The report identified various needs and characteristics of Black business owners, and how to better support them. The report, which is supported by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), was released on March 2, 2021, and is available to the public on the official CBCC website.
About the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce
The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce (CBCC) is a national nonprofit organization established in 2019. It aims to serve as the economic hub for Black businesses in Canada. CBCC provides resources to entrepreneurs across Canada and works closely with the government and private sectors to provide better solutions for the community. At the time of writing, the chamber has well over 600 members.
A Deep Dive into the Report and Its Inception
According to Christelle Francois, President of CBCC, there was a need to explore the key challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs in Canada. Although the CBCC was playing its part in addressing some of these challenges, it recognized a need to dig up more data and information to support their program.
“Black entrepreneurs are making significant contributions to our communities and our country,” says Michael Denham, President and CEO of BDC. “Together, we must address the long-standing inequalities that hold them back from achieving their true potential. BDC is committed to being part of the solution and we are proud to work alongside partners like the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce to listen, understand, and act to support them,” he adds.
The Methodology of the Report
Using a qualitative research methodology, the report was conducted in 2020 with 53 Black Canadian entrepreneurs (47% women) across Canada. It features various types of businesses, from recent startups to high-revenue firms. The research also looked into different income levels and business models. The CBCC hosted nine Virtual Town Halls with Black entrepreneurs from different provinces and territories to provide their insights on issues related to business operations, motivations, and financial viability. The study was conducted between October and November 2020 and led by Pitch Better, a market research firm.
The study identifies several challenges that Black Entrepreneurs in Canada seem to be facing. The top three challenges identified include lack of access to capital, lack of advertising and marketing skills, and lack of mentorship. The study also shows that nearly 60% of Black entrepreneurs haven’t applied for funding in the last 18 months. They cited reasons such as lack of awareness, not meeting the eligibility requirements to receive funding, and having fewer than 10 employees.
“Identifying these key challenges allows us to better serve the community and utilize the data to advocate with the government and the private sector to develop products and services that are customized and tailored for the Black community,” says Francois, adding, “the challenges we encounter are based on systemic racism, and the lack of access to capital is partly due to racism; regardless of income levels, access to capital continues to be a challenge at various levels of entrepreneurship and regardless of how much your company is generating, if you’re Black, you’re Black.” Participants in the study confirmed they’ve sometimes had to ask someone of a different race to represent their company to banks to receive approval on their behalf. “It is not a good sign that people have to face this type of discrimination in this day and age,” Francois says.
According to Francois, this report is the first of its kind in Canada. No efforts were made before this report to explore or study the challenges that Black entrepreneurs face, and without such findings, it can be difficult to address those challenges. To continue exploring the various challenges affecting the Black entrepreneurship community and generating insightful reports, the CBCC has launched a new research and data division.
The report makes specific recommendations to the government that it can utilize to help fund the Black community and support Black entrepreneurship in the country. The recommendations are based on providing unique funding opportunities to the Black community, and additionally, providing recommendations to financial institutions to create unique products that can serve the community more effectively.
Feedback and way Forward
CBCC has seen positive responses and support for the report since being launched. Francois confirmed that many organizations and institutions are contacting CBCC to explore how they can better serve the community and be of help to Black entrepreneurs. “We're happy that the BDC was able to support us on this initiative and is committed to providing resources that uniquely serve the community,” says Francois. “We'll continue to explore how they can better serve our community as well.”
The CBCC has already indicated recommendations and solutions about the key ways to move forward. This will ensure that Black entrepreneurs have equitable access to capital through government funding programs. Financial institutions are also asked to create unique products that can holistically serve the community. “When it comes to financial services and qualifying for loans and credit, we encourage a more diverse leadership, with staff that are more aware of Black business models and who understand the unique needs of the industries we work in.”
Other CBCC Activities
The CBCC is enthusiastic about announcing its plan to launch a new division dedicated to conduct more research and generate insights regarding the challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs in Canada. The data will be used to identify gaps and provide solutions to corporate Canada and the government to improve decision making and tailored program development.
The CBCC has more programs and workshops in the pipeline to increase awareness around financial literacy, how to get better access to funding, and how to secure more government contracts, among other things. “One of our programs is called the Mastermind Program, which has advisers and mentors from top 500 companies to help Black entrepreneurs scale their companies and find investment opportunities.”
As the pandemic continues to affect businesses in unpredictable ways, the CBCC has been able to provide help to many entrepreneurs in different ways. The CBCC, through its partnerships, shared several initiatives for better funding opportunities and salary compensation. Various programs were also carried out in collaboration with the government to provide support and access to Black entrepreneurs. The Chamber also has a food incubator program competition in which three winners are eligible to receive funds for growing their food startups during COVID-19.
CBCC has also launched a new free webinar series for Black entrepreneurs. The webinar focuses on strengthening finances –to come safely through the pandemic and get ready to grow in the recovery. The first session is scheduled for April 1st and is about strengthening finances.
“We encourage people to visit our website, sign up for our newsletter, and join as members to gain access to constant updates,” Francois advises. “We are open to collaborating with any interested organization, especially Black entrepreneurs in Canada.”