Debbie Shing holds wine products from her company, Quvé Group.

“You can kick a** with [some] help”: Five entrepreneurship lessons from Debbie Shing and Ashwini Bhaskar

During Small Business Week 2023, Shing and Bhaskar served as panelists for a virtual event co-hosted by Futurpreneur and the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) 

Small Business Week in Canada brings together entrepreneurs and business leaders, from across the country, for insightful, candid conversations on entrepreneurship.  

Futurpreneur Debbie Shing (pictured) shared her remarkable entrepreneurial journey at one of these events entitled “Elevate Your Entrepreneurship Skills: A Fireside Chat.” Shing is founder of Quvé Group, a progressive-minded Canadian wine agency serving clients across the country. She was an event panelist alongside her Futurpreneur mentor, Ashwini Bhaskar, a business technology leader and experienced entrepreneur. The panel was co-hosted by Futurpreneur’s Corinne Lau, Vice President, Client and Mentoring Experience and David Girolami, BDC Senior Business Advisor. 

Debbie credits Futurpreneur’s support and Ashwini’s mentorship as key drivers in Quvé’s growth and her own success. 

Her entrepreneurial success story is not only inspiring but also packed with ups, downs and valuable insights for aspiring business owners. Most importantly? You don’t need to go it alone.  

Here are five key lessons we can learn from Debbie’s experiences: 

  1. Balance planning and execution

Debbie emphasizes the importance of finding equilibrium between planning and execution in entrepreneurship. She believes that dedicating an equal amount of time to both aspects is crucial. As she puts it, “You can kick-ass with [some] help.” This lesson reminds us that while taking action is vital, thoughtful planning and strategy are equally necessary for long-term success. 

  1. Embrace creativity in problem-solving

Debbie describes entrepreneurship as an “Olympic-level,” hurdle race. To succeed, you must be prepared to overcome challenges with creativity. For instance, when Debbie launched Quvé Group during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, she showcased her adaptability by forming creative partnerships to navigate the challenges posed by restaurant closures. This lesson encourages us to view obstacles as opportunities and think outside the box when solving problems.


WATCH: You can revisit the entrepreneurial lessons from “Elevate Your Entrepreneurship: A Fireside Chat”. Click here to watch the full video. May require BDC registration. 


  1. Live by your core values

Debbie underscores that her core values serve as the driving force behind her actions in her business. Your core values can guide you in making decisions that align with your vision and purpose. In entrepreneurship, staying true to your core values can help you maintain your focus and integrity as you navigate the business world. 

  1. Build a network of advisors

Debbie has developed a network of advisors, both formal and informal, Ashwini chief among them. The two connected through the Futurpreneur mentorship program. Ashwini continues to provide Debbie with valuable counsel when facing difficult decisions. It’s important to look for advisors with industry knowledge, a proven track record, shared values and a passion for supporting young entrepreneurs and seeing others succeed. Debbie’s network serves as a sounding board and a source of wisdom. The lesson here is to nurture relationships and rely on your connections when making important choices in your entrepreneurial journey.  

  1. Delegate and invest in your growth

Finally, Debbie shares another valuable lesson: just like dating, you should look for people who share your values. When considering hiring and delegating business responsibilities, assess if you can afford to do so and how it can contribute to your own and your business’ growth. She suggests exploring grant programs as a way to compensate potential employees and enable you to focus on your core strengths. This lesson reminds us that delegation and strategic hiring can fuel business growth. 

Bonus lesson: Continuous learning 

Debbie highlights the importance of learning and facing the things that are most challenging to you. In her case, these were tasks like cash-flow statements and sales projections. She advises entrepreneurs to take the time for regular self-reflection on areas for personal growth. Recognizing the significance of your own role in your business’s success is key. The journey of entrepreneurship is an ongoing learning experience, and embracing this aspect can lead to continuous improvement. 

Balancing planning and execution, embracing creativity, upholding core values, building a network of advisors and strategic delegation have all served as critical elements on Debbie’s path to entrepreneurial success. Her journey serves as a testament to the potential of small businesses in Canada, and how, with the right supports, young entrepreneurs can reach their business dreams.

Read BDC’s report “Entrepreneurship in Motion: Skills to Succeed in a Changing World” to learn about valuable entrepreneurship skills. 

Learn more about how Futurpreneur can support your entrepreneurial dreams. 

Futurpreneur’s Impact in Action: Young Entrepreneurs Shine on Parliament Hill

On September 18, we brought together an extraordinary group of diverse young entrepreneurs from across the country to spend the day with us at Parliament Hill in Ottawa. We did this to celebrate the resilience and success of Futurpreneur-supported entrepreneurs across Canada amid Parliament’s return for the fall session. Our Hill Day culminated with the ‘Welcome Back to Ottawa’ Reception where members of Parliament (MPs), government representatives, partners and staff connected with our Futurpreneurs. The evening was a testament to the vibrancy of Canada’s entrepreneurial spirit and the impact of Futurpreneurs in their communities across the country.

Standing: Mary Oliveira, Alex Carnio, Margarettha Pierre, Jon Piett, Sean Rayland-Boubar, Sheena Brady
Sitting: Nicholas LaValle, Debbie Shing, Elizabeth Mok, Christopher Mack
Photo by Thierry Sanon

Meeting Trailblazing Futurpreneurs

Our day began with an opportunity for our young entrepreneurs to connect with our team, including Futurpreneur senior leadership— exchanging insights and engaging with each other. Energized by these conversations, everyone embarked on a journey to the tour of Parliament that included a 360° multimedia exhibit offering a glimpse of the sections of the building currently under renovation.

Our day began with an opportunity for our young entrepreneurs to connect with our team, including Futurpreneur senior leadership— exchanging insights and engaging with each other. Energized by these conversations, everyone embarked on a journey to the tour of Parliament that included a 360° multimedia exhibit offering a glimpse of the sections of the building currently under renovation.

Parliament’s Shoutout to Futurpreneur

One of the highlights of our Hill Day experience was our visit to the House of Commons for Question Period. It was here that MP Darren Fisher gave a heartfelt shoutout to Futurpreneur, emphasizing our vital role in supporting young entrepreneurs and recognizing the profound influence we’ve had on fostering inclusive economic prosperity across Canada. We were honoured to be recognized by MP Fisher as well as many of our elected officials who work tirelessly with us to make a positive impact in our communities. 

MP Fisher also recognized one of our Futurpreneurs based in his riding: Nicholas LaValle, the founder of Clean Valley CIC. His innovative work in clean technology and biofiltration earned him well-deserved recognition from those in attendance in the House.

A Showcase of Ambition and Innovation

As we kicked off our Hill Day Reception at the Wellington Building, hosted by The Honourable Rechie Valdez, Minister of Small Business and The Honourable Minister Mary Ng, Minister of Export Promotion, International Trade and Economic Development, the spotlight continued to shine on the incredible entrepreneurs who joined us in Ottawa. They shared their inspiring stories and the fruits of their labour with policymakers, providing a captivating glimpse into the remarkable businesses they’ve built.  

MPs and staffers attending the reception engaged with entrepreneurs, delving deeper into their journeys to success. They also learned about how Futurpreneur played a pivotal role in supporting these entrepreneurs during the critical early stages of their businesses, from inception to overcoming the challenges of startup life. 

The evening was an interactive experience as attendees had the pleasure of learning about and savouring products from these dynamic businesses, each offering a unique flavour of innovation. Among the offerings were:

  • Fine Chocolates: Mary Oliveira, from Toronto, the founder of Mary’s Brigadeiro, treated our taste buds with exquisite Brazilian chocolates.
  • Decadent Ice Cream: Elizabeth Sin Yung Mok, the creative mind behind Ottawa’s Moo Shu Ice Cream, introduced us to her imaginative flavours.
  • Artisanal Tea Blends: Sheena Brady, the entrepreneur behind Ottawa-based Tease, invited attendees to explore her curated wellness tea blends.
  • Fine Wines: Debbie Shing, founder of Toronto-based Quvé, showcased the flavours of her fine wines, a testament to her passion for viticulture.
  • Urban Streetwear: Sean Rayland, the founder of Red Rebel Armour, brought a touch of urban fashion to the event, sharing his Winnipeg-based company’s social mission to create employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated Indigenous people to help them transform their lives for the better.
  • Innovative Sleep Solutions: Jon Piett, from Saskatoon, the visionary behind LOTUS, presented his sleep company, demonstrating how innovation can contribute to a good night’s sleep.
  • Clean Energy: Nicholas LaValle, the founder of Clean Valley CIC, based in Dartmouth, introduced the audience to his clean energy solutions, emphasizing the importance of sustainability.
  • Healthcare Innovation: Margarettha Pierre, the founder of KnowMediQ, based in Montréal, unveiled her one-stop-shop for personalized healthcare services, promising a brighter future for the industry.

Celebrating Young Entrepreneurs

Our evening unfolded with a series of truly inspirational speeches. Karen Greve Young, CEO of Futurpreneur, expressed her gratitude to longstanding partners including the Government of Canada, the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), and spoke passionately about the achievements of our young entrepreneurs across Canada. 

Karen Greve Young
Photo by Thierry Sanon

Minister of Small Business, Rechie Valdez, an entrepreneur herself, commended the impact of Futurpreneur on Canada’s economy. During her address, she emphasized the importance of supporting young entrepreneurs as a catalyst for driving economic growth.


Joanna Griffiths, Founder and President of Knix embarked on her entrepreneurial journey with the support of Futurpreneur and has since become a dedicated member of the Futurpreneur Board. During her inspiring address, she candidly shared her personal experience and praised the exceptional level of care and commitment that sets Futurpreneur apart.  

Joanna remarked, “There really is nothing like Futurpreneur in Canada. Part of the reason why I wanted to join the board was to give back all the help and support that I received. In my opinion, there’s no better way to have an impact on entrepreneurship in this country than by partnering with Futurpreneur.”

Joanna Griffiths
Photo by Thierry Sanon

Making a Difference

The evening also featured inspiring messages from the leaders of Futurpreneur’s tailored loan & mentorship programs: Black Entrepreneur Startup Program and Indigenous Entrepreneur Startup Program. 

Mona-Lisa Prosper, Director of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program (BESP) highlighted Futurpreneur’s commitment to addressing the specific barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs in Canada. She explained, “We have adapted our core offering by being more inclusive in regard to credit, and we also provide follow-on financing, to help entrepreneurs start and scale their businesses.” 

