Federal Black Entrepreneur Ecosystem Fund kicks off, financing 30 Canadian businesses

In twin announcements on August 13 that were strong on commitments but short on details, the federal government announced several funding components of the Black Entrepreneurship program.

From a Black-owned restaurant in Vancouver, British Columbia, Mary Ng, the federal minister of small business, export promotion and international trade, told a news conference that the first round of applications from the Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund had been approved.

Thirty Black businesses across Canada have received nearly $59 million from the over $100 million available in the fund. The businesses were not identified during the news conference.

“For years, Black business communities have faced significant barriers to accessing traditional avenues for growth and support.”

The fund itself is a component of the over $400 million Black Entrepreneurship Program, a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, post-secondary or other accredited educational institutions and financial institutions. The funds will be administered over a four-year period.

Components of the program include the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund that will provide loans of up to $250,000 to Black business owners and entrepreneurs across the country; a Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, that will conduct research on Black entrepreneurship in Canada, identify barriers to success, and opportunities for growth; and the Ecosystem Fund.

Ng said the Ecosystem Fund is the first program of its kind, and was co-developed with Black business leaders and Canadians to address the systemic inequalities that Black businesses and entrepreneurs have faced.

“For years, Black business communities have faced significant barriers to accessing traditional avenues for growth and support and this includes a lack of access to capital, resources, and other opportunities,” Ng said.

The fund enables Black business organizations to deliver tailored services and resources that address the needs of Canada’s Black businesses. Supports for business include helping secure greater access to capital – including access to lending – as well as other services like mentorship, financial planning, and more.

Nerissa Allen, president of the Black Business Association of BC, said, “You listened, and you allowed us as a community to develop the strategies that you know we need in our community to grow and build our business sectors.”

In BC, the Black Business Association will administer the funds. The association will receive more than $2.7 million in Ecosystem funding to create and deliver a portfolio of business services for Black entrepreneurs, including programs for startup, scale-up, market expansion, and youth businesses.

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The funding will also enable the association to expand its online learning platform, create an incubator program, and open a physical business centre with skilled professional staff and contractors to support Black entrepreneurs.

Canada’s longest-serving female MP, Hedy Fry, told the news conference that in order to have an inclusive economy, all Canadians must participate fully in the economy.

“This is more than funding,” Fry said. “This is a way we can change the game for black business owners and entrepreneurs across BC and change the future for those looking to bring their ideas and innovations alive.”

The Ottawa Citizen reported on August 13 that the federal government also “unveiled an investment of $832,000 for the Africa Development Network to develop and establish a new accelerator centre for Black Francophone entrepreneurs and businesses in Ottawa, Gatineau and Montreal.”

The project is expected to support 400 entrepreneurs and 200 Black-led businesses, and is projected to create 150 new jobs through the companies that receive support, according to The Citizen.

Project funding for the new accelerator comes from the Black Entrepreneurship Program.

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel

Charles Mandel's reporting and writing on technology has appeared in Wired.com, Canadian Business, Report on Business Magazine, Canada's National Observer, The Globe and Mail, and the National Post, among many others. He lives off-grid in Nova Scotia.