DOI: JEL codes: L26 /

Received 29 September 2018; Revised 6 January 2019; Accepted 27 February 2019

Mark McPherson, Ph.D., The Department for Marketing, Branding and Tourism, Middlesex University Business School, The Burroughs, Hendon, Middlesex, NW4 4BT, UK, e-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Literature pertaining to ethnic entrepreneurship assumes that religious-cultural and generational factors espouse the intention and ability of the entrepreneur towards business development. And by way of business growth and development, such entrepreneurs should breakout from their local ethnic customer base to service a wider non-ethnic customer base. In reality, many ethnic entrepreneurs lack the resources, the motivation, the ability and/or intention to do this. Consequently, the development and success of the business become hampered. To this end, working within a context of ethnic entrepreneurship, the aim of this paper is to examine the notion that entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity inform business growth, development and how the entrepreneur defines the success thereof. Addressing this, 48 semi-structured interviews and 11 comparative case studies were conducted with first- and second-generation South Asian Sikh, Hindu and Pakistani Muslim entrepreneurs within Greater London. A phenomenological paradigm was adopted, with key-words-in-context used to analyze data. Findings note there is no evidence of genuine breakout. Instead, what defines business development and growth is three approaches: (i) content to remain, (ii) forced to remain, and (iii) struggling to adjust. Hindered are attempts to increase the customer and market base beyond that of local clients. Additionally, differences and success between the two generations are reflective of sectorial location, intention, ability and skill-sets, rather than generational or cultural influences. Essentially, the paper presents an alternative view of how entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity facilitate or inhibit small business growth and success. However, given the sample-frame and, socio-economic environment within Greater London, findings may not be generalizable. In conclusion, debate pertaining to ethnic entrepreneurship needs to be re-examined; because placing emphasis on culture, religion, ethnicity and generation may be misleading researchers as to the true nature of business requirements, problems and support for ethnic entrepreneurs.

Keywords: ethnic entrepreneurs, breakout, motivation, intention


The term ‘think non-ethnic, but act ethnic’ was coined by a London-based Sikh second-generation entrepreneur. Here, the entrepreneur was illustrating the point that many ethnic businesses like to think they are operating similarly to mainstream UK businesses. However, in reality, they act and display certain cultural nuances that define them as an ethnic business. For example, selling ethnic products/services to ethnic customers/markets, and using ethnic community networks from which to draw finance, labor, resources, et cetera (Ram, 1997; Ram, Ford, & Hillin, 1997; Ram & Jones, 2008). Essentially, literature notes that the objectives of the firm tend to be synonymous with those of the owner, and entrepreneurial characteristics and behavior are displayed in the managerial practices employed in running the business. This applies particularly to family-owned small businesses (Glancey, Greig, & Pettigrew, 1998; Korunka, Frank, Lueger, & Mugler, 2003). As Covin, Green and Slevin (2006); Glancey et al. (1998) point out, these factors and influences can be seen not only through the entrepreneurs’ personal attributes and orientation which determine his/her motivation, objectives, learning process, and strategic decision-making; but they determine the firm’s eventual performance also. Therefore, the whole process hitherto is mediated through the market/environment in which the entrepreneur operates, and the managerial practices that s/he employs.

When this conceptual distinction is considered within an ethnic small business context (the terms ethnic entrepreneur, ethnic small business, or ethnic minority firms will not be rehearsed here as all are well documented), it helps determine entrepreneurial intent on one level and, motivation and aspirations of the ethnic entrepreneur on another level (Binks & Vale, 1990; Landstrom, 1998; Morris, Pitt, & Berthon, 1996). Extending this point further, there is an assumption within ethnic small business literature that religious-cultural and generational factors espouse the intention and ability of the entrepreneur towards business development, particularly within traditional industry sectors such as clothes/grocery shops, restaurants and the like. Moreover, ethnic minority firms should, by way of a mechanism for growth and development, breakout from their local ethnic base to service mainstream markets (Ram & Jones, 2008). In reality many of these ethnic firms service either local ethnic clients or a mix of local ethnic and local non-ethnic clients. In addition, many of these firms lack the resources or necessary support, or are too internally focused, inflexible or fearful of change to move beyond a certain stage of the business life cycle (Barn & McPherson, 2001; Curran & Blackburn, 1993; Dahles, 2010; McPherson, 2010; Ram, 1997; Ram, Ford, & Hillin, 1997; Ram & Jones, 2008). Despite this, literature notes the emergence of a new breed of second-generation South-Asian entrepreneurs with a new way of thinking (Discussion Paper and Evaluation Report, 1997). For example, these entrepreneurs are seen to be moving away from traditional clothing and food retailing sectors with their very long hours and low pay, into the services and professions with their emphasis on quick returns and prestige (Barrett, Jones, McEvoy, & McGoldrick, 2002; Discussion Paper and Evaluation Report, 1997; McCarthy, 2002; McPherson, 2004; Ram, 1999; Ram & Cater, 2001; Smallbone, Bertotti, & Ekanem, 2003; Tann, 1998). Even within the usually strong confines of an ethnic family business, there appears to be a noticeable shift in attitudes. Again such entrepreneurs are willing to risk some form of retribution by employing workers from outside the family or co-ethnic group (Chell & Baines, 2000).

With the above firmly in mind, working from a generational South Asian perspective and within the respondents own frame of reference, the aim of this paper is to examine the notion that entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity inform business growth, development and how the entrepreneur defines the success thereof. Thus, the paper offers insight into the implications of the respondents’ goals and aspirations and how these reflect business success, growth or otherwise, and management practices (Arcand 2012; Gratton, 1994; McPherson, 2007, 2008; Priporas & Vangelinos 2008; Wind 1981). In essence, the outcome of this approach will contribute to our understanding in terms of how entrepreneurial ‘intention, ability and opportunity’ is considered within business growth or factors that may inhibit growth. And, whether as a collective, these factors manifest into breakout and eventual convergence with the mainstream business population or not. The paper begins with a review of literature in terms of entrepreneurial intention, ability, and opportunity, growth and inhibitors. Customer and market proximity thesis, namely, the four hypothetical market spaces of customer ethnicity and customer proximity follow this and ends the review. Next, the research strategy is explained, along with an overview of the respondents. Findings compare first and second generation male South Asian respondents (Sikhs, Hindus and Pakistani Muslims) in relation to the key concepts under discussion. Discussion and Conclusions bring the paper to a close.


Literature notes that an entrepreneur’s personal attributes determine his/her motivation and objectives, and this, in turn, determines the firm’s performance (Glancey et al., 1998). Consequently, the objectives of SMEs and micro businesses tend to be synonymous with those of the owner. Whereas, entrepreneurial characteristics and behavior, are displayed in the managerial practices employed in running a firm (Glancey et al., 1998). As a case-in-point, Mavondo, Chimhanzi and Stewart (2005) stress that coordinating HRM practices (recruitment/selection, appraisal, development, rewards, and strategy) and Marketing Strategy can be instrumental in achieving organizational goals, business effectiveness and efficiency, adaptability, and profitability (Chimhanzi & Morgan, 2005).