Holly Atjecoutay, Director of the Indigenous Entrepreneur Startup Program (IESP) emphasized Futurpreneur’s deep respect for and understanding of Indigenous voices and their remarkable resilience. Holly noted, “One major element that sets Futurpreneur apart is that we’re one of the only organizations in this country that offers on-reserve lending within our ecosystem.” She also highlighted how this program is driven by collaboration, co-creation and representation of the vast and diverse Indigenous population across Canada. 

Attendees experienced a firsthand glimpse into the impact of the IESP through a short documentary highlighting Sean Rayland-Boubar’s transformative journey within our program.  

Holly Atjecoutay and Mona-Lisa Prosper
Photo by Thierry Sanon

Empowering Aspiring Entrepreneurs

Futurpreneur’s Hill Day Reception went beyond celebrating the success of young entrepreneurs. It was our moment to illuminate the vital role of Federal Government investment in empowering Futurpreneur’s work to shape a more inclusive and prosperous economy for young entrepreneurs nationwide. The Government of Canada’s longstanding commitment has been instrumental in enabling Futurpreneur to reach more diverse young entrepreneurs, equipping them with the money, mentorship and tools they need to start and succeed. 

We are grateful for all who attended, and we are moved by the overwhelming response to this event, both in person and online. Here are some of the wonderful posts that beautifully capture the essence of our Hill Day experience:


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A post shared by Debbie Shing 成頌文 (@debbieshing)

Pride in Business: Celebrating Successful Entrepreneurs from the 2SLGTBQIA+ Community

We take great pride in being the only national non-profit organization in Canada that provides financing, mentorship, and resources to entrepreneurs between the ages of 18 and 39. What’s equally important to us is our commitment to supporting young entrepreneurs from the 2SLGBTQIA+ community as they embark on their journey in the business world.

Our utmost priority is to create a safe and inclusive environment for all aspiring entrepreneurs. We want you to feel comfortable and free to express yourself as you launch or acquire your small business while working with us.

This commitment extends to our dedicated team. Currently, 6% of our entire staff and 13% of our senior leadership team identify as 2SLGBTQIA+. We believe in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion within our organization and beyond.

We collaborate with regional and national partners such as Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Chamber of Commerce that provide additional support to the community.

In celebration of Pride Month, we sat down with Futurpreneur-supported 2SLGBTQIA+ entrepreneurs across Canada who shared their inspirations, challenges, and valuable insights from their remarkable journeys as business owners

What inspired you to start your business?? 

Steph McNair (Maneland Hair, Dartmouth, NS) 

I was inspired by my community – I was aware of the lack of representation in the beauty industry and was compelled to create a queer-owned safe space.  

Steph McNair
Photo credit: Ryan Tobin Photography


Alana Fiks (Black Market Provisions, Winnipeg, MB)

Black Market Provisions was inspired by our love for food. Ange (Farkas, co-owner) is a Red Seal Chef, and our relationship has always been rooted in food. We started Pop Cart in 2015 to dip our toes into the world of food entrepreneurship and chipped away at our ultimate dream of opening a shop. 

Angela Farkas (left) & Alana Fiks (right)
Photo credit:
1812 Photography


Paulo Azevedo (Paulo’s Cake Shop, Toronto, ON)  

The inspiration was and is always about people – bringing a unique cake experience to our customers, and bringing prosperity to the lives of the people involved in the business. 

Paulo Azevedo
Photo Credit:
Rebel Howl Studios

Shawn Raymond (Shawn R Training, Leduc, AB)  

I’m in love with what we, as humans, can do when we put our mind to being a better version of ourselves. I wanted to help make people feel more confident in finding their own balance — a consistent juggling act of mental, physical, nutritional, and spiritual/energetic well-being.    

Shawn Raymond
Photo Credit:
Market House Ltd.


Olga Vernev (Great Canadian Dog Cakes, Vancouver, BC) 

When the pandemic struck, we realized that as newcomers, we were vulnerable and needed a strategy to protect our lives from being disrupted. Due to our dog’s health issues, we began feeding him exclusively homemade food, which also proved popular with other dogs in the neighborhood. With the support of Futurpreneur, this eventually blossomed into a thriving business.  

Natasha Vernev (left) & Olga Vernev (right)
Photo Credit: Allister Foster


Who is your target audience?

Steph: Maneland is unique in that it is specifically geared towards the 2SLGBTQIA+ community. The primary focus is creating a space where that community is listened to, valued, respected, and cared for.

Alana: Our clientele ranges through all ages, genders, and walks of life — the common thread being they all want quality food and fun, interesting gifts!

Shawn: My target audience is the individual who is trying to be just 1% better as a human in one of the main areas I work in as a certified CSEP-CPT: Mental, physical, and nutritional health and well-being. 

Olga: People who treat dogs as members of their family. Our own dog ran away from Russia with us, even though many people around us considered it reckless. We genuinely believe that dogs deserve the same pleasures as we do (with special considerations for their health). 

Paulo: Our audience is someone who is looking for a fresh unique cake or dessert and does not have time to pre order. We bring the freshness to their homes, and celebrations.

Photo Credit: Rebel Howl Studios

What are some challenges you faced while building your business? How have you overcome them?

Steph : There were challenges in finding product companies that would work with a non-binary [owned], queer business—but we found suppliers who are fantastic. 

Maneland also opened 6 months before the pandemic, which was extremely challenging. There was minimal support for a small business during COVID, but with the help of my loyal clientele and additional funding, I was able to keep Maneland going. 

Paulo: The top three concerns are probably managing my cash flow, taking care of my mental health, and being prepared for unexpected situations. I talk to other entrepreneurs and try to get advice from them — having that reference helps 

Olga: After our experience of running a business in our home country, we can compare and confidently say that there are actually no significant challenges for building a small business in Canada. For each step, there are simple and clear rules to follow, ensuring that everything goes smoothly and correctly. Therefore, we cannot claim to have faced any serious obstacles. 

Alana: We wanted to avoid getting burnt out and overwhelmed, so from day one we prioritized work-life balance: We keep the shop closed two days a week, add an extra day off to long weekends, close for a couple of weeks after Christmas, outsource what we can, and remind ourselves that personal lives are so much more important than anything that happens at our business. 

COVID was another big challenge. We spent two years adjusting the way we operated. We feel like we ultimately got “how to run a business” boot camp training, so it was kind of a benefit in its own way

Our current biggest challenge is fighting the rising cost of….everything! Basically, 75% of our goods have  become pricier over the past year, with no end in sight.  

Shawn: In the beginning, I’d catch myself spending way too much time trying to learn a new skill instead of just asking a friend, family member, fellow business owner, or bookkeeper. Sometimes you just have to own up to the fact that you’re not going to be a solopreneur forever—and that’s a good thing!

Being a trainer, I do feel a sense of leadership, like there’s an expectation that I am “totally healthy” and no “fun”. Finding my own balance over the years—being in a fulfilling relationship, running a business and taking care of myself—isn’t always easy, but I know and see firsthand the importance of being kind to ourselves

Photo credit: Ryan Tobin Photography

How did Futurpreneur support your startup?

Olga: Without the involvement of Futurpreneur, we would not exist. When you arrive in another country to start a life from scratch, you essentially have no resources for a startup. We registered on the Futurpreneur website during our search, and  the business development manager promptly contacted us and found us the perfect solution. We were able to launch our business shortly after with Futurpreneur’s quick turnaround and support.  

Paulo: Futurpreneur gave me not only the funds to start my business – the company showed me support, guidance and direction. Having a mentor and all the connections I’ve made so far is helping me build my business in a healthy and consistent way.

Steph: Futurpreneur set me up with a mentor, which was very helpful – as a new small business owner, it was comforting to have a mentor to be able to talk to and ask questions.

Alana: Futurpreneur’s funding was not only valuable in terms of us needing the dollars —it also wasn’t terrifying to new entrepreneurs! Working with lenders can be so intimidating, but Futurpreneur really wants you to succeed and thrive. 

Futurpreneur also supported us with guidance. When you’re pitching your idea to banks and lenders and landlords, etc, it can be really disheartening when they can’t see your vision. Futurpreneur worked with us to ensure our business plan was sound, provided guidance, and ultimately confirmed our belief that we were onto something with this idea.

Shawn : In the beginning, no bank would look at me. Futurpreneur went out of their way—even during COVID—to ensure that I was not only being supported but being educated. They helped me understand my health and wellness business from so many new perspectives.

Shawn Raymond
Photo Credit:
Market House Ltd.


What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are just starting out?

Alana : Find a way to start your business smaller to see if it’s a viable idea, and start to build relationships with customers, suppliers, and fellow business owners
Second, prioritize yourself. Your health, personal life, and relationships are SO much more important than your professional life.

Third, do YOU! Don’t worry about anyone else. Be authentic in your idea, in yourself, and it will come through in your business and success. Ultimately, people are looking for authenticity.

Shawn: Take care of you, invest in you, find the people that support your vision. Let others have their perspective, but don’t let it shake the trust you have in yourself, in your own pursuit of happiness. 

Olga : Please do not be afraid to take a step forward, even if the circumstances around you may seem hopeless. Later, you will be surprised at how insignificant the things that once seemed insurmountable, actually turn out to be.   

Paulo : Take care of your mental health, work closely with your business mentor or coach, and do not give up.  

Steph : Start small, plant seeds and follow your dreams!

Ready to launch your own business? We’re here to help! Reach out and tell us more about your startup 🙌


Olga Vernev (left) & Natasha Vernev (right)
Photo Credit: Allister Foster


Note: this Q&A has been edited and condensed. 

The Growth Accelerator: A Power-Packed Event

Launching a successful business is a major milestone for any aspiring entrepreneur. However, the true measure of accomplishment lies in nurturing that startup and taking it to new heights. That is precisely why Futurpreneur and Spin Master have collaborated to deliver the Growth Accelerator. It is an exclusive opportunity for Futurpreneur-supported entrepreneurs to broaden their horizons and give their businesses an edge.  

This extraordinary initiative is tailored for diverse young entrepreneurs who have already launched their businesses and are growth-focused. The program provides entrepreneurs multiple opportunities for coaching, knowledge-sharing, networking, and supports from experts to maximize their chances of successfully scaling their business. 

This year’s Growth Accelerator included 25 entrepreneurs from across the country who participated in three months of workshops focused on marketing, operations, and finance. Futurpreneur also held an exclusive session, in collaboration with Empower by GoDaddy, to help enhance digital presence and increase sales.  


