How The Black Entrepreneur Startup Program Breaks Down Systemic Barriers

By Rachael Masih

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The Black Entrepreneur Startup Program by Futurpreneur wants young Black entrepreneurs across Canada to succeed.

Launched in March and available for Black entrepreneurs ages 18 to 39, the program aims to fill the gaps currently in the entrepreneurship eco-system. In discussion groups, Black entrepreneurs have said the resources they need most are training, support services, and most importantly, funding. They also reported that they face more challenges accessing capital because of systemic racism and bias in the banking system.

“The thinking behind designing a program tailored to Black entrepreneurs is to be able to address the systemic barriers that Black entrepreneurs face, mainly with regards to financing,” said Mona-Lisa Prosper, director of the program. 

With funding from RBC and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), the program can allocate businesses between $5,000 and $60,000 in loan financing—money that can go a long way for a startup. And not only that, but after two years the entrepreneur becomes eligible for up to $40,000 in additional funding to help scale and grow their business. 

“Since all the tragic events that happened, mainly in the United States last year, lots of organizations have been setting out initiatives geared towards the black community,” said Prosper. ”It’s important to understand why and how thoroughly it’s done because it’s important to do something that has an impact.”

That’s why the program doesn’t just hand Black entrepreneurs a stack of cash and leave them to fend for themselves. Futurpreneur provides mentorship and education opportunities to equip young people with the knowledge they need to thrive outside the program. Unlike high school math, they teach tangible skills, like how to get the most for your money. The Futurpreneur team can also guide entrepreneurs from the conception of their business to its launch. 

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Woman in a white blouse with dark red lipstick on, smiling at the camera.
Mona-Lisa Prosper, Director of The Black Entrepreneur Startup Program

To help with this, Futurpreneur matches their young entrepreneurs with mentors for up to two years of one-on-one guidance. They have access to Futurpreneur’s full range of over 2,000 mentors, which includes members of the BIPOC community. Through the Black Entrepreneurship Startup Program, Futurpreneur can pair entrepreneurs with a Black mentor if that’s preferred. Entrepreneurs get the chance to run ideas and questions by a mentor who’s excited to pass on their knowledge. According to Prosper, “the passion that everybody [at Futurpreneur] has for entrepreneurship is real.”

The program has been running for a month and a half, and so far, people are flocking to it.

“The response has been amazing. We have had lots of entrepreneurs that are interested in the program and that are starting to apply… it’s also [gotten a] response throughout the startup ecosystem,” said Prosper.

As the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program draws eyes from plenty of potential partners, Prosper and her team hope that expanding their network in the coming years will allow them to serve entrepreneurs in ways like never before.

Feature Image: Mary Oliveira, Founder of Mary’s Brigadeiro in Toronto, ON.

Editor’s note: This post has been edited to clarify the financing process, please contact Futurpreneur to find out if they can help your business today. Additionally, the number of mentors has been updated from 3,000 to 2,000 to reflect the latest stats.

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