Exploring this notion further, Sadler-Smith, Hampson, Chaston and Badger (2003) suggest that there is in existence some form of the three-way relationship between entrepreneurial style, managerial behavior, and firm type. Namely, how entrepreneurs or small business managers in different kinds of firms behave - utilizing competences and key areas of business performance - in order to manage their type of firm (high growth versus low growth). This view is coupled with the fact that individual differences in personality style do have a significant impact on overall management behavior (Sadler-Smith et al., 2003). By this it is meant, much of the previous literature considers the terms entrepreneur and business owner or owner-manager equivalent and interchangeable (Binks & Vale, 1990; Chell & Haworth, 1992; Glancey, 1998; Hatten & Coulter, 1997; Landstrom, 1998; Morris et al., 1996). Equally, some authors emphasize entrepreneurial distinctiveness with reference to strategic decision-making activities (Hatten & Coulter, 1997; Poon, Ainuddin, & Junit, 2006). Entrepreneurs, therefore, are distinguished by their aptitude to innovate, to make strategic decisions regarding the allocation of scarce resources, to create firms with the potential to achieve not only some form of competitive edge but also to generate high levels of profit and growth. Such activities are reflected in the type of venture created, and their small size and focused strategies allow their structures to remain simple so their leaders can retain tight control and maneuver flexibility (Hatten & Coulter, 1997; Poon et al., 2006).

Not all business owners, entrepreneurs or owner-managers are aggressive or visionary. By-and-large, many settle down to pursue survival strategies in small local niches, for example, corner shops, local restaurants, the town’s bakery and, regional wholesalers (Barrett, Jones, & McEvoy, 2001; Deakins, 1996). Thus, small business managers or owners perform routine tasks and often display little ambition to expand their business (Deakins, 1996; Glancey, 1998; Glancey et al., 1998; Mintzberg & Quinn, 1992; Morris et al., 1996). Typically, they are more personally and family orientated and managed, than professionally orientated; and may be characterized as low-risk/low-return enterprises principally concerned with generating a lifestyle for the owner (Deakins, 1996; Glancey, 1998; Mintzberg & Quinn, 1992).

Interestingly, Jones and Ram (2013) point to the need to understand the rising conflicts of interest along generational lines. As the authors go onto suggest, these issues are to some extent ‘glossed over’ or ‘omitted’ altogether. Therefore, this raises the question, what do we truly know about the generational impact on the motivation and intentions of the entrepreneur to influence the collective abilities of the business, as well as, the positive and/or negative translation of opportunities? In an attempt to address this question, literature notes that a number of different approaches to business development adopted by Chinese, Afro-Caribbean, and South Asian business entrepreneurs were evident. And although these businesses and groups appear similar in terms of a ‘low order value and local market’ mentality, debate still remains ‘migrant’ focused.

Contrary to this, there is a small but growing acknowledgment of an emergence of a new breed of highly educated, highly motivated, well-qualified British-born South Asians - mainly Indians (Carter et al., 2015; Ram & Jones, 2008). Again, studies indicate that these entrepreneurs seem disinclined to replicate the trajectory of the first generation espoused by low order retail/catering/wholesale. Instead, they use their intense human capital and knowledge and expertise which collectively, accounts for more than money to establish themselves within certain sectors of the New Economy (Ram & Jones, 2008).

Growth and inhibiting factors

Literature offers an interesting dichotomy in that, to understand the overall management, and business development adopted by entrepreneurs, it is necessary to ‘examine the need relationship between the goals of the entrepreneur and the objectives of the organization (Chaston & Mangles, 2002).’ Jarvise (2015); Morrison, Breen and Ali (2003) support this view with the suggestion that entrepreneurial ‘intention, ability and opportunity’ should be considered within the notion of either growth or factors that may inhibit growth. Therefore, the motivations and intentions of entrepreneurs, and the way they interpret their economic and social worlds is pivotal in the orientation of the business. This in itself impacts on the collective abilities of the business and the positive and/or negative translation of opportunities (Morrison et al., 2003). Kirkley (2016) identifies four specific values that are believed to be critical to the motivation of entrepreneurial behavior and goal setting. Here, Kirkley suggests independence, creativity, ambition and daring are consistent with that attributed to self-determinism, self-efficacy and the identity of participants associated with entrepreneurship.

Wickham (2004) joins the debate by arguing that from an entrepreneurial perspective, it is the possibility of success that drives and motivates an individual to enter entrepreneurship (the pull of business opportunities as opposed to the push theory). As such, Wickham (2004) suggests success can best be understood in terms of four interacting aspects: (i) the performance of the venture, (ii) the people who have expectations from the said venture, (iii) the nature of those expectations, and (iv) the actual outcomes relative to expectations. Although these four aspects are important to our understanding of entrepreneurial motivation, some authors emphasize that success is multifaceted so making it a difficult concept to define (Rogoff, Lee, & Suh, 2004; Walker & Brown, 2004; Wickham, 2004). As a result, any measure of success should include (i) hard indicators such as: financial/sales performance, employee numbers et cetera, and/or (ii) soft qualitative criteria, for instance, personal level experience/lifestyle and social/self-development (Rogoff et al., 2004; Walker & Brown, 2004; Wickham, 2004).

Despite financial and non-financial criteria being used to judge success, it is the latter that are deemed more important than wealth creation (Walker & Brown, 2004). The assumption that all entrepreneurs want or need to grow their businesses has to be challenged, as some non-financial criteria to measure business success beyond that of a conventional economic paradigm for growth, are increasingly recognised (McCann, Leon-Guerrero, & Haley, 2001; Morrison et al., 2003; Walker & Brown, 2004). Thus, many small businesses have little interest in growth or financial gain, and wealth creation is not always a primary goal or motivator (Morrison et al., 2003; Walker & Brown 2004). To illustrate the point, McCann et al. (2001) draw upon the Miles and Snow (1978) typology (defender, prospector, analyzer and reactor) in their study of 231 family firms in the USA. In this regard, McCann et al. (2001) found that goal setting and building an effective management and employee team in the first instance, with long-term profitability a secondary consideration, were themselves indicators of success. Short-term profitability and individual wealth creation were placed 12th and 16th respectively in their list of 16 individual/family and business goals. Similarly, Ejidenberg (2016), concluded that neither entrepreneurial motivation nor entrepreneurial orientation has a significant effect on the development of personal wealth creation.

Essentially, an entrepreneur’s judgment relative to growth is subject to how closely his/her intentions, ability and opportunities are aligned to their objective-setting possibilities (Morrison et al., 2003). In this context, according to Deakins, Ishaq, Smallbone, Whittam and Wyper (2005); Morrison et al. (2003) aims and objectives vis-à-vis success factors are a convergence of:

  • owner-manager/entrepreneurial ambitions, intentions and competencies;
  • actions and ability of ‘principal players’;
  • internal organizational factors;
  • satisfactory performance and business direction;
  • region-specific resources and infrastructure;
  • market conditions/trading sectors;
  • competition;
  • government interventions;
  • external relationships and network configuration.

Customer and market proximity

Strategies adopted by ethnic minority businesses to access particular customer markets have a tendency to focus on one of four areas: (i) ethnic niche marketing - the supply of goods and services within their own communities, (ii) occupation of markets left by the indigenous population, (iii) acting as an intermediary, or finally [with very few firms ever achieving what Ram and Jones (2008) describe as ‘ultimate breakout’ market – entirely mainstream custom confined neither by locality or ethnic membership] (iv) the supply of ethnic products/services to indigenous markets (Aldrich, Jones, & McEvoy, 1984; Basi & Johnson, 1996; Basu. 1995; Deakins, 1996; de Vries, 2012; Dhaliwal & Amin, 1995; Liao, 1992; Ram, 1997, 1997a; Ram & Hillin, 1994; Ram & Jones, 1998; Ram & Jones, 2008; Ward, 1987; Ward & Jenkins, 1984).

