Ontario Supporting Young Black Entrepreneurs
February 24, 2021
The Ontario government is investing $1.2 million over three years to help young Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned tech start-ups access the resources and tools they need to succeed in the province's changing economy. The funding will be provided through Ryerson University DMZ's Black Innovation Programs, which support Black-led businesses by connecting them with customers, capital, experts and a community of entrepreneurs and influencers. "Our government is supporting the Black Innovation Programs because they recognize great ideas, remove barriers, and help businesses grow and flourish," said Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services. "By strengthening Black communities and businesses and creating new opportunities for aspiring Black entrepreneurs we are building a fairer, more diverse and more inclusive economy." Research shows entrepreneurship presents an important and growing opportunity for the economic security of youth, yet Black entrepreneurs face systemic and complex barriers when starting and growing a business. Although approximately 3.5% of Canada's population identifies as Black, a 2015 Black in Canada survey found only 2,000 Black-owned businesses of significant scale. Black founders receive disproportionately less venture capital and grant funding, and Black Canadians have among the lowest participation rates in tech occupations. In 2019, the Brookfield Institute report Who Are Canada's Tech Workers? discovered that only 2.6% of tech workers in Canada were Black. The Black Innovation Programs, now in their second year, support Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned tech start-ups by providing them with resources to achieve success, including skills development workshops, sales and marketing training, mentorships, and dedicated workspaces. The program also leverages industry partnerships to help businesses access advice from industry experts on how to attract investors, expand revenue growth and market their product to wider audiences. "At Ryerson University, we fundamentally believe in creating an inclusive and open community of entrepreneurship", said Ryerson University President, Dr. Mohamed Lachemi "I am extremely grateful for the provincial government's continued support of the DMZ's Black Innovation Program. This investment will not only support a more equitable and inclusive start up ecosystem but will also drive real and impactful change when it comes to improving representation in Ontario's tech sector." "There is no over-stating the importance of diverse participation in businesses—from a small storefront to the corporate boardroom," said Prabmeet Sarkaria, Minister of Small Business. "Our economic recovery depends on the success of our small businesses and entrepreneurs across all regions and sectors. Supporting and training young Black entrepreneurs and increasing Black participation in every aspect of the economy will build community, aid our recovery, and set the path for economic growth and new opportunities." In addition to funding for the Black Innovation Programs, Ontario is investing $60 million over three years to enhance the Black Youth Action Plan which works toward eliminating systemic, race-based disparities by increasing opportunities for Black children, youth and families across the province.
The Black Innovation Programs launched in May 2019, and in their first year supported 10 Black start-up businesses. This year they aim to expand the number of start-ups to more than 50. The programs support Black entrepreneurs at all experience levels and across the startup lifespan, from idea development to sustained launch.
The government’s investment will enhance two early phases of the Black Innovation Programs: the Launchpad and Bootcamp Program. Launchpad is a skills development platform that helps participants develop the personal and professional skills needed to kickstart their entrepreneurial journey. Bootcamp helps participants validate a business idea or market opportunity, and build a roadmap for implementation.
The Ontario government is doubling funding for the Black Youth Action Plan by investing an additional $60 million over the next three years. Black Youth Action Plan programs are delivered by over 70 community-based and culturally-focused community partners and currently supports at least 10,800 Black children, youth and their families in Ottawa, Windsor and the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.
The Premier’s Council on Equality of Opportunity was established in June to provide advice to government to help youth at risk overcome social and economic barriers and achieve success.
Learn more about Ryerson DMZ
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