7 Black-owned Businesses Challenging the Status Quo
While Covid restrictions are lifting across the country, the pandemic’s impact on Canadian businesses will be felt long after masks and social distancing rules loosen. According to government data, Black-owned businesses in particular have been hard-hit. In Scotiabank’s 2021 Path To Impact report, 47 per cent of BIPOC business owners said systemic barriers, including a lack of market experience and discrimination, put their businesses at a greater disadvantage during the pandemic. Despite this, several Black business owners in Canada found success by disrupting industries that, even before the pandemic, weren’t adequately serving their communities. Here are seven Canadian Black-owned businesses that are changing the game.
Athlete Tech Group
When in-person sporting events were halted in 2020, Athlete Tech Group, an organization dedicated to helping athletes find career paths after sports, pivoted. The business, founded in 2019 by former varsity athlete Randy Osei, started as a Toronto-based summit for the sport and tech community. Now, it’s an ecosystem of business opportunities for athletes. Athlete Tech Group offers networking events and learning opportunities for athletes at all levels (youth, college, pro) through mentorship programs, like its six-month course for high school BIPOC women athletes, and through its on-demand learning app, Training Ground, which offers courses like intro to investing.
Ottawa-based label Minstrel Records, founded in 2014, is moving away from the traditional relationship between record label and artist by shifting the power balance: Musicians on the label maintain full ownership of the music that they record with them, says Minstrel COO Segun Akinbobola, who runs the label along with CEO Ralph Dartey II and president Kofi Dartey. This is unlike many other models in the industry where the label traditionally owns the copyright of artists’ recordings. The shift is significant as labels can earn millions of dollars off the back of artists’ music—and the industry has a history of exploiting artists of colour in particular. So far, Minstrel artists include Ottawa gospel singer Ryan Ofei, who was recently nominated for a Grammy.
Love and Nudes
The fashion industry is notorious for associating the word “nude” with light skin tones—especially when it comes to undergarments. Toronto-based Love and Nudes, founded by Chantal Carter in 2017, seeks to redefine the term by making bras and underwear more inclusive. Carter’s products come in a variety of shades like nutmeg, a medium brown with warm undertones, and espresso, a deep brown with neutral undertones. The brand has been celebrated for its pioneering approach to lingerie—one that’s since been replicated by other brands—with coverage in Ebony and Elle magazines.
Salon Académie Nancy Falaise
When Montreal hair stylist Nancy Falaise realized an alarming amount of her clients knew very little about how to properly take care of their kinky and curly hair, she came face-to-face with a larger issue within the hair care industry: education and celebration of natural hair was often low or non-existent. In 2017 she founded Quebec-based hair salon and academy, Salon Académie Nancy Falaise, to provide clients and apprentices with better information on how to keep Black hair healthy.
Hxouse is a Toronto-based incubator that supports local BIPOC entrepreneurs and creatives by connecting them to funding, mentorship and networking opportunities. Founded in 2018 by Canadian musician The Weeknd, XO Records creative director La Mar Taylor and marketing expert Ahmed Ismail, Hxouse has since partnered with TD Bank to launch Black Hxouse, a series of programs designed to remove economic barriers for young people of colour through corporate partnerships and grants.
Founded in 2018 by Avery Francis, a CB advice columnist, Bloom is a workplace design consultancy that helps businesses create better and more inclusive organizations. The Toronto-based firm helps with hiring, HR policies and diversity, equity and inclusion training. It has worked with Canadian companies like Knix, Willful and Properly, to name a few.
Oli and Fetch
The pet industry contributes to a large amount of plastic waste thanks to food packaging and plastic toys. That’s why Edmonton-based company Oli and Fetch, founded by RJ Skyers during the pandemic, makes sustainable handcrafted pet accessories from hand-dyed vegetable-tanned leather, premium cotton fabrics and nickel hardware that has a lifetime warranty.