Certainly with regards to point (iv), Curran and Blackburn (1993); Ram, Ford and Hillin (1997) have shown that breakout, in the context of ethnic minority firms, is more than simply servicing white markets as opposed to a reliance upon co-ethnic markets (de Vries, 2012). As such, Barn and McPherson (2001); Ram et al. (1997) offer four firm types that display varying degrees of breakout, namely, (i) staying put or (ii) forced to remain: reliance upon co-ethnic customers, located in areas unlikely to grow, susceptible to considerable competition, Little opportunity to differentiate services, owners not capable of securing growth, but would like to; (iii) Struggling to adjust: prospects for business development brighter, opportunities contingent upon internal adjustments, reluctance of owners to cede control-succession issues; finally an option generally overlooked within ethnic small firms literature is the notion of (iv) Content to remain, owners not wanting change, retirement without stress, and no succession issues. In essence, these key characteristics and business types (which focus on established enterprises) allow one to understand both the nature of different firms, and where dependency is reliant on a co-ethnic market and breakout represents specified criteria.

However, by incorporating the customer ethnicity/customer proximity (location of business in relation to the firm’s customer base) dichotomy faced by very many ethnic entrepreneurs. Such notions add to the debate espoused by Jones, Barrett and McEvoy (1999), whereby the authors argue that whilst the market is a decisive component of opportunity structure, the customer is pivotal (de Vries, 2012; Todorovic & Ma, 2008). Jones et al. (1999) elaborate on their interpretation of the customer and market by presenting a cross-classification of customer ethnicity and customer proximity. This interpretation results in four hypothetical market spaces: (i) Local ethnic activity, type, size and performance is constrained by localism as well as ethnicity, (ii) Local non-ethnic (middleman niche): relatively easy to enter, constrained to low order sectors by neighborhood effects, however, firms are subjected to racism and customer shrinkage, (iii) ethnic non-local: a high-level market containing ethnic minority firms. For instance, high order retail outlets, self-employed professionals, accountants, etc. Such firms continue to sell mainly to their own co-ethnics but over a much wider geographical area. The ethnic network is retained but without the neighborhood constraints. Finally, is (iv) non-ethnic, non-local: here activity is unbounded on all sides and represents a genuinely mainstream market (Jones et al., 1999).

To summarize, throughout the discussion thus far it is suggested that consideration needs to be given to the fact ethnic minority businesses differ sharply from their mainstream counterparts due to some of the following features, as noted by Iyer and Shapiro (1999):

  • Identity: ethnic identity provides much of the social and business fabric of the ethnic community;
  • Processes: ethnic entrepreneurs rely on surrogate modes of venture capital generation and ethnic supply sources to achieve strong horizontal cooperation among businesses that reflect ethnic cohesion, community solidarity and informal networks;
  • Competitive stance: ethnic businesses compete on the basis of lowering prices, building long-term relationships with consumers and by keeping turnover high;
  • Structure: decisions relating to business entry and location are based on prior experience of the community;
  • Workforce: they employ co-ethnic employees to promote prosperity and collective values within the community;
  • Role models: they fuel entrepreneurial ambitions and activity, and extend a helping hand to fellow ethnic members in terms of offering training and knowledge resources.

To this end, the paper aims to examine the notion that entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity inform business growth, development and how the entrepreneur defines the success thereof. To achieve this aim the paper addresses two research questions: To what extent does intention, ability, motivation, and business aspirations of the respondent impact on: (i) business practices and success, as defined by the respondent? (ii) the customer and market proximity thesis by way of business growth and development? These questions will allow an appreciation of the sentiment to ‘think non-ethnic but act ethnic.’


The research design used in this paper (which is part of a wider study) did not concern itself with testing theory, but generating/building theory (through exploratory research) from data. This approach was adopted in order to produce insight and enhance an understanding of ethnic entrepreneurship from a first and second-generation perspective (Priporas & Polmenidis, 2008; Priporas & Vangelinos, 2008). Consequently, the investigation was conducted within a phenomenological paradigm to help achieve its stated aim (as noted earlier). Given the acceptance that reality is socially constructed rather than objectively determined (Remenyi, 1995); working within such a paradigm allowed much more complicated situations to be examined. As such, the chosen methodology presented an opportunity to appreciate, understand and explain the different constructs and meanings each informant placed on his particular experience (Hussey & Hussey, 1997; Malholtra, 1996; Remenyi, 1995; Scott & Rosa, 1997).

To conduct the investigation, in-depth semi-structured interviews (with accompanying prompts) and case comparative study methods (semi-structured interviews, observer-as-participant and documentary evidence) were considered appropriate tools to use (Priporas & Polmenidis, 2008; Priporas, Vassiliadis, & Stylos, 2012). Such tools were developed (questions and the interview schedule), tested and re-assessed before being used. In addition, various documents had been developed and used in order to record and cross-reference many aspects of the world under investigation. Each interview, on average, lasted 90–120 minutes, with two interviews lasting 3 hours 30 minutes. In addition to the interview process, the study selected 11 businesses to make up the multiple (comparative) case-study stage of the research (Yin, 1989) – see Table 1 below.

In terms of the sample size, informants were selected from a variety of industrial sectors situated within the Greater London area. In total 48 entrepreneurs (representing 33 firms) were interviewed. Informants consisted of 10 first- and 38 second-generation Sikh, Hindu and Pakistani Muslim entrepreneurs from both family and non-family owned businesses. Interviewing all 48 informants was deemed necessary and considered a safety mechanism should the case study phase fail to materialize due to its aspect of ‘voluntary selection.’ Within the context of a family business (FB), there was a need to understand whether the ‘father figure’ and/or ‘family’ informed business practices adopted by the said second-generation entrepreneurs. This notion was also explored with second-generation informants from non-family business (NFB) backgrounds in order to establish whether the lack of influence from both family and father had a detrimental effect on business practices and success.

For the purposes of comparison and discussion, two key groups of second-generation informant were identified and used (as noted in Table 1). Thus: (i) 19 informants involved within the family-owned business (FB), and working alongside the founder (father), and (ii) 19 informants from a non-family business (NFB) background and managing a business established by himself and/or with a business partner. Parents of these particular informants were not involved with self-employment and instead worked in mainstream employment or otherwise. This aspect was considered important as people with successfully self-employed parents have to their advantage access to financial resources and skills directly relevant to starting a business (Rosa, 1993). To complement the interview process, the study selected 11 businesses (see Table 2 below) to make up the multiple comparative case study stage. This provided the author with an opportunity to be embedded within these firms. Duration within each case-firm ranged from 7 to 20 months (approximately 10 months full-time equivalent). All cases were conducted within the work location of each informant. Given the nature of the study, access to various informants was negotiated via a combination of purposive sampling, snowballing sampling, referrals and/or some form of exchange process – see Table 1.

Background of the interviewees

With regards to the first-generation (n = 10), informants identified themselves as male Sikh, Hindu or Pakistani Muslim, approximately 50 years of age or above and residing within the UK. Due to certain push factors (such as labor market obstacles and lack of employment opportunities, discrimination and the like) informants had established the family business within the UK and maintained direct control over the said business. Age of businesses ranged from 8 years to 40 years. As expected informants operated within low order catering and retailing, and all employed immediate and extended family members. This employment situation was consistent with existing ethnic family business literature.

