BY JASMINE WILLIAMS
Canadian Black Business Week is here! From October 28th to November 2nd, The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce is celebrating entrepreneurs that are at the forefront of creativity and innovation. In the past 20 years, the Black community in Canada has doubled in size – and as our community continues to grow, so does our contribution to the Canadian economy.
We are discussing the Black business experience in Canada and showcasing some leading Black entrepreneurs at the upcoming Black Business Conference: Creating Wealth & Opportunity Through Entrepreneurship on November 2nd.
Meet our featured speakers here:
Vivian Kaye (https://viviankaye.com/)
Osuyi Omorogbe (https://www.ekiskincare.com/)
Arsene Toumani (https://telostouch.com/)
Amoye Henry (http://amoyehenry.com/)
Hermine Mbondo (https://b4brand.ca/)
TK Smoothe (http://moonraiserent.com/)
Robert Small (http://www.thelegacyposter.com/)
Nana Boateng Osei (https://bohten.com/)
From coast to coast to coast, here are a few more of the rising Black entrepreneurs that are making great strides in business in Canada.
Ricky Neckles, Neckles Global Enterprise Inc.
Not many people have a story like Ricky Neckles. At the age of 24, Ricky Neckles was already running a multi-million dollar company, Neckles Global Enterprise Inc. (NGE). A privately-held investment firm, NGE owns a collection of diversified businesses operating in sectors ranging from real estate to manufacturing. He is also the co-founder of TNTech Canada, one of the country’s leading distributors of onsite paging systems.
Zainab Bernard and Portia Sam, Miscellany Finds
Passionate about small business and women empowerment, Portia Sam and Zainab Bernard decided to partner up and create a thrift store that encourages sustainability through recycling and reusing goods. Today, Miscellany Finds is a thriving Vancouver-based social enterprise that supports hundreds of marginalized women and youth through a variety of programs.
Charmaine Crooks, NGU Consultants
Most Canadians may know Charmaine Crooks for her athletic accomplishments. The Vancouverite is a five-time Olympian and Olympic Silver Medalist. However, she is also the President and founder of NGU Consultants, a sports marketing, management and corporate consulting company. A powerhouse on and off the track field, Charmaine has been an avid supporter and strategist for Canadian sporting events and the founding member of countless charitable initiatives including Right to Play International, 365 International Sport Foundation and Our Cityride. It’s no wonder that she has been inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame, Athletics Canada Hall of Fame, and the University of Texas-El Paso Sports Hall of Fame.
Ismail Attitalla, Stashii and Edmonton Brewery Tours
Ismail Attitalla via CBC.ca (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/stashii-rents-out-storage-space-parking-stalls-even-closets-1.3830461)
While running one business may be challenging enough for most people, Ismail Attitalla is defying the odds and successfully running two companies. He’s the founder of Stashii, a peer-to-peer storage marketplace, and Edmonton Brewery Tours. The serial entrepreneur is also a big proponent of using entrepreneurship to build community.
Leo Cripps, Riddimwest Festival
The Calgary Reggae Festival has been a cultural cornerstone in the city for the past 15 years. After a one year hiatus, the Calgary Reggae Festival returned this year under a new name: the Riddim West Festival. Led by founder and producer Leo Cripps, the Riddim West Festival invites Reggae stars from all over the world to perform and celebrate the influence of Reggae music in Western Canada.
Evelyne Nyairo, Ellie Bianca
Evelyne Nyairo is the talented woman behind Ellie Bianca Skincare, a non-GMO, cruelty-free and sustainably sourced luxury skincare line. Not only does Evelyne use only all-natural ingredients in her products, she is also committed to bettering the lives of the women she works with and serves. She sources the company’s core ingredients – shea butter and oil – from women-run co-ops in Africa. Nyairo also runs the Ellie Bianca Foundation, which provides scholarships to single mothers pursuing post-secondary education.
Lynn M. Sainté, Papaya & Co
If you love bold, colourful prints, then you will be a big fan of Lynn M. Sainte’s lifestyle brand, Papaya and Co. The brand uses African-inspired wax prints to create blanket scarves, tote bags, pouches and aprons that make a statement. Lynn launched her company in 2015, but her unique and culturally impactful designs rose in popularity after a fundraising initiative to support the Carribean islands affected by Hurricane Matthew in 2016.
Trudie Mulalu, Curl Bar Beauty Salon
Trudie opened her hair salon Curl Bar in 2014, after failing to find a hairdresser that could give her curls the attention they deserved. Now one of Toronto’s most popular destinations for curly hair, Curl Bar’s team of stylists are committed to making sure that every client walks away with a glorious head of healthy curls and the right tips and tools to care for their new ‘do.
Kelvin Nyeusi Mawazo, Black Sun Comics
Kelvin Nyeusi Mawazo has created a world that celebrates science fiction and fantasy through an African lens. He is the author, illustrator and owner of Black Sun Comics, a publishing company that celebrates Afrofuturism. Whether you’re a huge comic book fan or new to the world of sci-fi, Mawazo’s story of a group of unlikely heroes who must band together to reclaim their homeland from a mysterious, invading alien armada will have you hooked until the very end.
