Two Vancouver companies get a slice of Pizza Hut’s $20,000 program for minority-owned small businesses

Nominate small business owners for the program's second round by early August.

I'll Know It When I See It

Credit: I’ll Know It When I See It

Nominate small business owners for the program’s second round by early August

Pizza Hut Canada might be known for delicious, affordable pies, but the amount of dough it’s willing to roll out to support minority-owned businesses is anything but small. “We believe opportunity is meant to be shared, just like pizza,” said president and general manager, Tatiana Carrascal, in a press release.

The global restaurant chain partnered with Boston-based nonprofit research and strategy organization Initiative for a Competitive Inner City (ICIC) to start the Equal Slice program, designed to offer small business owners with free education, training and mentorship—including a 40-hour “mini-MBA.” In its first year, the program supported over 50 minority, immigrant, Indigenous and disabled-owned small businesses across Canada, five of whom were also awarded $20,000 grants. The grant recipients are:

  • I’ll Know It When I See It—Cassie Leung and Christine Chee (Vancouver)
  • Kula Foods—Asha Wheeldon (Vancouver)
  • SowSweet Greetings—Nicole Tesch (Toronto)
  • Jardins Lakou—Jean-Philippe Vézina (Montreal)
  • Batik Boutik—Maya Amoah (Montreal)

I’ll Know It When I See It’s Christine Chee and Cassie Leung started their quirky, nostalgic paper goods and gifts business 10 years ago, but the duo only started making Asian-inspired products during the pandemic. Inspired by movements like Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate, the company—which makes everything from greeting cards and stationery to stickers, magnets and puzzles—now reflects more of its Chinese Canadian founders’ experiences in its offerings.

“Over the last year and a half, it’s become more and more apparent that there is room for these voices,” says Chee. “And I think that has really encouraged us to try to bring more of our heritage into our work.”

With the holidays being the busiest, Chee and Leung plan to use the $20,000 grant towards buying and producing at scale, as well as prioritizing products that they love to make, like these cute dim sum puzzles

Kula FoodsKula FoodsOn the other hand, Kula Foods’ Asha Wheeldon started her plant-based food business in 2018 for the sole purpose of wanting to see her multicultural roots reflected in the local food scene. “We need a little more representation in terms of what’s available,” she maintains. “I’m a foodie, so I found myself looking for familiar food options that reminded me of home: Toronto and Kenya.” 

Finding the minimalist ethnic aisle in large grocery stores ironic and unhelpful, Wheeldon decided to take it upon herself to serve “everyday good-for-you food” in Afro-Caribbean flavours using natural, locally-sourced ingredients. Over four years, Wheeldon was able to scale her business from two people to six, and from $29,000 in 2018 revenue to $300,000 in 2021.

“I am now more than ever realizing how important it is for our team to be fully resourced, so a lot of the [Equal Slice] funding will be applied to ensuring that my team has all that they need to continue with this expansion that we’ve started,” says Wheeldon.

To nominate small business owners from minority backgrounds for the program’s second round beginning in fall 2023, click here. The application deadline is August 5.