Additionally, the study interviewed Sikh, Hindu and Pakistani Muslim second-generation male entrepreneurs (n = 38), aged between 20–40 years old and who were either born in or moved to the UK.

Table 1. Semi-structure interviews and comparative case-study phases


1st Generation

2nd Generation




Pakistani Muslim



Pakistani Muslim



Semi-Structured Interview Phase

























Comparative Case-Study Phase

























Informants born overseas were included as migration occurred before the age of 12 years (Andall, 2002; Chan & Lin Pang, 1998; Janjuha & Dickson, 1998, 1998a; Portes, Fernandez-Kelly, & Haller, 2005; Portes & Rumbaut, 2005; Waldinger & Feliciano, 2004). The second-generation (n = 38) were found operating businesses across a number of sectors. For instance, low order catering and retailing (CTNs, clothes, specialist outlets – computers sales, electrical goods/services), professional services (employment agencies and business and management consultancies), and IT/High Technical Services.

To explore the aspirations, goals, entrepreneurial intent, motivation, et cetera of the respondents, findings are organized around four categories identified by CEEDR, (2000), namely: (i) business growth, (ii) stability, (iii) survival, and (iv) exit/managing for retirement. In addition, working within the parameters appertaining to firm size, levels of informality/formality as well as strategic fit, businesses were arranged by sector, then separated into two key headings (as alluded to above): traditional firms - consisting of retail/wholesale, catering, building suppliers and so forth; or emergent firms (developed out of knowledge and technical advancement/the new economy) - consisting of IT technical services, communications, professional services, et cetera. The inclusion of culture, religion and identity notes that the paper sought to provide insight into the extent to which these inform business practices on a personal and professional level (Bacon & Hoque, 2005; Brush & Monolova, 2002; CEEDR, 2000; Edelman, Brush, & Monolova, 2002; Harney & Dundon, 2006; Kotey & Slade, 2005; Marlow, 1992; Ram & Holiday, 1993; Ram & Smallbone, 2001; Ram, Smallbone, Deakins, Baldock, Fletcher, & Jones, 2002).

Data analysis

In terms of the various methods used for managing and analyzing qualitative data, Ryan and Bernard (2000) distinguish between two traditions, the linguistic tradition, which treats texts as an object of analysis itself, and the sociological tradition, which treats text as a window into the human experience. This paper acknowledges the useful contribution to research linguistic tradition provides. However, the focus of this discussion, is on sociological tradition, specifically, written text. Thus, Ryan and Barnard (2000) state that there are two kinds of written texts, (a) words or phrases generated by techniques for systematic elicitation, and (b) free-flowing texts such as narratives, discourse, and responses to open-ended interview questions. Consequently, it is with the latter part (b) that this paper is concerned, and the technique used for analyzing such data gathered from the field research is keywords in context (KWIC).

KWIC, as Ryan and Barnard (2000) highlight, finds all the places in a text where a particular word or phrase appears and prints it out in the context of some number of words before and after it. At the heart of this technique is coding - tags or labels for assigning units of meaning to the descriptive or inferential information compiled during the study (Miles & Huberman 1994). Therefore, codes were attached to ‘chunks’ of the text of varying sizes (in this instance whole sentences) in order to connect or un-connect keywords or phrases within specific settings/context (Miles & Huberman 1994; Malholtra, 1996) see appendix one - key themes and constructs).

In essence, as far as this paper is concerned, data gleaned from content analysis involved the analysis of: (i) the taped semi-structured interviews, (ii) written field notes, (iii) observations, (iv) critical incidents, and (v) documentary evidence and archival records (paper and electronic) held by the respondent under investigation (each had its own particular proforma to record evidence). Consequently, to identify salient features such as decision-making and management ability, the paper used an analytical procedure termed pattern-matching logic (Yin 1994; Saunders, Lewis, & Thornhill, 2000). Essentially, this involved the process of establishing links by comparing and contrasting issues ‘found within the data’ with that of theoretical propositions set out in this paper (see appendix one – key themes and constructs). Therefore, this approach to analysis proved fruitful on two levels. On the first level, pattern-matching analysis highlighted similarities and differences between those within the research frame. On the second level, as suggested earlier, the procedure helped discover commonality and difference within emergent themes.


Findings for this current paper suggest that the notion of ‘think non-ethnic but act ethnic’ is prevalent throughout the study. The rationale for this statement is found in the way respondents translate personal and organizational goals into management practices, and how such practices are then conducted - so leading to failure by respondents to connect functions and actions. Moreover, findings indicate that aims and objectives set by the various respondents and their realization reflect whether the firm is traditional or emergent; and such aims and objectives, along with business sector, inform the mind-set of the respondent towards his respective business, and how best to manage that business. Exploring this line of inquiry the following became evident.

Business aspirations of the respondents

First-generation entrepreneurs are situated within low-order retail/wholesale and catering sectors. A majority of second-generation ethnic entrepreneurs are located in new dynamic emergent firms that rely more on class (knowledge, skills, education, et cetera) than ethnic resources to operate. Moreover, such firms do not require additional capital at start-up and are less labor-intensive than businesses established by their first-generation counterparts (Chan & Lin Pang, 1998; Peters, 2002; Rogoff et al., 2004; Wickham, 2004). Therefore, sector location may be just one aspect that determines entrepreneurial aspirations and business behavior (Ram et al., 2002). Exploring this notion, respondents were asked what they thought their aspirations for their particular business were likely to be in short to medium term (within the next five years). The reason behind this line of questioning was to ascertain the drive, impetus and energy of the respondent to make the business success (as defined by respondents).

Evidence suggests that there is very little difference between both generations with regards to their hopes and aspirations (business growth, stability, managing for retirement/exit or survival (CEEDR, 2000). Other than one second-generation respondent who expressed a desire to sell his business in order to be involved more with personal religious/Islamic pursuits. Beyond this, there was no evidence of religion or ethnicity having an impact on the overall aims and objective setting. When responses to questions were categorized and analyzed in relation to the four main occupational areas in which respondents are located, a series of distinctive characteristics emerged.

(i) Growth

Twenty-two of the 48 respondents had aspirations for growth, included were second-generation respondents from emergent firms and a small number of first- and second-generation from traditional firms. Essentially, findings note that growth is very much reflective of the sectors in which these firms operate. Consequently, for the majority of respondents, the aims and objectives expressed appear to be underpinned by optimism about future growth prospects and, motivation towards remaining within entrepreneurship.

The first-generation

Respondents claim their objectives over the next 3-4 years are to embark on a series of planned outlet/restaurant openings, whilst increasing capacity within the short term. The medium-term approach, although requiring some form of capital outlay, appears to suit first-generation respondents given: (a) the longevity of their particular businesses and, (b) their declaration that they have no intention of moving out of their current business sector. This attitude is put down to the fact that although literature suggests the industry is at saturation point, respondents believe growth is still obtainable via new related business areas such as corporate hospitality, ‘one-stop shop Asian catering services’ and the like. In addition, respondents intend to capitalize on their current situation, as this affords them time to raise necessary funds via short-term increases in capacity before making the switch to formal methods of obtaining money. This approach sits with findings highlighted by Deakins et al. (2005), whereby they noticed that even in traditional sectors entrepreneurs were able to achieve growth via a number of niches and related diversification strategies.