Catherine Addai, Kaela Kay
Catherine Addai is the brilliant award-winning designer behind Kaela Kay. Worn by celebrities like Busy Philipps and Ava Duverney, her eye-catching, Ghanaian-inspired prints always turn heads. Catherine’s foray into fashion began with a simple mission: to create elegant and bold prints for women of every size. While her brand has grown rapidly in North America, Addai is also committed to the economic empowerment of women across the African continent.
Carolyn Simon, Choose Life Foods
Have you been searching for a healthier version of a Jamaican patty? Well, look no further. After struggling to find a suitable vegan alternative for one of her favourite foods, Carolyn Simon decided to create her own plant-based recipe. Her friends and family couldn’t get enough of her version of the popular snack and thus, Choose Life Foods was born. Now you can find Simon’s fair-trade, vegan, organic, and non-GMO Jamaican patties in stores across Ontario and Quebec.
Alex Chunga, iHome Prestige Luxury
Alex Chunga via (https://www.ihomeprestigeluxury.ca/about.html)
Originally from Zambia, Alex started working in carpentry after immigrating to Canada. He launched his company, iHome Prestige Luxury, with a simple goal: to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’ property improvement option for home and cottage owners. As a first-time business owner with limited knowledge of the Canadian business landscape and processes, getting started was no easy feat. Nevertheless, Alex is proof that if you put in the work, you can make your entrepreneurial dreams a reality.
Vivian Kaye, Kinky Curly Yaki
Vivian Kaye via. Byblacks.com (https://byblacks.com/profiles/business/item/2355-how-vivian-kaye-turned-her-hair-care-needs-into-a-multi-million-dollar-biz )
As a black woman with natural hair, Vivian Kaye was tired of looking for textured hair extensions and coming up short. So in 2012, she decided to end her search once and for all and launch her own company. Now, KinkyCurlyYaki is a multi-million dollar business offering premium hair extensions, clip-ins, ponytails, puffs and more. Vivian’s flair for business has gotten her featured on Shopify’s Expert Academy Series, TED Conference’s “The Way We Work,” and in publications like Black Enterprise, Ebony Magazine, Refinery21, and Blavity.
Trent Hall, Exclucity
If you’re in the market for sneakers, Trent Hall has you covered. Trent first started Exclucity in the basement of a tattoo parlour. Today, it’s a multi-million dollar brand with three physical locations. Most recently, Trent has parlayed his sneaker success into a new venture: his own media platform, Trent Out Loud. With over 800 employees, Trent’s empire is growing rapidly and showing no signs of slowing down.
Isaac Olowolafe, Dream Maker Ventures
When you’re launching a startup, gaining access to mentorship and capital is crucial. However, for marginalized entrepreneurs, this process can be pretty grueling. This is a big reason why Isaac Olowolafe Jr. founded the early-stage venture firm, Dream Maker Ventures (DMV). Isaac primarily invests in early-stage tech companies founded by people of colour, women, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ+ professionals, immigrants, refugees, and indigenous entrepreneurs.
Nana Boateng Osei, Bohten
Nana Boateng Osei is revolutionizing the sunglass industry, one trendy pair at a time. He blended his love for nature, sustainable design, and social entrepreneurship to create Bôhten Eyewear, an eco-luxury eyewear line. Bôhten Eyewear uses reclaimed wood from West Africa to produce frames that are as environmentally-friendly as they are stylish.
17. Janelle Hinds, Helping Hands
Janelle Hinds is the founder and CEO of Helping Hands, a mobile app that places students in the Greater Toronto Area with volunteer placements. While completing a certain number of volunteer hours is a high school graduation requirement, finding these opportunities is harder than you might think, especially for lower-income students. Fortunately, Helping Hands is helping to bridge the gap. Janelle is now working on partnering with local schools to expand the reach of her app.
18. Nadia Hamilton, Magnusmode
Nadia Hamilton is the founder of Magnusmode, an interactive app that empowers people with autism and other cognitive special needs to live independently. Magnusmode coaches people with special needs through everyday situations using customizable flashcards, stories, and a wizard character named Magnus. Hamilton has been widely celebrated for her entrepreneurial contributions. She won Project Wildfire’s Social Business Award in 2011, has been recognized by SheEO’s Radical Generosity Initiative, and was Startup Canada’s National and Regional Woman Entrepreneur of the Year in 2016.
19. John Eke and Meron Berhe, Bantu
John Eke and Meron Berhe https://www.bantuapp.com/
When their friends kept asking them if they knew any good hairstylists in the area, John Eke and Meron Berhe immediately realized that there was an opportunity to build a better solution for their community. Their Bantu app connects people with kinky, coil-y or curly hair to a pool of talented stylists who specialize in afro-textured hair. To use the app, all users need to do is pick a city, filter the styles, and book an appointment. Bantu currently has over 10,000 stylists and users in Canada, the USA, France, and the UK.
Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro and Abdul-Aziz Garuba, My African Corner
Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro (co-founder/CEO) and Abdul-Aziz Garuba (co-founder) Via Now Toronto (https://nowtoronto.com/lifestyle/education/my-african-corner-connects-diaspora-arts-culture-business/)
Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro and Abdul-Aziz Garuba are the founders of My African Corner, a digital media platform that makes it easy for anyone to find businesses, events, arts, culture and content owned by people of African descent in cities across the world. With an active community of over 2,000 people, the platform is transforming word-of-mouth marketing for the Africa diaspora.
21. Angela Samuels, Voluptuous Clothing
Shopping in Canada can be tough when you’re bigger than a size 12. But rather than feel dejected, plus-sized fashion model Angela Samuel saw this problem as an opportunity to create a brand that helped women dress fashionably at any size. Her online store, Voluptuous Clothing, sells vibrant, flattering and stylish clothing for plus-size women at affordable prices. As a result of her hard work, Voluptuous Clothing is now a powerful retail phenomenon which has tripled its sales in recent years.
Steven Charles, LS Cream Liquer
By using a family recipe passed down through generations, Steven Charles is putting his own Haitian twist on a classic. His award-winning cream liqueur, LS Cream, is distributed by the SAQ and sold in the United States. With his delicious product, Charles is hoping to change the game and establish LS Cream liqueur not only as a complement to cocktails or a holiday treat, but as a drink that can be enjoyed at any time of the year.
Caffrey Van Horne, Caffrey Van Horne
Inspired by his life in Jamaica, designer Caffrey Van Horne’s eponymous luxury brand offers upscale looks for men and women that are perfect for a romantic date or a night out on the town. In addition to being a designer, Caffrey is also a celebrated photographer, stylist, and philanthropist. He’s passionate about working with the African community to build economic prosperity and has taught workshops for underprivileged women in Bogota to help them learn how to make and sell their own clothing and accessories.
Fanny Ngantcheu, Kwesiya
When Fanny Ngantcheu booked a trip to Cameroon, she did not expect it to change her life, let alone her career. However, the trip inspired her to integrate more of her African heritage into her designs. The result? Her ready-to-wear fashion accessories brand, Kwesiya. The name, which means “Mix It” in a Cameroonian dialect, reflects the label’s mission to promote inclusivity. Since its inception in 2013, Kwesiya has been growing steadily in popularity and Fanny was named Accessory Designer of the Year at the 2017 African Fashion Industry Awards.
Naomie Caron, Selfish
Selfish is a sustainable and ethical collection of stylish swimwear. Created by Naomie Caron, the Montreal-based brand uses recycled nylon fibre to create suits that you can feel good about and feel good in. Naomie is a big advocate for body positivity and wants every one of her customers to feel comfortable and confident in their pieces.
Patricia and Moses Mawa, Silvertrust Media
Patricia and Moses Mawa are the definition of a power couple. They’re the founders of Canada’s largest black-owned media organization, Silvertrust Media. With four regularly scheduled magazines, a 24-hour TV channel, and multiple television programs on major networks, the Mawas have built a booming media empire that promotes diversity and inclusivity.
Nevell Provo, Smooth Meal Prep
If you’ve ever tried meal prepping, then you know that preparing some or all of your weekly meals ahead of time can be a pretty time-consuming task. Fortunately, Nevell Provo and his family are here to make it easier for busy Canadians to eat better. As a nationally recognized athlete, fitness coach and personal trainer, Provo channelled his nutritional knowledge and experience into his business, Smooth Meal Prep. Launched in early 2018, the company delivers healthy, perfectly proportioned meals straight to their customers’ doorsteps.
Fabienne Colas, The Fabienne Foundation
Fabienne Colas via fondationfabiennecolas.org
The Fabienne Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by actress, director, producer Fabienne Colas. Its mission is to promote art and culture throughout Canada. Colas has been a strong and ardent supporter of Black cinema and has organized over seven successful film festivals across North America to date. Fabienne is also the CEO of Zaza Production, a consulting company dedicated to business development and intercultural communications strategies.
Ross Simmonds, Hustle & Grind and Foundation Marketing
What do you get when you mix data-driven insights with a healthy dose of creativity? Ross Simmonds. He’s the founder of eCommerce store Hustle and Grind, and Foundation Marketing, a content marketing intelligence agency. Today, he’s a highly sought-after marketing expert who has been published in Forbes, Venture Beat, Huffington Post, Mashable, BET, and CBC, just to name a few.
Tash Jefferies, Diverse.work
Tash Jefferies via ryerson.cahttps://www.ryerson.ca/science/alumni/jefferies_profile_2014/
Digital and social media strategist, TEDx speaker. Founder and CEO. These are just a few of the titles Tash Jeffries holds. After seeing that the tech industry’s diversity gap was costing businesses over $400 Billion in lost revenues annually, she created Diversa to help companies recruit, hire and retain diverse talent. Her company also helps job seekers develop their interviewing, confidence and negotiation skills.