Vision to bring 1,000 black-owned businesses to Suffolk's high streets

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. L-R Imanhi Sorhaindo, William Ochan, Karen Walker, Dennis Ojera, Franstine Jones BEM, Roland Gilbertson. - Credit: Archant

A vision to help create 1,000 black-owned businesses in Suffolk has been unveiled. 

The Suffolk Black Community Forum initiative will launch this autumn and while the long-term goal is to empower members of their community to take a risk they may never have, the programme is open to all. 

Roland Gilbertson, is the forum's interim lead for business, employment and economy and founder of InBiz1000 which will take the form of an eight-month programme.

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. Roland Gilbertson on the waterfront. - Credit: Archant

He said: "Before the pandemic, we identified there was a gap within the economic space for black business owners. But during the pandemic it almost made it more apparent that a lot of business, especially most black businesses, were going out of business because they were forward-facing and people-oriented - so service-based industries, community-based businesses and social enterprises. 

"What we are trying to do from the beginning is bridge the knowledge gap and also support as many people who want to get into the entrepreneurial system, as well as those who are in business to develop the business and grow it and become more sustainable.

"We want to change the landscape so we can have more participation from the black community.

"We want to be able to break down and remove those barriers to give people the real-life situation of what it is like to run a business and if it is for them or not."

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Employment is one of five areas the forum is focused on alongside education and empowerment, criminal justice and rehabilitation, health and wellbeing and culture and heritage. 

Mr Gilbertson said: "There is a lot of risk in starting a business, but the other thing that stops people starting a business is the risk of failure and some people would stop because of the risk of success because how do I handle it?" 

InBiz1000 is not just designed for new start-ups but to help existing business owners, no matter their background, through masterclasses as well as provision for those who are looking for key employment skills. 

Mr Gilbertson added: "For those who don't feel it's for them, they might have other needs, and that might be through skill development in certain areas or maybe providing that wraparound support. We have a channel for that." 

For those signed up to the programme, they will access a wide range of mentors to discuss key areas, and businesses across East Anglia can come forward to offer their expertise.

Forum members offered their experiences having seen first-hand how InBiz would look to work. 

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. Franstine Jones BEM. - Credit: Archant

Franstine Jones, BEM, said InBiz's nurturing approach helped entrepreneurs learn in their own way.

She said: "In 2018 when I took redundancy from police and thought I'm going to start my own business, I just relied on word of mouth because that was how I always got my business. I thought if I put myself in certain spaces and through word of mouth people would ask me to do this, that and the other.

"It wasn't enough for me, I ended up going back into employment. This time around, I don't want to ever go back to being employed. I want to be employed delivering what makes me passionate. They say if you deliver something that you are passionate about you never work another day in your life and that's what I want."

The project aims to inspire younger generations to see other members of their communities running sustainable and successful businesses. 

Franstine said: "For me, I think of Suffolk, it is quite a rural area and Ipswich is the urban part of Suffolk. If a programme like InBiz, if that supports people like us we can then look at the high street and look at the opportunities on the high street to have pop-up businesses where you can raise your profile.

"You're meeting the needs for Ipswich, as in attracting people to the high street because there is more of a variety, and you will get a more diverse mix of people coming into the town to look at what's in Ipswich." 

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. Karen Walker on the waterfront. - Credit: Archant

Karen Walker added: "It is about seeing the diversity. As a young girl who grew up in Ipswich, I never went into shops and saw many black-owned shops.

"You might have someone who had a market stall so why would I think growing up that I could have a business, I could run a shop. It's not about pop-ups, it is about having permanent sustainable businesses in the town centre."

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. Imanhi Sorhaindo on the waterfront. - Credit: Archant

For Imani Sorhaindo, lead for heritage and culture, she has now been able to secure working with Mind in Manchester through InBiz's help. 

She said: "I was made redundant about two years ago after 30 years. 

"It was the shock of my life to be made redundant and you think what do I do? I always had a passion in working with people and in holistic help. So I retrained and InBiz was right there to assist me from that embreyotic stage. 

"Now I have been able to go wider with the services I offer. InBiz has been there with my vision and telling me that I was not costing up my products properly."

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led

Suffolk Black Community Forum is launching a programme with the aim to develop 1,000 businesses led by black businessmen and women across the county in the next decade. Dennis Ojera on the waterfront. - Credit: Archant

Dennis Ojera, who runs an IT-based business after leaving an eight-year career at Suffolk New College, said the relationship with the mentors helped his business grow.

The forum is in the process of becoming the Suffolk Black Community Organisation - open forum. 

To find out more visit www.inbiz10000.com and to sign up to upcoming masterclasses or the programme email info@inbiz1000.com.