By Neil Armstrong
TORONTO, Ontario (Pride News) — A recent study, of Black women entrepreneurs in Canada, has found that there is a need to continue to support them, in general business guidance and mentorship, funding, and staff and team assistance.
“Rise Up: A Study of 700 Black Women Entrepreneurs” is the result of a partnership of the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), Casa Foundation for International Development, and de Sedulous Women Leaders (dSWL), with researchers from the Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH).
The comprehensive report highlights the unique experiences of Black women entrepreneurs across the country, and the businesses they have developed.
“As Black women entrepreneurs contribute to the Canadian economy and pandemic recovery, engaging in integrated and intentional strategies to support Black women entrepreneurs as they develop and grow their business, is vital to inclusive sustainable growth in Canada,” notes the report.
It provides a snapshot of the industries and sectors, where the women studied, are concentrated, with the majority of entrepreneurs – 36.4 percent — operating as start-ups or businesses, one year old or less, or operating in the consumer goods and services sector, comprising 16.9 percent.
In terms of annual revenue, 93.4 percent of the businesses make less than $100,000 annually, and entrepreneurs, aged 25–34, make up 40 percent of subjects. The majority of them —62.7 percent— have obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Their primary motivations for pursuing entrepreneurship include: finding an opportunity to provide products or services; the desire for increased work flexibility; and finding an unexpected opportunity. There were also other reasons, such as, family and community influences, both positive and negative; personal experiences and passion; and flexibility and freedom, as motivating factors.
The report identifies the barriers that Black women entrepreneurs face, while operating and growing their businesses, such as, access to financing, cost of borrowing, and access to equity or capital.
“Such barriers to business development and growth have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the Black women entrepreneurs studied, experienced increases in their online presence, order and event cancellations, restricted spending due to uncertainty, and decreases in sales, as well as business slowdown, disruptions, and a decrease in services.”
The study notes that despite barriers, Black women entrepreneurs continue to develop successful businesses and share a variety of entrepreneurial achievements. “Key achievements include entrepreneurial success (including developing the courage to start a businesses, particularly amid the pandemic, the positive feedback they receive on products and services), the ability to innovate and develop products, and feelings of overall self- fulfilment,” the report notes.
The executive summary of the study notes that there is limited research on Black women entrepreneurs in Canada, and that the research that does exist is often based on small sample sizes, is based on immigrant women, or is entirely qualitative in nature.
Focusing on the unique experiences of these 700 Black women entrepreneurs — the largest such study undertaken in Canada – it used a purposive sample, based on the 2020–2021 Rise Up Pitch Competition applicants. Applications opened on December 10, 2020 and the virtual pitch competition and winner announcement took place on February 26, 2021.
Rise Up is an opportunity for Black women entrepreneurs, at any stage of business, to shine and pitch for the chance to win thousands of dollars in financial awards and resources.
This program has been designed to help Black women entrepreneurs develop key skills, build their networks, and receive the support they need to succeed.
When looking at the demographic attributes of Black women entrepreneurs, the report found that 60 percent of this population are immigrants with the majority indicating they are of African or Caribbean descent.
They also tend to be young in age and more educated than the general population of Black women in Canada. Moreover, almost half of applicants indicated they do not have dependent children.
Most of the businesses were established in 2020 or 2021and were operated from home, with almost 80 percent being online. The businesses are small in size, with the majority having no employees.
The report concludes by listing actions at the societal, organizational and individual levels that can support Black women entrepreneurs in their entrepreneurial journey.
Among the actions at the societal level are: to challenge anti-Black racism and break down stereotypes that associate entrepreneurship and innovation with masculinity, whiteness, and tech; and to showcase and celebrate the successes of Black women entrepreneurs and highlight role models within the Black community.
At the organizational level, it recommends focusing on “the tone at the top: explicit communication is needed, regarding the business case for diversity (especially in incubators, venture capital firms, and financial institutions).”
It also calls for the collection of disaggregated data on the barriers Black women entrepreneurs experience when accessing funding, programming, resources and other supports, and to challenge stereotypes of leadership, among other things.
At the individual level, the report calls for the promotion of entrepreneurship as a career option for Black women, and the need to challenge micro-aggressions, related to stereotypes and biases around traditional definitions of entrepreneurship and innovation.
The need to find a mentor or be a mentor was also highlighted, and the necessity to build networks and “use your sphere of influence”.
Founded in 1983, the BBPA is a non-profit, charitable organization that addresses equity and opportunity for the Black community in business, employment, education, and economic development.
Meanwhile, Casa Foundation for International Development is a Canadian not-for-profit founded in 2011 to advance women, youths, and emerging leaders through economic, entrepreneurship, and business development initiatives.
Founded in 2018, de Sedulous Women Leaders (dSWL) is a national network (social enterprise for profit) whose mission is to get as many immigrant Black women to rise to the T.O.P. of their professional career, as well as their entrepreneurial and political journey, by facilitating the delivery of mastermind classes, private coaching, mentorship, free quarterly events, and an annual conference.
The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) is a national network and accessible digital platform for sharing research, resources, and leading strategies. With ten regional hubs and a network of more than 250 organizations, WEKH is designed to address the needs of diverse women entrepreneurs across regions and across sectors.