The second generation

Second-generation respondents from traditional firms declared similar ambitions, namely short-to-medium term capacity/product portfolio building. Those from emergent firms claim they are not risk-averse, but they do appear to adopt a more cautious approach to business development. Thus, respondents feel such aims and objectives are achievable within the medium term (2–5 years) as opposed to rushing head-on into short-termism (2–18 months). Respondents appear to reserve short-term aims for the day-to-day development of the business and its supporting infrastructure. When second-generation respondents from emergent firms are compared with their first- and second-generation counterparts from traditional firms, findings note they are not capital intensive and do not require considerable amounts of investment. Instead, they require the acquisition of knowledge and skills as the pre-requisite for growth. This situation reflects (see Table 2) their indicated aims and objectives, namely, skill-sets of the respondents, age of the respondent and his respective business, and business set-up and the market conditions in which the respondent operates.

Table 2. Aims and objectives for growth



2–18 months


2–5 years

Traditional 1st & 2nd Gen

Emergent 2nd Gen

Main characteristics

To improve and increase the business – capacity and volume



To open additional outlets


To locate within new geographical areas



To target mainstream businesses



To diversify current product/service provision


To expand current product/service provision



To build/expand current customer portfolio



To enter new business sectors



To build the brand


To build a business infrastructure


To become a specialist business


To become financially independent


To exploit future growth in emergent e-markets


To become an international organization


To increase revenue


To increase workforce


Note: 22 respondents, n = 48; * = Short and medium term.

(ii) Stability

Eight of the 48 respondents point to a number of changes, including increased competition, lower consumer spending and the impact of government legislation, taking place within their particular sectors that appear to have a detrimental effect on their business. Of these eight, only four are “optimistic about the future” and believe they have the ability “to turn things (the business) around.” Despite this level of optimism, all eight respondents went on to indicate that they had no aspirations beyond maintaining some form of stability for the firm in the short-term (2–18 months). Behind this notion, respondents felt that growth within such volatile business environments would be highly unlikely at present. On further exploration of this attitude, what emerged was very little difference in terms of aims and objectives between all eight respondents (see Table 3). This theme, common to all, is based more on sector (emergent or traditional) than generation or ethnicity.

Consequently, all eight respondents appear to channel efforts towards day-to-day operations of the business. Thus, concentrating on short-term cost saving/rationalization strategies/risk-free goals than anything else. Such an approach, as respondents suggest, affords them the stability needed without incurring additional costs.

Table 3. Aims and objectives for stability



2–18 months


2–5 years

Traditional 1st & 2nd Gen

Emergent 2nd Gen

Main characteristics

To increase average spend


To reduce the workforce – cost savings



To harvest current market


To give the business a ‘face lift’


To increase product range


To rationalize current service offering



Note: 8 respondents, n = 48; * = Short and medium term.

(iii) Survival

Six first- and second-generation respondents dominated by retail and catering indicate growth is no longer a viable option due to the markets being saturated (see Table 4). For these respondents, the need for business survival by staving off the threat of competition and circumventing certain legal restrictions (changes in retail and catering legal requirements, non-compliance with labor laws, et cetera) appears to be the main priority and practice, certainly for the short-term. The situation faced by these particular respondents reinforces the notion wherein entrepreneurs are “trapped” in locations and markets that experience low consumer spending, as well as, yielding a low propensity to grow (Curran & Blackburn, 1993; Ram & Smallbone, 2001, 2003; Ram et al., 2002). As Gartner and Bhat (2000) note, there is a correlation between location/markets and ethnicity of the business owner. Moreover, such factors are key influences on the owner’s expectation of the firm’s performance and future growth, not to mention his ability to remain motivated.

Table 4. Aims and objectives for survival



2–18 months


2–5 years

Traditional 1st & 2nd Gen

Emergent 2nd Gen

Main characteristics

To wait and see, then react


To stay one step ahead of competitors



To keep the business afloat



To survive the best one can and for as long as one can


Note: 6 respondents, n = 48; * = Short and medium term.

(iv) Exit Strategies

Similar to the conditions noted immediately above, a very small number of first- and second-generation respondents from retail and catering are considering exit strategies which involve them seeing out the remaining days of the business. Here respondents indicate that such exit strategies entail selling off/leasing the business as a going concern, or allowing the business to come to its natural end without plans for a revival. Table 5 highlights various exit strategies considered by respondents.

Defining success

Taking the sections above a step further, the paper wished to establish what indicators all respondents used to define success. The rationale for this is that, although a number of respondents considered growth to be a viable option, there were just as many respondents who felt trapped in locations and markets with a low propensity for growth. Given this, the paper explored the impact such aspiration would have on the owner’s expectation of the firm’s performance and his ability to remain motivated. As a result, three key indicators emerged from the data findings: financial, business and personal (Table 6).

In essence, a number of first- and second-generation respondents from retail/wholesale and catering (stability, survival and exit) suggest that over the years their aims and objectives have not been realized. As evidence goes onto a note, this lack of realization is due to rising business costs, labor shortages, and increased competition.

Table 5. Strategies for exit



2–18 months


2–5 years

Traditional 1st & 2nd Gen

Emergent 2nd Gen

Main Characteristics

A willingness to retire



To prepare business for succession



To sell the business as a viable going concern



To sell the business due to a loss of personal interest and commitment in the business



Would like to run own business



Would like precedence given to personal situation (change in family situation)


Would like to pursue personal goals


Note: 5 respondents, n = 48;* = Short and medium term.

Therefore, respondents have resigned themselves to the current situation by using management practices that reflect short-term business and personal success indicators. As one first-generation Pakistani respondent remarked:

“It has not worked out to exactly what I wanted it to as basically after thirteen years I should have at least thirteen brasseries, but I have only one.

In terms of motivation, a number of contrasting situations are found. For instance, second-generation respondents who appeared to be working within a family business are the least motivated and are keen to get out of the family business rather than commit to it being a success. This is in contrast to a number of first- and second-generation respondents, whereby greater emphasis is placed on long-term business and personal security via moderate, planned and sustainable business growth. This reassures respondents that they are to meet if not exceed any financial obligations (payment of debts, providing a home for the family). Despite many second-generation respondents from emergent firms who view profitability in the medium to long-term to be a measure of luxury, many appear to gravitate towards factors reflecting business and financial success at the expense of personal success. Once again, this reflects the motivation and reasons for entering entrepreneurship.

Table 6. Success indicators




Traditional 2nd Gen

Emergent 2nd Gen


Ability to meet cost

Paying bills/debts

Paying employee wages


Increase in turnover compared with previous year(s)


Cash generation


Being paid by customer/client


Achieving projected funding




Gross profits




Turning a percentage of initial enquiries into sales



Ability to sustain the business/volume of business


Achieving growth – increase in the business compared with previous year(s)/continued growth/obtaining new business

Maintaining/increasing the flow of orders/outflow of goods


Ability to deliver/speed of delivery /reduce turnaround time


Increased awareness of the business/offering


Completion of business deals/number of contracts


Achieving brand-recognition


Through market awareness in certain target sectors - achieving sales at the required price


The response of the purchaser post day 1 and 6 months on


Through the number of customer/client enquiries


An increase in the number and quality of customers


Retention of customers


Achieving customer satisfaction


Obtaining positive feedback from various stakeholders/customers



Ability to purchase/maintain a house


Ability to purchase/maintain a car


Ability to earn a decent wage


Ability to maintain a place of work


Ability to maintain a work–life balance (hours of work 9– 5:30 pm)


Ability to meet expenses, mortgage payments and additional family expenditure


Keeping head above water



Note: All respondents, n = 48.

