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The biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs in the last year

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The biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs in the last year

Black founders who are killing it in the Canadian startup ecosystem


It’s no secret that wins in the startup ecosystem are tough. Whether it’s securing a grant, closing a round of funding or landing your first big sale, making it takes grit and determination. But, do you know what’s even harder? Doing it all as a Black entrepreneur. 

Black founders face systemic barriers in accessing lucrative entrepreneurship opportunities in Canada. Starting and growing a business is hard, and as a result of the added challenges and obstacles Black founders have to deal with, Canada’s startup ecosystem has a massive underrepresentation of Black-led ventures. 

In light of Black History Month, the DMZ wanted to share the biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs in the last year. While the wheels of change are beginning to spin, we recognize much more still needs to be done and are committed to empowering Black founders with the coaching, mentorship and resources needed to take their business to the next level. 

So, let’s dive into some of the biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs from the last year.

Tunde Omotoye won $20,000 at the DMZ’s inaugural Black Innovation Summit

Black Innovation Bootcamp Alumni

CEO and Co-Founder of HumanSquad, Tunde Omotoye, came in 1st place winning $20,000 at the DMZ’s inaugural Black Innovation Summit.

HumanSquad helps newcomers navigate immigration and their career paths by connecting them to licensed immigration consultants in Canada.

“Before joining the DMZ’s Black Innovation Bootcamp, we didn’t understand concepts like ‘user journey’ or ‘OKRs’. Now, we understand customer profiling and engagement, and key client-related key performance indicators to look out for that can impact our bottom line and boost our top line.” – Tunde Omotoye, CEO and Co-Founder of HumanSquad


Lola Adeyemi secured $180,000 on Dragons’ Den
Biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs from last year: Lola Adeyemi

AMEX Blueprint Alumni

Lola Adeyemi, Founder and CEO of It’s Souper, pitched her hearty and spicy Afro-fusion soup and sauce line on the iconic CBC show Dragons’ Den.

Recognizing the void for ready-to-eat Nigerian packaged foods, Lola was inspired to bring West African herbs and spices to the North-American market.

 

TruLocal acquired for $16.8 million


Biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs from last year: Marc LafleurTruLocal, a market-leading, locally sourced meat subscription service in Canada, was acquired by Canadian e-commerce Emerge Commerce for $16.8 million.

Founder and CEO Marc Lafleur introduced local farmers, producers and suppliers to the power of e-commerce, connecting them with thousands of loyal, health-conscious consumers across the country.

 

 

Tony Colley named a top social impact founder

Biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs from last year: Tony ColleyBlack Innovation Program Social Impact Stream Alumni

The Founder and CEO of Be One to Give, Tony Colley, was recognized as one of Future of Good’s top 21 social impact founders. The list recognizes founders working on a promising solution for a more equitable, sustainable, caring post-pandemic Canada.

Be One to Give is a food redistribution app for businesses that eliminates avoidable food waste in daily operations.

 

The Urban Guide secured a partnership with the City of Toronto

Black Innovation Program Social Impact Stream Alumni

Biggest wins for Black entrepreneurs from last year: Peter OdlePeter Odle, Founder of the Urban Guide, secured a partnership with the City of Toronto, for a special city-based game called ‘ShowLoveTO Urban Game’. The game encouraged players to use their mobile devices to explore Toronto on New Year’s eve and win prizes.

The Urban Guide is a digital solution that uses self-guided city tours to reconnect people to their cities.

 

Adewunmi Akingbola awarded the Diana Award

Black Innovation Bootcamp Alumni

The Founder of HealthDrive Nigeria, Adewunmi Akingbola, was awarded the Diana Award, which recognizes inspirational youth from around the world who have demonstrated their ability to inspire new generations to serve their communities.

HealthDrive Nigeria, an initiative in the South West of Nigeria, aims to raise awareness, test and vaccinate people against Hepatitis B.

 

 

SmartTerm expanded its services to Canada and is now serving Canadian clients 

Black Innovation Incubator Company

SmartTerm, an education management platform, officially expanded into Canada.

