This Black History Month we sat down with 2 of our Directors; Zac Evans and Kyle Findley to discuss what black history month means to them and their journey as young, black entrepreneurs.
Kyle is a black business owner originally from Peterborough but now based in Leeds. Born to Black British parents Kyle’s family have played a huge role in his life. Kyle co-founded 21 Degrees Digital, a full service digital marketing agency in 2018 at the age of 27.
We sat down with Kyle to discuss Black History Month, what it means to him, how his race has shaped him, the people that inspire him and any advice he’d give to young black entrepreneurs starting out.
What does Black History month mean to you?
“I use Black History month to appreciate and celebrate black businesses, business owners and influencers and their impact for the younger generation to educate and empower them to do more and be better.”
Have you faced any racism in your lifetime and if so how did this shape you?
I grew up in a very white area of Peterborough and being one of 4 black students at school meant that “if another black kid got in trouble then I’d get in trouble because they couldn’t differentiate”.
“There were definitely obstacles and barriers however you learn to overcome them.” Despite all of this Kyle doesn’t believe he has experienced open racism and stated that going to University was a turning point as he was able to make a more diverse friendship group who introduced him to black culture.
Have you faced racism in business? What did this look like and what effect did it have on you?
It’s a regular occurrence that Kyle attends business events and is the only representative of the BAME community however this has just become something he is used to. Whilst he hasn’t faced racism he has experienced shock when he explains his role as a Director/Founder however Kyle believes this could be because of his age rather than his race.
During his time as an Events manager in Leeds, Kyle did experience racism however as people were intoxicated at the time he doesn’t see it as a targeted attack.
Are there any black entrepreneurs that inspire you? What about them inspires you?
“I’m inspired by Zac Evans my business partner, we have completely different skill sets and Zac’s communication and charisma are incredible.” Kyle has worked with Zac for around 7 years now and believes they work so well together due to their differences.
Alongside Zac, Kyle is inspired by Steven Bartlett especially as he is from the same industry so has faced a lot of the same challenges. Kyle also finds inspiration through the arts and names both Maya Jama and Stormzy as black entrepreneurs he is inspired by.
How have you put equality, diversity and inclusivity at the forefront of 21 Degrees Digital?
We have actively tried to recruit a diverse set of employees alongside actively recruiting within the BAME community. Kyle has also put passion at the forefront when hiring rather than skill which has allowed him to give opportunities to individuals regardless of their background. “I’m always more inclined to hire someone who has fewer skills or education but wants the opportunity and has a passion to learn.”
What are your plans to improve diversity at 21 Degrees Digital?
“I want to be active within the BAME community whether that’s through career talks or creating opportunities specifically for members of the BAME community.” Kyle feels it’s important to drive the conversation and wants to actively help as he is aware of how under-represented BAME staff are in digital and marketing roles.
Do you have any advice for black entrepreneurs who are just starting out?
Throughout his time as a business owner, a lot of people have come to Kyle and Zac for advice, this is because they have seen him do the hard work, fail and learn from it. “We never had anyone that could help us when we started out so I feel really proud to be able to be that for someone else. We still have a long way to go but it’s a great opportunity to look back and appreciate how far we’ve come.”
Kyle also feels it’s important to learn from other communities, both the Jewish and Asian community are known for coming together to support their own and feels this is something the Black community need to get better at. “We don’t need to compete with one another we can work together and celebrate each other.”
“Don’t be afraid to fail, a lot of people give up opportunities or don’t take the leap because they’re scared of failing.” Kyle thinks failing isn’t important it’s how fast you recover which shows your strength as an entrepreneur.