futurpreneur

The nonprofit is offering up to $60,000 in loan financing to Black entrepreneurs in B.C. and across the country

In response to the disproportionate barriers to success experienced by Black entrepreneurs, national nonprofit Futurpreneur Canada just announced a new financing program tailored for young Black business owners. The Black Entrepreneur Startup Program offers $5,000 to $60,000 in loan financing to successful applicants.

This new funding collaboration with Royal Bank of Canada and Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) aims to “foster greater equity and diversity among Canada’s entrepreneurs, with enhancements that will help address the systemic barriers to capital and other support that some aspiring young Black entrepreneurs face,” Futurpreneur said in a release. The new effort is an extension of the organization’s core financing program, which is open to young business owners across the country aged 18 to 39.

Reuben and Levi Uwi, co-founders of Vancouver-based Uwi Twins Fashion Label, completed the core program in 2014. BDC matched the $15,000 that Futurpreneur provided, giving them a total of $30,000 to launch their apparel business.

uwi twins
Credit: Alcazark Photography

Levi and Reuben Uwi, founders of Uwi Twins Fashion Label

“The funding helped us scale up the business in terms of getting the right vendors and suppliers and sourcing out to the right manufacturers,” Reuben says. “It was really helpful to get up and running.” The brothers used that 2014 funding for marketing, creating samples and even a trip to Hong Kong to scope out manufacturers. (They recently moved all of their manufacturing to Canada.)

Elizabeth Obi and her business partner, Jennifer Yolanda, completed the core program recently—they founded Lizanda Hair & Accessories, a Langley-based e-commerce retailer of human hair wigs and extensions, last October. Obi says that she and Yolanda first sought financing from RBC, which connected them with BDC and, finally, Futurpreneur. They received $20,000 through the program.

Lizanda

Jennifer Yolanda and Elizabeth Obi, founders of Lizanda Hair & Accessories

“It was amazing for us,” Obi says. “When you’re starting up a business, you need a lot of money in terms of business registrations, inventory and advertising—it’s super important to get your business out there, and very expensive.”

Through Futurpreneur, the founders of Uwi Twins and Lizanda were also connected to a business mentor who provided them with advice and support. The new Black Entrepreneur Startup Program will have the same mentorship component, as well as opportunities for participants to connect with a national network of Black entrepreneurs, leaders and community organizations. Program participants will also be eligible for up to $40,000 in follow-on financing from RBC after running a successful business for two years.

Reuben Uwi and Elizabeth Obi both recommend that young entrepreneurs create a solid business plan before applying. “Have a clear vision in terms of what you want to do with the funding,” Uwi says. “Having a strong business plan will definitely help you put that into play, and make your ideas very actionable.” Completing the application takes time, Obi warns. “The whole [core financing program] process took about three months,” he says. “I would advise others to work with Futurpreneur and provide everything that they need—be patient and go through the process, because it’s worth it.”

One of the biggest challenges facing Black entrepreneurs is capital to grow their business, according to Michael Denham, president and CEO of BDC. Futurpreneur’s funding and mentorship has made a difference for many young Canadian companies, and this new program aims to make launching a business more equitable.

You can learn more about Futurpreneur Canada’s new Black Entrepreneur Startup Program here.