Funded by the Government of Canada’s National Ecosystem Fund, BBEP will receive $1.8 million over the next three years to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black businesses in Canada. The FMC will specifically help the Caribbean carnival ecosystem.
It's widely recognized that Black-owned small businesses and entrepreneurs have, historically, been the targets of institutional racism. Banks often deny them access to capital and financial resources. In addition, many smaller businesses lack the financial know-how to scale up and move beyond cash transactions or the skills to build a business plan, navigate corporate structure and locate company records. The COVID-19 pandemic is also taking its toll.
The Government of Canada's recognition of these challenges spurred a call for proposals to support small businesses and the FMC responded with a focus on Caribbean carnival entrepreneurs.
Carnival season in Toronto generates $400 million a year for the city, in part because of the presence of vendors, artisans, musicians, makeup artists and other stakeholders who provide services.
“We celebrate our culture by organizing the festival every year,” says Laverne Garcia, FMC’s Chair of the Board of Directors. “We also want to give back to the community and build strong entrepreneurial foundations.” Besides strengthening the festival, the goal of the BBEP is to help Black entrepreneurs build their financial literacy. “We want to give them the building blocks, tools and resources that will help fortify them and take their businesses to the next level, not just during the carnival season, but throughout the year,” Garcia explains.
“We believe that we’re in a very good position due to our close ties to entrepreneurs and we are confident in our ability to address some of the systemic barriers,” says Garcia.
The BBEP offers virtual instructional courses led by experts in their fields. Each course is free to the public with classes spread throughout the evening. There are eight courses in the program:
● Money management
● Technology solutions and digital strategies
● Business structures and planning
● How to grow your business
● Funding opportunities
● Vendor and customer relationship management
The three-year program is delivered over 32-week sessions (8 months) to 120 students each year. Each cohort will be split into four small groups of 30 participants.
The courses will be held online every week for four weeks. Participants will take one course per week and will receive a certificate of completion at the end of the program. Classes will include 90 minutes of instruction time and 30 minutes for breakout sessions. Successful executives from larger businesses will also be invited to provide mentorship in the breakout sessions.
“The FMC knows many small businesses that work with the festival and wants to make the program available to them. We also anticipate most of the participants to be Toronto-based due to our footprint in the area and the Toronto festival. However, the program is open to any self-identifying Black business and entrepreneur from across Canada,” confirms Garcia.
Courses start January 17, 2022, and registrations are currently open. Interested small business owners and entrepreneurs can go to the Toronto Caribbean Carnival website and sign up via the registration portal on their program page. The portal will ask for their information during sign up and then they will be contacted by program coordinators to complete the registration.
“We have received great feedback and have already received many registrations. We can cater to 120 registrants and spots are filling up quickly so anyone who's interested in it should register while we still have space. If not, then they can participate in the next session,” says Garcia.
The festival was born out of a celebration of freedom and emancipation and the FMC started a campaign to connect, not just with the community, but also with the broader Canadian community to understand the historical significance of the festival.
“Our focus is on building the Black diaspora and making sure that the history is preserved and celebrated,” explains Garcia.
The FMC has plans for its next festival in 2022. “Even though there were limitations last year, we managed to bring some of the excitement and flavour of the carnival to support businesses that were impacted by the pandemic. We hope 2022 can be more successful.”
Due to the impact of COVID-19, more than two-fifths (43.8%) of businesses majority-owned by visible minorities expect sales to decrease over the next three months. (StatCan, March 26, 2021)
Photo Credit: Toronto Caribbean Carnival