To combat this history of financial oppression, the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society has launched The Black Pitch Contest to give Black entrepreneurs and youth a shot at cash prizes stretching up to $25,000 and opportunities for mentorship, coaching, and investment.
Jeremy Hunka, Media Liason for the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society, says the contest will be ‘barrier-free,’ meaning anyone in the Black community in Canada can apply, no matter their age, gender, or experience level.
Many other pitches require lengthy business plans and months of work for entrants to apply successfully. However, because most Black Canadian businesses are micro-enterprises, many owners don’t have the time to go through a lengthy application process to get started.
The Black Pitch Contest, on the other hand, offers a streamlined and simplified process. To start, Black entrepreneurs interested in applying need only to record a two-minute-long video pitching their business idea by December 15th. By eliminating lengthy pitch decks, business plans, budgets, spreadsheets and forms, The Black Pitch Contest ensures that the criteria to win is based only on how good the idea behind the business is.
Hunka adds that the pitch contest “is for ‘unfundable’ businesses who can’t get loans under the current systems because they’re either too young, have too many student loans, can’t access bank investment or face too many other systemic barriers.”
Jackee Kasandy, the co-founder of the Black Entrepreneurs and Business of Canada Society, understands these barriers all too well. She moved to Canada from Kenya and started her retail business, but she couldn't get loans because she lacked credit history and capital. She had to max out her credit cards to launch her business and relied on subletting her rented apartment through Airbnb to get by until she finally built her business. Today, her business generates more than $500K in annual revenue. She helped start the Black Pitch Contest so people like her could get funding to start their businesses.
Kassandy started her business in 2014 with minimal funding and no vehicle. She approached organizations looking for funding and mentorship, but most would only help if her business were three years old. Kassandy ended up using all her savings and money in her RRSPs to fund her company as she couldn't get a loan for less than $30,000 and didn't qualify. By doing this work, Kassandy notes she ruined her credit score and was ultimately "punished twice" with this process, once for ruining her credit and then punished against her score every time someone checked her credit as she sought investment and support. But she feels that if she had received funding like the $25,000 they are offering to the winner of The Black Pitch, she would have kept good credit, fixed those mistakes or used the cash flow to scale her business.
For Kassandy, the pitch contest needed to have not only a monetary component but also access to resources, mentorship and financial education. Everything Kassandy learned was through “trial and error.” She feels there is “no culture to know how money works,” which results in a long time to achieve financial success. She also noted that people often have issues managing money once they receive it. For example, business owners may need help understanding how to repay a loan, so instead, they may max out credit cards or, like her, ruin their credit score. All of these aspects are why Kassandy created The Pitch Contest.
Tinashe Mutamangira is one of those entrepreneurs experiencing barriers who need funding to kickstart his business. Mutamangira has developed InTuition Pay, a platform for international students to pay their tuition fees and connect with other students studying in Canada, Australia, the U.K., and U.S.A.
InTuition Pay helps international students avoid major bank delays when they pay their Canadian tuition due to transfer delays and wait times. Mutamanigira says he created InTuition Pay primarily to solve his problem as an international student.
"I moved from Zimbabwe to pursue my post-secondary education at the University of Manitoba. It was challenging to leave my family and start a new life alone. The uncertainty of not knowing if my tuition fees would arrive on time always left me anxious about enrolment periods because I didn't want to miss any deadline and not be able to attend school. The pandemic greatly exposed my vulnerabilities, and I realized that most international students shared the same sentiments. No significant change in the financial ecosystem has been made to accommodate us as a growing demography in Canada.”
InTuition pay would pay out the tuition to Universities and then collect it from the students' families after the transfer. This solution would help many students, and hundreds are already interested. But without initial investment, there is no way for InTuition Pay to get started. Motamanigira notes that "statistically, over 55% of international students suffer from mental health and anxiety from homesickness and no support system in the form of a community."
Mutamangira says he is running an entirely bootstrapped company. "Despite hundreds of students showing interest in using our platform, we haven't been able to secure any government grants to help build the platform and bring the necessary exposure."
Mutamangira adds, "working with a constrained budget, working minimum wage jobs and being front-line workers during the pandemic has created additional challenges. Further investment will allow us to focus on customer discovery and build the right product for our community. It takes one international student to understand the needs of another, and we are uniquely positioned to come up with solutions to those challenges." Mutamangira is participating in the Black Pitch Contest and feels it's the first opportunity with minimum entry barriers. Despite their current financial status, they were willing to provide the liquidity they needed.
Though The Black Pitch Contest is giving one lucky winner $25,000, readers looking to sponsor or donate can visit blackentrepreneursbc.com to learn more about supporting. The more sponsors BEBC gets, the more money it can give to Black Entrepreneurs.