BBPA opens Community Storefront Office in Little Jamaica

By Lincoln DePradine

Toronto Mayor John Tory and BBPA President Ross Cadastre

As one of his first public acts, as newly appointed president of the Black Business and Professional Association, Ross Cadastre participated Tuesday in the official opening of the “BBPA in the Community Storefront Office’’ at 1621 Eglinton Avenue West.

The opening of the office is part of a plan, supported by federal government and the City of Toronto, to deliver programs to revitalize Black businesses operating on Eglinton Avenue in the area known as Little Jamaica.

“Today marks just one milestone in a long journey to provide hands-on support for businesses that have been unequally impacted by acts of racism for generations, and need support right now to sustain their business during this ongoing pandemic,’’ Cadastre said at the opening ceremony. It was attended by community representatives, acting BBPA CEO Nadine Spencer, Toronto Mayor John Tory and city councilors Mike Colle and Josh Matlow.

“In collaboration with our community partners, the BBPA is committed to maintaining ongoing support for the Little Jamaica community and its businesses,’’ said Cadastre.

CEO Spencer said a BBPA survey of Little Jamaica revealed that Black businesses in the community suffered from lack of access to capital and technology.

Through its Eglinton Storefront Office, the BBPA will assist business owners and operators with a range of services. They include hosting workshops on topics such as best business practices; business website development; E-commerce and digital marketing; tax-filing assistance; and business registration.

The BBPA’s work is being backed by federal funding of $1 million dollars to be provided over three years, by the government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

 “Essentially, our aim is to meet Black businesses in Little Jamaica where they are and help them grow through sustainability,’’ said Cadastre.

City of Toronto, “as a whole, is very supportive of all of these initiatives to finally pay more attention, in a very focused way, to Little Jamaica and to the struggle of Black-owned businesses,’’ said Mayor Tory.

 “The opening of the Black Business and Professional Association office in Little Jamaica comes at an important moment in our city when many businesses are working to come back stronger than ever after a very difficult and challenging year and a half. Home to dozens of Black-owned businesses, this area has been deeply impacted by the construction of the Eglinton Crosstown line and COVID-related restrictions and closures.’’

The BBPA was founded in 1983 as a non-profit, charitable organization to address “equity and opportunity for the Black community in business, employment, education and economic development’’.

Spencer served as president for nearly five years until being named CEO to guide the BBPA through its continued growth and ongoing expansions, including the management and operation of the Community Storefront Office in Little Jamaica.

She and Cadastre, said Spencer, are “a great team’’ that will “work together to advance Black businesses during this critical post-COVID-19 recovery time and develop more outreach programs and partnerships’’.