Starting a new business is a challenge for anyone, but it can be even more difficult for those facing multiple barriers.
Securing critical funding to start or scale a business can be especially difficult for ethnic groups and new immigrants, especially those who don’t own assets such as a home as collateral.
Pitch contest for black entrepreneurs
For the second year in a row, the British Columbia-based non-profit Black Entrepreneurs and Business Association of Canada (BEBC) is using Black History Month to aim to address some of these challenges. We are holding a contest.
Canada’s only black pitch contest We are offering $25,000 in prizes to help Black entrepreneurs launch or accelerate their businesses. Competitors also have access to tools, resources, and opportunities to reach customers, as well as education and support about applying to the Black Business Awards.
Jackie Cassandi founded BEBC during the COVID-19 pandemic after experiencing similar challenges and launching her own business selling handmade Kenyan crafts on Vancouver’s Granville Island.
Cassandi said he was unable to take out a large loan because he did not own a home. In the end, it took her four years and maxed out all her credit cards before she launched her company.
“The lack of funding and financing really spills over into everything else, so we’re just working on a very small scale to try to change that,” she said.
“We thought, if we were to set out to change the system, what could we do?”
Recruiting Black Female Entrepreneur Candidates
She said when she started the project, she thought there were fewer than 20 Black-owned businesses in the state, but she quickly learned that number was nearly 400 and now stands at 600.
Last year, Cassandi and her partner were able to raise and donate $25,000. She said the award could have a transformative impact on small and medium-sized businesses. For example, you can now purchase the equipment you need to scale and acquire new accounts.
Get the latest national news. Sent to your email daily.
Deles Asghedom, founder and CEO of a British Columbia-based technology startup Vastar, was runner-up in the 2023 campaign. His company is developing an AI-powered app to help people better understand cannabis labeling and products, and hopes to release the tool in the coming months.
Although he didn’t walk away with any cash, he said the experience was rewarding anyway.
“It’s always a challenge to have a network, so what was helpful for me… was being exposed to a network of people who know about the technology that we’re building and the impact of that technology. ” he said. “It was really helpful to have access to all the different resources available that want to support companies like ours.”
The importance of economic development for Black and African communities in B.C.
Company pays $35 million after fraudsters made deepfake video calls with CFO and colleagues
Can eating leftover rice make you seriously ill? Here’s what you need to know
This year’s competitors include Nadine Umutoni, founder and CEO of Neza Coffee;
Umotoni is a Rwandan genocide survivor who now runs a social enterprise that sources beans from her home country, while also raising money for other survivors.
Like Kasandi, Umotoni has struggled to secure significant funding for his company.
“It’s really hard to start a business in general, especially if you don’t have any experience. As an immigrant and as a Black person, it’s even harder,” she said.
“We know the systemic barriers that Black entrepreneurs face when it comes to raising capital, which makes it even more difficult for us. But slowly but surely our company is growing. Masu.”
Vancouver International Black Film Festival
Despite the challenges, Neza was able to stock the product in select Safeway stores around Vancouver.
Winning the competition would allow the company to increase its distribution of coffee, making it more accessible and creating more jobs within the company, she said.
“My message is hope and patience,” she said. “Believe in your vision, seek out resources like this, and just don’t give up. I believe things will get better.”
The contest is open until February 16, and the top five entries will have the opportunity to publicly pitch their business ideas at the 2024 Black Business Summit, where the winner will be crowned.
While the competition could provide a much-needed boost to participants, her organization is focusing on the larger question of how to make access to capital more accessible for small business entrepreneurs and immigrants. The focus remains, Cassandi said.
She understands that banks need to manage the risk of lending, but it’s time to rethink some of their approaches, such as starting to allow evidence of long-term rent payments in credit scores. I also think that there are.
© 2024 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.