Black business network gets a $1.9 million boost

Claudius Thomas

The federal government is investing over $1.9 million to help a Hamilton-based organization form a network for Black-led businesses in southwestern Ontario.

The exact total cost is unclear, but the funding from the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario will allow Empowerment Squared, a non-profit group that helps newcomers in the greater Hamilton and Windsor areas, to create the Southwestern Ontario Black Business Network.

Helena Jaczek, minister responsible for FedDev Ontario, said the network will include advisory services, mentorship, entrepreneurial training and networking opportunities to help Black entrepreneurs thrive.

She said the investment will also help create at least 80 new jobs and aid 275 Black entrepreneurs.

Empowerment Squared executive director Leo Nupolu Johnson said the effort will help support communities that have been disproportionately impacted during COVID-19 and throughout

Leo Nupolu Johnson


“As the Black community … there are two sides to the challenges we face — one side is the fighting side and the other is the building side,” he said at a news conference in Hamilton on Tuesday morning.

“We stand up and fight against injustices … but I’m pleased we can be partnering with the Canadian government to draw some energy to the building side, which I believe has been neglected for far too long.”

The announcement comes as the pandemic has hit people of colour harder than other populations.

A report from Hamilton public health in 2020 found roughly 51 per cent of individuals who got COVID-19 were people of colour, despite people of colour representing about 19 per cent of the city’s total population.

Yvonne Pilon, president of WEtech Alliance, is helping Empowerment Squared carry out the initiative. WEtech is a Windsor-based agency that supports businesses and will take a leading role in helping businesses in the city.