The Growth Accelerator Cohort with Jon Levy and Tam Linnemann.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

Led by subject matter experts, the Growth Accelerator workshops provided entrepreneurs insights on scaling their startups and enhancing their skillsets to achieve their business growth goals. The sessions culminated with two days of in-person events, where the entrepreneurs came together and pitched their businesses, with James Lynn from KALŪ, taking home a $10,000 cash award to put towards the growth of his business.


Day One: The Big Showcase 

The Growth Accelerator summit kicked off at Spin Master’s head office in downtown Toronto where the enthusiastic cohort was welcomed by business leaders including Futurpreneur’s CEO, Karen Greve Young, Vice President, Programs & Partnerships, Janis Nixon; Spin Master’s Vice President of Sales, Tom Linnemann and Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility, Tammy Smitham.


Karen Greve Young, CEO, Futurpreneur.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

The opening keynote was delivered by the visionary Jon Levy, Head of Spin Master Ventures and Co-Founder of Mastermind Toys.

Jon Levy, Head of Spin Master Ventures and Co-Founder of Mastermind Toys.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

Our Growth Accelerator cohort also had the privilege of learning from accomplished young entrepreneurs and Futurpreneur alumni. Mark Argo, Co-Founder of Little Robot Friends, Wilmer Hernandez, Founder of Montañeros Coffee, and Candace Tierney, Founder of Oat & Mill, shared their success stories and the challenges they encountered along the way. Their insights provided inspiration and guidance to our participants, offering a glimpse into the realities of the entrepreneurial journey.


Tom Linnemann, Candace Tierney, Mark Argo, and Wilmer Hernandez.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

The highlight of the day was the incredible showcase organized for the entrepreneurs to display their products and services, which included eyewear, tutoring services, health and wellness, pet food, outdoor recreation, and others. The event served as a tremendous opportunity for our entrepreneurs to develop partnerships and collaborations with each other, network with industry leaders, and explore possibilities to scale their businesses.



The Showcase Event at the Spin Master Office.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

The day concluded with an awe-inspiring address from none other than John Risley, Founder and President of Clearwater Foods, and the esteemed Founding Board Chair of Futurpreneur Canada. As an industry leader, and titan of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, John Risley’s presence was a testament to the caliber of our program. What truly set him apart was his genuine interest in our cohort, and his business insights resonated deeply with the entrepreneurs, leaving an indelible impact on them. 

John Risley, Founder and President of Clearwater Foods,
Founding Board Chair of Futurpreneur Canada.

Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

The young entrepreneurs were excited to interact with a diverse array of trailblazers, each with their own remarkable journey and experiences. These interactions ignited a spark within the cohort, leaving them motivated to bring their A-game to the pitch competition scheduled for the following day. 

Meghan Victoria, Founder & Creative Director of Sol Kyst, with Rubble.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

Day Two: The Grand Finale 

On the heels of a successful day one, filled with engaging conversations with an exceptional line up of guests, the diverse young entrepreneurs were ready to pitch their businesses and vie for the coveted $10,000 cash award.

The day began with an invigorating session on the “Power of Storytelling”. With his infectious energy, Jake Karls, the dynamic Co-Founder & Rainmaker of Mid-Day Squares delved into his own entrepreneurial journey, from the modest beginnings of starting a business with his sister and brother-in-law in their apartment in 2018, to the astounding achievement of selling over 20 million chocolate bars within five years.  

Jake’s advice to the entrepreneurs was clear and impactful. His storytelling prowess captivated all in attendance and left them supercharged to unlock their own untapped potential. He emphasized the importance of authenticity in establishing genuine connections with their audience and encouraged them to embrace vulnerability without fear. With his mantra of “being real” and fearlessly embracing disruption, he empowered our Growth Accelerator cohort to boldly carve their own unique paths to success. 

Jake Karls, Co-Founder of Mid-Day Squares.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

The next session was a workshop on Effective Communication, hosted by Rahel Appiagyei-David, Founding Director of One1000 Consulting. Rahel shared the secrets to forming customers connections through effective communications including building on credibility and accountability to strengthen trust for the brand.

Rahel Appiagyei-David, Founding Director of One1000 Consulting
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

Soon after, the pitch competition started with the participants breaking into rooms to present their pitches to judges including Valerie Fox, Chief Innovation Consultant, The Pivotal Point, and Futurpreneur Board Member; Catherine Addai-Boadu, Founder and CEO of KAELA KAY; Melissa Allen, Executive Director, League of Innovators (LOI Accelerator); Tom Linnemann, Vice President of Sales, Spin Master; Tammy Smitham, Vice President, Communications & Corporate Social Responsibility Spin Master, and Dominik Loncar, Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Futurpreneur.
The judges were inspired by the entrepreneurs’ vision and decided to move forward with six finalists instead of five, including: James Lynn, Founder of KALŪ, Abbie Morris, Co-founder of FarOut Wilderness, Ty de Hoog, Founder of True North Cider, Anisa Musmary, Founder of Wanderruff, Michael Collins, Founder & CEO of Periculum, Julianne Nieh, Founder & Director of Teaboco.


Julianne Nieh, Founder & Director of Teaboco.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

After an intense round of pitching to an expanded audience of judges including Jake Karls and Joshua Misquitta, from CIBC, James Lynn emerged as the well-deserved recipient of the coveted $10,000 cash award. The exhilaration in the room was palpable as James’ name was called, and his reaction was nothing short of pure joy. With genuine excitement, he exclaimed, “The Growth Accelerator experience ranks amongst the highest highs I’ve ever experienced. This award will allow me to fast-track certain projects that otherwise would’ve been put off until a later time. These projects will significantly accelerate my growth in the short term and help my business reach new heights! I’m so grateful!”.
Check out our full press release for more on James’ win!


The Award Recipient, James Lynn, Founder of KALŪ with the Futurpreneur and Spin Master Team.
Photo Credit: Garcia Creative

With day two drawing to a close, the conclusion of this year’s Growth Accelerator program filled the air with an atmosphere of positivity, camaraderie, and boundless enthusiasm. The participants, special guests, and esteemed judges, departed with hearts full of inspiration and a shared sense of accomplishment. The successful culmination of Futurpreneur’s Growth Accelerator ignited a collective anticipation for the next round, fostering a desire to continue the journey of growth and empowerment.  

As the curtains closed on this year’s program, the prevailing sentiment was one of gratitude and excitement for the next chapter. The Growth Accelerator had fostered an extraordinary environment that nurtured growth, ambition, and limitless possibilities. The participants departed with a desire to continue their entrepreneurial journeys, armed with the experiences and connections gained through this initiative led by Futurpreneur, in collaboration with Spin Master. Until next year’s Growth Accelerator, their journey continues with the unwavering belief that anything is achievable.

Meghan Victoria and Julianne Nieh Share Their Collab Video on Instagram.

If this article inspired you to embark on your own entrepreneurial journey reach out today! The Growth Accelerator is tailor-made for ambitious entrepreneurs who are supported by Futurpreneur with financing and mentorship and have a strong desire to scale their businesses. If this sounds like you, be sure to apply when the next round of applications for the Growth Accelerator opens up 

From the Ground Up: Behind the Scenes of Knix and Mejuri’s Success

On April 19, 2023, the Arcadian Court in Toronto was buzzing with energy as over 200 in-person attendees and 280 virtual guests gathered to hear from two trailblazing women founders, Joanna Griffiths and Noura Sakkijha 

The fireside chat hosted by Canadian Club Toronto was moderated by our CEO, Karen Greve Young and we were treated to candid insights behind the success of the two Canadian entrepreneurs. 

Meet the Trailblazing Futurpreneur-supported Founders

Joanna Griffiths, Knix & KT by Knix

Photo by Mike Hagarty

Joanna Griffiths is the founder and CEO of Knix and KT by Knix, one of the fastest-growing global intimate apparel brands. The company launched in 2013 and recently, Essity, leading hygiene and health company, acquired 80% of Knix, making the sale the largest publicly disclosed private sale by a female founder in Canada.  

Noura Sakkijha, Mejuri

Photo by Mike Hagarty

Born and raised in Jordan, Noura Sakkijha is a third-generation jeweler who initially chose to pursue industrial engineering before immigrating to Canada and deciding to return to her passion, jewelry. She launched
Mejuri in 2015, a brand that is a symbol of empowerment, inclusivity, and innovation. 

Opening the conversation, Karen pointed out the similarities between the two founders. Both received funding from Futurpreneur in the early stages of launching their businesses, both businesses carry a mission to empower women, and interestingly, both entrepreneurs raised funding while pregnant with twin girls. 

From Idea to Leading Global Brands 

Growing up, Noura observed that jewelry was marketed as something exclusive, at a high price point and, towards men to buy as gifts for women. After noticing a gap in the market for affordable quality jewelry, she was inspired to create a brand that empowers women to buy jewelry for themselves. With the spirit of “buy yourself the damn diamond,” Noura wants women to celebrate what matters to them, regardless of the occasion. 

Joanna, on the other hand, knew little about the intimate apparel industry. She had the idea of creating leak-proof underwear when she realized many women experience leaks from pregnancy, post-partum, or even sneezing, or exercising, but there were no products in the market to address that issue. In a world that perpetuates a photoshopped version of women’s bodies, her aim was to create a brand that “talks to their customers for who they are, and that honours them by showcasing how fantastic they are.” 

Overcoming Challenges in Their Entrepreneurial Journeys

When asked about the challenges they faced, Noura shared that “the challenges never stop, but you get better at handling them”.  

Early on, the first difficulty she encountered was raising capital, as she faced multiple rejections from venture capitalists. She emphasized that entrepreneurs should learn from their failures and most importantly embrace them as they represent an opportunity for growth and improvement. Despite the hurdles, surrounding herself with other like-minded entrepreneurs, helped her get back on her feet and remain motivated to not give up on her dream.  

Joanna agreed that challenges vary along the journey. Between figuring out how to make a product that did not exist, convincing manufacturers to take a leap of faith, and going through numbers of prototypes, there were periods filled with self-doubt. She highlighted, however, the importance of resilience and pushing through difficult times, sharing “looking back at things that used to break me, when they happen now, I’m able to brush them off and keep going”. 

Talking about their first investors, Joanna explained that support came in from mostly friends and family, as well as Futurpreneur. “The organization gave me money when no one else would!” Noura mentioned that she received grants and support through Founder Fuel, and she was grateful to Futurpreneur, specifically for providing a non-dilutive loan that allowed her to remain in full control of her business at that early stage. 

