Can Amazon’s small business bootcamp tackle racial inequality in entrepreneurship?

The e-commerce giant has been promoting itself as a small business supporter for a while - their new digital bootcamp promises the same for Black founders

Amazon is helping out the UK’s Black business owners this week; their two-day bootcamp that will take place today (Tuesday 16 February) and runs until Wednesday 17, will see the tech behemoth offer free advice to Black entrepreneurs, including how to grow their business online.

The bootcamp is a three-way partnership between Amazon, Hatch Enterprise – an organisation that helps BAME, women, and social-impact-led enterprises launch and scale their businesses – and Enterprise Nation, a network of small businesses and business advisors.

The bootcamp and small businesses

The sessions provided by “experts and advisors” will offer “Amazon-specific training” with a focus on helping businesses to scale in the digital age. There will be advice on harnessing social media and scaling operations, selling products on Amazon stores, and securing funding.

Through the bootcamp, attendees will have the opportunity to network with other businesses, potentially creating a community where Black business owners can share insights, advice, and possibly even access to different types of networks and support services.

According to a recent statement by Amazon, many of the UK’s small-to-medium firms have used its e-commerce services to navigate the tricky economic waters of COVID-19 with “more than 60% of UK businesses” selling on its e-commerce platform exporting globally.

Small business activity on Amazon amounted to export sales of over £2.75 billion back in 2019 “and supported more than 85,000 job opportunities in the UK,’ continued the statement.

The bootcamp is part of the Amazon Small Business Accelerator, an ambitious programme designed to provide over 200,000 small enterprises with access to complimentary training and support services.

While their latest event is open to all small businesses, it’s Black-owned enterprises they’re most keen to attract. And if you look at the dire statistics around Black entrepreneurship in the UK – you can see why.

Racial inequality in UK entrepreneurship

Black business owners in the small business community remain statistically less likely to access external funding than other founders, raising only 0.2% of total venture capital funding between 2009-2019. They also tend to lead businesses with a lower average turnover than others, but this is down to factors such as funding bias and lack of access to business networks, advice, and investment over anything to do with leadership skills or the viability of the businesses they lead.

Speaking on Amazon’s involvement in the programme, Simon Donegan, Head of Seller Services, UK, said: “Amazon is proud to be working with Enterprise Nation and Hatch Enterprise to offer free training and advice to Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs which we hope will help them grow and prosper in 2021. Through this bootcamp, attendees will be equipped with tools, knowledge, and support to address some of the challenges that Black business owners face, as well as providing more general advice relevant to all business owners.”

Emma Jones, Founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “We hope this bootcamp will help Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds get access to the practical support they need as well as inspiration from successful individuals who can share their own experiences. Offering targeted support is an important route to ensuring we can build diverse business communities, levelling up the opportunities for all entrepreneurs.”

Joanna Hamer, Female Founders Programme Director at Hatch Enterprise, added: “We’re really proud and excited to be able to support this event. We know how important it is to make sure entrepreneurs and businesses have the right skills and confidence to grow and develop their businesses so that they can unlock their potential. We’re really looking forward to the line-up of excellent speakers.”

With Amazon already offering help to the UK’s small business community via online advice, content, and events, perhaps this week’s bootcamp will do the same for Black and other minority-owned small enterprises by giving them greater access to the privilege of connections, funding, and business advice so often enjoyed by their white counterparts.

For the chance to take part in the event, please click here.

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