On Thursday, Feb. 23, 2023, Kingston Economic Development Corporation (Kingston EcDev) hosted a launch event for a new organization that will help identify, guide, and connect Black entrepreneurs in the region with resources and a support system.
The recently incorporated Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem for Southeastern Ontario (BEE-SEO) will work toward helping accelerate Black-owned businesses’ growth and the entrepreneurship culture among early-stage and potential entrepreneurs, according to a media release from Kingston EcDev.
BEE-SEO operates as a non-profit and employs a “strategic approach of partnering with entities at the provincial and federal levels in Southeastern Ontario to aid in program development and service delivery,” Kingston EcDev stated.
According to the release, Black-owned businesses are “often considered to be side hustles.” A survey conducted in 2021 by the African Canadian Senate Group and Senator Colin Deacon revealed that 44 per cent of Black entrepreneurs in Canada were unable to pay themselves from their businesses. The Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem for Southeastern Ontario’s goal is to develop and deliver programs to ensure the growth of such businesses, not only as a sustainable source of income for their owners, Kingston EcDev said.
The official launch event took place this month, as part of Black History Month, Kingston EcDev said, noting that they introduced members of the first BEE-SEO Board of Directors and showcased local entrepreneurs during a pitch panel. Dignitaries, including MP Mark Gerretsen and Mayor Bryan Paterson, were in attendance.
Black entrepreneurs Anthony Ighomuaye – Founder and CEO of Cavlom; Martha Williams – Founder and CEO at Pedal Works Café and Studio; Emmanuel Tamrat – CEO and Founder at Blindspot Agency; Nomsa Mngoma – CEO and Founder at Dansani Dancing Company, and Constantin Mugenga – Founder and CEO at Imperial Cleaning and Painting company were some of the local entrepreneurs who showcased their entrepreneurial ventures at the launch event.
“When looking across the Southeastern Ontario corridor, Black-owned businesses are quite scattered and disconnected. So, we saw an opportunity to help bring our growing community together, and this led to a series of meetings that was a catalyst to create a formal organization,” stated Norman Musengimana, entrepreneur, Business Development Manager at Kingston Economic Development, and current BEE-SEO Board Member. “We are excited to build sustainable equity and growth for local black entrepreneurs. We will be conducting a needs assessment to help us understand the key pain points within the community and supports we can offer. This is an important step forward for Kingston and the region’s business ecosystem.”
Dejhana Sandes, Programs and Administration Coordinator at Kingston Economic Development, added that “in the Kingston region, the Black community is steadily growing and thriving. We just needed to step forward and organize as a collective rather than individually trying to navigate a path to growth. We are proud to be making these strides and are grateful for the support that we have already been showered with even at this initial stage.”
Patrick Egbunonu, Associate Dean for the School of Business at St. Lawrence College, and Dr. Nomsa Mngoma, a Clinical Research Scientist and Adjunct Associate Professor, round out the rest of the BEE-SEO Board of Directors for the organization and have provided much-needed collegiate insight, according to the release.
To date, the Black Entrepreneur Ecosystem for Southeastern Ontario has been formally incorporated and the organization is well underway with the selection process for additional members to the Board of Directors, Kingston EcDev said, noting that one of the initial goals is to develop a comprehensive network of businesses in the region.
All Black entrepreneurs and Black-led businesses are welcome to join. Learn more at bee-seo.ca.