Photo by Mike Hagarty

Words of Wisdom for Young Entrepreneurs 

After taking questions from the audience, both entrepreneurs provided words of wisdom for entrepreneurs going through hard times in their own journeys. “In the early stages, talk to and learn from customers and when you grow, hire the best people,” Noura shared, as she strongly recommended that aspiring entrepreneurs surround themselves with great individuals.

Joanna emphasized that hard times inspire real growth stating, “the struggles and failures are incredibly normal, and I wish more people would talk about it.” She added that it was crucial for entrepreneurs to take care of themselves “it is a game of resiliency and it’s important that you keep a positive mindset,” she urged. “We are all a work in progress and as you build and lead a team, you must evolve, and step up to a place and that takes an entirely different skillset. You are working on building an incredible company, brand and legacy that will exist for generations. Once you get past the point of self-doubt, focus on what you want the brand to be known for and on its impact!”

Photo by Mike Hagarty

It’s Your Time!

If you feel inspired and ready to start your own entrepreneurial journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to us! Whether you want to start a side-hustle, purchase a business or launch your own, we have a team of experts who can guide you through the process and lead you to success!   

And don’t forget to check out the full fireside chat with Joanna Griffiths and Noura Sakkijha for even more insights and inspiration. 

Celebrating the 2nd Anniversary of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program

Two years ago, Futurpreneur announced a new funding collaboration with Royal Bank of Canada to deliver the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program (BESP), building on its longstanding partnership with Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). This initiative was launched to provide access to capital, mentorship, resources, and networking opportunities to help aspiring Black entrepreneurs across the country. As we celebrate the 2nd anniversary of the BESP, we are proudly reflecting on its incredible impact on the community and looking ahead towards the future.

Over $11M Provided in Capital Alongside 1:1 Mentorship

In the first two years of launch, the BESP has made a significant difference in addressing the barriers that many young, Black entrepreneurs face when accessing capital and other crucial business resources within the Canadian economic landscape. We have proudly disbursed over $11 million in collateral-free business loans, while supporting more than 275 Black-led businesses and matched them with a mentor to help them launch their startup journey.

According to the 2022 State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada report, Black women entrepreneurs still encounter numerous obstacles, despite their impressive skills and experience. These challenges arise from the conscious and unconscious biases deeply rooted in institutions and organizations designed to support entrepreneurs, which disproportionately affect Black women1.

As we celebrate our 2nd anniversary, we’re also proud to share that 51% of the businesses we’ve supported through the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program are led by women. By fostering an inclusive and diverse entrepreneurial environment, we remain committed to empowering Black entrepreneurs and helping them thrive in their businesses.

Honouring Black Entrepreneurs and Inspiring the Next Generation 

In February, we hosted an event to celebrate the achievements of Black entrepreneurs. The evening was dedicated to “Honouring Black Entrepreneurs and Inspiring the Next Generation”, and we welcomed a full house to our national office in Toronto. We provided attendees with a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded professionals and learn from industry experts.

The event effectively showcased the significant impact of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program in empowering Black entrepreneurs nationwide. It also served as a fitting prelude to our 2nd anniversary celebrations.

Many young entrepreneurs came in from out of town to join us and we are deeply grateful for the overwhelming response from the community both in-person and on social media – it was a night to remember!

Raising the Visibility of Black Entrepreneurs 

Throughout February, we also dedicated Futurpreneur’s communication platforms to celebrating Black History Month and highlighting successful young Black entrepreneurs through the video series “A Day in the Life of a Black Entrepreneur” featuring four amazing Futurpreneur-supported business owners across Canada.

Adesola Ogunsakin of The Retro Bag Canada, London, Ontario

Meet Adesola Ogunsakin, who after completing her medical degree, took a giant leap of faith and launched her brand online. Pursuing her passion for fashion, the entrepreneur founded The Retro Bag Canada in 2019. Today, her brick-and-mortar store shines in one of the biggest shopping malls in London, Ontario.

Alexandra Nerette of Nerette Notaires, Saint-Lambert, Québec

Meet Alexandra Nerette of Nerette Notaires, who takes us on a journey through her daily routine and shares how she considers Quebec, a place where everyone can create their own path and become successful.

Kudzaishe Rodney Tembo of East Coast Rec Rides, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

Meet Kudzaishe Rodney Tembo, passionate entrepreneur, founder of East Coast Rec Rides and an active contributor to Nova Scotia’s tourism industry. Watch him as he highlights the importance of having inspirational Black leaders to support the next generation of Black business owners.

Arlene Ambrose of Arlene Ambrose Curated Health, Edmonton, Alberta

Meet Arlene Ambrose of Arlene Ambrose Curated Health and learn how you can take your business to the next level by “taking a leap of faith”. Watch as she shares why mentorship is your most important asset as an aspiring entrepreneur.

Through the BESP, we are committed to sharing the experiences of young entrepreneurs year-round with initiatives such as our video series, as well as our podcast, “Startup + Prosper” plus many more to follow.

Building a Better Future for Black Entrepreneurs

As we reflect on the past two years and celebrate the success of the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, funded by RBC with additional loan support from BDC, we remain committed to empowering Black entrepreneurs across Canada. We recognize that there is still much work to be done to address systemic barriers and support Black entrepreneurs, particularly Black women entrepreneurs.

Supporting Black entrepreneurs is not only a matter of equity, but it is also imperative for the Canadian economy. By ensuring that Black entrepreneurs have access to the capital, mentorship, and resources they need to succeed, we can build a more prosperous and inclusive future for all entrepreneurs across the country.

We would like to extend our gratitude to all our partners and supporters who have contributed to the success of the program, especially RBC and BDC. We look forward to continuing this vital work and building a brighter future for Black entrepreneurs in Canada.

1 Cukier, W., Mo, G. Y., Chavoushi, Z. H., Borova, B., Osten, V. (2022). The State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada 2022. Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub.

The Power of Women: Breaking Barriers and Making an Impact

Did you know that the Futurpreneur team includes 62% employees identifying as women, including half of our senior leadership? That’s not all, 44% of all Futurpreneur-supported businesses are led by women. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we want to celebrate women-owned businesses by hearing directly from the entrepreneurs about their experiences: challenges, achievements, and the way forward.

Women Leading the Charge

Carolann Robyn Cruz, Founder - Enn Taant

Carolann Robyn Cruz

Carolann Robyn Cruz is an Indigenous entrepreneur and founder of Enn Taant, a camping gear and supplies business in Manitoba. Robyn has been an outdoor enthusiast, and her love for camping started as a child, raised by a tight-knit Metis family full of outdoorsy folks.

Accessibility to equipment is a major factor for campers and Cruz wanted to make, “… camping easy and accessible for EVERYONE by providing and setting up good quality camping gear. Our priority is to make sure everyone gets an opportunity to enjoy the outdoors.”


Sumru Sezer, Founder - Mint+Grey

Sumru Sezer

Owner and founder of Mint+Grey, Sumru Sezer, moved to Canada in 2018, and missed the comfort of Turkish towels in the country. She found a gap in the market between microfiber and cotton terry towels and decided to launch her own brand of premium quality, authentic Turkish towels for self-caring, active living, environmentally conscious people.

Anna Chan, Founder & CEO - myMomentum

Anna Chan

Anna Chan from myMomentum talks about the tipping point in her life, “I felt workplace burnout from leading a startup during its high growth phase back in 2015, and knew it was time for me to rediscover my purpose. I became a fitness coach and during this time, found the fundamental problem of the lack of empathy surrounding wellness.” She launched myMomentum, a B2B company that provides people-first companies with an easy and cost-effective way to show their care for their employees’ well-being via a personalized app.


Kenesha Lewis, Founder - One More Cocoa

Kenesha Lewis

Her love for cocoa tea (Jamaican hot chocolate) that she drank as a child with her grandfather inspired Kenesha Lewis to start her own business, One More Cocoa. According to Lewis, she wanted to create a brand that would, “bring some of my Caribbean heritage, nostalgic things from my childhood and simple flavours we all love, together.”

Challenges Facing Women in Business Today

Talking about the challenges they faced while starting their businesses, Cruz says, “The biggest challenges that I faced when starting up last year was gaining access to capital, especially after the pandemic. Lenders seemed more apprehensive to lend to a tourism startup after we all witnessed how much of an impact it had on worldwide tourism.”

Sezer feels issues like self-doubt and burnout are real and all entrepreneurs go through it at some point in their journey. She made the decision to take one step at a time and allowed herself to make mistakes and improve on them as she went along.

Balancing the journey of motherhood, and being a non-technical solo founder was extremely challenging for Chan. Securing funding is another big hurdle for business owners, so she leaned on alternative and less traditional ways to fund myMomentum in the early days and doubled down on revenue generation.

Finding Financing and Support

Speaking about the role Futurpreneur played in achieving her dreams, Lewis shares, “We received our largest order to date and were unsure how to process such a large order without the correct equipment. With the Futurpreneur loan and mentorship, we were able to get what we needed. Working with a mentor has been great. They were able to give me an outside perspective on the things I needed to do to move forward.”

Sezer says, “Apart from funding, my Futurpreneur mentors, and advisors helped me create an outlet for my ideas, and structure to my plans. Starting as a single individual, building the pillars and creating the future of your business can feel lonely. Structure brings clarity to your vision and people provide the companionship.”

In Chan’s words, “Not only did Futurpreneur fuel our traction in our early days by funding us in 2018 alongside BDC, but we’ve been exposed to a host of speaking and networking opportunities to grow our brand awareness. Having an organization believe in and support us has allowed us to build the confidence to aggressively go after our goals!”

“I owe Futurpreneur a huge amount of credit for Enn Taant’s success from the idea stage to launch and beyond. They have provided not only financial support, but also avenues to meet fellow entrepreneurs, mentorship, and many important business connections,” states Cruz.

Advice to the Next Generation of Entrepreneurs

For their final piece of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs, Sezer exclaims, “Don’t postpone! If you have it in your heart, if you know you need to take the step, if you think it’s the time, do it.”

Lewis shares her words of wisdom, “Find something you enjoy doing and that you are passionate about. Learn as much as you can about it and if it fills you with pride and enjoyment, run with it. Start your business with a solid plan, passion for what you’re selling and the drive to grow it to where you want to take it. This attitude will help in those low moments, in uncertain times and push you to do more to succeed.”

“Don’t give up. Make sure your idea is simple. Be prepared to pivot where it is required and be at peace with it, things won’t always be easy, but it will be easier when you can adapt,” advises Cruz.

