First Friday survived the Pandemic, now it is all about the Holidays

By Stephen Weir

Warren Salmon

After 28-years the Black Business community should be getting ready to spend an evening networking and celebrating Christmas without being poked and prodded. Just in case they’ve forgotten, Warren Salmon, the founder of First Fridays, just sent out an all-encompassing social media reminder that this Friday evening they will be holding a hybrid Black Business Holiday Showcase gathering at the ScottHill Caribbean Cuisine Restaurant on Avenue Rd in North Toronto.

Founded in 1994, First Fridays describes itself as Toronto’s premier networking event for entrepreneurs and professionals of African descent. Taking place the first Friday of each month in popular restaurants around the city, the often sold-out event attracts Black business people who want to network, learn about new business endeavours, meet industry leaders and most importantly, socialize.  “We did have to go on-line during the pandemics but we haven’t missed a month since the beginning way back in the nineties,” explained Warren Salmon.

“We have had only had to move a couple of the First Fridays to the second Friday of the month over the past 28 years so people know when it will be and what they are going to get”.

The format hasn’t changed much over the decades, however, after once again being in-person, they have kept the ability for people to join the festivities online as well.  The hybrid audience means that people from across the country can get a ticket and join in albeit an hour later than the in-person start time.

Networking, nushing and enjoying a beverage don’t translate well on-line. While people arrive in person at 7pm, the on-line guests don’t log in until 8pm. Everything ends at 10pm.

There are presentations made by invited guests and business leaders. Gift Pop-Ups and for the on-line people they can go into break-out rooms to learn about the same products and services on display at booths within the restaurant.

It isn’t just a night of sell sell sell, each monthly meeting has specific themes. Friday night is billed as the holiday showcase.  Not only with Kente Klaus making an appearance but also life coach Danny Stone and Jamal Wiggins taking turns at the mike.

Kente Klaus, a Black Santa will be posing for pictures and helping out with Kotch With Malcom, a Black pop-up service that will be showcasing gift ideas from over two dozen Black companies at the Woodbine Mall later this month. Some of the family Christmas pop-up gift ideas will be shown and sold with Kente Klaus this Friday.

A different kind of Santa will be at the microphone too. There will be an important presentation made by Nigeria’s Dr Ajibola Abayomi, the President of the Journalists International Forum for Migration will be presenting five humanitarian awards including the Global Leadership Legendary Award. That award will go to the Honourable Gerald Weiner, the former federal Conservative minister responsible for the creation of the Immigrant Investor Program.

What a way to end the year! According to Warren Salmon he is busy planning how to start the First Fridays 29th year on January 6th. “It is Health and Fitness night,” he told the Camera. A wise choice given the expected excesses of December.