Under my umbrella

The Black Umbrella team (from left to right) Natangwe Shipanga, Mike Hamilton and Joanna Vasanth
The Black Umbrella team (from left to right) Natangwe Shipanga, Mike Hamilton and Joanna Vasanth

The co-creator of a social enterprise supporting black-owned businesses tells Olivia Devereux-Evans about the idea behind it

Natangwe Shipanga wants it to be easier for people to find and support black-owned businesses.

Together with his friend Mike Hamilton, he decided to start a social enterprise, Black Umbrella, to tackle unemployment among the black community. They aim to increase employability and help companies recruit black staff as well as setting up a donation service for charities benefiting the black community.

Explaining the idea behind his business, Natangwe told the Echo: “We are trying to build a black business community within Waltham Forest so that all the black business owners know about each other.

“They can have a little community where they can discuss some of the problems they have had and been facing, and support each other.”

Natangwe said some businesses hide the fact they are black-owned so they are not judged differently. “Often you will see on their social media that they have images of white people. There will be no mention of the fact it is a black-owned business because there is still a stigma attached to that – that the service you will be getting will not be the same quality.”

After the summer’s Black Lives Matter (BLM) protests and the momentum gained by the movement, Mike and Natangwe decided the two should do their bit to raise awareness of black businesses.

“A lot of the time you only see the bad side, the knife crime and all the problems. [But] there is another community – black business owners who work hard and are successful and are maybe looking to hire other black people, especially young black people who might not be getting those opportunities.”

Before setting up Black Umbrella, Natangwe worked in technology and IT. He faced a lack of representation at work, saying: “There is a strict stigma attached when you first walk through the door, that you might not be at the same level of someone else just because of the way you look.

“Still now, a lot of young black people do not see themselves represented in certain fields so do not think that it is an area with opportunities for them.”

It was this lack of representation and the difficulties black business owners face which gave him the idea to set up Black Umbrella. Natangwe and Mike both also work with MVP Workshops, another local organisation, and this is a further aspect to how Black Umbrella will be run. The workshops help young people with their social and personal development, employability and progression in education and employment.

Black Umbrella is also aiming to provide information for adults and young people looking to start their own business and provide them a support network. Natangwe said this year has encouraged a lot of people to take on new challenges. “I have talked to a lot of young people and they are really looking into creating change, doing something for themselves and becoming motivated,” added Natangwe.

The next steps are lots of research, contacting black businesses owners in Walthamstow to talk about their experiences, and creating a database with contact information – tasks aided by the recent award Black Umbrella received from UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreners.

Natangwe said: “A lot of money is going to go into the research side and the technical development, which means creating a well-working, smooth website that works on every platform really quickly and is able to scale up if necessary.

“By the end of the year we want to get as many black businesses to sign up as possible.”

Find out more about Black Umbrella:
Facebook /mvpworkshops
Instagram @mvpworkshops
Visit mvpworkshops.co.uk

This article is supported by St James Street Big Local in association with UnLtd, the foundation for social entrepreneurs. To find out more about UnLtd:
Call
 0207 566 1100
Email cheryl.ndione@unltd.org.uk
Visit unltd.org.uk