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64 BUSINESS NETWORKS Facing Barriers I t may be another six years away, but already much thought is being given to tenders and contracts surrounding the 2012 Olympics. There are some 66,000 Black and Ethnic Minority (BAME) owned businesses in London, and The African Caribbean Business Network (ACBN), is working to ensure they are not left out in the dark when it comes to securing lucrative contracts. The African and Caribbean Business Network, (ACBN) is a not for profit, mayoral initiative that was founded five years ago, to act as the voice of African and Caribbean businesses at government level. The organisation, which has 3,000 members, acts as a business support network to mobilise resources and works with existing BAME focused business support networks to attain a high level of service. Afua Yeboah, interim CEO of the ACBN says, “It is important that the ACBN makes contact with organsiations that work to support African and Caribbean Business and entrepreneurs. To this end we are keen to develop partnerships which will specifically enable us to build capacity in preparation for the opportunities around the 2012 Olympics”. Together with her Brixton based team, Afua is busy preparing for the ACBN’s ‘contacts for contracts’ conference, which will offer African and Caribbean business owners the opportunity to gain a better understanding of the mainstream contracting process. Representatives from the organisations such as; The London Development Agency, The Olympic Delivery Authority, Business Link, Supply London and The Department of Trade and Industry, will be on hand to advise BAME’s on the steps they need to take to become ‘tender ready’. Delegates will also be able to take part in workshops covering; Tenders, Procurement, Supplier Diversity, Consortium and Training and Skills. Afua believes that it is crucial to help African and Caribbean businesses become fit to supply for the opportunities that will arise over the next few years. “I’m extremely passionate about my role at the ACBN, because the organisation’s mission is directly in line with my own which is: ‘To advocate for African and Caribbean businesses so that barriers to achieving potentials are removed via information, advice and guidance”. BAME’s in the UK have lots of promise, but they need to think big and think creatively – they also need to be prepared to take risks”. Afua is well aware of the barriers which black people face. In 1995, after attending the Landmark Education Program, she realised that her purpose in life was to enable black people to reach their potential. The following year she set up Amos Consultancy, which specialised in recruitment for ethnic minority graduates. “I kept meeting these graduates who were working as administrators, even though they had MBAs and PhDs. These people were facing barriers on a number of fronts - from the interview and selection stage - right down to their names, particularly those, which sounded African. When the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry was released, diversity suddenly became the new buzzword and it had a direct impact on the need to supply a more diverse workforce”. As a mother of three young children, running her own business – often working 80 hours a week - was not without its challenges. She was fortunate enough to receive support from her parents and husband who looked after her children while she worked hard to build the business, but it still wasn’t easy. As time went on, her workload became heavier as she began securing contracts from government departments keen to increase diversity in their workplace. She decided it was time to rethink her priorities in 2004, when hours after giving birth to her third child she was writing proposals from her hospital bed. Last year she changed direction and ventured into management consultancy, delivering training for public and private sector businesses. This was a role which enabled her to spend more time with her family and led her to the ACBN. Her advice to women thinking on embarking on a similar career path is simple: “Stay true to what you believe in and try and remain focused, because there will be a lot of distractions. Looking back, I don’t regret any business decisions that I have made, because I believe that everything I have done and continue to do is all part of the learning curve. For more information on The ACBN contact: 020 7733 9008 or www.acbn.biz The ACBN ‘Contacts for Contacts’ Conference, is on the 27th October 2006, and being held at the London Marriott Hotel, W1. Tickets start from £65. engage ISSUE TWO 2006