Major Report on Ethnic Business in Ireland to be Launched at DIT Conference

12.6% of non-Irish nationals own businesses in Ireland

75% in operation for two years or less

65% generated €50,000 in sales in past 12 months

A major new report on ethnic entrepreneurship, ‘Mapping Ethnic Entrepreneurship in Ireland’ has revealed that 12.6% of non-Irish nationals claim ownership or part ownership of a business in this country.  The report was written by Dr Thomas Cooney and Anthony Flynn from the Institute for Minority Entrepreneurship in DIT and it is based on a nationwide survey of 1,108 non-Irish nationals. It will be launched at the ‘Growing Ethnic Business in Ireland’ conference which takes place this Saturday (29/11/2008) in DIT Aungier Street.

The report highlights that ethnic businesses are generally small in scale, young in age, concentrated in the locally traded services sectors and operating at the margins of the mainstream economic environment. Indeed, the profile, scale and industry focus of ethnic entrepreneurs in Ireland is comparable to international experience of ethnic entrepreneurship. 

Approximately 75% of ethnic businesses are in operation for two years or less, 94% employ 5 or less full-time staff, while 65% generated 50,000 euro or less in sales revenue in the last 12 months. 46.8% of ethnic businesses import products from their country of origin; 27.6% of ethnic businesses export products to their country of origin and 34.2%  provide services in their country of origin.

The report suggests that a policy of targeted intervention for fledgling ethnic enterprises followed by the mainstreaming of enterprise support for established ethnic enterprises would be the most effective strategy in an Irish context. According to Dr. Cooney, “The underlying rationale of this position is to offer tailored business assistance to ethnic enterprise to a point that corrects for the disadvantages of ethnic minority status at start-up, without compromising on the fundamental economic principle that the market should act as the ultimate arbiter of which businesses succeed and which businesses fail.”

The authors suggest that the most effective form of intervention should occur at a local level since the vast majority of the businesses are locally traded services. “Our research has established that once ethnic businesses start to grow, then the current enterprise agency services available to all Irish based companies satisfies their needs.”Dr. Cooney said.

The report identifies a series of recommendations which would appreciably impact on the promotion of ethnic business in Ireland. These recommendations included raising awareness among the ethnic communities of the availability to them of bespoke business training programmes; developing a ‘one-stop-shop’ website aimed at aspiring ethnic entrepreneurs in Ireland; and fostering enhanced linkages between Irish business representative bodies and the ethnic business communities. 

One of the most interesting findings, according to Dr. Cooney, is the critical role played by ‘ethnic fixers’. These people from within the relevant ethnic communities act as a link between ethnic entrepreneurs and support agencies, and effectively become the middleman in the formation of an ethnic business.  A main criticism of ethnic businesses in the report is that they tend to primarily focus on their own communities but such target markets are generally too small for the business to be sustainable on a long-term basis. The report recommends that Ethnic entrepreneurs be encouraged to make their business more attractive to Irish customers thereby helping to make their business more viable and encouraging greater social integration.

The conference on ethnic entrepreneurship takes place in Dublin Institute of Technology , Aungier Street, on Saturday November 29th and guest speakers from Ireland and the UK will offer further insight into the findings of the report. Professor Monder Ram is one of the world’s leading authorities on ethnic entrepreneurship is the keynote speaker at the conference, and other well-known names include the Minister for Integration Conor Lenihan and media expert Terry Prone. Please click here for details or visit

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