Surrounding yourself with the right people is one of Chan’s big learnings, “Your team is the heart of your organization, and you want to make sure that these are the people who will bring in their own unique perspectives and push the boundaries of what seems possible. Additionally, focus and set hard unapologetic boundaries to care for yourself – it’s a marathon, not a sprint. We can, and deserve, an amazing life too – we aren’t just entrepreneurs!”

We hope that the inspiring stories of these successful business leaders will motivate you to embark on your own entrepreneurial journey and turn your dream business into a reality!

Side Hustle – An opportunity in adversity

While the whole world is facing economic uncertainty, starting a business can seem like an uphill task. On the bright side, a side hustle can be the perfect opportunity to invest your time and effort in what truly interests you and realize your entrepreneurial dreams. You don’t have to turn your life around or quit your job to tackle an entrepreneurial project that may even lead to a new career. What’s more, a side hustle can benefit you in so many different ways. Here’s how you can level up at your own pace.

Taking the Leap

“The biggest thing is just getting started,” observes Emily Seaman, founder and co-owner of Kohr Method, a wellness studio based in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. “First, you have to try something to see if people are going to like it. And then from there, you need to see if it has legs to grow on its own,” advises the Pilates instructor. The studio first started in 2020 as an online community. Their service offering has since extended to include a physical space and an app.

Whether you’re looking for a way to supplement your income or you want to reach personal and professional goals, a side hustle can be the answer to both.

Emily wanted to share with the world how movement healed her. “8 years ago, I was in a very bad car accident. They really thought I was going to have chronic pain for the rest of my life,” recounts the entrepreneur, who had to undergo physical rehabilitation. On her road to recovery, she fell in love with Pilates. She got her teaching training and discovered alternative forms of movement, which then led her to opening her own studio.

While you can take the opportunity to specialize in something you’re already well acquainted with, this doesn’t have to be the case. When Devon de Balasi Brown came up with the inspiration behind the social card game Fluster, he and his co-founder had no prior experience. “We were not board game enthusiasts. It was scratching like an itch in our own lives,” he says of the passion project that is now a successful venture.

Keeping at It

Growing a side hustle isn’t always easy and comes with its own set of hurdles including knowledge about cash flow, customer acquisition, marketing etc.. As founders, Devon and Emily both received support from the Futurpreneur Side Hustle Program, the program has been a tremendous help, both financially and resource-wise. “It really helped us make sure that we got our business plan together and that we had everything that we needed,” says the studio owner. The financial support allowed Emily to buy equipment and receive valuable mentorship from a fellow gym owner.

From the get-go, it’s important that you define the purpose. “Our vision is to reduce loneliness, bridge division, support well-being, and create connections through play,” states Devon. At times when he doubted his capacities, reminding himself of the purpose really helped him focus. “I think it’s important to take those first steps and fully own your actions,” he states.

It’s also best to aim for the long run. “Things will move slower than you expect them to. Set things up in sustainable ways knowing that you’re not just going to be doing a side hustle for a month, or six months,” he advises. He also notes that the time he and his partner dedicate to Fluster fluctuates: there are moments when the project requires more energy for the pair, who chose to maintain a career in other fields.

“A lot of times, when people found out that I had this on the side, they ask, ‘are you eventually planning on quitting and doing this full time?” explains Emily Seaman. She prefers to have a traditional career while running a business that uplifts her. “Of course, I want all of my professional roles to fuel me and be passion-related,” she points out. In her full-time job, Emily works as a digital strategist, a position that fulfils her interests. She also put her knowledge into practice in Kohr Methods. “I never want to feel stagnant. I have two things that fuel my passion for movement and my passion for learning,” she goes on to say. In the same way, you can develop many transferable skills from running your business — whether it’s time organization, finance, business, or decision-making skills.

As you see, you can do things your own way with a side hustle. Venturing into a business gives you room to figure out what you want and keep growing. You couldn’t ask for a sweeter deal, could you?

Introducing the 2023 Growth Accelerator cohort

Learning plays a vital role in an entrepreneur’s growth and the success of their business. Learning enables quick thinking, sound decision-making, problem solving, and planning for the future. Futurpreneur’s Growth Accelerator is a unique offering to our Young Entrepreneurs who want to elevate their business to higher levels of success.

Facilitated digitally again this year, with an in-person strategy pitch session in Toronto in April, the Growth Accelerator will provide insight and education on various aspects of a business throughout the course of the initiative.

Commencing in February 2023, the workshops this month will focus on Marketing:  Entrepreneurs will learn to create an implementable marketing strategy for their business. In March, the spotlight will fall on creating operational assets and how to implement/access them. Last but definitely not the least, Finance will be April’s focus: Entrepreneurs will be armed with heightened awareness of their current and future financial numbers to make appropriate financial forecasts and decisions.

Growth Accelerator is a Futurpreneur initiative, powered by Spin Master. We thank Spin Master for supporting this initiative and accelerating the future of entrepreneurship.

Meet this year’s cohort:


A Cut Above Tree Experts is a year-round tree care provider in Guelph, Kitchener-Waterloo, and Cambridge that is committed to the preservation and health of our urban canopies. The tree service includes services such as pruning, tree removal, stump grinding, cabling and bracing (support systems), plant health care, tree planting, storm damage clean up, risk assessments, tree consulting.


Ace It Tutoring offers a new and fresh approach to the concept of tutoring. No More appointments. No more time limits. No more just one subject at a time. They are the gym for Math and Science grades.


Ada’s Golf Boutique is an online destination for fashionable and functionable golf and activewear for women. From buying, to building Ada’s creative marketing campaigns, Mackenzie has enjoyed every moment of making Ada’s Golf Boutique a reality. Ada’s allows Mackenzie to channel her innovative side and celebrate women.


Best Cat is a cat specialty retailer that sources unique cat food, treats, toys, cat furniture and accessories. Best Cat is owned and operated by Meagan and Kyle Daigle, siblings who are passionate about enriching the lives of Canadian cats. Best Cat is the go-to cat retailer in the GTA, featuring a selection of difficult to find, quality products and providing responsive customer service.


Choco de Léa offers high-end, vegan, eco-responsible chocolates, made from cocoa beans and direct trading practice. The brand combines the concept of food chemistry, local products and the particularities of fine cacao to create unique and very high-quality products.


Dialed Bike Service is a precision bike maintenance and repair shop with a focus on high-end mountain bikes. Founders Ash and Adam are extremely proud of creating a space that honours their own neurodivergence, while working towards creating space for more people like them in the bike industry and community and focusing on delivering unparalleled quality and attention to detail.


FarOut Wilderness provides safe access to the backcountry of British Columbia through self-drive overland vehicle rentals and tailor-made itineraries. It offers an unrivaled opportunity for its clients to safely adventure through the province’s wild and beautiful places.


Locally grown with love, the brand is founded by passionate growers dedicated to fighting food insecurity through serving the community by producing high quality, nutrient dense, fresh food and natural products. Putting their heart in every plant from seed to harvest, they grow using natural ways to promote a healthy, sustainable, and productive environment.


Hope Pet Food is bridging the gap between nutritious and sustainable with alternative proteins from insects, algae and fungi. They are on a mission to provide pet parents with better food for their furry family members using an evidence-based approach, nutrient-rich and eco-friendly ingredients all while leaving livestock and fish ingredients behind.


KALŪ is an eco-friendly pet food company. The brains behind KALŪ believe that the best way to encourage their customers to make sustainable choices is to offer products designed with the utmost respect for the environment around us.  KALŪ is a local, accessible and environmentally responsible alternative to the products that are currently available on the market.


Kids Innovative is an after-school STEAM educational service providing digital literacy to students. Kids Innovative particularly focuses on combining digital art with coding or animation in an interactive classroom session.


Mararamiro is the first shoppable photography studio in Canada. They have an online home decor store as well as a Toronto showroom that doubles as an elevated, fully furnished, and styled photography studio that they rent to content creators and brands.


More Granola is Canada’s first and only brand of snackable granola chunks. We make granola snacks in a line of dessert inspired flavours, including Pecan Pie, Hot Cocoa, Nutty Crumble and Salted Caramel.


Nailify stands out by providing high quality consulting services and top of the shelves supply for beauty professionals, more specifically nail professionals. The company has a retail store in Québec city and its core business is across the Province of Québec through their online store.


Periculum builds data analytic software that empowers organizations in underserved markets. They help companies with credit assessment, ML modeling, Fraud risk, Churn risk, and more. They bring intelligence to the core of everything that matters most to the customers.


PieceMeal was developed out of the beautiful Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia to fill the need for a locally sourced meal kit. It is a hybrid between a CSA (Consumer Supported Agriculture) Box and a Meal Kit. The recipes were designed by professional chef Fiona Lewis and are chosen in collaboration with available produce from local farms.


Quvé Group is a small Toronto-based wine and spirits agency offering commercial level sales and marketing management within a boutique firm setting. They specialize in representing independent, family-owned producers using organic/sustainable methods.


SOL KYST is a curated collection of sunglasses designed to fit and flatter those with a wide/round/square face shape. With the widest women’s frames on the market and as a solution-based product they offer classic designs with an emphasis on quality, function and versatility.


SRTraining offers an all-rounded approach to helping individuals find their version of happy, healthy, and wholesome. They offer a 1 – 1 in-person health and wellness training facility. They help their customers focus on a better lifestyle, wellness, health habits that will build them into being that fuller more healthier, happier, trusting self.


Tatamagouche Ice Creamery, a manufacturer; retailer; and wholesaler of ultra-premium ice cream, celebrated its official launch on Canada Day of 2020, following over a year of hard work and investment.


Teaboco is a women-owned Canadian brand that promotes intentional and sustainable living with a range of eco-friendly, reusable drink ware. The name Teaboco came from the multi-functional functionality of the products including glass tumblers that can be used for Tea, Boba, Coffee, and more.


Timber and Fins is a company dedicated to crafting heirloom-quality fly fishing gear that enhances the fishing experience and can be passed down from one generation to the next. Founded three years ago by David-Alexandre Chabot, Timber and Fins was created out of a desire to provide high-quality, responsibly-made fly fishing products.


True North Cider strives to create genuine, authentic cider made from 100% Canadian apples, fermented in small batches, and developed into unique seasonal flavours. By providing an authentic and unique product they separate themselves from major global cider producers.


Wanderruff is a sustainable dog accessories brand making dog collars, harnesses, and leashes out of recycled water bottles and zero waste beds for the wagging adventurer — merging comfort and consciousness.