Impacted on the customer/market proximity

The first-generation consider organic growth, such as expanding the premises or business offering beyond current limits, has helped gain access/entry to new customers/markets. Consequently, rather than spend time, money and resources marketing the business, these respondents differentiate themselves via expansion initiatives and related diversification strategies. An example of this is a one-stop Asian catering (or retail services) aimed at the corporate hospitality markets – mainly mainstream local non-South Asian businesses or customers.

Whereas the second-generation (particularly from emergent firms), opt for a more open approach to business, coupled with some form of technological and knowledge/expertise/skills advantage. In addition, 29 second-generation respondents (n = 48) highlight that their own prior experience and that of any respective colleagues is influential in anticipating demand for products/services. However, gaps are exposed within the business process. As such a majority of respondents fail to adequately connect business practices with actions, which in turn has impacted on customer/market proximity. Evidence from all respondents pertaining to business/marketing practices is as follows:

(i) Traditional sectors

This sector is dominated by the entire first-, and a number of second-generation, respondents from retail/wholesale and catering businesses and, a small number of second-generation from professional services. Here respondents display characteristics similar to one another in that they prefer not to have ‘depth, but breath of product range.’ Respondents opt to offer customers a choice that is reflective of the ‘latest trends, styles and tastes. ‘

Moreover, respondents put the development and importance of such an attitude down to lessons from past experience, namely, (i) people whom they know within the industry and/or (ii) having experienced some form of crisis due to stock surplus/shortage. As there is a reluctance to stray too far from the core business and incur any additional costs, the build-up of respective product/service portfolios has been slow, cautious and tentative. Thus, respondents are unlikely at this stage to diversify the product/service offering. Exploring the impact of this slow, cautious and tentative approach on customer and market proximity, two features became evident, namely, (i) staying put/forced to remain, and (ii) content to remain.

Forced to Remain - local ethnic and local non-ethnic

With ethnicity seen as an inhibitor, there is evidence to suggest a large number of first- and second-generation respondents from traditional sectors are forced to remain/staying put within saturated local ethnic and non-ethnic markets, servicing a mix of local ethnic and non-ethnic clients. In this instance, respondents espouse some form of local mixed clientele (co-ethnic/non-ethnic base) whilst at the same time providing a standard product/service offering. Moreover, such customers look for speed of service delivery, a good product range, and a safe and entertaining (in the case of restaurants) environment. Although these respondents warm to the idea of growing the business, they point to the fact there are a number of internal and external barriers that impede business growth. To illustrate this, 14 respondents point to a lack of effective business infrastructure, low-profit margin/mark-up, a lack of help from the government, and sectoral and competitive pressures. Equally, respondents appear to experience low-profit margins/mark-up and display a heavy reliance on local co-ethnic customers. For instance, from a human resource management (HRM) perspective, respondents (i) do not have a supporting (HRM) infrastructure/strategy, (ii) experience high staff turnover, (iii) rely on informal means of recruitment (via the local co-ethnic community), and (iv) offer very little by way of employee rewards/incentives/personal development/appraisals and training.

With regards to marketing and sectoral pressures, respondents offer no more than a standardized product/service, with little opportunity for differentiation or customization of the product/service offering. For example, respondents within catering suggest that there is very little done in the way of customizing the product offering to cater for non-Asian tastes. The reason stems from a fear of alienating co-ethnic customers. Therefore, only a standard product is offered with slight additions to the menu – as an example. Within retail and wholesale, a number of second-generation respondents state they supply ethnic-specific goods/products (Indian and Pakistani ladieswear, menswear and childrenswear) to local co-ethnic consumers and, in most cases, respondents feel they are victims of familial, cultural and sectoral circumstances. For example:

  • intense local competition;
  • saturated Indian clothing market generally;
  • a lack of product/service differentiation;
  • pressure on margins at both ends:
  • the supplier side – particularly overseas suppliers who want to charge ‘extra’ to UK-based businesses;
  • the customer side – customers, especially where an ‘aunty ji’ (an affectionate term for a mother figure) will always ‘barter’ whether prices are clearly indicated or not, or regardless as to the size of the order placed;
  • the feeling that they (respondents) are ‘forced to remain’ within this market – a ‘comfort zone strategy’ developed over-time and maintained more so by their respective fathers.

Despite the above, first- and second-generation respondents stated that they understand the requirements of their particular customers and endeavor to meet their needs in the best way possible.

Content to remain - local ethnic and local non-ethnic

A number of first- and second-generation respondents advocate that they are quite ‘content to remain’ within their respective sectors without venturing too far down the route of ‘genuine breakout.’ The reason for the development of a mixed client base (local ethnic and local non-ethnic customers) stems from the fact that consumers have become more informed and receptive towards all things Asian: cuisine, products, services, and businesses. Therefore, in an effort to remain competitive and differentiate themselves from other co-ethnic businesses, respondents emulate what they perceive to be ‘practices’ associated with mainstream businesses. Namely, customizing or modernizing product/service offering to reflect the changing needs of their customers, whilst retaining the ‘ethnic feel’ for the product/service. In terms of business infrastructure, these respondents (a) have better-developed systems, policies and procedures to support the business, (b) are more likely to recruit based on skills-set and, (c) wish to be considered a fair employer by offering incentives and standard employment packages. However, respondents still bow to cultural obligation by recruiting from within the community and marketing to local ethnic customers.

(ii) Emergent sectors

Findings suggest second-generation respondents, although struggling to adjust, are behind a number of so-called e/Alliances and e/Network enabled Enterprises (virtual companies), professional services and high-tech firms. Respondents here prefer a more “enhanced product portfolio” that emphasizes (a) speed of delivery, (b) flexibility of offering/service package, (c) greater consumer choice and (d) products/services built around particular segments/customers. As one 2nd generation Sikh respondent claims:

“We have been described as boutique, bespoke [IT services] builders and we create what generally has not been seen in the market place and that gives us our competitive edge.”

Equally, respondents show a willingness to diversify their particular product/service range beyond that of the core business, thus certain “cash cow” products/services are areas from which additional investment is sought for new product/service development, and/or for new market opportunities qualify the approach used by respondents. In addition, respondents are quick to point to their “corporate background/corporate experience,” as past experience is used as a point of reference. Such usage forms a basis from which knowledge and understanding, in terms of portfolio offering, is sought; and reflects the type of web-based companies and communities being set-up. Respondents believe the interest of clients/customers is central to any offering as they are able to provide particular “bespoke services or turnkey projects” that are of importance to the client/customer. Therefore, it is essential for the respondent to develop a “community of a sizable force.” “As many as you can get who want to work on, talk, share or understand a particular project, topic area or idea (Sikh 2nd generation respondent).”

Although the networking/resource mobilization and marketing approach noted above have to be commended. On further exploration, the impact of the above on customer and market proximity finds contradictions in that respondents are struggling to adjust within their particular markets.

