When Vancouver entrepreneur Jackee Kasandy moved to Canada from Kenya as a student, she was eager to launch her own business.
But she found herself unable to secure a business loan because of a lack of credit history and capital.
Now Kasandy, CEO and co-founder of the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society, wants to help other Black would-be business owners, many of whom still face financial barriers.
So the society on Friday launched a new contest to help Black entrepreneurs secure $25,000 in financing to start their business.
The Black Pitch Contest is designed to help Black entrepreneurs who have been excluded from traditional investment avenues like loans, grants and business financing, said Kasandy, who also owns a shop on Granville Island called Kasandy.
Kasandy grew up in Kenya, and moved to Toronto as a student. Later she moved to BC and wanted to start her Granville Island shop, but she couldn’t get a loan. So she maxxed out her credit cards and sublet her rented apartment through AirBnb just to get by until she finally built her business.
“I was having difficulty accessing funding, being viewed by financial institutions and even investors as ‘unfundable’ because of the system and how it works,” she said.
“My experience with the issues of gaining funding to start my business and become where I am is really why I want to support thousands of Black entrepreneurs, who are blocked or blocked by business in an unjust system.”
Some of the barriers that Black entrepreneurs still face include poverty, not having a house or other collateral, or a poor credit score, she said.
Kasandy said she wished there had been an organization to help Black entrepreneurs when she was starting out.
She doesn’t just want to highlight the winners of the contest, which the society plans to offer annually. The plan, she said, is to showcase many of the ideas that contestants send in so that people can see the innovation coming out of the community.
Kasandy said they have made it “really simple” to apply for the contest online. All contestants have to do is submit a short video talking about their plans and why they need funding.
“Many in the community are immigrants. They might not have family here, or a house, and they are renters. They don’t have the equity,” she said.
“And maybe they have made some financial mistakes like most of us had with credit cards or students loans … now you are locked out of the system because you didn’t have financial literacy and you don’t have collateral to borrow.”
The contest is designed to be barrier-free, meaning any Black would-be entrepreneur can apply, no matter their age, gender identity, or experience level, she said.
“Data consistently shows us that systemic racism has limited or prevented Black access to business capital. This pitch contest is about breaking those barriers down, and celebrating Black ingenuity while making the initial application as easy as possible.”
Applications are open until Dec. 15.
Pitch Contest finalists will be showcased at the virtual Black Business Summit in February. Full details can be found on the Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society’s website: https://www.blackentrepreneursbc.org/black-pitch-contest/
Those who want to donate money to the entrepreneur fund can do so on that website.