Hamilton and Windsor Black Entrepreneur Network Launched with $1.9 Million Federal Grant – Hamilton

The federal government is investing over $1.9 million to support black entrepreneurs and business owners in Hamilton and Windsor, Ontario.

On Tuesday, Minister Helena Jaczek of FedDev Ontario announced funding for Empowerment Squared, a nonprofit organization that supports newcomer, racialized and marginalized communities to create the Black Business Network in Southwest Ontario.

“We understand that many black entrepreneurs in our country continue to face barriers to success, including a lack of access to capital, resources, networks and opportunities,” Jaczek said.

The service will provide advisory services, mentoring, entrepreneurship training and networking opportunities for up to 275 black entrepreneurs and create 80 new jobs.

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Leo Nupolu Johnson, founder and chief executive officer of Empowerment Squared, said the funding will help Black business owners and entrepreneurs reinvest in their communities.

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“As a community, the black community, there are two sides to the challenges we face: one side is the fighting side, and I often like to say the other side is the uplifting side. So we’re standing up, we’re fighting injustice and other ways we have to contend, but I’m excited that we can work with the Canadian government to put some energy into the construction side of things that I think has been neglected to date long.”

He said the goal is to take advantage of this funding and ideally explore expansion beyond target beneficiaries in both the Hamilton and Windsor regions, with the first cohorts coming on board in September.

When asked if the network could receive more investment from the federal government in the future, Jaczek said it is under ongoing review based on how successful it is with that startup grant.

“We’re not just throwing money left, right and center – we’re totally focused on results. And a lot of what FedDev does with a lot of their programs is this kind of ongoing analysis to see what worked, where we can scale.”

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One organization formed to empower Black business owners in Hamilton is BLK Owned, which was co-founded by Ashleigh Montague, who had her own start at Empowerment Squared as a child.

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Montague said the nonprofit conducted a feasibility study last year in which it surveyed black entrepreneurs about the issues they face and learned many of them were young and under the age of 45, and only about a third had annual sales of had over $10,000.

Access to resources and skill development were also hard to come by, according to the study, and Montague said this prompted her to focus on helping black entrepreneurs build sustainable businesses.

“We look forward to working with Empowerment Squared and the community to build the amazing ecosystems of entrepreneurs who will take root in this region and strengthen our communities,” said Montague.

“As a Black entrepreneur, I can say that I am excited by the potential of this funding and look forward to this continued productive relationship with the Canadian government and future endorsements that will enable sustained growth and success for years to come.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

https://globalnews.ca/news/9064009/network-black-entrepreneurs-hamilton-windsor-created/ Hamilton and Windsor Black Entrepreneur Network Launched with $1.9 Million Federal Grant – Hamilton

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