(iii) Struggling to Adjust - local and non-local co-ethnic/non-ethnic

Findings note that 14 second-generation respondents operate within a Business-to-Business environment, of which seven respondents combine this with Business-to-Consumer markets also. What is striking about these 14 respondents is that the customer base for at least five respondents transcends the UK to include international boundaries also, thus giving the impression of ‘genuine breakout.’ However, access to appropriate levels of finance, labor, expertise and the internal business infrastructure used to support breakout inhibits the respondent as he struggles to adjust. Therefore, respondents appear to be caught between breakout and adjustment. One respondent stated that they ‘do not have the resources, capacity or the transparency in business operationsto develop international growth beyond any level that they experience currently. This statement is supported by the fact that the majority of respondents have a portfolio mix (the ratio of the UK and International clients) which is anywhere between 60% and 80% in favor of a UK client base. As one 2nd generation, Hindu respondent remarked:

“Although I have some international clients, most of my business relies upon the 80% Asian small retailers dispersed through London and the South East. It is not because they’re Asian or it is easier in the UK, but because I don’t have a workable system in place. I have to rely on others to help network.”

As another 2nd generation Sikh respondent retorted:

“We want to be strategic, we talk about building a solid business for the long term, we think non-ethnic, but then at the end of the day we act ethnic.”

Common to respondents is that they state no one particular ethnic group dominates their consumer mix. Therefore, respondents have a client base that reflects co-ethnic and non-ethnic – local and non-local customers. To support this, respondents have customized their product and service offering, where emphasis on ‘client relationship building’ and ‘quality of the offering’ is the means by which marketing is communicated. Equally, a minority of respondents, in an attempt to further enhance their ‘corporate professionalism’ and prove the effectiveness of their particular ‘networks,’ are more than willing to invest in so-called ‘heavyweights.’ These heavyweights are experienced managers, directors and the like (irrespective of ethnicity) who are in a position to help conduct research, develop ideas and suggest alternatives. Respondents stand by such an approach highlighted above, even if this relationship building takes time.

In summary, the paper highlighted a point of departure between respondents within traditional and emergent sectors which, rather than driven by generational factors, is very much influenced by: sector, prior knowledge of customers, customer/market proximity, resources, type of business and business lifecycle, aspirations for the business and, finally, prior experience of the respondent. In a small number of instances, however, there is evidence of religious and/or cultural nuances permeating within traditional firms, but again not particular to either generation or respondent group. The following section will link the discussion thus far back to the research questions set.


The aim of this paper was to examine the notion that entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity inform business growth, development and how the entrepreneur defines the success thereof. To achieve this aim two research questions were addressed: To what extent does intention, ability, motivation, and business aspirations of the respondent impact on (i) business practices and success, as defined by the respondent? (ii) the customer and market proximity thesis by way of business growth and development? These questions allowed an appreciation of the sentiment to ‘think non-ethnic but act ethnic.’ In essence, the following became evident:

With regard to research question one: impact of intention, ability, motivation and business aspiration – on business practices and success, as defined by the respondent: this paper argued that whether the respondent was operating within an emergent (Professional Services, and/or IT Tech Services) or traditional business sector (Retail/Wholesale, Catering), motivation and goal setting (aims and objectives), and business aspirations were based on sectoral factors. Thus, in terms of entrepreneurial motivation vis-à-vis goal setting, it was found the higher the level of entrepreneurial motivation, the greater the likelihood of business growth or stability. Equally, the propensity towards survival or exit appeared to be indicative of entrepreneurial apathy and sectoral factors - a downturn in trading conditions, saturated markets, and a reduction in consumer spending, et cetera. Exploring these notions further, the findings noted that, in terms of growth (traditional and emergent firms), a number of first-generation respondents appear to balance medium-term growth through business investment and related diversification, with noticeable short-term increases in capacity. This was achieved despite operating within saturated markets whilst indicating a desire to remain therein. Essentially, such aims appear to be capital-intensive or investment driven. In terms of personal motivation, all respondents placed greater emphasis on long-term business and personal security, namely their ability to meet, if not exceed, any financial obligations (such as payments of business and personal debts, providing a home for the family, et cetera). With regard to the second-generation, here respondents recognize a need to grow the business, and as such view the acquisition of knowledge and skills as the pre-requisite for growth in the medium-term (Javalgi & Grossman 2015), whereas short-term growth is reserved for day-to-day business operations. With regard to personal motivation, respondents gravitate towards factors reflecting business and financial success (turnover, growth, et cetera) as opposed to personal success (such as buying a house or car – considered a later luxury). Certainly, these findings sit with discussion noted by Fisher, Maritz and Lobo (2014); Taormina and Kin-Mei Lao (2007), whereby the authors suggest that entrepreneurial success is the presence of both personal and macro-level variables. In terms of business stability (traditional and emergent firms), both first- and second-generation respondents share similar attitudes in that they channel efforts into day-to-day operations of the business. This adopted approach concentrates on short-term cost saving/risk-free goals, more than anything else. It is done despite the fact these particular respondents remain upbeat about the future but feel growth at present is highly unlikely.

For traditional firms, dominated by retail and catering, both first- and second-generation respondents share a similar situation. Thus, the impact on demand for goods and services is reflected within the aims and objectives set for the business, namely, business survival or exit. The reason for this is that respondents are trapped in locations and saturated markets that yield a low propensity to grow, as well as low consumer spending - a realization that growth is no longer a viable option. Consequently, evidence suggests respondents adopt business aspirations that focus on the need for business survival. Moreover, survival in this instance involves respondents staving off the threat of increased competition and circumventing certain legal restrictions, for example, non-compliance with labor laws. Whereas, a small number of first- and second-generation respondents, again from retail and catering, espouse aims and objectives that revolve around them wanting to see out the remaining days of the business, with no desire to grow or continue the business.

When research question two: impact of intention, ability, motivation and business aspiration – on customer and market proximity thesis by way of business growth and development: was addressed, it was similar to a situation found by Soydas and Aleti, (2015) in their study of Turkish immigrant entrepreneurs in Melbourne. This current paper noted the first-generation consider organic growth, such as expanding the premises or business offering beyond current limits, helped gain access/entry to new local customers/markets. Consequently, rather than spend time, money and resources marketing the business, these respondents differentiate themselves via expansion initiatives and related diversification strategies. An example of this is a one-stop Asian catering (or retail services) aimed at the corporate hospitality markets – mainly mainstream local non-South Asian businesses or customers. Whereas the second-generation (particularly from emergent firms), prefer to opt for a more open approach to business, coupled with some form of technological and knowledge/expertise/skills advantage. In terms of a breakout, three approaches were identified. The first, Content to remain, finds first- and second-generation respondents from traditional low order catering and retail/wholesale firms develop a mixed client base of local ethnic and local non-ethnic customers. Such customers are informed and receptive towards Asian products and services. Therefore, they reflect the customized or modernized product/service offering espoused by these respondents. These respondents are able to respond to the changing needs of their customers, whilst retaining the ‘ethnic feel’ for the product/service. Respondents espouse a business infrastructure that appears to support such business operations/activities.

