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Project summary

The Ethnic Minority Business Service (EMBS) is a local programme that provides a one-stop shop for business advice and support to Black and Minority Ethnic communities in Bolton [CHECK]. The programme covers all aspects of business, from help with start-up finance to ongoing support for more mature businesses. Since early 2007 the measure has been integrated into the Business Bolton Support Unit.

The partership[]

EMBS was originally established in 1987 as an autonomous organization, and was an integral part of the Bolton Council's Regeneration and Economic Development Division [CHECK – WHICH OF THESE?]. In early 2007 EMBS was incorporated into the semi-public Business Bolton Support Unit, the business advice organisation of Bolton's City Council. Business Bolton provides services for business start-ups or existing businesses with expansion aspirations. Within the Business Bolton Support Unit EMBS counsellors are responsible for clients with a migrant background. EMBS currently has a team of six multicultural staff members who are fluent in Urdu, Gujarati and English.

Funders and funding[]

EMBS funds have come from a myriad of sources. The original funding for EMBS came through a central government subsidy for an ethnic minority business development officer. When that central government funding ran out, the Bolton Council began to fund the position from its own core funds. In 1993, a donation from the City Challenge Fund was used to expand the programme.

Since the mid 1990s, financial support has come from a mixture of sources including local, national and even European funds. The programme benefits from ESF funding. In 2006, the sum of local and European funds made up 50% of EMBS' total budget of € 350,000.

Policy context[]

Bolton is a town with 265,000 inhabitants situated in the heart of northwest England, 20 km from Manchester. The Bolton City Council wishes to boost the region's economic development. EMBS is part of the Council's strategy for economic development and was set up to empower the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities.

National policies have affected the programme in various ways. For instance, the first initiative to set up a programme serving the needs of ethnic minorities was financed through national funds. More recently, two government-initiated developments have altered the institutional structure within which EMBS operates. The first of these developments was the creation of Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) in 1999. The second was the simplification of the national agenda for business support. Together, these developments have led to a change from local to regional level business support.


EMBS aims to be a one-stop shop for business advice and support for all black and ethnic minority entrepreneurs in the Bolton area. The idea is that successful migrant businesses and thriving communities will enhance ethnic minorities' integration into the economy.

Target groups[]

EMBS targets both starting and existing entrepreneurs in the Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) communities in Bolton. EMBS puts particular emphasis on the women in these communities.

How EMBS works[]

EMBS runs several activities that have evolved over time.

  • Business support

The most important activity is the delivery of business support to BME entrepreneurs and business owners. This business support is carried out using the following three-stage model:

1) Outreach work: EMBS officers have close links to the migrant community to raise migrants' awareness for business training opportunities. Migrants who are not interested or not in the position to become self-employed are invited instead to EMBS' Ethnic Minority Outreach Employment programme. This employment programme aims to enhance migrants' opportunities on the labour market and also hopes to facilitate British employers' understanding of the migrant community.

2) Needs assessment: During individual meetings the (potential) entrepreneur's needs are analysed by an EMBS business advisor.

3) Delivery of business support services: The delivery of support services, which is done in various languages, is carried out by either internal or external consultants. EMBS' business support services focus on certain themes which include:

  • Support for potential and existing businesses

Through training and counselling services EMBS supports both start-ups and already existing businesses. For start-ups the assistance includes raising finance, business skills training, business planning, locating premises and help to find further specialist advice. For existing businesses the support focuses on: business expansion, entering new markets, building competitive advantage, raising finance, finding new premises and again helping to find further specialist advice.

  • Developing business management skills

A range of seminars and workshops are offered for both business owners and starting entrepreneurs. These seminars cover topics such as business planning, book-keeping, finance, tax, marketing, promotion, management, employment legislation, entering international markets, patenting and trade marking, IT and web design.

  • Specialised support for specific sectors of industry

EMBS uses a network of experienced consultants to deliver workshops and detailed counselling services to specific sectors such as the manufacturing, service and retail sectors and the food sector. Topics may include very industry-specific issues like hygiene and safety requirements or even bacteriology.

  • International trading

This service helps to prepare firms to reach international markets. EMBS gives advice on international market research, selling through intermediaries, procedures and documentation requirements, and the financial implications of international trade.

  • IT for business

Clients can attend IT workshops on topics as Microsoft Office, e-commerce and the use of the Internet.

  • Youth Enterprise Programme

The same range of services that is available for starting entrepreneurs in general is also available for young entrepreneurs. Through this initiative EMBS hopes to create a new entrepreneurial generation.

  • Women into Business

EMBS has a women's officer to foster female entrepreneurship. Multilingual events and seminars are used as tools to raise women's awareness of the potential of self-employment. The programme also advises women in the common areas of business support.

Accessibility to target groups[]

EMBS was specifically designed to reach out to the migrant community. Its services are therefore also offered in other languages such as Gujarati and Urdu. EMBS also maintains contact with community representatives across Bolton's diverse communities. This contact enables EMBS to raise awareness for its services among ethnic minority entrepreneurs.


Tables 1, 2 and 3 show EMBS' results for the 2001-2006 period. Over this five-year period the programme assisted 146 migrant business start-ups and 900 existing migrant businesses; and it created 758 new jobs. Thanks to the programme migrant entrepreneurs were able to generate over € 10.2 million to finance their businesses. However, in both its counselling and its training services the programme seems to reach out more to already established entrepreneurs than to starting entrepreneurs.

(upload Tables 1, 2, and 3)


EMBS evaluates its own performance through a comparison of its clients' business survival rates against national benchmarks. This comparison shows a favourable balance of a 90 % two-year business survival rate for EMBS-assisted entrepreneurs against a national benchmark of 62%. EMBS also measures its impact on its clients' gross margin and turnover. Officially, the organisation follows its clients for a maximum period of three years. Thanks to EMBS' close ties with the migrant community this monitoring process continues in a more informal manner afterwards.

