Sask. can be lonely place for Black entrepreneurs, but communities are changing that

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

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Groups call on Ottawa for permanent funding for Black business programs

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Andrea Pierce, executive director of ImmigrantsCan, says legislative changes are needed to address the systemic barriers many Black Canadians face.Spencer Colby/The Globe and Mail

Black business and community groups are calling on Ottawa to permanently fund many programs that are set to expire.

The federal government began to introduce programs to support Black communities in 2018 after it endorsed the United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent, which runs until 2024. Ottawa introduced more new initiatives such as the Black Entrepreneurship Program after George Floyd’s killing and Black Lives Matter demonstrations in 2020.

But the programs have all had a set shelf life. For example, the Supporting Black Canadian Communities Initiative, or SBCCI, was created in the 2019 budget and given $25-million over five years to build capacity in grassroots Black-serving organizations across the country. That funding was set to run out in the 2023-24 fiscal year, but in the 2023 budget, the program was given one additional year of funding at $25-million with no clear guidance on what happens after that.

Hundreds of Black entrepreneurs and organizations began writing to federal ministers Karina Gould and Ahmed Hussen this month asking what legislative change will ultimately come from these initiatives.

“We really need a permanent policy to come out of it, because if these programs end … that’s it,” said Jackee Kasandy, co-founder of the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society.

Employment and Social Development Canada said SBCCI has supported 939 projects with its total $50-million budget, and spent another $82-million on capital projects – such as renovations – for 1,300 Black-serving groups across the country.

The department said Ms. Gould, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, will explore options after engaging with Black communities and leaders this fall.

While many organizations and entrepreneurs are hoping the funding for these programs continues, their hope for change goes behind budget items.

“It’s not the cheque-writing that’s required,” said Deress Asghedom, founder of Vaster, a cannabis technology startup in Vancouver. “It’s also the commitment to be an ally and recognizing there are challenges. Recognizing there isn’t an even playing field. And then making that commitment to say that we’re here for the long term.”

Black Entrepreneurship Program a ‘beacon of hope,’ though barriers persist

Black-owned businesses tend to be smaller, less profitable than others, Statscan says

A Statistics Canada study released

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