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💸 Black Entrepreneur Program ✊🏾 Black Twitter

The longest running black business development initiative in Canada is finally expanding to all of Atlantic Canada as part of the Black Entrepreneur Program. The federal program is a partnership between the government, black business organizations (nonprofits), and financial institutions.

💸 Black Entrepreneur Program ✊🏾 Black Twitter

BBI expands to all of Atlantic Canada.

Federal gov't doles out funding to nonprofits for the benefit of black entrepreneurs.

The longest running black business development initiative in Canada is finally expanding to all of Atlantic Canada as part of the Black Entrepreneur Program. The federal program is a partnership between the government, black business organizations (nonprofits), and financial institutions.

Rustum Southwell, co-founder and CEO, told the Globe and Mail BBI will be receiving $2.3-million over three years to expand its services.

The federal BEP program has three components: the loan fund, the national ecosystem fund BBI is participating in, and the knowledge hub. Applications are now closed except for the loan fund offered through FACE, which appears to have no deadline.

The BEP is the $265 million result of seven weeks of public consultations done in 2020 to identify the challenges faced by black businesses.

After consultations, the government announced how much its willing to commit to breaking down the barriers addressed by black businesses, and non-government organizations that already know how to reach black entrepreneurs then developed or continued their own existing programs to apply for the funding and dole it out.

Another recipient of the BEP funding, to the tune of $2.8 million, is Tribe Network. It’s an innovation hub with a BIPOC jobs board and online community–like LinkedIn for people of colour.

Tribe is in the process of developing their program, the Black Start Up Project, beginning with a road trip across Atlantic Canada to assess the different challenges faced by black entrepreneurs in Newfoundland, PEI, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Already, around 200 black entrepreneurs (including myself) have applied for support and funding.

All this to say, there is a lot of money in the pot for black businesses right now!

Thoughts on Black Thriving

I went to the Tribe network roadshow when they stopped in Halifax and I was deeply inspired by how many bright black entrepreneurs were there.

The room was full of talented and ambitious people, almost all young, some immigrants, some with several generations of family in Nova Scotia, and a panel of successful people sharing their challenges and successes.

In business there's a rule of thumb that only 10 per cent of any audience will actually ‘convert’ (sign up or buy something) and if that full room was only 10 per cent of the population of black entrepreneurs, things are looking damn good.

It brought me to a realization: two things can be true at once. In the first newsletter two weeks ago, I reported that Halifax hate crimes doubled in 2020, and anti-black hate crimes specifically rose by 92 per cent across the country. The same year, this funding was announced.

At the same time that Halifax and the nation are facing a surge of anti-black racism, there is an equal and opposite surge of black thriving, black opportunities and black celebrations to be had.

About eight years ago the United Nations declared this the Decade for People of African Descent. As far as international policies go (usually symbolic and nearly impossible to enforce across borders) this declaration has proven itself in Nova Scotia–it has been a good decade for people of African descent, despite the subtle but significant rise in racism across North America.

As we watched the murder of George Floyd and so many others (including the racially motivated shooting that killed 10 just a few days ago in Buffalo, New York) huge gains have also been made in business, entertainment and government, in large thanks to grassroots activists like those of Black Lives Matter, and everyday community members working together to change the status quo.

Circumstance invites us all to reflect on these last eight years, and the next. How will we continue to honour those gains and make even greater gains after 2024 when the decade comes to a close?

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I'm a journalist and digital producer who rejects the daily news format, instead embracing narrative, human-centred information and stories.

I've done work for The Coast–where I covered the local housing crisis and the growth of Airbnb–CBC, the Black Business Initiative magazine, Halifax Examiner, and Lion’s Roar, the largest Buddhist magazine in the English speaking world. I've also helped launch multiple journalistic startups based on community issues around race, media and politics.

Twice as Good is a newsletter where I curate black news that centres human stories and the deeper context behind the headline. I do this in both text and audio formats whenever possible, so you can listen or read as you wish.

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Jamie Larson