‘It’s beautiful’: St. John’s Black-owned market helps small businesses share culture, creativity

Margaret Asuquo, who started a small jewelry and craft business called Marge’s Creations and Designs last year, says it’s amazing to have the opportunity to sell her work alongside other creators at the Black-owned vendor market in St. John’s. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Margaret Asuquo says she’s been creative her entire life, always picking up new hobbies that allow her to use her hands to create something beautiful.

Being able to sell her original work — including beaded bags, earrings and necklaces — alongside other Black artists and creators at a vendor market is nothing short of “amazing,” she said.

“It is like the biggest pat on the back,” said Asuquo, who started a small jewlery and craft business called Marge’s Creations and Designs last year.

“To kind of see it come to life and then hear people like kind of say, ‘It’s beautiful’ and everything is like, oh my God, my heart is full. So it’s amazing.”

The Black-owned vendor market celebrated its third anniversary Saturday on George Street in St. John’s, an event that included live music and performances, as well as Black vendors selling clothing, food and jewlery.

A woman wearing a bright orange, blue and red sun dress smiles while standing beside a table covered in brightly coloured textiles and clothing.
Nicole Obiodiaka is the organizer and founder of Centra, an organization that works to curate cultural experiences in the city, including the Black-owned vendor market, which celebrated its third anniversary on George Street Saturday. (Jessica Singer/CBC)

Nicole Obiodiaka is the organizer and founder of Centra, an organization that works to curate cultural experiences in the city, including the vendor market.

This year’s market was the biggest yet and the first on George Street. Last year it was held at the St. John’s Farmers’ Market. 

Obiodiaka hopes the market will continue to grow and expand.

Not only is the market a “beautiful” way for small businesses to showcase their talents and creativity, Obiodiaka said, but it’s also a way for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to experience other cultures. 

“It can be through shopping, through dialogue, through the music, like, it’s a whole multisensory experience to immerse yourself in our culture,” she said. “So it’s beautiful.”

Margaret Ajayi, the owner of St. John’s baking and catering compan Meggs Cakes & Events, moved to the province around four years ago from Nigeria. She can’t remember how many cakes she’s baked or events she’s catered since she arrived.

A woman wearing a black shirt stands in between two young girls.
Margaret Ajayi is the owner of Meggs Cakes & Events, a baking and catering company in St. John’s.
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How Rechie Valdez went from banker to baker to Small Business Minister

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Federal Minister of Small Business, Rechie Valdez outside her office in Mississauga on Aug. 18.Christopher Katsarov/The Globe and Mail

In early 2020, Rechie Valdez made a decision. She would leave the banking industry, where she had worked for more than 15 years, to focus full time on her small business: baking desserts and wedding cakes.

“I freaked out my mother,” Ms. Valdez said. “I was able to let go of the corporate life, the job security and everything. I really wanted to believe in me and everything I built. It was very daunting and very scary. For most entrepreneurs, it is.”

A year and a half later, she made another leap of faith and put her name on a ballot. She was elected. And this summer, the rookie MP was named to cabinet as the Minister of Small Business, the federal Liberals’ first dedicated minister in that portfolio in four years.

Ms. Valdez sat down with The Globe and Mail at a bakery in Mississauga, near her constituency office. (She closed her own bake shop when she got into politics.)

She steps into her cabinet role at a critical time. Small businesses in many sectors struggled to survive pandemic lockdowns. The taps of federal aid were turned off last year, but a crucial deadline looms to pay back government pandemic loans.

In the coming weeks, Ms. Valdez will help decide whether to extend the deadline. And beyond that, she will shepherd programs that have struggled to get uptake – such as a $4-billion initiative to help small businesses upgrade their digital tools.

Ms. Valdez is the first Filipina cabinet minister, though her family’s journey to Canada was not direct. She was born in 1980 in Zambia to parents who were both born in the Philippines.

In 1989, the family – now including a younger brother – immigrated to Canada. Her father (an engineer) found a job quickly, but her mother (a nurse) couldn’t get her credentials recognized and had to go back to school while working.

“I watched them work so hard,” Ms. Valdez said. “They gave up everything and they sacrificed everything. But you know what, because they did, we got our education here, in this country.”

Ms. Valdez graduated from the University of Windsor in 2003 with a degree in computer science. She was hired by Bank of Montreal to work the

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Opinion: Small business pandemic loans must be repaid in full, even if companies risk going under

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A person walks in Kensington Market in Toronto on April 15, 2020. New Democrats and a business group are calling on the federal government to extend the deadline for small businesses to repay loans they received from a pandemic support program.Nathan Denette/The Canadian Press

Gus Carlson is a U.S.-based columnist for The Globe and Mail.

Just as there’s no crying in baseball, no “I” in team and no place like home, there is no such thing as a free lunch.

Like so many sensibilities tested by the pandemic, however, this basic tenet of free-market economics – and point on the moral compass that guides the conduct of most reasonable people – is under fire, and unjustifiably so.

