The Future of Work and Learning Brief
Issue 37 | August 2023
CWF was pleased to welcome Loran Scholar and co-founder of BLK OWNED Hamont Abygail Montague to join our happy band of policy nerds this summer as a public policy intern. Aby’s Hamilton, Ontario-based non-profit strives to celebrate, showcase, explore and support Black-owned businesses and entrepreneurs in the Greater Hamilton Area. In this takeover edition of the brief, Aby builds on her expertise to highlight recent developments in the support of Black entrepreneurship across Western Canada.
We wish to thank the Loran Scholars Foundation for their support of our intern program.
Black-owned businesses in Canada
After Canada joined the United Nations Declaration of International Decade for People of African Descent, Black-owned business and community organizations urged the federal government to provide permanent funds for programs to support Black communities and entrepreneurship. Support began in 2018 with additional support provided after the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement in 2020. Unfortunately, many of these supports have expiration dates, which concerns Black entrepreneurs and organizations. While funds are vital, leaders in the Black community are also interested in governments’ commitment to be an ally and recognize the systemic barriers and unique challenges Black people face.
BLK OWNED Hamont completed a feasibility study to explore the state of Black entrepreneurship in Hamilton and the challenges entrepreneurs face. Black entrepreneurs are young – 40 per cent of Black entrepreneurs in Hamilton were between 17 and 29 years of age while 43.8 per cent were between the ages of 30 and 45. They are also small: 76 per cent of businesses included in the sample reported annual revenue below $10,000. Most businesses are also not located in traditional brick-and-mortar stores. Rather, 64 per cent said their business was home based and 50 per cent were online compared to only 16 per cent who said their business was located in a retail store.
Obstacles to funds and support
A recent CBC Alberta news report identified additional barriers individuals can face based on their intersectional experiences of gender and race. Lungile Tinarwo moved to Edmonton from Toronto ten years ago under the impression she would find affordability and an abundance of opportunities. Due to pay and other inequities, social exclusion and cultural differences Tinarwo faced when trying to start her own law firm, she decided instead to work within another firm.
You may have missed StatsCan’s February report, Black Business Owners in Canada which shows that the number of Black business owners increased to 67,000 in 2018. Black business owners are generally male and six years younger than their White counterparts and over half of them are immigrants. Black-owned businesses are also smaller; they are almost half as likely as White-owned businesses to have five or more employees. Unfortunately, the incomes of Black entrepreneurs are lower compared to those of White people or other racialized groups. The higher rate of self-employment among Black people and immigrants is a result of the barriers they encounter when trying to secure traditional employment. Despite venturing into entrepreneurship to contribute to economic growth and combat lower income levels, Black-owned businesses tend to exhibit lower financial performance.
The State of Black Entrepreneurs in Alberta report similarly finds the challenges Black entrepreneurs face are predominantly financial and could be due to lack of business training and financial literacy, availability of loans and inadequate capital. The report recommends financial literacy and education, accessible credit and capital availability, and community networks to foster trust and increase social capital.
Education and finance programs
Ensuring consistent funding opportunities and programs tailor-made for Black entrepreneurs is necessary to continue to build a sustainable and successful entrepreneurial environment for Black people to fight against the systemic challenges they face. There are many programs in Western Canada and nationally which strive to meet those needs.
The Black Business Association of BC provides a comprehensive range of support programs tailored to Black entrepreneurs. Among these initiatives are the Youth Entrepreneur Program, Sustainability Incubator and a general Business Program, which aim to empower and nurture the growth of Black-owned businesses.
Small Business BC provides a comprehensive list of resources available to Black entrepreneurs in B.C. and the organization also provides webinars, support with business plans and checklists to start a business.
ANZA’s Black Entrepreneur Ecosystem Program in Alberta helps Black youth develop business ideas, create business plans and seek financing to launch their businesses while teaching transferable entrepreneurial skills.
Innovate Calgary’s Black Founders in Tech Pitch Competition is part of the BIPOC Rural Tech Founders event series, offering Black founders the chance to win prize money and network with other BIPOC founders and investors.
Ola Sanusi, organizer of Nigerian Entrepreneurs Summer Hangout in Regina, Saskatchewan, helps bring awareness to Nigerian-owned businesses. The group originally started with a 120 member WhatsApp group which has since expanded to its current form and 398 members. Sanusi also oversees an annual exhibition for Black businesses where newcomers can network and attract business attention.
The University of Manitoba offers Entrepreneurship/Small Business (BComm, Honours) which teaches students to identify and manage resources to capitalize opportunities. They also offer the Promoting Black Flourishing Fund that provides one-time funding to Black members of the UM community to support initiatives.
Black Business Ventures Association is launching the Black Seed Accelerator Program designed for early-stage Black tech startups in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta.
The Conseil de development économique des Territories du Nord-Ouest held the first ever conference on African and Black community entrepreneurship in the Northwest Territories with a range of partners. The program focused on the “challenges, issues and opportunities for Canada and Africa” and included a session specifically for Black entrepreneurs.
Yukon University also provides a range of resources for entrepreneurs across the territory, including IncubateNorth which is a “12-to-18-month business incubation program” open to those looking to grow their business.
IDEANorth is a federal program which provides “economic growth and sector development; business scale-up, productivity and innovation; small-scale economic infrastructure development; and foundational economic infrastructure” to businesses located across the northern territories.
Futurpreneur’s Black Entrepreneur Startup Program offers startup loan financing and mentorship to Black entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39, guiding them through the business plan writing process.
RBC’s Black Entrepreneur Program offers advice, connections, and banking solutions, along with access to loans of up to $250,000, helpful tools, and resources to grow your business.
The Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society provides educational resources including a Black business certification program with mentorship, legal support, coaching and training and access to a country-wide network of Black owned business leaders.
Regardless of the challenges, Black entrepreneurship is alive and well, with thriving networks and directories that deserve celebration. With increased immigration, accompanied by access to supports this trend is expected to continue grow and impact Canada’s entrepreneurial landscape.
The Future of Work & Learning Brief is compiled by Stephany Laverty, Janet Lane, and Abygail Montague. If you like what you see, subscribe to our mailing list and share with a friend. If you have any interesting stories for future editions, please send them to .
Photo: Matt Gyimadu for BLK OWNED Hamont, April 2022