Their solution digitizes school processes leading to improved efficiencies for governments, school administrators, teachers and students.

 

“Being able to incorporate our business in Canada was one of our biggest achievements with the DMZ so far.” – Jayme Hoyte, Co-Founder of SmartTerm.

Reeddi selected as a finalist for Prince William’s Earthshot Prize

Black Innovation Bootcamp Alumni

Launched by Prince William and the Royal Foundation, the Earthshot Prize is the most prestigious global environment prize in history. Further, the prize aims to turn the current pessimism surrounding environmental issues into optimism, by highlighting the ability of human ingenuity to bring about change.

Founder of Reedi, Olugbenga Olubanjo, was a finalist for the award; his solution provides portable rechargeable battery units to consumers from a vending machine powered by solar panels.

 

Reyts,Welkom-U and Be One to Give secured their chance to pitch at the DMZ’s upcoming Black Innovation Summit

Black Innovation Program Social Impact Stream Alumni

oluwatosin-tosin-ajibola-e in grey blazerAyobami Macaula and Abimbola Adegbite, Co-Founders of Reyts, Oluwatosin Ajibola, Founder of Welkom-U, and Tony Colley, Founder and CEO of Be One to Give, from the DMZ’s Black Innovation Program Social Impact Stream came out on top at their cohort’s demo day.

abimbola in maroon coatWhile all of the startups are working with a social mission and purpose, the three companies are zeroing in on different societal issues. Reyts is a marketplace that allows individuals to swap currencies in a seamless and secure way. Welkom-U focuses on improving the experience of immigrants to Canada so they can become contributing members of society faster, and Be One to Give is a food redistribution app for businesses that eliminates avoidable food waste in daily operations.

The three companies will have the chance to pitch their startup for funding at the DMZ’s annual Black Innovation Summit.

“Trying to launch a payment service with [Black] skin is almost impossible and because of the help of the DMZ we are so close to our goal after one-and-a-half years of trying, trying and trying. It’s hard to [be told] no, and it’s hard [to be told no] because of who you are. We are now 1 email away from everything we have been working towards.” – Ayobami Macaula, Co-Founder and COO of Reyts

The celebration of Black founders in the ecosystem doesn’t end here. On February 24th the DMZ will be hosting its second annual Black Innovation Summit to showcase Black innovation in Canada. Plus, we’ll be giving away $50,000 in total funding to Black-led startups at the DMZ.

 

Want to tune in to see the next generation of Black founders pitch at the DMZ’s Black Innovation Summit? Register here

Learn more about the DMZ’s Black Innovation Programs here.

How Canadian newcomers can land a new job in tech

DMZ guest blog by: Janey Buzugbe, Head of the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships


Introducing Janey Buzugbe, the DMZ’s new Head of the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships


The tech industry across Canada has been booming, and despite challenges presented by the global pandemic, the sector continues to demonstrate immense potential and strong job growth.

As a country that encourages immigration and offers professionals and entrepreneurs various methods to migrate, Canada provides a great pathway for newcomers looking to start a new journey in the sector.

In Canada, tech employment increased by nearly 60,000 positions in 2019, a growth rate of 3.6 per cent over the previous year, and now totals an estimated 1.72 million workers. Being surrounded with great opportunities at innovative companies can help newcomers to Canada find their footing faster and adjust to their new surroundings. 

However, navigating the tech job market as a newcomer in Canada can be overwhelming and is not a straightforward path. As a newcomer myself from Nigeria, I can speak to this firsthand. I hope my career experiences and learnings will be useful to newcomers looking to break into the industry. Here are a few tips on how you can land a new job in tech.

Build your brand and activate it 

Your personal brand is tied to your professional brand, and learning how to activate it is essential to landing a job in tech.

Branding yourself can be just as important as the technical skills and expertise you bring to the table. Employers and recruiters can easily forget about what qualifications you have from a pool of similar candidates, but what they will remember is your energy (some people call these interpersonal skills). Being uplifting, positive and warm will stick in people’s minds. Think about what is unique about your energy, and let it shine.

