed a barrier to social mobility and there were perceptions that EMBs “won’t be as good”.
“It’s about breaking this cycle of privilege, which is very difficult to do,” he said. “The perception is that you just won’t be as good. My defence has always been to prove that I am twice as good.”
He said “a lot of entrepreneurs I meet come from ethnic minorities” and a way of overcoming barriers “is to start your own business”.
“I don’t own a suit. I went to Buckingham Palace the other week and I had to go in the back door, literally,” he said.
Linney, who told delegates he had been a lawyer and hedge fund manager before starting a business, said his interests now covered entrepreneurship, technology and communications, diversity and inclusion and social mobility.