Ammar Mirza (1)

Seeking good advice and accessing tailored support early in your business journey is essential for success, according to Ammar Mirza, Founder and Executive Chair of Asian Business Connexions CIC. Here, he shares his thoughts on encouraging Asian entrepreneurs, the best business models and why he chose to be an ambassador for the Go Further Investment Index.

Tell us a bit about your background and what you do now?

I started my career in London working for the British Council, but soon got home sick and missed the North East. Having returned after a year, I started working as a temporary worker in a call centre, where I worked my way up, becoming a call centre manager. I then moved across to IT, where I became responsible for IT service delivery for the whole of the UK.

But once again, I became home sick and tired of living out of a suitcase. I came back to the North East and for the past 20 years have helped hundreds of organisations start, survive and thrive.

In 2009 I set up Asian Business Connexions as a not-for-profit social enterprise, which has grown to become the foremost representative body in the North East and Tees Valley.

Over the past 10 years I have invested in a number of businesses and developed international links, helping create bilateral trade opportunities with the Middle East, Turkey, India, Pakistan and more recently the Netherlands.

I have a deep interest in innovation and enterprise education, and my SME Centre of Excellence (CofE) delivers some of the foremost accelerator, scale-up and investor readiness programmes, working collaboratively with a range of world class experts and enterprise agencies. I work across all sectors helping organisations sustainably scale globally.


What is your favourite piece of business advice that you have been given?

The best bit of advice I was given was to make sure you access the best advice available as early as possible. We all-too-often assume we can do everything ourselves as entrepreneurs or business owners, which is clearly not the case.


What improvements have you seen in investment opportunities and support for Asian entrepreneurs in the last five years and what more needs to be done to encourage Asian communities to realise their entrepreneurial talent?   

While there have been some improvements in investment opportunities for Asian communities, there remains a clear lack of understanding on specific needs, including cultural considerations. However, Asians are traditionally highly enterprising and will do all they can to start and grow a business, working tirelessly to do so.

Structural support tends to offer a one-size-fits-all approach. Providing tailored dedicated support, developed and delivered in partnership with those that have lived experience, will enable more Asians to realise their entrepreneurial talent.


What are your top tips, or what resources do you recommend to help start-ups find the right business model?      

As an innovation and business model expert, I use a broad range of tools and have developed my own toolkits to help start-ups establish the right business model to succeed.

These include Business Model Canvas, Scale-up, Business Model Navigator, Value Proposition, and Service Design Tools, to name but a few. My own Power of 3 methodology has been used by hundreds of organisations to thrive.  

As I am constantly innovating and improving, I believe there is no one approach that is suited to everyone. That is why all of the support I offer is tailored, demand-led and person-centred, based on the three biggest growth enablers – digital transformation, innovation and internationalisation.


Why did you become an ambassador for the Go Further Investment Index?

The Go Further Index provides an ideal platform to showcase and share growth stories from some great businesses. It acts as a beacon to encourage individuals and organisations to come together, collaborate and celebrate. It is a pleasure to be asked to be an ambassador and I look forward to the campaign growing and making an impact.

Ammar Mirza CBE is the Founder and Executive Chair of Asian Business Connexions CIC. He is also Chair of the Business Growth Board and SME representative on the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (NELEP) Main Board, and President of the Federation of Asian Business. Ammar is a Fellow of the Institute of Leadership & Management (FInstLM), and Royal Society of Arts (FRSA).

Appointed a CBE in 2014 for outstanding services to business and the community, Ammar has been consistently recognised across the UK for his tireless efforts in supporting and promoting trade and industry. His awards include British Asian Entrepreneur of the Year 2019, Maserati top 100 Entrepreneur, Williams and Glyn top 50, Institute of Directors Special Judges Award, and British Community Honours Award.

The Go Further Investment Index is an opportunity to engage, showcase and celebrate progressive businesses who are pushing through and achieving their aspirations through access to investment, impactful collaborations, and the foresight to inform and respond to the changing world around them.

It is open to Northern Powerhouse and Scotland-based businesses of all sizes and from all sectors, but we are particularly interested in businesses operating within bio-science, health tech, clean energy, decarbonisation, circular economy, data and digitisation, space and satellite, tech, AI and advanced manufacturing.

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Neina Sheldon
Article by Neina Sheldon
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