Business ideas for 2017: Embracing multiculturalism

The UK is home to over 7.5 million people from multicultural backgrounds, yet brands aren't catering to them. We say it's time to celebrate ethnic diversity

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Following the latest census in 2011, ONS has revealed that the UK has a multicultural population of more than 7.5 million people – and this demographic has risen further in the years since – with buying power growing in tandem.

Reflecting the UK’s ever-diversifying population, we’ve seen a number of innovations hit the market over the last year such as the hijab emoji, the growth of MDMFlow’s lipstick brand to suit all skin colours, M&S stocking a ‘burkini’ swimsuit, and House of Fraser retailing sports hijabs.

However, many brands – big and small – are still failing to capitalise on the potential loyal custom and ROI that the UK’s multicultural population offers. Even as far back as 2012, Mediareach reported that the multicultural population in London alone possessed collective disposable income of more than £300bn.

Fast forward to 2017 and businesses that cater for multicultural consumers are more necessary than ever as, with Brexit pending, intercultural tensions are rife.

By starting up a business that embraces ethnic diversity, you will be championing inclusion and freedom of expression.

Starting a business embracing multiculturalism: Why it’s a good business idea

A 2015 report by Nielsen showcases the potential benefits of investing in the multicultural market, highlighting the millennial population of “super consumers”, “trendsetters and tastemakers” who use social media to consume and share content at a higher rate than others. 82% of multicultural Americans, for example, use an internet-connected smartphone – as opposed to 70% of other Americans.

The beauty industry is a huge area of growth if you’re looking to capitalise on this multicultural market. Mintel, for instance, has reported that beauty sales among black women in the US grew 28% between 2011 and 2016.

There is also high demand for good quality, affordable beauty brands that cater to different ethnicities.

In February 2016, a blog post highlighting the lack of Maybelline Dream Velvet foundations available for darker skin tones in the UK prompted a widespread conversation about the beauty industry’s tendency to bring out darker shades as ‘limited editions’, only to discontinue them later.

More recently in December 2016, the Environmental Working Group released a report that found that personal care products specifically marketed to black consumers were more likely to contain hazardous ingredients, with only 25% of such products categorised as low-risk (compared to 40% of products marketed to the general public).

This bad press has boosted demand for beauty and personal care products for minority ethnic groups which consistently provide suitable products and use only low-risk ingredients.

Business opportunities in embracing multiculturalism

With UK consumers unsatisfied by what brands currently offer, there remains a large gap in the market for make-up and cosmetics that will suit a number of ethnicities.

Start-ups looking to tackle this can draw inspiration from Sleek MakeUP, the brand which pioneered make-up for underrepresented ethnic groups and markets its range to women of all cultures with the tagline ‘My Skin, My Shade, My Makeup’ – an approach that has led to a turnover of £1.5m.

If you’re interested in launching a make-up business, research from Mintel suggests that launching a lipstick range is a safer bet than experimenting with eyeshadow, with UK lipstick sales expected to plump up by 12%.

An example of the success to be gained from capitalising on lipstick sales growth is UK start-up MDMflow. Founded by Florence Adepoju, the company produces highly-pigmented lipsticks designed to suit women with darker skin tones.

The hip-hop inspired brand – which Adepoju was inspired to create after being frustrated that make-up brands didn’t seem to represent her – has proved popular, and she has recently outsourced manufacturing with new lines launching this April.

Similarly, there’s plenty of scope for innovation in haircare. UK start-up Modiê Haircare was founded after Janette Nzekwe noticed a lack of premium products for black women with natural hair. Now, Modiê’s moisturising hair crème has garnered rave reviews and is used by celebrities such as Corinne Bailey Rae.

Also making waves in the personal grooming space is US company Bevel, which has created a shave system specifically for black people with curlier hair textures. Bevel claims that its razors, creams and specialist equipment promote “clearer, smoother skin within four weeks”, reducing bumps and markings caused by other razors.

As well as personal care and beauty, hosiery has also become a focus point with The Apprentice 2014 finalist Bianca Miller launching Bianca Miller London. Miller’s range of nude tights and stockings are designed to compliment a range of skin tones ranging from ‘English Rose’ to ‘Sub-Saharan African’.

Those who would rather provide a service than a product can also find opportunities in embracing multiculturalism.

As brands strive to become more inclusive, freelance multicultural marketing experts can benefit by assisting and advising companies who are unsure of how to effectively market to different ethnicities.

Insider opinion

Toya Mitchell, who specialises in multicultural research at Mintel, echoed the business opportunities to embrace multiculturalism in the beauty:

“Multicultural and, in particular, black women are seen as a growth target opportunity within the beauty category.

“Beauty sales forecasts among black women are robust, mainly due to niche, natural, Black-owned brands making inroads among younger, millennial consumers who are open to experimentation, unlike older consumers. While millennials are open to experimentation, they, like all Black women, want to ensure that they are buying products that will perform up to their expectations.”

Rayouf Alhumedhi, the German 15 year-old behind the hijab emoji, said of the importance of such developments: “550 million women pride themselves in wearing a headscarf – and it’s not just Muslims, but Orthodox Jews and Christians, too. That there could be something to represent them — that this image could be given to people all around the world – it’s amazing.”

Published Jan 2017

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