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Ashleigh Montague of BLK Owned started Instagramming local black owned businesses in the Hamilton area in 2020 with her sister Abygail. Ashleigh helped celebrate the federal funding announced Tuesday that Empowerment Squared will use to create the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network.
Grants For Black Female Owned Businesses 2020
The Montague sisters — Ashleigh and Abygail — started BLK Owned on Instagram when Blackout Tuesday took over social media in 2020.
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“We had a list of 100 businesses in Hamilton that day, (and) started an Instagram page to showcase and support black-owned businesses,” said Abygail Montague.
The Montague brothers are not alone. They share their vision with Empowerment Squared — a nonprofit organization that supports newcomers and those from tribal communities with resources to find stability in the community, such as mentoring, skills training and entrepreneurship.
Now, $1.9 million in federal government funding for Empowerment Squared will help create a hub — the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network — for a larger group of black entrepreneurs in Hamilton and Windsor.
FedDev Ontario Minister Helena Jaczek, announcing the funding Tuesday at Empowerment Squared, noted the funding to the local nonprofit will help 275 Black-led entrepreneurs and businesses in Hamilton and Windsor and create 80 jobs.
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FedDev Ontario Minister Helena Jaczek, announcing the funding Tuesday at Empowerment Squared, said the funding to the local nonprofit will help 275 Black-led entrepreneurs and businesses in Hamilton and Windsor and create 80 jobs. The Hamilton Spectator
He noted that the hub will provide mentoring, business training and networking opportunities to help Black-led businesses, setting them up for success.
The grant is part of the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) — an investment of more than $265 million to nurture black business owners nationwide.
Ashleigh Montague said it was “essential for us to realize the importance of Empowerment Squared getting this funding from the ecosystem.”
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He told The Spectator that the funding will help businesses outside the GTA and in areas like Hamilton and Windsor to grow. “A lot of people think that diversity only exists in big cities, not realizing that we’re all there and it needs support outside of those (cities).”
Leo Nupolu Johnson, founder of Empowerment Squared, said federal funding announced Tuesday to create the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network will help train and educate local black business owners. The Hamilton Spectator
Leo Nupolu Johnson, the founder of Empowerment Squared, said the program will help educate and train local black business owners in two groups.
Recruitment for the first group of businesses and entrepreneurs will begin next month, while the second group is scheduled for early next year.
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“As a black community,” Johnson said, “there are two sides to the challenges we face. One side is the fighting side and the other side is the building side.”
“We’re fighting injustices…but I’m glad we’re working with the Canadian government to get some power on the building side, which I think has been neglected for far too long,” he added.
Johnson came to Canada in 2006 as a refugee and founded the nonprofit after struggling to navigate as a newcomer.
He said the initiative would require “commitment” to ensure it had the “highest return”, which would then be reinvested in the community for the “greater good”.
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The nonprofit will also hire new staff members to support program enrollment. Empowerment Squared has partnered with at least seven companies, including lead partner WEtech Alliance.
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Copyright owned or licensed by Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. All rights reserved. Publication or distribution of this content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Toronto Star Newspapers Limited and/or its licensors. To order copies of Toronto Star articles, go to: www.TorontoStarReprints.comFront row (L-R): Arielle Loren, Anika Godwin Hilderbrand, Stevonne Ratliff, Latricia Wright and Mimi Johnson. Second Row: Kim Roxie, Cassandra Davilmar, Deborah Koenigsberger, Anika Hobbs, Zandra Cunningham. Third Row: Lisa S. Jones, Thereasa Black, Logan Niles, Karneisha Christian, Xiomara Rosa-Tedla. (Photo: Frito-Lay North America)
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Many reports indicate that 2020 has been a brutal year for small business owners, including black women entrepreneurs, in large part due to the devastation of COVID-19.
However, before the pandemic-fueled financial hurdles, female founders received only 2.8% of venture capital funding. And even more troubling, a report called ProjectDiane found that only 0.2% of all VC funding goes to startups founded by black women.
Stacy’s Rise Project, created to bridge the funding gap for women-owned businesses, has awarded just $150,000 in grants to 15 black women business owners. The $10,000 each winner collects, along with professional advertising services and executive coaching/mentoring, will help them address the challenges many black founders face in this current environment. That’s a big deal because grant recipients are selected from thousands of applicants based on factors like their commitment to social impact, sustainability and how they’ve addressed recent challenges in their businesses.
The 2020 Stacy’s Rise Project, a grant and mentorship program created by Stacy’s Pita Chips, is dedicated to progressive female founders. Stacy’s is one of the brands that make up Frito-Lay North America, a unit of PepsiCo Inc. The grant recipients were selected in September by a panel of executives from Frito-Lay and PepsiCo, along with longtime partner Hello Alice. The annual program started this year in June.
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Ciara Dilley, Frito-Lay’s vice president of marketing, told Black Enterprise via email that the 15 black female founders represent thousands of more amazing black entrepreneurs who deserve the investor’s attention and investment. “Our goal with Stacy’s Rise Project is to provide our winners with resources that will set them up for long-term success—which in addition to the grant money includes mentoring relationships that will last beyond the formal program, including educational webinars and even professional advertising services.”
Dilley said when she started Stacy’s Rise Project this year, she was joined by Cameka Smith, founder of The BOSS Network. They talked about the importance of female mentorship.
Dilley claims that “our research earlier this year revealed that women entrepreneurs who had a mentor (73%) were more likely to feel well-equipped with the necessary resources to grow their business, compared to those who had none yet
He added that making connections and building relationships is more critical than ever. She explained that the 15 winners will also receive mentoring and exposure through The BOSS Network, which Dilley says has more than 3,000 members nationwide.
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Sharing the importance of programs like Stacy’s Rise Project, The Boss Network’s Smith told Black Enterprise via email that black female founders are the most underserved population when it comes to starting small businesses. Despite being the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs in America, she says black women continue to see their businesses fail due to a lack of funding and mentoring support.
“As an entrepreneur myself, I know the power of support to help a business grow, and Stacy’s Rise Project has given these women a lifeline to ensure they succeed.”
At the same time, Dilley said reports show that women-owned businesses average twice the return on investment per dollar invested, and that companies with diverse management teams deliver higher innovation while also having lower turnover. As a brand founded by women, she says Stacy’s main goal is to help women step up. She said the 2020 Rise of the Female Founder survey conducted this summer revealed that consumers share the same sentiment. Among his findings:
“We are incredibly proud to expand the Rise Project to support these additional 15 black founders to tell their incredible stories because we strongly believe that people want to support them – and that their achievements will also inspire aspiring entrepreneurs,” said Dilley .
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Dilley encourages Black women entrepreneurs to join the PepsiCo WomanMade community, which offers year-round resources to more than 3,000 members. He said the community will include Ask Me Anything-style webinars from PepsiCo and Frito-Lay network experts, as well as timely notifications about grant programs like Stacy’s Rise Project. For more information visit here.
Jeffrey McKinney is a longtime freelance writer and reporter, contributing to Black Enterprise magazine for several years on a wide range of business and financial topics. He previously wrote for Franchise Times, a highly regarded publication covering the franchise industry. Did you know that there are over 13 million women-owned businesses in the US? These businesses generate over $1.9 trillion in revenue annually! According to the 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report, 40% of first-time entrepreneurs in the U.S. are women and the number of women-run businesses in the U.S. are growing at twice the rate of male-owned businesses. Although these numbers are impressive, female founders have received