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Waterloo Region Black Entrepreneurs Get a LiftOff!

Waterloo Region Black Entrepreneurs Get a LiftOff!

Twelve Ontario-based Black entrepreneurs will be joining the LiftOff Black Entrepreneurship Program by the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (CCAWR), beginning January 10, 2022. The 12-month program, which is funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), will provide Black entrepreneurs with access to one-on-one coaching, mentorship from subject matter experts, business support, pitch opportunities, and more.

Since its inception in 1975, the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (CCAWR) has worked to promote the social, cultural, and economic interests of Waterloo Region’s Caribbean community. From cultural festivals to student scholarships, the CCAWR has had outsized impact on the Region’s Caribbean community. When the opportunity came to extend that impact to the wider Black community through the federal government’s Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, the not-for-profit took the chance. CCAWR received a $3-million contribution to establish LiftOff, the region’s first and only Black-led business accelerator and incubator for Black entrepreneurs. Situated in the heart of Canada’s innovation sector, LiftOff is leveraging key leaders to provide participants with specialized supports to help them start and or grow their business. The project is expected to impact up to 120 Black entrepreneurs overall, including 60 women-led businesses.

“FedDev Ontario is proud to support the Caribbean Canadian Association of Waterloo Region in the delivery of its LiftOff program for Black entrepreneurs,” says the Honourable Helena Jaczek, Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “With support through FedDev Ontario’s Black Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Fund, CCAWR is providing critical tools, opportunities and services to Black entrepreneurs and businesses in the Kitchener-Waterloo region."

“The CCAWR has a long history of supporting Black Canadians personally and professionally. Although Black entrepreneurs make significant economic contributions to our region, they have long been underrepresented in the region’s dynamic entrepreneurial ecosystem. With LiftOff, we look forward to changing that,” says Dr. Trevor Charles, LiftOff Program Executive Director. “These 12 entrepreneurs represent the diversity and strength of the Black community with both technology and non-technology businesses from several industries. We will partner with them on their journey to success and cannot wait to see what they will accomplish during their time with LiftOff.”

The first LiftOff cohort members include:

  • Ainsley Deer (Taste Jamaica): a provider of authentic Jamaican treats to households anywhere in North America.

  • Bolatito Alawode (Mychopchop): the first African grocery store that operates solely online, making African groceries easy to get in Canada and the U.S.

  • Felipe Gonzalia (Felipe Gonzalia Productions): a video production company that makes storytelling easier for small businesses and their owners.

  • Jenell Valentine (Doll House Beauty Collection): an online beauty store for women offering long-lasting virgin hair products.

  • Nickadian Edmondson (Caribbean Kitchen): a casual dine-in or take-out restaurant located inside the International Food Court of the Kitchener Farmer’s Market.

  • Pearl-Catherine Tita (BLK Book Fair): a collaborative opportunity for Black Canadian authors and creators of intellectual materials to draw attention to the literary talents and skills of Black Canadians.

  • Raechele Lovell (DiverseWorks): a professional dance company working to bring representation and diversity to the Waterloo Region dance industry with a progressive approach to dance theatre, workshops, and dancewear.

  • Rochelle Williams (Painting Pastry Chef): a creator of edible works of art like decorative sugar cookies and special occasion cakes.

  • Sean Ramsay (Nestabl): a new streaming network dedicated to home, with a focus on bringing together user-generated and produced video content, curated by Artificial Intelligence, and delivered to users in a personalized way.

  • Sonya Denton (weDStll): a beauty and wellness start-up that connects relevant, purpose-driven brands to consumers that are aligned with their values.

  • Suzanne Phillips (Suzanne Phillips RMT): a one-stop shop for wellness that takes into consideration the health obstacles that minorities and women face.

  • Tessy Obasuyi (Sugar Kelly): a luxury wig and hair extension brand that caters to women who have experienced hair loss due to cancer, alopecia and postpartum.

“When asked ‘why LiftOff?’, most applicants shared a desire for access to supportive mentors that understand the unique opportunities and challenges that Black entrepreneurs must navigate,” adds Dr. Charles. “With the generous support of longstanding entrepreneurial ecosystem partners like the Conestoga Entrepreneurship Collective, Waterloo Region Small Business Centre, Laurier Women Entrepreneurship Centre, and UW Velocity, we believe LiftOff will help to shape how Black entrepreneurs are supported in and contribute to the Region, now and in the future.”

Members of the Waterloo Region and Wellington County are encouraged to engage with and support the LiftOff entrepreneurs. For partnerships opportunities, contact the Program Manager at

About FedDev Ontario

For more than 12 years, FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving their productivity, growing their revenues, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects.

Read this article on The Waterloo Region Rural Post!



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