Consider the pushback by a coalition of businesses on the repayment of pandemic-era interest-free loans of either $40,000 or $60,000 from the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA). Ottawa says businesses that repay their obligations by Dec. 31 will have either $10,000 or $20,000 forgiven. After that, there will be no forgiveness and interest will accrue at the rate of 5 per cent.

Many lenders would say that’s a pretty good deal – maybe not a free lunch but a nicely discounted one. But it isn’t sweet enough for some business owners, who are asking Ottawa to extend the interest-free provision or even forgive a greater portion of these loans. This is needed especially, some businesses say, because the enterprises that stepped up to the CEBA trough are more likely to be owned by women and marginalized groups.

To be sure, the dilemma is something of a Gordian knot. Balancing the needs of the few with those of the many is never an easy task. And with some businesses that took CEBA loans facing extinction if the repayment terms aren’t eased, it’s a matter of the many picking their poison for the government – prop up the program or face a heavier unemployment burden.

Extending CEBA deadline would help marginalized businesses, groups say

For some, the moral dilemma on the part of Ottawa is real. One small-business owner told The Globe and Mail last week that she was wrestling with the decision of whether to repay her loan or invest in her company to take advantage of improving market conditions. Unlike some businesses, she at least seems to have a choice – even if there is only one

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No, startups are not facing a ‘mass extinction event’ | US small business

“The Mass Extinction Event for startups is under way,” a partner for a well-known venture capital firm warned in a recent article in the Wall Street Journal. Capital from venture investors and bank loans is “scarce and expensive” and “venture-backed startups are running out of money and facing hard choices”.

The numbers support this: venture capital funding in the first quarter of 2023 was only at 40% of the levels seen in the fourth quarter of 2021. But mass extinction?

Maybe for people starting up tech businesses based on a shaky premise and dubious cashflow projections that venture capital firms let fly because money was so cheap and the competition to find the next Uber or Facebook took priority over common sense. Venture capital funding may be in the doldrums right now, but the industry will ultimately recover and is already making investments in the new generation of AI startups that are popping up everywhere.

Meanwhile, in the real world that is the rest of the country where people aren’t creating AI solutions and instead are opening up restaurants, real estate firms and healthcare services companies, entrepreneurism seems to be doing just fine.

The US Census Bureau tracks those applying for an employer identification number (EIN) from the Internal Revenue Service – an excellent way to determine the number of new businesses because a startup needs an EIN to file tax returns, apply for loans and form an organization. What do these numbers show? They show that there have been a lot of people starting up businesses over the past few years and that those levels remain high.

The total number of startups from January 2019 through May 2023 was 20.5m. But I like to focus on what the Census Bureau calls a “high-propensity business” (HPB), which is likely to hire people, because to me – and no offense to all the freelancers, independent contractors and side-giggers out there – that’s a real business. The number of HPB startups during that period was 6.9m. Not only that but there were 1.3m HBPs started in 2019, 1.5m in 2020, 1.8m in 2021 and 1.7m in 2022 – and so far through May of 2023 there were 721,000 HPBs started, which annualized is on a track to reach 1.7m.

There’s no denying that capital is more expensive. The average bank prime rate nationally is about 8.25%, which means that

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Small Business BC receives over $3.6 million to help grow small businesses beyond B.C.

The Government of Canada is making investments to champion small businesses and support their export journey

VANCOUVER, BC, June 2, 2023 /CNW/ – British Columbia’s small businesses are the heart of our communities and the economic engine of our province. To continue fueling the entrepreneurial spirit of British Columbians, the Government of Canada is making investments to support more small businesses in B.C. and introduce them to the world.

Today at the 20th annual Small Business BC Awards, the Honourable Harjit S. Sajjan, Minister of International Development and Minister responsible for the Pacific Economic Development Agency of Canada (PacifiCan), announced PacifiCan funding of $3.65M to help Small Business BC celebrate entrepreneurs and increase the export capacity of small businesses across the province.

An investment of $3.6M over three years will help Small Business BC renew and expand the Export Navigator program to reach more people across B.C. Export Navigator is a free service that helps small businesses become export ready. A network of community-based export advisors provide one-on-one advice that can help small business owners tap into new international markets. With this funding, Small Business BC will expand the program to the Lower Mainland, Greater Victoria, and the Sea-to-Sky Region, so that entrepreneurs in all parts of the province can now access Export Navigator. Small Business BC will also enhance the program’s support for Indigenous entrepreneurs.  

Since 2016, nearly 900 B.C. businesses, including those owned by Indigenous, women and youth entrepreneurs, have benefited from the program. The expanded geographic coverage will also help more under-represented business owners, many of whom live in urban areas, access the Export Navigator program and reach new markets. PacifiCan has been a proud supporter of Export Navigator since 2019.

The remaining $50,000 will support the 20th annual Small Business BC Awards, Western Canada’s largest awards competition dedicated to small businesses. Small Business BC’s marquee celebration recognizes hard-working and resilient entrepreneurs in B.C. that contribute to the rich economic diversity across the province.


“Entrepreneurs in B.C. are creating Canadian-made innovations that have a global impact, but it can be challenging to access bigger international markets. Export Navigator helps overcome barriers by providing customized support for small businesses looking to expand to new markets. Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and

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