Posted: Fri 12th Jan 2024
A Black entrepreneur who started a jerk chicken business from her mum's kitchen is among the winners of the 2024 Uber Eats Black Business Fund, run by Enterprise Nation.
Almost 1,000 restaurants applied for the fund, with winners based across the country, from towns and cities including London, Sheffield, Plymouth and Hoddesdon.
Karis Theophane, who began Jerk Grill in 2018, completely sold out of food within two hours when she first took it to the streets of Peckham in her food truck.
Working six days a week through the COVID-19 pandemic at her café in the Pembury Community Centre, and overcoming the theft of her truck, Karis is now ready to open a new site in Hackney this month.
The Black Business Fund, set up by Uber Eats and run by Enterprise Nation, sees £250,000 distributed to 25 small Black-owned businesses across the country. To date, businesses have received over £500,000 of grants since the award scheme started in 2021.
Winner Karis said:
"We have definitely outgrown Mum's kitchen! We're more than a jerk place; we're a community anchor providing jobs for disadvantaged people and a place for people from all walks of life to gather.
"Providing a space like this can be an inspiration to the local community – empowering people to build an equitable future, be more confident and have a positive impact in society."
Alongside the £10,000 grant, Karis has invested family savings into a new location in Clapton, which is due to open this month. She added:
"The grant will fund a marketing campaign to help promote the new site. Our new forever home also enables us to create five new jobs immediately as we continue to grow.
"Ultimately, we want to reinvest our profits into the business, helping us deliver our social mission of reducing food poverty, social isolation and providing meaningful employment and training opportunities for those living in the local community."
Birmingham-based restaurant owner Alex Archibald was also among the winners. He started Lyfbar in 2016 from a makeshift kitchen, which has now flourished into a thriving local establishment.
Alex will use the grant to invest in infrastructure, equipment and staff development, aiming to make a positive impact on the community and elevate Shropshire's culinary reputation.
"We constantly hear from our patrons how proud they are of our journey and our role in representing Shropshire on a broader stage.
"By strengthening our operations and creating sustainable job roles, we aim to leave a lasting, positive impact on the lives of our fellow community members while continuing to elevate the reputation of Shropshire in the culinary world."
Matthew Price, Uber Eats UK General Manager, said:
"In total, the Uber Eats Black Business Fund has now provided grants of over half a million pounds helping to support small businesses across the country.
"We know that Black-owned businesses face unique challenges and we're proud to offer support through this fund. The UK is rightly celebrated for its vibrant and diverse restaurant scene, and it's crucial to continue nurturing the next generation of talent."
Breaking down barriers to doing business
According to government data, just 6% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) are ethnic minority-led. And Black business owners face particular barriers with accessing finance, with only three in 10 approaching banks for finance – according to Lloyds Bank.
Furthermore, according to the 2023 Inside Hospitality Report – published by Be Inclusive Hospitality – Black hospitality workers are most likely to be on zero-hour contracts compared to other ethnic groups.
Lorraine Copes, founder of Be Inclusive hospitality and judge for the 2024 fund, said:
"For the third consecutive year, I've enjoyed reviewing submission videos for the Black Business Fund. It fills me with optimism for the future of hospitality as I discover the diverse array of founders who entered the industry out of a genuine love for hospitality and food.
"Unfortunately, uncertainty appears to be following us into 2024, and I'm pleased that this fund will offer a much-needed boost for Black entrepreneurs."
Emma Jones CBE, founder of Enterprise Nation, said:
"The Uber Eats Black Business Fund delivers much-needed funding and strategic support to under-represented businesses in the hospitality sector. It's an industry that's been squeezed tightly by higher energy and labour costs, and we've seen many casualties dropping out of the market.
"Consistent, targeted support like this really helps to boost the next generation of new, innovative and diverse businesses that are otherwise excluded from more traditional sources of funding. Helping Black-owned hospitality businesses to thrive in a difficult economic climate creates a much richer and more inclusive ecosystem which is good for economy and for us all."
The full list of winners
Borough 22 Limited
The Food Bandits
Jerk King Bristol
The Ital Collection by Vita
Jabulani Plymouth CIC
The Jerk Joint London
Dinner at Sans
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