Adetutu Akinlolu says kick-starting her Regina business wouldn’t have been possible without having a community that has her back.

For Akinlolu, who came to Canada from Nigeria last year in June, the support came in the form of an annual exhibition for black businesses.

“Now, I am not just limited to the black community alone. The visibility that the exhibition has given to me, to other diverse countries and communities, I’m happy for that and I’m grateful,” Akinlolu said.

Regina is set to celebrate Black businesses again on Saturday in Kiwanis Park, where some 60 exhibitors, including Akinlolu, will set up shop. Experts and advocates from the community say coming together can be a way to correct the skewed demographics for business ownership in Canada.

Adetutu Akinlolu came to Canada from Nigeria last June. She says her makeup business was only made possible through the local community’s support. (Shlok Talati)

This year’s exhibition is only the third edition of the Nigerian Entrepreneurs Summer Hangout, and organizer Ola Sanusi said it is set to be the largest they’ve had. 

When Sanusi came to Canada from Nigeria in 2019, she said she immediately noted the lack of black-owned businesses around her. 

“After talking to a few Nigerians, I realized that a lot of people have businesses, but they had a challenge bringing it to the fore and creating the needed awareness,” she said. 

Sanusi’s solution to the problem was to create a WhatsApp group named Entrepreneurs and More that’s open to everyone.

The group started with 120 members, but in the last three years, has grown to 398 members. Sanusi said she’s happy with the community’s progress in Regina, but isn’t done yet. 

“For me, I haven’t even started yet. This is just the beginning for me.”

LISTEN | Nigerian Entrepreneur Summer Hangout connects, showcases and promotes Regina Black-owned businesses 

The Morning Edition – Sask6:44Nigerian Entrepreneur Summer Hangout connects, showcases and promotes Regina Black-owned businesses

Summer is a time for barbecues and get-togethers, but one summer hangout in Regina this week is going to offer up a mix of business with pleasure. We hear more about the inspiration behind a Nigerian Entrepreneur get-together.

According to national Canadian census data, the proportion of people from racialized groups almost doubled between 2001 and 2021, rising to 26.6 per cent from 13.4 per cent. 

But the number of business owners from different racial groups is a much smaller percentage. A Statistics Canada study released in February estimated there were 66,880 Black business owners in the country in 2018, making up 2.1 per cent of the total business owners. 

Among the provinces, Saskatchewan ranks sixth in terms of the percentage of Black people owning businesses, at 0.8 per cent.

The group Sanusi and Akinlolu belong to is an even smaller one, as more than two-thirds of Black business owners are men. 

A woman in a black dress looking at the camera.
Jumoke Oni says the low representation of Black businesses in Canada could dampen newcomers’ enthusiasm to set up shop. (Submitted by Jumoke Oni)

Jumoke Oni, board president of the not-for-profit group Immigrant Women of Saskatchewan, said the low representation of Black business owners could dampen newcomers’ enthusiasm to set up businesses. 

“Somebody who is coming in new might see it and go, ‘Oh my God, this is such a hard place to break in.’ They might see only the barriers to entry,” Oni said.

She said it’s important for community members to come together to help each other. 

“It helps people who are coming in to feel like they have somewhere to go, somewhere where they can ask questions.”

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

Five fists raised, different shades of brown skin, next to text that says Being Black in Canada surrounded by an orange and red border.
Sask. can be lonely place for Black entrepreneurs, but communities are changing that
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