The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating effect on small businesses across Canada, including financial loss, closures and crippling debt. Still, perhaps none have been affected more severely than minority-owned companies and startups.
Says Nadine Spencer, CEO of BrandEQ Group Inc. and president of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA):
“… we recognized that in a post-recovery plan, we really had to shore up the Black businesses. COVID happened, yes, but before COVID we had issues of systemic racism, we had lack of access to capital and all of those things that Black businesses arechallenged with.”
In this article, our goal is to connect Black entrepreneurs and business owners to the opportunities and support they need to overcome these obstacles and help their businesses thrive in 2021.
Complete list of resources
Here we provide a convenient list of resources that will make it easier for you to find funding, education and support for your Canadian business in 2021. Look below for details on each.
- Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP)
- National Ecosystem Fund
- Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund
- Small Business Grants Canada
- List of Current Canadian Government funding, loans, tax credits and wage subsidies for Black entrepreneurs
- Canadian Business Financing Programs
Education and training
- Open Culture Free Business Training
- BDC Entrepreneurs Learning Centre
- Niagara College Small Business and Entrepreneurship Training
- Ontario Colleges Small Business and Entrepreneurship Programs
Support and mentorship
- Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub
- Futurpreneur Mentorship Program
- Afro Biz Business Directory
- We Buy Black Marketplace
- Black Business Directory
- Black Chamber of Commerce Canada
Below we share details of many of these programs.
Funding sources for Black-owned businesses in Canada
One of the biggest challenges facing Black business owners is the lack of capital they have access to, making it difficult to start their own business or sustain them during a crisis.
In September 2020, the Canadian Government announced a $221-million investment in Black startups through their Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP).
BEP provides financial help to existing and new small businesses owned by Black entrepreneurs.
According to the Government of Canada, the BEP funds will be distributed over multiple years. The funds will be divided through various programs:
- The Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, which plans to provide loans of up to $250,000 to Black entrepreneurs and business owners (details to be announced)
- The National Ecosystem Fund for Black-led not-for-profit organizations (the first round of applications closed 12/21/20; watch for round #2)
- The Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub, which will provide information, research and statistics on Black-owned businesses in Canada
The Canadian Government has also partnered with national banking institutions such as BMO Financial Group, Scotiabank, RBC, National Bank, CIBC, TD, Alterna Savings and Vancity. This partnership will provide another $128-million in loans and lending support for Black-owned businesses.
If you fail to get help for your small business through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP), you don’t need to despair; there are other options you can explore to get funding for your venture. These alternatives include government grants, loans, investment opportunities and more.
The smart place to start is by applying for funding through government grants, which don’t need to be repaid.
In other words, your small business will gain the capital it needs without acquiring increased debt.
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Other types of support
Thanks to many social groups, the level of awareness for Black businesses is on the rise. Many people, brands, organizations, corporations, universities and banks are going out of their way to show their support and commitment to Black entrepreneurs and business owners.
Black-owned business badges
Large companies such as Google are making it easier for Black-owned businesses to get found online by giving them a ‘Black-owned business badge.’
Other companies have followed suit, including Yelp, which now features a ‘Black-owned’ tab on their business profiles.
Other websites allow you to list your Black-owned business in order to gain support from your community:
Through their platforms, you’ll be able to present your business to an online audience looking to visit your physical or virtual storefront.
Small business guidance
While there’s a lot of public support for Black-owned businesses right now, many Black business owners are held back by a lack of community, mentorship and guidance.
It isn’t easy to start a business, especially if you don’t know anyone who has faced similar problems and can guide you through
The BEP Knowledge Fund mentioned above will connect entrepreneurs with not-for-profit Black organizations, recognized universities and research institutes that can provide mentorship, guidance and training.
Claim the help you’re entitled to
Despite the many challenges confronting Black entrepreneurs and business owners, the tides are changing. While this moment is difficult and long-term change will take time, you may find in the list above some immediate relief in this time of crisis.
The Canadian Government is increasing it’s support for Black-owned business ventures — it’s up to you to claim it.
Canada is one of the most ethnically diverse nations in the world, making it the ideal place for entrepreneurs trying to start a business. There’s a flood of support, including funding, education and mentorship for black business owners in 2021. Check it out — you might find something that makes the difference for your business.