Externally, EMBS is evaluated by several bodies, including regional development agencies. The service has also received a number of awards such as the Bolton Metro Award and the National Award for Innovation and Awareness. In 2005, the founder of EMBS received a Queen's award for his successful initiative to set up a business service targeting ethnic minorities.

Key learning points[]

  • Relevance

The use of outreach officers and trust built up between EMBS and the ethnic minority communities in Bolton have given the service an outreach and credibility that is unusual for a business support organisation. The use of foreign languages, needs assessments, and tailored business services have made EMBS a highly relevant organisation for Bolton's potential and established business owners. The following quote illustrates the success of EMBS' outreach: "If you look at an area like Oldham [a town near Bolton], the minority ethnic population is about 10%, but its business forms just 5% of Oldham's business community. [In contrast] in Bolton, with a 12 % minority ethic population, ethnic businesses form 30 % of Bolton's business community.”(1)

  • Effectiveness and efficiency

The effectiveness of EMBS is evident in its results. Over the 2001-06 period EMBS managed to assist 1,046 enterprises (including 146 start-ups), to create 758 new jobs, and to generate € 10.2 million for investments on a € 350,000 annual budget. Business stock statistics for Bolton provide further evidence for EMBS' effectiveness. These statistics show that BME businesses make up 30% of the business stock, even though the BME population comprises only approximately 12% of Bolton's total population.

  • Innovativeness

An interesting feature of EMBS' approach is its three-stage model of i) outreach programmes to build trust and raise awareness, ii) an individual needs assessment, and iii) the actual delivery of services. This model is currently being mainstreamed into the practices of the Business Bolton Support Unit. In addition, EMBS serves the interests of ethnic minority women in an innovative way. The organisation has invested a lot of time and manpower into reaching out to women in Bolton's minority communities. In particular, EMBS attempts to overcome cultural barriers that women face. It puts energy into persuading the migrant community, husbands in particular, that women should be allowed to work, to participate in training programmes and to start up a business. EMBS provides childcare to enable mothers to attend events and workshops. EMBS has also set up a Women Support Development Programme. This consists of workshops and events specifically tailored to BME women's needs. There are special sessions on building self-confidence, leadership skills and women empowerment. In this way EMBS attempts to familiarise women with the idea of independently running a business.

  • Replicability

EMBS' three-stage model of community outreach, needs assessment and tailored business service is already being applied on a larger scale since its incorporation into the Business Bolton Support Unit. The model is no longer only used to target ethnic minorities. It s currently applied to the most deprived groups of Bolton in general.

The scope certainly exists for an even wider application of EMBS' model, with the following provisions. First of all, the success of such service depends on well-developed links with the migrant community. Developing such links can be a time consuming, labour intensive and indeed costly process. A long period is inevitably required with high initial expenditures before measurable results become visible. Even after this initial period the service will continue to depend on public funding, as clients are not charged any participation fees. Hence, setting up and running a similar service will inevitably require a large amount of public or private funding. Secondly, EMBS depends heavily on the availability of consultants who business expertise together with language skills. EMBS' success can partly be explained by the availability of consultants speaking Gujarati and Urdu.

  • Sustainability

Since its integration into the Business Bolton Support Unit, EMBS no longer exists as an independent service. Despite this the Business Bolton Support Unit plans to actively continue using the three-stage model to support BME entrepreneurs and other deprived groups. There are, however, a number of challenges that EMBS faces.

The establishment of the aforementioned Regional Development Agencies (RDAs), for instance, has led to a more regional approach towards business support services. The financial support for policy measures with a more local approach such as the EMBS has been reduced over the years. This shrinking budget may have a negative impact on EMBS' outreach activities in future. This, in combination with the arrival of new migrant communities with whom close links have not yet been established, may hamper EMBS' effectiveness.

Key learning points[]

  • A three-stage model of i) outreach programmes to build trust and raise awareness, ii) an individual needs assessment, and iii) actual delivery of services, can be an effective instrument to promote ethnic minority entrepreneurship.
  • Although a community outreach programme is essential to raise awareness, its implementation may well be a time consuming and labour-intensive process. Evaluation of the effectiveness of such programmes should therefore involve a long-term horizon.
  • It is easier for a local professional organization than a national one to develop a relationship of mutual understanding with migrant communities. A local professional organisation may also be more easily accessible to migrants.
  • When dealing with specific migrant groups, particular attention should be given to issues in female entrepreneurship. Attention should be given to persuading these migrant groups, husbands in particular, that women should be allowed to work, to participate in training programmes and to start up a business. The provision of childcare is one step that can enable mothers to attend events and workshops.

Contact address[]

Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs Business Bolton Support Unit (Ethnic Minorities Business Service) Bolton Business Investment Centre Commerce House Bridgeman Place Bolton, BL2 1 DW

E: T: +44 1204336 148 W:! Contact: Ayyub Patel

References and notes[]

Interview with: Mr. Ayyub Patel, head of EMBS.

Websites: EMBS (former website): Bolton Business Support Unit: Bolton city council:

Documents: EMBS. (2003). EMBS News. Bolton: Ethnic Minority Business Service. EMBS. (2005). Queen's award for enterprise promotion. article_287.php. EMBS. (2005). Minister Paul Boateng MP visits EMBS. article_294.php

1 Taken from: EMBS. (2005). Queen's award for enterprise promotion. Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs 4

Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs 6

Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs 2

Good Practices in the Promotion of Ethnic Minority Entrepreneurs 5