5 Questions: BEBC Society’s Jackee Kasandy calls for changes to create a diverse business landscape

The founder of the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada (BEBC) Society sees funding as a major obstacle for BIPOC business owners.

Jackee Kasandy

The founder of the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada (BEBC) Society sees funding as a major obstacle for BIPOC business owners

1. What is BEBC Society, and how does it serve its members?

BEBC is a Black-led organization representing just over 1,000 members. We’re providing a unified platform for advocating and supporting Black entrepreneurs in Canada. Our reason for existence is to help Black businesses grow, scale up and become sustainable.

2. What part of your role brings you the most joy?

I like seeing people like me getting an opportunity and giving them a hand up. Our mission is to support Black businesses from ideation all the way to sustainability. Seeing that come to life gives me joy every single day. I can just have a meeting with someone and listen to them, and they come out of there feeling energized to go and do the next thing. And when I meet with them the next time, they did the thing they said they were going to do.

It’s amazing because you get to work with them in their growth. You get to be part of changing the system, the paradigm, the dynamics of the business ecosystem so it can be more diverse.

3. As a business owner yourself, how have you seen the landscape for Black entrepreneurs change over the years? Where have we come from, and what has improved?

It’s starting to improve, but it hasn’t improved yet. I had a meeting this morning with about 13 young Black business owners. They’re going through our Black youth program, and they all had the same issues and complaints that I had seven years ago. They’re experiencing exactly what I experienced in terms of trying to find funding and navigate the ecosystem.

So I was giving them examples of how I came up and telling them, You can do it. And because the country has a lens to Black businesses and diversification right now, we have a chance to change the landscape a little bit, so that in the next three to five years, anyone else who’s coming up doesn’t have to face what I faced or what people are facing.

4. What are the biggest obstacles for BIPOC business owners?

Their No. 1 issue is funding. How do I go into a bank and ask for a loan and get one? Our non-POC counterparts will go to a bank—they only own a car, and they’re a completely new business—and get $100,000. I can be in business for six years and go to a bank, and they won’t give me more than $30,000.

There’s also being punished twice. As a young entrepreneur, you’re trying to find funding, and you’re like, OK, I’m going to go to this bank. And if they say no, I’m going to look at this bank. You’re not thinking that every time you go to each individual bank, you’re getting penalized. Because each bank does a credit check on you, and whenever they do, you lose 10 points. So if you had a 700-point credit score that can allow you to be lent to, and you went to five banks, now you’re under the threshold… A lot of Black businesses don’t realize this, so it’s a cycle.

How can we improve on that system? Can Equifax work with the banks and go, If this person is looking for business financing, don’t penalize them?

The other part is, you need professional services. You need lawyers, accountants, all of that stuff, and they all cost money…Can we negotiate on behalf of the membership and get a better deal? Then that means we are bringing those people a lot of business.

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring entrepreneurs from minority and marginalized groups?

Look for someone else in business, befriend them, and learn as much as possible from them. Because when you’re coming up, you want to avoid the mistakes other people made so that you can get to success quicker. Most of us like to share those things. There are no stupid questions. Even if you think it’s a stupid question, ask it anyway. My last piece of advice would be, do not give up. If your idea is viable and you’re worthy, then you can do it.

Hobbies: Cooking, hosting, travel and gardening

Book recommendation: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach

Favourite movie/TV show/podcast: The Lion King/Game of Thrones/Daily Audio Bible

Most memorable concert: Sade in Vancouver, 2011

One thing I can’t leave home without: Lip balm

Guilty pleasure: Twitter

Pet peeve: People who are late