Wearshop is a leather handbag brand designed for the woman-on-the-go. The bags are functional and practical, yet elegant. All their bags are made in Canada by local artisans who date and sign each bag as their way of adding an extra human touch to their work.

Building the Future Through Mentoring

For notary and business owner Veronique Semexant, the impact of an entrepreneur goes beyond creating a business. “Our businesses have a social impact; they contribute to a society and a community,” she explains. To pave the way for the next generation, entrepreneurs need to collaborate and pass on their knowledge.

“We need to make a difference and stop telling ourselves that we have nothing to bring to the table or that other people can do it instead. That ‘other’ is you. Even if we think we have not reached our potential, or that our experience isn’t that different,” says Semexant. In her opinion, sharing our experiences is what matters. By doing so, we influence others, who will, in turn, have an impact on those crossing their path.

Mentoring has allowed Semexant to do just that. After having, gone through Futurpreneur’s mentorship program herself, she shares: “Maybe, I’m at the stage of paying it forward.”

The notary brings along her experience, keeping one thing in mind: openness — an approach fostered by her own mentor, who taught her to think big and look at challenges with a fresh pair of eyes.

The mentoring relationship is compelling because of the conversations about roadblocks and new directions, among other things. She shares how her coaching style focuses on engaging in discussions and getting to know people and their projects. Semexant wants to know “what drives them, what can reduce the time it takes to achieve better results.”

In this spirit, Semexant invites us to get out of our offices and be open to the future: “Let’s make a change.” By seeing entrepreneurs who look like us and, even better, entrepreneurs who are supportive of us, perspectives and possibilities start to open. “Then one can see that someone did it, that it’s possible,” the notary asserts. Then, we can envision more for ourselves: “It gives a vision of hope because when you start, you can feel uncertain. When looking at statistics, it can be bleak. However, we should remind ourselves that yes, it can be done.”

Mentor Profile: Jennifer Ménard-Shand

Community leaders have the unique opportunity to build the next generation of visionaries. Mentorship can be seen both as a duty and a responsibility towards building a stronger entrepreneurial community.  

Jennifer Ménard-Shand considers mentorship rewarding and close to her heart. Following a ten-year career in hospitality with Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment, she made her mark in staffing between 2008 and 2018 at The Bagg Group (now Talent World), a full-service staffing firm where she was originally hired by her mentor. 

In 2018, Ménard-Shand acquired a portion of the company and created Staff Shop, a full-service staffing firm that serves clients across Canada, USA and the Caribbean.  While being a successful entrepreneur, Ménard-Shand remains grounded by her Indigenous roots. Her ability to relate to young Indigenous and women entrepreneurs has been a cultural asset through which she shares her business knowledge as a mentor today. 

“I know how difficult it can be as an entrepreneur, especially an Indigenous entrepreneur, plus being a female, there are many entry barriers and I believe it takes representation to understand that and help remove those barriers,” she says. 

“As a First Nations Ojibway and French Canadian who didn’t always connect with my roots due to the stereotypes that exist out there until later on in my teens, I faced typical oppression challenges faced by Indigenous women especially.” 

Ménard-Shand recognizes the systemic barriers facing Indigenous entrepreneurs through her own experience, highlighting the strength and bravery in their entrepreneurial paths. 

“By the time you’re sitting in front of an Indigenous entrepreneur, you can assume that it’s taken a lot for them to get there. It would be a waste to have them not succeed because of a lack of representation or connection to those who can relate,” she says. 

Tyra Paul is a young Indigenous entrepreneur who owns the clothing brand Drip Avenue 902. Paul is mentored by Ménard-Shand through Futurpreneur.  

“I love Jennifer,” Paul says. “I definitely connected personally with her, and I feel really comfortable talking to her.” 

Empathy is part of Ménard-Shand’s approach to mentorship. 

“I put myself in her shoes, at her stage,” Ménard-Shand says. “I give her the space to be who she is while I provide direction, ideas, and advice. But it’s really up to her. I try not to force too many solutions or stop her from making mistakes.” 

Paul says she appreciates Ménard-Shand’s approach to mentorship – sometimes strategy, sometimes support. 

“It was really nice to have somebody in my corner, especially through these challenging times,” Paul says. “It’s made me feel empowered, and when you feel strong you behave in a way that you never thought was possible before.” 

Over-mentoring is one trap mentors often get caught in, according to Ménard-Shand. While a mentor is there to provide guidance and wisdom, the entrepreneur is the ultimate decision-maker for their business.  

“It’s important that she thinks for herself and learns how to make decisions, takes responsibility for those decisions, and leans on me for what she needs at her own pace, Ménard-Shand says of Paul. “Of course, as soon as I see an opportunity to help with resources or fast-tracking, I will, but I’m also very careful about the balance between my doing versus her doing.” 

Having grown a business with the assistance of mentorship, Ménard-Shand shares attributes of good mentorship. She recalls the importance of professional moral support from her mentor. 

“He saw potential and invested in me, believed in me more than I believed in myself at the time, and I didn’t waste that opportunity. Fast forward a little over a decade later, and I was able to purchase the service line that I created within his company before he sold the rest of it. And that’s how Staff Shop was born. I re-named the service line Staff Shop and it’s the gift that keeps on giving. It has not only benefited me, but the thousands of employees that we deploy across Canada and the hundreds of clients we service across North America.” 

Mentorship played a key role in her own entrepreneurial journey, so she doesn’t miss any opportunity to pay it forward.  

“I personally wouldn’t have made it this far without all of the mentors and Yodas in my life who cleared the path for me to succeed,” she says. “Our battle cry at Staff Shop this year was ‘Leadership Factory’, and we’re always looking for ways to ensure that our team members are growing in or out of the organization. And if we can create more leaders, there’s mutual ROI for everyone involved.” 

For those who have grown their careers to be able to give back, Ménard-Shand has one piece of advice: to pay it forward. 

“I would just like to encourage other leaders to donate their time to help create more leaders. It’s our responsibility to give back. I would also advise entrepreneurs to find the right mentor for them. Find the right Yoda, since no one makes it alone.” 

Starting a Successful Business in Trying Times

Becoming an entrepreneur is not always the easy choice. Especially now, when post-pandemic recovery is being marred with the recent economic headwinds that have brought on a new set of challenges for Canadian entrepreneurs. From rising costs, supply-chain issues, logistical delays, and financing troubles, the list continues to grow.

The recently concluded BDC Small Business Week 2022 included a panel discussion on “Starting a Business in Trying Times” featuring Futurpreneur’s CEO, Karen Greve Young, and Sandra Odendahl, Senior Vice President and Head of Sustainability and Diversity at BDC, as the guest speaker and moderator. They were joined by Louis Pallascio, Robyn Cruz, and Nicola Hamilton, three young entrepreneurs who shared their entrepreneurial journey with the audience.

Over the past couple of years, the market instability has affected small businesses in unprecedented ways, and resource management as well as supply chain issues have acted as barriers for entrepreneurs to run their businesses smoothly. For Robyn, founder of Enn Taant, a camping and camping gear business, those challenges started with the purchasing process: “I was originally going to purchase all my tents from the UK, but the import fees and delivery charges were outrageous”. She explained that turning to local suppliers not only helped her reduce costs, but also allowed her to find a community that continues to provide advice and support her business.

For Louis, founder of Studios Machiavel, building a team of like-minded individuals was the most challenging aspect of his entrepreneurial journey: “Although the Futurpreneur and BDC loan helped a lot, recruitment might not be the first thing you want to spend that influx of capital on”. It was important for Louis to focus on building a culture of collaboration or as he puts it, “a family”, which allowed his business to present a united front while facing stakeholders.

Nicola, founder of Issues Magazine Shop, experienced similar hurdles: “As a retail business, bringing in products is one of the most challenging aspects, and where you’re going to spend the most”. She revealed that taking the time to experiment and explore which partners aligned best with her values and her financial situation was crucial during the first few months post-launch. She also admitted that while it was not in her plans to hire immediately following the opening of her company, it was the best decision she made: “Having a team there with you from the very beginning does build that culture and community.”

The panellists affirmed that perseverance, patience, self-belief and confidence in your community, are key to starting and running a successful business in uncertain times

Hundreds of aspiring entrepreneurs attended the event and received precious advice from our panelists who encouraged them to ask for help, including checking out local resources such as universities and incubators that can help them in incorporating their business, or attending networking events in order to meet like-minded individuals they can collaborate with on their journey.

Watch the full recording of the panel discussion on YouTube.


E06: Rewriting the Canadian Dream through entrepreneurship

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E06: Rewriting the Canadian Dream through entrepreneurship

As Canadians, we pride ourselves on the multicultural nature of our country – a unique reality also reflected in the diversity of Canadian entrepreneurship.

Ivan Touko, founder of La Connexional, embodies the so-called “Canadian dream” through his inspiring journey. The entrepreneur, community developer, and artist was named among Alberta’s 30 under 30. Merging entrepreneurship and art in his projects, Touko explains: “I am passionate about social innovation and technology and how the intersection of social innovation, technology and culture can benefit communities that are usually underserved.”

At the age of 16, Touko moved to Edmonton from Cameroon. On his way to success, Touko had to overcome many barriers. “When I emigrated, I experienced a great sense of isolation from my culture and communities. It was difficult to find Cameroonians my age or people who looked like me to develop a support system,” he remembers.

Building Community Through Culture

In school, Touko met classmates who introduced him to dance and percussion. “Through dance and drumming, I had also found a group to belong to. That’s really what helped me, at that time, to navigate the whole thing,” he recalls. Following this decisive encounter, Touko became increasingly involved in the cultural scene, eventually becoming a professional dancer. He says that it was this passion that allowed him to get to where he is today: “Through dance, I learned discipline and consistency. The person who managed the group was an entrepreneur.” From observing his teacher, Touko was exposed to the concept of art as a professional path and learnt how to manage operations, from logistics to performances.

While establishing himself as an artpreneur, Touko studied environmental science and conservation in university. “On the one hand, it has nothing to do with what I am doing today. On the other hand, my major being in sustainable development, I decided to focus on the social aspect and the importance of creating vibrant communities that contribute to social well-being” .

It was also at university that the artist met the person with whom he would later co-found La Connexional, a socially-driven enterprise that promotes the talents of Afrodescendent and Latino people in Edmonton, where he still resides. Relying on community-oriented workshops and events, the co-founders “create physical and virtual spaces for these communities to grow, learn collectively and create new resources. (…) It impacts adjacent communities because when you create a resource for a particular community, it’s not just that community that benefits from it.”

