5 tips to start and scale your Black-led business in Canada

3 min read

Women from different ethnic backgrounds collaborating on a project.

The success of Black business owners and entrepreneurs is essential to Canada’s economic recovery and future prosperity.

Innovation Canada hosted a webinar with panelists from the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, the Nova Scotia based Black Business Initiative, and BC based Black Entrepreneurs & Businesses of Canada Society. Here’s some of the top tips they had to offer:

1. Find a mentor

Learning from another person’s experiences can help shorten the learning curve for you and your business, whether it’s applying for capital, pricing your products, or even building confidence in taking your next big step forward.

[The new Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce] allows us to coach the black community, the business community and make sure they can elevate their brand and their business across Canada. We’re 1.2 million black Canadians and we need to find a way to connect ourselves economically.

Michael Forrest, Founder of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce

If you’re looking for a mentor, but aren’t sure where to start, these programs are designed to help:

2. Get to know your options

One of the challenges highlighted in the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce’s Building Black Businesses report is that many business owners used existing resources or turned to family and friends for financial support and advice. While you don’t need to enroll in an MBA to become a successful business owner, there are some helpful things to know before approaching a bank or an investor for money. And there are tons of free resources online to help you get started, like the Business Development Bank of Canada’s free online financial literacy course. This tool has great info on key issues like cash flow management, analyzing and improving profits, and raising capital.

3. Raise capital

Many banks and government-funded organizations now have new or bigger budgets specifically set aside to support Black-led businesses. That’s why it pays (literally) to include in your applications for funding if your business is at least 51% Black-owned or if your project aims to support Black entrepreneurship in Canada.

In 2020, the Government of Canada announced the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP), which consists of the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, the National Ecosystem Fund, and the Black Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub. The program is a partnership between the Government of Canada, Black-led business organizations, and financial institutions, with an investment of up to $350.8 million over four years to help Black Canadian business owners and entrepreneurs grow their businesses and achieve long-term success.

There are also some specific organizations, like the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, the Black Business initiative in Nova Scotia, and the Black Entrepreneurs & Businesses of Canada Society, that have lending programs exclusively for Black-led businesses. To learn more, all you need to do is send them an email and a representative will get back to you with more information on how they can help.

4. Market your business

Even if you have the best product on the market, it won’t sell if nobody knows it’s there. So, if you’re unfamiliar with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) or aren’t sure how to create a strong market research plan, then it might be a good idea to seek out some external help.

It is critical for entrepreneurs to understand innovative and various forms of advertising models to successfully navigate the digital space. Ensuring that they have the budget to support that is critical to their company's success.

— Christelle Francois, President of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce

Accelerator programs have training and courses specifically designed to help you learn some of these strategies. They also have experts on call, like accountants and lawyers, who can help you learn more useful information as a business owner.

5. Start with the Business Benefits Finder

For a tailored list of support for your business, including some of the programs mentioned above, check out the Business Benefits Finder. You can also sign up to be notified by email whenever a new program or service becomes available for your business needs.

First Things First

Questions?

Our Innovation Advisors can help. Get connected through our contact centre at 1‑833‑201‑4358 |TTY: 1‑866‑694‑8389, or send us details about your business. We’re committed to prompt and reliable service standards, and can respond to most inquiries within 24 hours.