The second approach, Forced to remain, notes first- and second-generation respondents from traditional firms are forced to remain within their particular saturated market sectors (local ethnic and non-ethnic), thus offering a standardized product/service. Here, respondents display signs of wanting to move out of such competitive markets or to customize product/services offering, but they have neither the business infrastructure/processes nor the energy for fear of alienating co-ethnic customers. Finally, Struggling to adjust, as findings suggest, a small number of second-generation respondents from IT/High Technical Services and Professional Services that have developed customer bases (local and non-local co-ethnic/non-ethnic) that transcend UK boundaries toward more international networked markets/customers, thereby exploiting links to parental home country and diaspora (Jones & Ram 2012). These particular findings sit with commentary espoused by Hessels, van Gelderen and Thurik (2008), who suggest that countries with a higher incidence of increase-wealth-motivated entrepreneurs tend to have a higher prevalence of high-job-growth and export-oriented entrepreneurship. However, although these respondents have a mixed client base and offer customized products/services, they do not have the resources, infrastructure, or capacity in business operations to achieve genuine breakout or grow beyond a certain point (Deakins et al., 2005). To compensate, respondents see the use of their particular ‘corporate professionalism’ as key to effective networking and business development.

Pulling together both questions, this paper is one of a very limited number of studies that adds to debate pertaining to entrepreneurial intention, ability and opportunity, and the impact thereof on both business practices, and the customer proximity thesis. Consequently, although there is evidence to support the fact that respondents think non-ethnic but act ethnic, achieving genuine breakout still remains a difficult goal to obtain irrespective of respondent or business type. This is due in part to business and sectoral constraints, rather than cultural or religious influences. Certainly, findings within this paper are a far cry for those presented by Dyer and Ross (2000). Here the authors found that from their sample of 33 ethnic entrepreneurs in Canada, a large percentage were very much negative and ambivalent towards co-ethnic customers; citing such customers as being resentful of success, more demanding, unforgiving, and believed the [ethnic] business should serve only the ethnic community from whence it came. In stark contrast to this, some respondents were pro-actively and positively engaged in preferential treatment of their co-ethnic customers, citing strong co-ethnic community ties as a prime motivator. Dyer and Ross (2000) bemoaned the fact that the ever-present cultural and community nuances were strong factors that impacted on business practices and entrepreneurial motivation, et cetera. Only 20 percent of their sample explicitly noted success could not depend on co-ethnic clients alone. Therefore, to engage with a wider market, it was deemed necessary to make the business attractive to all clients by de-emphasizing all ethnic aspects of the business, so as to resemble a non-ethnic business in its entirety.

This paper is not without is limitations, for instance, the study found that, given the opportunity structures and social and economic environment within the Greater London area (the setting in which the respondents of this study find themselves), the findings discussed within may not be as generalizable when compared with other parts of the UK. Acknowledging this, there is a need to replicate a study of this nature on a wider scale or outside of the Greater London area. Conducting a longitudinal study, and developing measures to capture the impact of knowledge and experiential learning on the ethnic entrepreneurial experience, would greatly increase our understanding of second-generation ethnic entrepreneurs. Further studies should be carried out on gender differences, and other embedded/newly arrived ethnic groups.

Before drawing the paper to a close, direction for future research coupled with implications for policy need to be addressed. As such, the paper presented an alternative view as to how entrepreneurial ‘intention, ability and opportunity’ facilitates or inhibits business growth. And, whether as a collective, these factors manifest into some form of breakout or not. Certainly, this paper subscribes to the view that there needs to be evidence of a measurable correlation between location/markets and ethnicity of the business owner. Such a measure would yield even greater insight into factors that influence the owner’s expectation of the firm’s performance and future growth. In addition, not all issues raised within the paper are ethnic or generation specific. Thus, debate appertaining to ethnic entrepreneurship needs to be re-examined. By placing an emphasis on ‘culture, religion and ethnicity,’ this may be misleading researchers as to the true nature of business requirements, problems and support for ethnic [second-generation] entrepreneurs. Moreover, there are still gaps in the literature concerning the motivations and intentions of second- or even third-generation ethnic entrepreneurs, the way they interpret their particular economic and social worlds, and the impact this may have on their ability to manage a business. As Carsrud and Brannback (2011) purport, “entrepreneurial motivation still needs further study if we are to address the question of - have we learned anything at all about entrepreneurs?


I would like to extend my heart-felt gratitude to all those within this study for allowing me access to their time, businesses and busy lives. Without their support, co-operation and invaluable contributions a deeper understanding of ethnic entrepreneurship would not have been realized.


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Literatura dotycząca przedsiębiorczości etnicznej zakłada, że czynniki religijno-kulturowe i pokoleniowe są zgodne z intencją i zdolnością przedsiębiorcy do rozwoju biznesu. W ramach rozwoju biznesu, tacy przedsiębiorcy powinni zerwać z lokalną bazą klientów etnicznych, aby obsługiwać szerszą bazę klientów nieetnicznych. W rzeczywistości wielu przedsiębiorcom etnicznym brakuje zasobów, motywacji, zdolności i/lub intencji do tego. W konsekwencji rozwój i sukces firmy stają się utrudnione. W tym celu, pracując w kontekście przedsiębiorczości etnicznej, celem tego artykułu jest zbadanie poglądu, że zamiary przedsiębiorczości, zdolności i możliwości informują o rozwoju biznesu, rozwoju i sposobie, w jaki przedsiębiorca określa jego sukces. W związku z tym przeprowadzono 48 częściowo strukturalizowanych wywiadów i 11 porównawczych studiów przypadku z południowo-azjatyckimi Sikhami, Hinduistami i pakistańskimi przedsiębiorcami pierwszej i drugiej generacji na terenie Wielkiego Londynu. Przyjęto paradygmat fenomenologiczny, w którym do analizy danych użyto słów kluczowych. Ustalenia wskazują, że nie ma dowodów na prawdziwą eksplozję. Tym, co definiuje rozwój biznesu i wzrost, są trzy podejścia: (i) treść pozostająca, (ii) zmuszony do pozostania, i (iii) walka o dostosowanie. Utrudnione są próby zwiększenia bazy klientów i rynkowej ponad klientów lokalnych. Ponadto różnice i sukcesy między dwoma pokoleniami odzwierciedlają raczej lokalizację sektorową, intencje, zdolności i umiejętności niż wpływy pokoleniowe lub kulturowe. Zasadniczo artykuł przedstawia alternatywny pogląd na to, w jaki sposób zamiary przedsiębiorczości i możliwości ułatwiają lub hamują rozwój i sukces małych przedsiębiorstw. Jednak biorąc pod uwagę przykładowe ramy i środowisko społeczno-gospodarcze w Wielkim Londynie, wyniki mogą nie być możliwe do uogólnienia. Podsumowując, debata dotycząca przedsiębiorczości etnicznej musi zostać ponownie przeanalizowana; ponieważ położenie nacisku na kulturę, religię, pochodzenie etniczne i pokolenie może wprowadzać w błąd badaczy co do prawdziwego charakteru wymagań biznesowych, problemów i wsparcia dla przedsiębiorców etnicznych.

Słowa kluczowe: przedsiębiorcy etniczni, przełom, motywacja, intencje, Azja Południowa

Biographical note

Mark McPherson teaches on the Undergraduate and Postgraduate Marketing Degree programmes, and the on-line Executive MBA programmes at Middlesex University. His teaching interests are within Strategic Marketing and Planning, Branding, Guerrilla Marketing, and Leadership and Followership. Mark is actively involved in academic research where his specialisms are ethnic small businesses, marketing to ethnic minority groups, and Islamic Marketing. He has presented at various marketing, small business and doctoral conferences at home and overseas. In addition to teaching and research, Mark consults for a number of clients from the ethnic small business community, who operate within the UK and/or international markets.