EU Funding. People & Skills Projects - 29 September 2020

How the European Social Fund supports Black-led businesses

“We are pleased to see diverse and Black-led businesses benefiting from the support our programme provides,” says Nottingham Trent University’s ESF Programme Manager Andria Birch of the diverse range of businesses the High-Level Skills (HLS) programme she oversees has helped in recent years.

“Our approach has led to many positive actions including the development of more diverse strategic partnerships and more targeted marketing, and we are pleased to see this resulting in diverse access.”

This diverse access has resulted in a growing number of Black and BAME-led businesses approaching the programme in order to access business support.

When Nottingham Trent University audited the HLS programme, designed to support SMEs in Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire to identify their skills and talent needs, it found that just under a fifth of the businesses that have received support through the programme have been Black-led.

As a way of developing this trend, the University approached a number of groups that are under-represented in business support programmes, including Black and BAME-led businesses to further break down barriers, enabling more Black-led businesses to access the support available.

The support those businesses access is as diverse as the sectors they operate in something that Nigel Wright, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Research and Enterprise at NTU is proud of: “We are committed to creating opportunity and enriching society at NTU through our wide range of ESIF-funded business support and skills programmes and have supported over 1000 businesses in the last three years.

“Most small and medium organisations in Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham and Nottinghamshire are eligible for support and we are keen to build on this track record to enable more Black-led businesses to benefit from working with NTU in the future.”


One of the local networks the HLS programme has worked with – and which supports Black-led business development and success – is B-Global which provides support for start-ups, established and scale-up Black-led businesses (African/African Caribbean heritage) in the city of Nottingham.

B-Global works to ensure that local Black-led businesses are aware of the support available across Nottingham, including through High-Level Skills programme, and we have engaged with B-Global colleagues several times over the last 12 months to ensure their membership and networks have access to the programme.

Alfred Bawak, B-Global Diversity Account Manager explains “If you are a Black business owner, B-Global gives you a platform to access the latest business support opportunities and answers to any business queries you may have. B-Global aims to support micro, small and medium-sized enterprises to help grow the local economy and create jobs.”

Niyo Enterprise

Niyo Enterprise is a multifaceted organisation that is dedicated to using innovative hair, beauty and community development tools to economically empower lives and break the vicious cycle of poverty, particularly underserved by Black women through sustainable creative enterprises.

These enterprises will deliver valuable services powered by innovation and technology.

As an organisation, success for them is seeing women who would normally suffer economically be completely empowered by creating their own disruptive sustainable enterprises with a social mission or employed and making impact socially at Niyo Enterprise or an organisation of their choice and ultimately achieving and exceeding their utmost potential.

Níyó Enterprise is currently made up of two brands: Níyó Hair & Beauty, and Níyó Network.

Niyo Hair and Beauty is a 400-strong clientele mobile hairdressing service powered by innovative technology, whilst Niyo Network exists to increase the career prospects and business prospects of Black women through technology and accelerator boot camps.

Oyinkansola Adebayo, founder of  Níyó Enterprise said: “Our desire is to build more female entrepreneurs and career women. The knowledge and wisdom imparted by members of NTU staff through the High-Level Skills programme has helped us in channelling our business goals”.

Naskam Homes

Naskam Homes is a Community Interest Company and registered supported housing provider based in Nottingham.

The company started in 2014, initially providing supported accommodation for six people; since then it has grown and now is able to offer 26 beds.

They joined the High-Level Skills programme in 2019 and consequently received support through a comprehensive package including an Organisational Needs Assessment (ONA), a bespoke action plan, apprenticeship advice, and are currently in the process of accessing a graduate talent grant.

Mustapha Kamara, CEO at Naskam Homes explains: “The support we have received from the High-Level Skills programme has been invaluable. Based on the findings of the ONA, we were supported in developing a bespoke action plan showing how we can grow within the next three years, something as a business we had never done before.

“We are really excited by the opportunity to utilise graduate talent and high-level skills to boost our business productivity.”

High-Level Skills Programme

Part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) via D2N2, the HLS programme is part of the Priority Skills for SMEs project and provides a range of support including fully funded professional courses, talent grants to enable SMEs to employ graduates, market intelligence and talent workshops, and apprenticeship support and advice.

The ESF invests in people, with a focus on improving employment and education opportunities across the European Union.

It also aims to improve the situation of the most vulnerable people at risk of poverty.

The ESF provision in the D2N2 region contributes to local growth by increasing labour market participation, promoting social inclusion, and developing the skills of the potential and existing workforce.

To learn more about the High-Level Skills programme visit the Nottingham Trent University website.

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