HIGH numbers of black businesswomen have led Canada’s Toronto chapter of the International Women’s Enterprise Network to be the only one that focuses specifically on this issues.
Lisa Small, co-founder of Women’s Enterprise Canada (WE CAN), said: “I think what happened is that the other chapters reflect their communities, but the communities are not as culturally diverse as Toronto.”
She went on to say that the group addresses the isolation that many black entrepreneurs feel.
It was back in 2007 whilst working as a community radio host that Lisa Small met a surprising number of black business owners – and it was this that spurred her on to set up a network that would specifically support black businesswomen.
She explained: “I had a start-up business and was looking to expand. I visited other groups, but they didn’t talk about the issues or provide the follow-up that I was looking for.
“I needed a network that was going to help me promote my business and help me grow and develop. [Radio station] CHRY allowed me to interview black women who were selling books and services and coaching, and explore ideas with them — as well as with women who were listening to the program — to learn how to be better business people.”
Soon after, she and a small group of volunteers started the chapter of the enterprise network with an online presence. The next year they decided to hold a “call to action” gathering to decide what the next step in their organization should be. To their surprise, their first meeting in November of 2008 was sold out.
And, since then WE CAN has grown in strength from there.
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