It’s a well-known fact that setting up your own business is hard. However, this process is often ten times harder for entrepreneurs with a migrant background thanks to the additional challenges caused by a language or culture barrier. However, help is at hand. A new program in the South West and West Midlands aims to help support third country nationals run their own businesses in the UK

The Migrant Business Support project was set up in 2021 by Ashley Community & Housing (ACH) in partnership with the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) and the University of Bristol. The project is funded by the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund (AMIF). After spending 13 years providing housing support, the ACH team decided to pool their expertise into helping third country nationals with their integration into UK society rather than just their homes.

The program is designed to help new entrepreneurs from migrant backgrounds navigate the world of business in the UK. The program offers end-to-end assistance at any stage of the process to help people get their ideas up and running, or advance their existing business. No matter the industry, the team offers bespoke advice and guidance for anything you don’t know how to do - from social media content to applying for business loans. They even helped BBC Afghanistan set up a TV show once!

The complexities of the UK’s business systems can be overwhelming for most people to navigate at the best of times, let alone when you’re new to the country or the language. Programs like this are perfect for helping new arrivals transfer their existing skills rather than taking any old job in their new country.

Though the team has been successfully helping a variety of people since January 2021, they haven’t been without their challenges. With a small team of dedicated business consultants, they only have so many resources available and can’t help everyone. They often have confused clients expecting to receive financial support instead of advice. However, they have begun to overcome this issue by encouraging clients towards setting up online businesses to minimise set up costs.

Who Can Apply?

The project is for people from a migrant background, specifically people who are third country nationals. This means anyone who doesn’t hold an EU or UK passport. There are no restrictions on the type of business they’ll work with - if you’ve got an idea, they can help it grow.

The scheme operates in the South West, West Midlands and surrounding areas, with offices in Bristol, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Coventry. If you live near these places or their surrounding areas, then you’re in luck and the team would love to give you their free support! If you’re not sure if you’re in the catchment area, feel free to pop them a message and ask - the team is very friendly and are very knowledgeable about all things business! They may be able to point you in the right direction if they’re unable to help themselves.

How Does It Work?

The support is completely free and starts with an initial sign-up appointment for the team to learn more about your business idea. After some short assessments to determine the level of support you need, it’s up to you! Whether you’d prefer in-person or online meetings, regular sessions or just a few - the team is happy to work in the ways that suit you best.

They also host networking events and workshops throughout the year, allowing you to meet other entrepreneurs going through the same experience - both new and experienced mentors.

How To Apply?

If you’d like to apply for support, or would like to find out more, you can find the contact details for your local ACH office on the website.

The Team’s Advice

I spoke to the ACH team earlier this month to ask if they had any advice for people wanting to apply to their Migrant Business Support scheme:

“It’s a brilliant and straight-forward project with great business consultants who will support and steer any business idea towards success. The free project lasts for 2 years and support can be given at any time. Lots of people have extensive experience in their home countries and confidence in their idea but don’t know how to apply it here. They just need a little push.” - Sonia Nazir from the West Midlands office

“If you’re hesitant, just come in for a consultation. You can come in when you need to, there are no regular meetings if you don’t want to.” - Shalini Sivakrishnan from the Bristol office.

“This project is an amazing opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and network to build your business at whatever stage you may be in, alongside committed and friendly people.” - Rosie McLellan, ACH’s Marketing and Communications Officer.

If you’re a freelance entrepreneur with a migrant background, check out the program today for guidance and support for your new or existing business.

You’ve nothing to lose and maybe a whole lot to gain.

Photographer Credits:
Preview Photo: Nguyễn Thanh Ngọc
Image 1: Ashley Community & Housing
Image 2: Anna Shvets
Image 3: Ashley Community & Housing