My Column

Diversity in biz vital to enrich us

  • Date: Monday 15th May 2023
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Scotland has changed a lot since I entered the world of business.

We’re a much more diverse country, but it wasn’t always like this.  In the past, in my experience, it could be difficult for people of colour doing business in Scotland.

I found that doing deals was harder, and early in my career I even hired non-Asian colleagues to do the face time with clients while I focused on running the business in the background.

Today, though, it’s more multicultural, there are less barriers and opportunities are continuing to open up.

One organisation that’s playing an important part in changing things for the better is Black Professionals Scotland.

It started in Edinburgh seven years ago and aims to empower Scotland-based black ethnic minority professionals with skills and information to be the best they can within their chosen career.

The organisation provides a platform for professionals to connect, share knowledge, and support each other, and it also supports organisations in meeting their inclusion and diversity ambitions.

I was first introduced to its important work through my good friend, Takalani Mbedzi, a top rated financial planning specialist and entrepreneurial advisor who’s based in Edinburgh.

We were chatting about networking, and he raised the issue with me about the lack of professional networking events for people of colour, and impressed upon me the importance of the Black Professionals Scotland network. 

I was encouraged to find out more and was hugely impressed by everything it offers – events, mentorship, a CV clinic, partnership opportunities and more.

Now, that organisation has given me the opportunity to pay it forward share my business insights as a guest speaker, and needless to say I jumped at the chance.

I’m truly honoured that they want to use my personal journey to inspire aspiring and established entrepreneurs.

I don’t want to give too much away but I’ll be telling them my story about the last 25 years working across technology and commercial property sectors in Scotland, and will be sharing my personal experiences of the barriers I faced when I was first starting out.

I used to see asking for help or advice as a sign of weakness. Over time I realised that’s flawed thinking.

Now, I’m not ashamed to say it took me a while to break into certain areas in business. That was all part of the learning curve and I think it’s important to be open and honest about that, and share my learnings with others.

Over the years I’ve learned just how valuable it is to surround yourself with people who share a similar lived experience.

That’s exactly why the type of events and networking opportunities offered by Black Professionals Scotland are so incredibly important, providing support and inspiration.

Without a doubt I’ll be encouraging my own network of contacts to find out more and participate in future events if the opportunity presents itself.

Black entrepreneurship is on the rise globally however people can still face a range of barriers and unique challenges, including limited access to funding and capital, discrimination and bias, lack of mentorship, so it’s important to provide support and resources to help them succeed.

That’s why it’s also vital that big business plays its part in combating discrimination. Companies around the world are taking steps to address systemic racism and promote diversity and inclusion. This can include things like implementing anti-bias training, diversifying hiring practices, and creating mentorship and support programs for underrepresented groups.  

Earlier this month I read about the Black Social Entrepreneurship Programme in Scotland -  a fantastic partnership between The School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and PwC UK aimed at supporting Black business leaders. It is the first iteration of the programme in Scotland which saw the seven participants supported through the crucial early-stage business challenges specific to the social enterprise sector by a dedicated PwC Scotland mentor.

More initiatives like this are needed to ensure our entrepreneurs of tomorrow are from diverse backgrounds, which from my experience can only enrich the business environment across Scotland.

I’ll be delivering my talk ‘The Shaf Perspective’ this Friday (May 19) from 5:30pm-7pm at Codebase in Edinburgh so, if you’re reading this and think it would be of benefit, I’d urge you to come along and have a chat with me.

Tickets are still available through EventBrite on the Black Professionals Scotland website.



The saga of Scotland’s ferry fiasco continues and as our tourism industry approaches the crucial summer trading period, businesses in our island communities have once again fallen victim CalMac’s poor services.

According to residents on Mull and Iona, the latest round of proposed cuts will see their main ferry redeployed to cover the service to Lochboisdale in South Uist. They’re predicting around 250 fewer car spaces and nearly 7,000 less passenger spaces every day, causing a significant blow to tourism trade on the islands.  

I note that the Mull and Iona Ferry Committee has written to transport minister Kevin Stewart demanding urgent action is taken, calling for compensation for the business which they believe will be lost as a result of disruption to timetables. I’m not surprised.

Committee chairman Joe Reade blasted the “utter chaos”, claiming the changes to services will “strangle” communities and businesses reliant on vital tourism trade generated by people travelling to and from the mainland.

I must say, I completely agree.

Millions of pounds has been poured into Port Glasgow to keep Fergusons’ ferries afloat, yet next to no financial support has been offered to the Hebridean business community in comparison.

The tourism industry is at the beating heart of these tiny islands and without reliable services to and from the mainland, their economy risks becoming incredibly damaged. Footfall will drop, jobs will be lost and businesses will close for good unless there’s drastic action.

Scotland’s ferries have become a national laughing stock and time is running out for businesses bearing the brunt of the impact of failing services and ageing fleets. They need real, tangible support if they are to survive. I hope for their sake a solution is found quickly.


LAUGH (129)

Boffins at the Met Office reckon we’ve in for a heatwave for the rest of this month, so it’s pretty apt that the makers of one of the nation’s favourite soft-drinks have released two new summer-inspired flavours to tickle our tastebuds.

Irn Bru has launched sugar-free ‘ice cream’ and ‘tropical’ flavoured limited-edition juices as part of their Xtra range, and they’ve certainly been causing a stir online.

Ginger fans have been left divided over the taste. Some have mused over the nostalgic taste of ice-cream “floats” and summers by the seaside, but one die-hard traditional Bru sipper branded the treats an “absolutely sinister prank from start to finish.”

Just like the Scottish summer, these drinks won’t be around for long and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on them. It’s not often you see the words ‘Scottish’ and ‘tropical’ in the same sentence so I’m making the most of it!



It’s no secret that being a business owner requires an exceptional level of dedication and hard work, and now a recent survey has shed light on the impact this lifestyle can have on our personal lives.

Apparently around three quarters of small to medium-sized business owners admit they feel isolated from their loved ones as a result of the hours they work, and a shocking one in ten find themselves clocking up at least 50 hours a week.

Owning your own business isn’t a career for the faint hearted.  We often make additional sacrifices because the buck stops with us to make a success of things.

I take my hat off to those showing remarkable resilience in our business community, but also offer a word of caution to make sure you try and carve out even just a little bit of time for yourself.





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