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Monique Kufuor is bringing more than 100 black-owned businesses together at a massive shopping exhibition at Manchester Central this August

Earlier this year, the Black Pound Report revealed that £4.5bn of Multi-Ethnic consumers’ disposable income is being ignored or overlooked by big brands and British businesses. The report – the UK’s most comprehensive research into the Multi-Ethnic consumer – reveals the economic power of the Multi-Ethnic individual, exploring the challenges they face engaging with brands and businesses.

Digging deeper, the report also found that Multi-Ethnic consumers are spending £230m every month on health and beauty, yet nearly four in 10 Black female shoppers stated that it isn’t easy to find cosmetics and skin care suited to them. 22 percent also said they needed to go to specialist shops to get their health and beauty products – increasing to 30 percent for Black women.

Earlier this year, the Black Pound Report revealed that £4.5bn of Multi-Ethnic consumers’ disposable income is being ignored or overlooked by big brands and British businesses. The report – the UK’s most comprehensive research into the Multi-Ethnic consumer – reveals the economic power of the Multi-Ethnic individual, exploring the challenges they face engaging with brands and businesses.

Digging deeper, the report also found that Multi-Ethnic consumers are spending £230m every month on health and beauty, yet nearly four in 10 Black female shoppers stated that it isn’t easy to find cosmetics and skin care suited to them. 22 percent also said they needed to go to specialist shops to get their health and beauty products – increasing to 30 percent for Black women.

This is an issue that Monique Kufuor is all too familiar with. Frustrated by the lack of diverse products for herself and her children, in 2018 she launched The Black Owned Business Exhibition (BOBExpo) in Manchester, driven by a desire to elevate Black businesses throughout Britain.

“The expo is your one-stop shop for all your cultural and diverse products,” Monique explains. “The aim is to increase the visibility of Black-owned brands – you would usually walk into a business expo and not see many, but there are lots.

“The reason I set it up was that I struggled to find afro-specific products for my hair, and this was a shared problem within the Black community- that diverse products are not easily accessible.”

Monique, who lives in Stockport, was previously a mental health nurse. It was while she was on maternity leave a few years ago that she really began to think seriously about creating a platform where people could discover local and national Black businesses, providing products and services for a more diverse audience. “I already had this natural passion for discovering these brands and other people would always come to me and ask where I can get this for more hair or similar.

“I originally started the platform online so people could discover these brands and then I realised just how many there are, and that’s where physical events came into it.”

“I would say that retailers have often overlooked the Black consumer. If you look at an aisle selling hair products, you can find that there’s not one product aimed at you – but there’s obviously a market for it. The products are there, it’s not that they need to be created, it’s just about retailers being more conscious and then everyone can have an equal shopping experience.

Now in its fourth year, BOBExpo is now the largest shopping experience in the UK for Afro-Caribbean products and services, ranging from beauty and fashion, to food and drink. This year it moved from The Lighthouse Venue in Salford to Manchester Central Convention Centre, with the backing of Lloyds Bank and The University of Salford. “Previously we’ve had to have the event in smaller venues, meaning people would have to intentionally be coming out to us, whereas now at Central we’re more accessible to everybody.

“It means so much to have these big organisations backing us, which means they support what we’re doing for change.” Over 100 Black-owned businesses will be presented at the expo on Saturday, August 6 including Afrobynature, an indigenous African natural hair care company from Nigeria; The Chocolate Beauty Box, an online retail platform showcasing Black-owned brands across hair, beauty and wellbeing; and Kutemwa Skin, an African heritage-inspired brand utilising African botanical ingredients to provide consumers with effective skincare products.

Monique, who recently made the Future List at the Northern Power Women Awards believes that “everyone should have access to products they need and feel represented in”, and thinks the reason large retailers don’t cater for Multi-Ethnic consumers is because they’re not involved in the decision making process.

“This year we also have our first live afro hair and beauty pop-up, and this is where people can come down and get live braiding, live consultations on how to manage curly or afro hair and also makeup tutorials. And that’s a big thing that we wanted people to have access to, to know where they can get these live services from known hairdressers and beauty brands.”

The owner of Kutemwa Skin thinks events like BOBExpo are important because they help connect a community of Black entrepreneurs, “I think it will encourage business owners to keep persevering towards their goals. It will also inspire those who wish to start a business by showing them that there is a demand for Black-owned businesses.”

Holding Her Space, a community doula organisation operating in Greater Manchester also believes it will be a great opportunity to showcase these businesses. “It is important that Black-owned businesses create spaces like BOBExpo to encourage collective economic growth among our community.

“These businesses, especially small businesses, are often restricted in access to the wider market, but also having a space that is filled with solely Black business vendors, unapologetically taking up space, brings us pride and is a great step in the right direction,”

Fashion brands like Setso, which caters specifically for Black women, and Not Your Trend, selling wares inspired by art movements, will also be part of BOBExpo. A food hall showcasing Afro-Caribbean restaurants will also be in full swing, and will includes the likes of Gwafugen, a tasty vegan west African restaurant showcasing Cameroonian food at its best; RJ’s Kitchen, a Ghanaian takeaway inspired by owner Rima’s mother who owns her own restaurant in Ghana; and Osho’s Grill, an African Caribbean takeaway restaurant based in Manchester.

“We want the expo to be the place where people across the northwest know they can come for all these products and services, whilst giving greater visibility to these amazing brands because more visibility means these brands will grow,” adds Monique. “We want retailers to also discover the website so they can work with these brands and show there’s so much still to be done in making a change for these products to be easily accessible.

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