Not sure what aspects of your personality stand out? Try taking online personality tests, like Myers-Briggs, to provide yourself with empirical evidence on what personality traits you bring to the table and ask people who know you what they notice!

Another great way to activate your personal brand is to write yourself a brag book and always update it! List out all of your accomplishments that speak to the type of employee and person you are. Have you won any special awards? Any notable achievements from your personal or professional life? Has anyone ever pointed out anything nice about you, or what you have done for them?

We can often forget about our wins over time, so starting a running list to remind yourself of the great things you’ve done will allow you to shine during interviews, coffee chats and networking events.

Remember that every interaction you have, whether it be at a formal networking event, dinner with friends or encounters with your neighbour, serves as a networking opportunity. We never know what an interaction can lead to, so it’s important to leave a positive impression. Try to leave any meaningful interaction you have with a call to action. Let any new connection you make know that you’re looking for a job in tech and to let you know if they are aware of any promising opportunities.

This can open more doors than you may think, as many jobs today are fulfilled through internal recommendations and connections! But don’t forget to lend a hand, as the best way to get is to give.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to showcase your side businesses and passion projects. Being involved with volunteer organizations, or working to create an online presence via social media is a part of you that should be front and center. Employers in Canada want to see that you have interests and hobbies outside of work. It speaks to your character, your ability to hustle and you come off as a well-rounded professional, so make sure to include your side activities on your resume and LinkedIn! 

Networking 

As mentioned, a lot of organizations today hire based on internal recommendations. Applying online via company websites can still be effective, but having a connection willing to vouch for you can make a world of a difference.

A really great way of connecting with others and catching wind of opportunities is community support groups and professional networks, such as the Black Professional in Tech Network and ACCES employment. Being able to lean on others in similar boats is a great way to share lessons learned and best practices.

LinkedIn groups are also an excellent way to connect with the community. For instance, there are groups catered for Nigerian IT professionals in Canada. Look for groups that would make sense for your circumstances as a newcomer and professional and use them to your advantage. 

Another great tip when it comes to networking is doing your homework before connecting with someone new. Conversations will be much more effective if you have common ground to speak to. Find a few similarities between the two of you before connecting. Maybe they volunteered at the same organization as you, also immigrated to Canada or share a similar interest. Whatever the connection is, it will allow you to have an unforced conversation that flows naturally. Plus, who doesn’t like to be complimented?! 

Handling Rejection 

Rejection is a part of life and is something that all professionals need to get comfortable with. Do not get discouraged if you are told no. Remember that each no you receive from a potential employer is one response closer to a yes. “No” means you get the chance to look forward to the next opportunity.

Try asking yourself, how many passes does it take before you get a yes? If you gamify it this way, it allows you to not take things personally. There are many different reasons why you could be rejected, some of which may be completely out of your control. Instead of being discouraged, use your learnings for the next opportunity that comes your way.

Canadian nuances 

It’s important to recognize that every country has its own business culture and customs. Brushing up on the norms and nuances in Canadian business culture will ensure you don’t have any blindspots. 

For instance, in Nigeria, having respect for authority figures is of the utmost importance. Oftentimes individuals will not ask questions or question an authority figure because they have fear of retribution. Whereas in Canada, asking questions and rethinking the way things are done is highly praised. Furthermore, in Nigeria, people often tend to keep their head down and focus on simply getting the work done. In Canada, connecting with colleagues, joining special committees or volunteering for a special opportunity is very well regarded. 

The job market in Canada is certainly competitive, but with the right mindset and approach you will be able to land your dream job in the industry. Remember to not give up, and keep trying – something will come up! 

Want to learn more about Janey and her advice to newcomers? Check out her YouTube channel for more lessons, tips and resources to navigate working and living as a professional in Canada. 

For more information on how the DMZ is empowering the next wave of Black entrepreneurs through our Black Innovation Programs, check out our website.