By Akilah James (@ajxmes)
In September 2020, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Canada’s first Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) – a nearly $221 million investment to help thousands of Black entrepreneurs across the country. The program is designed not only to help Black businesses recover from the impact of COVID19, but also assist in growing their businesses.
The BEP includes up to $53 million developing and implementing a new National Ecosystem Fund to support Canadian Black-led business organizations. This includes the Black Entrepreneurship Loan, and creating, and sustaining a new Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. The hub will collect data on the state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada and help identify Black entrepreneurs’ barriers to success as well as opportunities for growth.
Many believe that Canada has proven not to be the best in terms of supporting Black entrepreneurs. There has been a number of systematic barriers against them in regards to their businesses and it has affected them in the long run. With these barriers already up against them, Black entrepreneurs struggled further as the pandemic hit. Although the BEP is here to stay, many businesses wonder if it is a “band-aid” solution to a bigger problem.
Undoubtedly, the BEP will benefit Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses and it is just the beginning of finally being recognized. Pitch Better, a Toronto based Black female-owned start-up believes the BEP is a step in the right direction.
The organization focuses on using market research and strategic insights to enable growth in diverse women-founded businesses.
Amoye Henry - one of Canada’s top 100 Accomplished Black Women, and Adeela Carter –Founder, Carter Strategy Group joined forces to create Pitch Better. With the motive to bridge the gap between women-led start-ups, Pitch Better connects businesses with capital through grants and investments, entrepreneurs and provides workshops.
According to Carter: “The program’s obviously needed and we are hopeful that this will be (one) that can help a lot of Black entrepreneurs in our country.”
Although the duo recognize the importance of the BEP, Henry and Carter are still treading lightly with their feelings towards the entrepreneurship program. They believe more changes still need to be made for BEP to be truly effective.
“Throwing money at the Black community may not solve all the issues. There still has to be a change at the highest levels of government, corporations, and better relationships between banks and the Black community,” said Henry.
“Black founders and Black entrepreneurs make very important contributions to the Canadian economy and were almost always second-guessed and financially and economically disadvantaged.
The women of Pitch Better believe it is important to support Black entrepreneurs through programs such as the BEP and companies like Pitch Better, and they are here and ready to put in the work to ensure “we are all securing the bag”.
“We didn’t have the support. You have to foster a community and an environment where your entrepreneurs are supported and given the tools to amplify,” they said.
“We have to exist and we have to do the work, even though it’s hard sometimes the risk that we take now will result in the billion-dollar businesses that our daughters and nieces are able to open up in the future.”
There is no doubt companies like Pitch Better contribute to the growing support of creating successful Black businesses.
Though the Black Entrepreneurship Program is far from perfect - despite its limitations – it is a step in the right direction for Black entrepreneurs across Canada.