The idea grew out of his student days, when Yvan Touko had the opportunity to get involved in the African Students Association, which led him to plan events and build a network. Like many of his peers, Touko and his friends wanted to party. However, they noticed a lack of Afrobeat, Latin and Caribbean music. “We needed something different, something reminiscent of my nights in Cameroon before I immigrated to Canada”. To remedy this, he launched a first music event to which as many as 500 people showed up. “There were about 10-15% of these people from the Latin, African or Caribbean communities,” he says.

Aside from event planning, the entrepreneur finds a passion in community development. “I was lucky enough to find a group,” Touko notes. “Many others may not have been so fortunate, so it was important for me to create spaces that offered that”—a need even more acute outside of Toronto or Montreal.

Leveraging the Tools

The Connexional remains an organization small in numbers but not in impact. The company leverages the tech tools made available to carry out its mission and projects. “Today, we are seeing a big boom in SAAS (software as a service), which develops tools to allow small organizations, like La Connexional, to get started without teak or coding expertise,” he points out. The initiative’s website reflects this approach, as does their use of free or low-cost tools: Canva for visuals; Hootsuite, Linktree, or Taplik for social network management; as well as Deskera for accounting, billing, and marketing. “Shopify, which is one of the most effective platforms for companies with products for sale, offers a free 3 to 6 months for Black entrepreneurs,” he also notes.

For those interested in starting an initiative of their own, Touko recommends not only getting  mentoring and access to resources as early as possible, but also developing a business plan. “With La Connexional, we organized so many different events that helped us see which areas were the best fit for us. But having a strategic plan would have surely helped me to come up with more sustainable initiatives impacting the business and its growth,” he points out.

To hear the full story of Ivan Touko, listen to the podcast episode on The Canadian Dream—A Story of Immigration and Entrepreneurship, available on Spotify and Youtube.

E05 Demystifying business loans: Why would I need them?

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E05 – Demystifying business loans: Why would I need them?

What’s in a business loan, really? Kettie Belance, account manager at RBC― also an entrepreneur, professional singer, mother and all-around passionate person― gets to the nitty-gritty. Her role, she explains, is to provide guidance, backed by over 20 years of experience working at RBC and her own entrepreneurial journey.

“We need to make sure that our dreams come true”, said the account manager, after quoting Harriet Tubman, who famously said, “every great dream begins with a dreamer” . “Then, we must make it happen, and a great way to begin is to get help, and information on how to go about it.”

Lending a hand

A loan can open so many impactful possibilities for Black entrepreneurs. However, stigma lingers around borrowing money, credit, and the lack of financial literacy. “Knowledge is power” , declared Belance, who is committed to changing the mentality. “With that, you can make better choices, see for yourself, your family, and everybody around then you become an ambassador », she said.

And you don’t have to go through it alone. The account manager recommends getting the bank involved in the process as early as possible. « The earliest you get your banker involved, the earliest we can help you plan », she explains. Your financial partner can explain what is needed to get approval for a loan and how to go about it.

That’s not the only thing they can do for you. The advice comes in many forms. « Maybe I could advise you with an accountant, with somebody who does specialize in financial planning or investing, there are there are so many partners that can be part that could like surround your project the most of the people are not aware », she details.

Go and get it 

Do you need money to make money?  What you actually need is financing, explains Belance. « The business owner needs to have money that they s going to inject into the business », she explains, comparing it to a baby. That is where the loan comes in handy. « if someone else is going to give you additional capital you have to also show them how much you’re willing to put into your baby, your business, your dream. »

A loan is money you borrow from a financial institution. Your counsellor can advise you on the type and the terms if can take, and what is best for your situation. And there are so many options available. « That’s why I always refer back entrepreneurs to their bank because that’s where you get all the information for the multiple products that you can have access to », recommends Belance.

To apply for financing, there is a process. And it can take longer than expected, so to not let discouragement settle. « You have to be patient, and you have to make sure that the person that’s doing the loan for you, keeps you aware of what’s going on where we’re at », she says.

As you might expect, one important element to consider is your credit history. But that isn’t the full story. « It’s very important because you decide to do financing in the financial institution and they don’t know you, the only thing that they have is your credit bureau. », she explains.

But this alone should never stop you from applying. « it’s not because you have a credit bureau that is less credible that it means that it amplifies that you’re going to be rejected », Belance underlines. « It can be explained if we can do some research we can make it look better ». Things such as your experience as a business owner will also be considered — a key element that is not known to everyone.

In all cases, the thing to do is to make the step and get the information. if you do face rejection, it does not stop there. An account manager can give you advice about how to remedy.« So, therefore, the next time you apply, we’re gonna get it », encourages Belance. The most important thing is to ask why, then not settled in discouragement, and try again. And for entrepreneurs, rejection is part of the process. And there are options. «you’re an entrepreneur, you’re gonna go through stuff, you know, I feel like just build character. But it’s easier said than done.

RBC also recently launched a new financing solution called the RBC Black intrapreneur business loans. « RBC is committed to enabling growth and wealth creation for black entrepreneurs», states Belance. « The way that we want to do that is by giving access to capital, access to experts and access to engagement in the community. », The program has no age limit and offers up to $250,000 with advantageous rates.

To know more about how RBC empowers Black Entrepreneurs, you can visit the website , and listen to the podcast episode Demystifying business loans: Why would I need them? on Spotify and Youtube.

E04: On Belonging and Taking Space with Alfred Burgesson

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E04: On Belonging and Taking Space with Alfred Burgesson

Alfred Burgesson hasn’t always felt as though he belonged. When he was six years old, he left Ghana with his family to settle in Canada: “I moved to a town called Port Hawkesbury in Nova Scotia, with a population of 4,000 people. And it’s not very diverse,” he recalls.

By then, the experience was already prompting some essential questions. “I feel like from a young age, I was always looking for—I was always looking for a sense of community and like, who are my people here, who can I relate to?”

Finding your Kind

Decades later, not only did Alfred take up the space that he was due—he made sure to bring along everybody who looked like him and their talents. In 2020, he founded Tribe Network, connecting Black, Indigenous and People of Colour pursuing entrepreneurship and innovation with opportunities and each other. “Tribe Network came from my personal experience and from listening to the experience of other entrepreneurs. The organization is set out to be the BIPOC entrepreneurship hub in Canada,” he tells us.

Burgesson got an early start in entrepreneurship through an after-school program called Junior Achievement, where students come together with their peers to build a company. “I had a core group of people I was working with, and together, we were able to take up space,” explains the founder. “Entrepreneurship is about finding like-minded people who care about the problem you’re trying to solve. And together, you can take up space and create community,”, which is the mindset he carries with him still to this day.

Now, Tribe Network offers a space where entrepreneurs can support each other, which, in the eyes of the founder, is crucial. “You know, if I’m dealing with an issue, when I talk to an entrepreneur who’s already dealt with that, they’re able to give me direct feedback on how I can solve that issue, from their lived experience. So I think it’s really important that entrepreneurs surround themselves in a community where they belong.”

The idea for the network sprouted in the summer of 2020 through discussions between Alfred and his sister, who is an entrepreneur herself. The aim was to help build capacity for entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs and centralize that information. “The core of our conversation was—how can we give Black entrepreneurs a platform where they can sell their products and services to the world? How can we create a community where they can connect and learn from each other? How do we create a sense of belonging and community during COVID and lockdowns?”

Coaching, advising and mentoring are great ways to be supported, which you can access through Tribe. “I would encourage you to identify people who can support your entrepreneurial journey. But the crucial thing is that they believe in the problem you’re trying to solve, and that they believe in you.”

The Power of Data

Before launching his latest venture, Alfred Burgesson, an alumni of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council, was the co-chair of Canada’s first State of youth report.

He was also project lead at the African Canadian Senate group and the office of Senator Colin Deacon, a project aiming to dive deeper into the gaps for Black entrepreneurs in Canada. There, he was given the opportunity to study the problem he was initially exploring, gathering insight about the current state of Black entrepreneurship.

“The data that we collected definitely shed light on the state of Black entrepreneurs,” says the founder.

Information and numbers pertaining to BIPOC communities have historically been absent and underreported. “Fortunately or unfortunately, I think we are operating in a society and a system that often requires data to inform decisions,” says Burgesson. And when there’s data, there’s proof. Surveying has also allowed Black entrepreneurs to share their experiences and voice their concerns to governments.

“Through my work with the Senate, I realized that there were gaps in the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem. And the gaps had to do with entrepreneurs not being BIPOC, and not being connected with each other across the country,” says Burgesson. Furthermore, the entrepreneur states that his fellow BIPOC colleagues were not being connected to accelerators or incubators, which he is set on changing.

Turns out that these programs also need to be more representative of the population. “If they want more Black entrepreneurs, they need to have Black staff, coaches, mentors, plus language and resources that are tailored towards Black entrepreneurs,” Burgesson indicates.

Taking Up Space

Despite being an active entrepreneur for most of his life, Alfred Burgesson has felt at times that he was going through it alone. “Sometimes it’s challenging for entrepreneurs to walk into white spaces and thrive in them,” he says.

And it takes guts to get started and to keep at it. “It’s not an easy thing, and you need to have a lot of courage to succeed in entrepreneurship. So I think a part of that mindset is being able to walk in spaces where you’ll be the only one,” he says, speaking from experience.

And the burden shouldn’t only be ours to carry. “If an organization is going to make a commitment to being more diverse, I think it’s important that the team take a step back to recognize either the knowledge or lack of knowledge they have. It’s important to build capacity in the existing team to be able to support this new person or new people who are coming into your workplace,” pleads Burgersson. And we are talking about ongoing efforts, not a simple warm welcome. “You need to acknowledge and create the journey that will allow the entire staff to get better educated on how to support the community, not just the person coming in.”

For more perspective on breaking the glass ceiling, you can listen to the podcast episode “Taking Up Space: You belong!” with Alfred Burgersson.

This article was written by Christelle Saint-Julien

E03: Think Bigger —Escaping a Micro-Entrepreneurship Mindset With Frénie Jean-Baptiste

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E03: Think Bigger —Escaping a Micro-Entrepreneurship Mindset With Frénie Jean-Baptiste

If it doesn’t serve you, let it go. What happens when we apply that to our mindsets?

Micro-entrepreneurship refers to small companies running on minimal investment, operated by a handful of employees. If that is what Frénie Jean-Baptiste, founder of Bayard Gâteaux and Bayard Royal, first set out to do, she always saw the bigger picture. In 2015, she launched an online business specializing in baking and delivering buttercream cakes. Since then, thousands of happy tasters have enjoyed these sweet treats at home and at events, such as weddings, parties and other celebrations. In 2020, Jean-Baptiste launched Bayard Royal, a line of rum cake products that are now sold online and at various points of sale across the province.

