The Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (CCAWR), in partnership with local organizations and post-secondary institutions including the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective, Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Velocity at the University of Waterloo, and Wilfrid Laurier University’s Women’s Entrepreneurship Centre, will receive nearly $3 million to deliver the National Ecosystem Fund in Waterloo Region, Guelph and Wellington County.
Raj Saini, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre, and Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and Member of Parliament for Waterloo, announced funding on August 12 to support Black entrepreneurship programs in Waterloo Region. Conestoga's Entrepreneurship Collective will support the initiative.
The announcement was made by Raj Saini, Member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre, and Bardish Chagger, Minister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth, and Member of Parliament for Waterloo, on behalf of Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade, during a virtual event on August 12.
“Black Canadian entrepreneurs and business owners have always played a vital role in the economic health and cultural vibrancy of Waterloo Region despite the systemic barriers that continue to stand in their way,” said Saini. “With an investment of over $2.9 million the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region will be able to continue and expand their work supporting and fostering Black entrepreneurship. These investments are an important part of our strategy to help support Black businesses so that they can continue to play an important role in our community and our country.”
The National Ecosystem Fund is part of the Black Entrepreneurship Program - a $400 million investment by the Government of Canada to support the long-term success of Black entrepreneurs and business owners - and was created to strengthen the entrepreneurship ecosystem for Black entrepreneurs across Canada.
“The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective is honoured to support the team from the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region with the LiftOff Program - an important initiative to incubate, accelerate and amplify Black entrepreneurship in the region,” said Rose Mastnak, director, Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective. “This investment from the National Ecosystem Fund will fuel the dreams and opportunities of many future Black business owners. We look forward to bringing our knowledge and expertise to this project with the CCAWR, to develop and deliver programming for Black entrepreneurs, and to help build capacity in the region’s Black entrepreneurship ecosystem.”
The LiftOff program will have a strong focus on supporting female entrepreneurs, and will provide access for Black entrepreneurs to business advisory services, incubator and accelerator programming, entrepreneurial workshops, and one-on-one mentorship opportunities to help them start and grow their businesses.
The Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective empowers and inspires students and alumni to successfully participate in the Waterloo Region entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem by providing multiple pathways for engagement that include developing a new business, becoming a corporate innovator and providing support systems to the ecosystem.