Purpose - The purpose of this paper is to profile the characteristics and entrepreneurial motivations of graduate entrepreneurs from black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. Design/methodology/approach - To gather the data, the authors interviewed selected individuals from within the BME community (including current students and graduates from various universities, predominantly in the West Midlands, UK), analysed the transcripts and compared the findings with the review of literature. Findings - Evidence suggests that BME graduate entrepreneurs were diverse in terms of their characteristics: size, gender, ethnicity and when they started the business. Almost all interviewees had worked for someone before they started their business. The two most compelling motivations for start up were "being your own boss", especially for Indians and Bangladeshis; and making more money (31 per cent), in particular for African Caribbeans. Over half of interviewees started a business in a sector in which they had prior experience, knowledge or skills. Two thirds of interviewees obtained advice from family and friends, while just over a third had completed any kind of training or course. Research limitations/implications - The sample of BME graduate entrepreneurs in this study was both small and selective. It was not statistically significant, nor did it represent a random selection of the BME graduate entrepreneurs in the UK or the respective population mix. Hence, there is a need for a larger scale study and the inclusion of a white control group. Originality/value - This study provides an insight into characteristics and entrepreneurial motivations of BME graduate entrepreneurs. Though the results of this study are indicative, there is a compelling case for further research into this relatively unexplored group.