While it may be a small business, it is a mighty operation with an impressive reach. Frénie Jean-Baptiste never considered the scale of her operations, and we could all benefit from eschewing the micro-entrepreneurship mentality, which is very present among Black entrepreneurs.

Recent studies examine the realities of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. A report by Pitch Better Canada determined that 45% of Black women entrepreneurs consider their business’ lifecycle in a growth phase. Rise Up, a research project commissioned by the Black Business Professional Association (BBPA) conducted among 700 Black women entrepreneurs, concluded that the majority of the businesses surveyed operated from home were online, and had no employees. Moreover, the Inclusive Entrepreneurship: Exploring the Barriers Facing Black Entrepreneurs in Canada project, led by the African Canadian Senate group, highlighted the lack of access to capital and resources — 44% of businesses accounted for are not able to pay themselves. And while this is the case, 87% of Black entrepreneurs surveyed report that they are somewhat optimistic about the future of their businesses.

If Jean-Baptiste had an early interest in e-commerce, it was women entrepreneurs on YouTube who inspired her to launch her first venture. As a university student, she put out a party decoration website. In her own words, it was a bust. “It didn’t work out because it required a huge investment that I didn’t have,” she recognizes as she reflects back on the experience.

Her second idea came from the heart. Jean-Baptiste grew up very close to her grandmother—at only 4 years old, Frénie was already keen on helping her in the kitchen. Nearly two decades later, when she was attending university in Montreal, her grandma, who lived abroad, was diagnosed with cancer. Frénie decided to halt everything and spend time with her. “It was just like before, we started to cook again even though she was quite weak,” recalls the entrepreneur. Then, it just clicked. She loved to cook, bake and already had a lot of equipment, so why not launch a food business?

Quickly, Jean-Baptiste put together a logo. Bayard is her grandmother’s name, and the cake recipe is straight from her kitchen. “I showed it to my grandmother and she was very moved,” says Jean-Baptiste. Sadly, two weeks later, Mrs. Bayard passed on, leaving her legacy with her granddaughter.

Frénie Jean-Baptiste launched her business two months later. She sought to make herself stand out by having an online business. “There are many pastry chefs in Montreal and in the community. Why not make pre-decorated cakes that are sold online? All people have to do is to order the cake. It takes two clicks , and we take care of delivery.”

At the time, the business owner hadn’t yet imagined commercializing her product everywhere in Québec. “All I wanted was to have a business. Already, it was a challenge for me. I didn’t want to venture into entrepreneurship, it’s something I did because I saw other people do it,” she says.

In 2020, she launched another brainchild, Bayard Royal. This new project bakes and sells rum cakes through a different channel, strategy and website. The product is sold everywhere in the province, and can be found at select IGA stores. “We are targeting a much larger audience,” explains the founder, adding that the past few months have been heavy on production. “People often believe that there’s a big team behind it, but we are still operating with three people,” says Jean-Baptiste, who runs Bayard with her mother and her husband.
Keeping it modest never stopped her from thinking bigger, adjusting her strategy to her means and ambitions. “This is one of the reasons I worked hard on the strategy in order to simplify the production and manufacturing process,” she explains.

Would things be different if she launched today, rather than when she did in 2015? Absolutely. The businesswoman recognizes that there is more visibility and resources now available to Black-owned businesses. At the time, she had to do a lot of explaining for people to understand the project.

When starting out, she didn’t have a mentor. She turned to podcasts, YouTube videos, Instagram posts and books from entrepreneurs that offered guidance. “What I realized was that the people who were successful, especially in the food business, were the ones who had left the micro-entrepreneurial stage to expand into a bigger business,” she says. “It was often people who focused on one or two products, managed to save a lot on scaling and pushed out that product. I decided to have a similar strategy.” There goes one of the many pieces of advice she offers. “Instead of doing many things, having different products, pick one or two that you can master and commercialize.” For more insights, you can listen to the podcast episode Escaping a Micro-Entrepreneurship Mindset With Frénie Jean-Baptiste here.

This article was written by Christelle Saint-Julien

E02: Going your own way… and bringing the community along

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E02: Going your own way… and bringing the community along

Setiz Taheri might be considered a serial entrepreneur. But all of his ventures have one thing in common: centering community.

“I’m just a regular guy from the neighbourhood who figured out a way to be creative and kinda enjoy redefining what community work looks like”, says Taheri.

As humble as he is, that means forging his own path, while also encouraging people to get involved. That is how La Rue Inspire, a collective of creative, engages the community, and always in an innovative manner. “Our main focus is community building and raising awareness on social issues. We feel the impact of our communities specifically, whether it’s through artistic projects, short films, events, or community initiatives”, explains the entrepreneur.

This is maybe what Setiz Taheri does best: partnering and collaborating with people. “A real strength is to know other people’s strengths. I’ve got a lot of go theod people around me that do a lot of things better than me. So working with people is just the best way that you can put your best foot forward”, he asserts.

Tehari first sought out entrepreneurship to see what his skills were, or could be. “I went all the way to university, and it just wasn’t for me”. He found that the same thing was true oftraditional work environments. “I knew I could do better for myself”, he recalls. “You just have to create situations in which you can see that the possibilities are real”.

Which he did, starting with his abilities and interests at the time; at the beginning, that was by selling t-shirts out of his trunk. “I tried a lot of things. I failed a lot. And that felt like it was the real thing for me, and that it fit my personality”, he explains.

Now older, with a teenager of his own, he is committed to being not only a role model, but an active listener and champion of youth. “I think a lot of times, when it comes to our youth, we don’t let them be them. We kind of want to box them in and put them on a path that we feel is right. But that’s what the system does. We shouldn’t do that on top of what they’re going through already”, he states.

Rather, he says, we should encourage them to not only be themselves – but also the best version of themselves. That includes support when rules are broken “That’s real love – making sure you’re there for your people, for your community, for your family, no matter what goes on. And that’s kind of the foundation of everything that I do”, he says, drawing from his own experience. It is also what allows one to keep pushing and believe in oneself. “Even if you don’t fit the conventional mold, find your own way and build your own path”, asserts the entrepreneur.

In that regard, this also means being open to learning and receiving feedback, which doesn’t need to happen in a classroom. “The most important thing is to educate yourself, the number one thing in entrepreneurship”, he emphasizes, pointing to himself as an example. “I was around a lot of people who did a lot of good things. So I just took a little bit from everybody, to shape the entrepreneur and the human I wanted to become”.

For more tips on how to pave your way and create change, listen to the podcast episode « Entrepreneurship: An Alternate Career Path », on Spotify and Youtube.

E01: The Unexpected Momentum Generated by the Black Lives Matter Movement

Tune into our new podcast, Startup + Prosper! Our podcast is dedicated to the key elements of the entrepreneurial mindset, with a particular focus on the current state of Black entrepreneurship in Canada. Each of the episodes aims to inspire and educate listeners about Black-owned businesses and their reality while providing more insight into Futurpreneur’s goals to grow, learn and help address the disparities faced by the BIPOC entrepreneurial community. Read their stories, listen and subscribe to our podcast, Startup + Prosper:

E01: The Unexpected Momentum Generated by the Black Lives Matter Movement

In 2020, the tragic death of George Floyd led to the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement. What followed was a major societal awakening to the issues facing
Black communities, which in turn propelled many Black-owned businesses toward their rightful place.

Two years later, social impact designer Danièle-Jocelyne Otou is still feeling the effects. She is the co-founder of New Room, an organization that offers program and resource development services pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion, a venture which was launched in 2021.

Transformation Through the Movement

“My impression has definitely changed. At first, I was divided,” recalls Danièle-Jocelyne Otou, thinking back to how the movement put Black people and communities in the spotlight. For many, the complexity of the situation generated a sense of ambivalence. “On the one hand, I was happy that people in general were confronted with certain things, and on the other, I was puzzled: it took the public death of a Black man for certain institutions to wake up,” explains the entrepreneur.

Progress is being made on the social and political fronts, and many have taken action. Programs such as the BlackNorth Initiative, Futurepreneur’s Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, and the federal government’s funding for Black entrepreneurs and organizations that work with Black communities are all initiatives born from the movement. “There is still work to be done, of course, but I think recognizing the progress that has been made is just as important as looking critically at the work that still needs to be done,” says Otou.

While Otou is not new to entrepreneurship, things have come a long way since 2020. “The difference I feel is the support of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and the resources that are available to us,” says the entrepreneur, who, eight years ago, was living a very different life when she started her first business. “I think it’s partly because in the last two years, a lot of these ecosystems realized how opportunities are not equal.”

What’s Next

The passage of time also allows us to see how far we’ve come in the wake of a movement. “Two years later, I consider that, depending on the initiatives, we have succeeded, as a community, in being able to gauge the level of sincerity of certain initiatives, posts or reflections,” says the entrepreneur. Things like performative statements are still hard to navigate–how do we know if those making them are actually putting in the work? “I think that today there is a real sense of accountability that is being demanded of companies and leaders, so there is a lot of demand, which has propelled us,” says the social design specialist, who, through her work, aims to turn momentum into concrete actions and real change.

In entrepreneurship, you cannot afford to overlook your personal growth. This is the advice of Danièle-Jocelyne Otou: invest in your personal and professional development. “Our businesses reflect who we are. By being the best version of ourselves, our businesses and the people they attract are also at their best,” says the entrepreneur. “We take just as much time to transform ourselves and contribute to the social transformation we want to see. The self always precedes the systemic. We can’t change the systems without changing ourselves.”

To learn more, listen to the podcast episode on how the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement has propelled businesses on Spotify and Youtube.

This article was written by Christelle Saint-Julien

As a national organization, Futurpreneur honours and acknowledges the traditional and ancestral territories of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples across the country. We recognize the diversity of Indigenous peoples and communities coast to coast, including over 600 First Nations Communities, four Inuit Nunangat regions comprised of 53 Inuit communities, Métis Nations, settlements and regions, Treaties 1-11, 25 modern treaties, and all unceded territories. We respect the historic and current relationship Indigenous peoples have to the land on which we reside. We are committed to collaborating and establishing respectful relationships with Indigenous peoples by striving to practice reconciliation in our everyday lives, communities, and workplaces. We encourage you to take part in learning the local Indigenous history of the land on which you reside.