‘Growing your business with other people’s money is the way to go’- Dr. Wendy Cukier
By Lincoln DePradine
Toronto Mayor John Tory has acknowledged barriers being faced by Black-owned business and has promised that he’ll continue collaborating on helping them overcome their challenges.
Small businesses – including “Black-led enterprises’’ – require support and services “to thrive and grow’’, the mayor said on Tuesday in remarks on the opening day of BIDEM – a three-day online International Caribbean Diaspora Entrepreneurs’ Conference and Trade Show.
One of the aims of BIDEM – the “bridged, high impact Diaspora entrepreneurs to efficient diasporic markets’’ conference and trade show – was to “accelerate the reduction of the entrepreneurial skills gap faced by Caribbean immigrant entrepreneurs in Canada and other Caribbean Diasporic markets’’, according to the organizers.
The target audience for the event included both first-generation Caribbean immigrants and Diaspora entrepreneurs.
“Canada and Toronto have greatly benefitted from Caribbean immigrants who have established themselves and have made great strides and accomplishments within our city and within our country. But, many of those same people did not have a long history of business experience and lacked access to the networks which are so important when you’re opening a business,’’ said Tory, who congratulated conference organizers, the Community of Practice for Caribbean Immigrant Entrepreneurs and Magate Wildhorse Ltd.
The mayor offered a personal commitment to Black business entrepreneurs, saying he “will continue to be an ally as we go forward together’’.
The event’s theme was, “Connecting the Roots, Building Networks Together for Profit and Purpose”.
“We are here together to do BIDEM – to connect those networks and to scale up our businesses; to grow mainstream-stream size businesses with that ethnic flavor; and to do it in harmonious societies, where we twin profit and purpose,’’ said Jamaican-Canadian Meegan Scott, founder and owner of Magate Wildhorse Consulting.
Over the three days of the conference and trade show, participants were addressed on a myriad of topics and offered suggestions by speakers drawn from government, the private sector and international agencies such as the World Trade Organization (WTO).
WTO representative Anoush der Boghossian said because of various obstacles facing female entrepreneurs, including legal and regulatory barriers, just 15 percent of women worldwide is involved in exporting goods and services. “It’s extremely low participation,’’ said der Boghossian.
She added that the WTO is trying to establish understanding “between trade and women’s economic empowerment and how trade rules and policies can help women entrepreneurs, and also building bridges between governments and women entrepreneurs’’.
Dr Wendy Cukier, a professor at the Diversity Institute at the Ted Rogers School of Management, Ryerson University, underscored the importance of innovation in business.
However, she explained that innovation is not simply the creation of new technologies sand applications.
“Innovation,” she said, ” is doing things differently. If you think of a new way of doing things, whether it includes technology or not, that is innovation.
“It can be about creating a new product or service; it can be about creating a new process or a new technique that improves efficiency and I think it’s really important in a country as diverse as Canada. Don’t be preoccupied with one kind of innovation in one sector.’’
People who are operating self-owned enterprises, “self-financing on their credit cards or using their mortgage and their personal assets to grow their business’’, should consider incorporating, Cukier said.
“If you’re serious, growing your business with other people’s money is the way to go; and you’re more likely to get other people’s money if you’re incorporated,’’ she noted.
“Banks are more likely to take you seriously. You’re going to qualify for funding from Global Canada and others, if you’re an incorporated entity; you’re not if you’re just self-employed.’’
Jamaican-born entrepreneur David Mullings, speaking on “Moving the Caribbean Forward’’, said the region will only achieve that objective by making certain changes, including “innovative thinking’’ among political and business leaders and reform of the education system.
The current education sector is designed for a “plantation system’’ of the 1800s and 1900s, Mullings remarked.
“We are not graduating people who are prepared for jobs of the future. They’re not even prepared for jobs of today,’’ he said.
Other “uncomfortable truths’’ about Latin America and the Caribbean, which hamper their development are lack of research and development investment; perception of “significant’’ corruption; bureaucratic red tape; and low productivity
“Low productivity is a problem because we have an unskilled labour issue in the Caribbean. We have low investment, for the most part, in human capital,’’ said Mullings. “In Jamaica, for example, it’s estimated that about 70 per cent of employees have no formal training, no certification for the job that they actually work in.’’
The Caribbean’s future also must involve diversifying the economies of the region, said Mullings.
“We need to do this quickly,’’ he said.
“When we look at tourism, there is a massive fallout because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Caribbean cannot be simply sun, sea and sand. That’s not enough and that’s not a diversified economy. And before this, we were so focused on agriculture and this was sugar, this was banana. It was not globally competitive. So, once we couldn’t get preferential treatment, those industries pretty much died.’’