U of T Scarborough and the Federation of Black Canadians are partnering on a new project that will support the next generation of Black entrepreneurs thrive.

The partnership is part of a $1.3-million investment announced by the federal government for the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), a Black-led non-profit organization aimed at enhancing services that support and mentor Black youth and young adult entrepreneurs.

Filomena Tassi, the Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, made the announcement at U of T Scarborough’s Catalyst Centre on Feb. 21.  

“The Federation of Black Canadians will provide a vital platform for young Black entrepreneurs to develop, launch and scale-up their businesses with the investment announced today,” said Tassi, who was joined by Gary Anandasangaree, MP for Scarborough—Rouge Park.

The FBC will collaborate with U of T Scarborough, The BRIDGE and U of T’s Black Founders Network (BFN) to research and conduct surveys in Black communities across Ontario, Alberta and Quebec. Their goal is to determine the needs, obstacles and structural challenges faced by Black youth entrepreneurs. The findings will help create programming including a four-month entrepreneurial program focused on business planning, finance, risk management, legislation and commercialization all aimed at supporting the success of Black entrepreneurs.

The BRIDGE will also partner with FBC to support the creation of a 12-month mentorship program that offers one-on-one support from leaders in the Black community aimed at building professional networks and expanding social capital. Topics will include managing stress, debt, technology, brand and business development, and mental wellness.

Founded in 2017, the FBC works to further the social, economic, political and cultural interests of Black Canadians. It focuses on community programming, hosts workshops, conducts research projects, organizes community events and supports capacity building.

FBC executive director Chris Thompson said the funding ties directly into the organization’s mandate to ensure economic security and inspire the next generation of Black entrepreneurs.   

“Through our partnership with U of T Scarborough, The BRIDGE and the Black Founders Network, participants will gain access to passionate facilitators and mentors, as well as a greater understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and what goes into developing a business,” said Thompson.

The investment by the federal government, which was made through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, will support the FBC to provide tools and resources to 170 Black youth entrepreneurs in Toronto, Montreal and Edmonton. 

Wisdom Tettey, U of T vice-president and principal of U of T Scarborough, said the funding will help provide a lift to Black youth entrepreneurs, and help them access resources that might otherwise be beyond their reach.

“It’s important to recognize that Black entrepreneurship is Canadian entrepreneurship, and Canadian entrepreneurship is worse for it when there is no space for Black entrepreneurs to thrive and flourish,” said Tettey.

“It fills me with immense pride that our campus is part of the ecosystem fund and it’s a privilege to be a key partner in unleashing the full potential of Black entrepreneurs.”

BFN program manager Efosa Obano (UTSC BBA 2018) said his organization will be there to support capacity-building and help create more direct pathways for Black entrepreneurs to connect with skilled employees.

“Capacity-building is critical,” said Obano, who founded the African Impact Initiative while an management undergrad at U of T Scarborough.

“Giving folks funding when they aren’t ready can lead to mistakes. We want to help make sure entrepreneurs have the capacity and resources they need to take their idea forward.” 

U of T Scarborough Principal Wisdom Tettey, MP Gary Anandasangaree and MP Filomena Tassi at U of T Scarborough’s Catalyst Centre