Advisory board to offer help for ethnic SMEs

JOHN ANTHONY
Last updated 05:00 02/08/2014

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An advisory board designed to promote cultural diversity in the workplace and support small business will launch next week.

On Tuesday the New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Councils will launch the Multicultural New Zealand Business Advisory Board to provide support and advocacy for small and medium businesses (SMEs).

The board's chairman, Wenceslaus Anthony, said the idea to set up a board was inspired by a speech Ethnic Affairs Minister Judith Collins gave at an Auckland University of Technology business forum in which she said SMEs were often overlooked and under-reported on despite their invaluable contribution to the economy.

The New Zealand Federation of Multicultural Council was established in 1989 to represent ethnic communities.

Anthony said it has a network of 20 regional multi-cultural councils and national councils for seniors, women, youth and business advisory.

The advisory board would also work with financial institutions, government departments, local government and business development organisations to help support and advocate for SMEs, Anthony said. "We want to be a collaborative voice."

Collins said she welcomed the creation of a board to support SMEs owned by ethnic minorities.

"It's great to see community-led initiatives helping to promote and further the skills and advantages of ethnic businesses in New Zealand," Collins said.

New Zealand's ethnic business communities provided not only direct economic benefits but also international connections and knowledge of overseas markets, she said.

"Many of our Kiwi businesses can benefit from this as often it is very difficult to enter overseas markets with a lack of connections and knowledge of the business culture."

Collins said it was essential migrants starting businesses had the support to understand New Zealand's business culture and regulations.

The not-for-profit council would also provide mentors and its service would be free for SMEs, Anthony said.

In its first year the advisory board would focus on encouraging cultural diversity in businesses, providing support for SMEs with information on business culture and promoting good business practice.

It would also encourage mutual support between ethnic communities and SMEs.

The board is made up of six members with a range of cultural heritage, including Chinese, European, Nigerian, Sri Lankan and Polynesian.

Each has experience in running SMEs, Anthony said.

Four were in Auckland, one in Hamilton and one in Christchurch.

Challenges faced by migrant SME owners included a lack of capital and difficulty understanding how business was done in New Zealand, he said.

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Many migrants wanted to set up their own business but financial restraints meant they often had to go straight into a day job to provide an income for family.

But more recently an increasing number of migrants were setting up SMEs, he said.

The Multicultural New Zealand Business Advisory Board will be officially launched at an event in Auckland on August 5 which will be attended by Trade Minister Tim Groser.

- The Press

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