Mandated with helping Black entrepreneurs get businesses rolling, the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program (NOBEEP) opened in downtown Sudbury this week.
The initiative was made possible through a $1.15-million grant from FedNor the Afro-Heritage Association of Sudbury applied for and received earlier this year.
The goal during the two years of operations this funding allows for will be helping more than 70 Black-led businesses start up, scale up and create sustainable jobs.
“This program doesn’t reinvent the wheel or duplicate a service,” interim executive director and co-founder Charles Nyabeze told Sudbury.com, adding it’s intended to help Black entrepreneurs navigate culture and bureaucracy from start to finish in making dreams a reality.
“There are services in this community, but if you’re new to this country and you speak different and you look different, you have a more difficult time accessing those services than someone born here and has an established network.
“The existing service providers, because of the cultural context, we find they have a very hard time talking to entrepreneurs on topics that are sensitive.”
Most of the entrepreneurs they will be working with come from countries where they have an established network, which NOBEEP will strive to create for them in Northern Ontario.
“There is a cultural context,” Nyabeze said, adding that although they’re grouping all Black people into one organization, there are nuances between cultures they intend on honouring to ensure everyone receives culturally appropriate service.
“Being able to talk to somebody who can do the cultural context just makes it that much easier,” he said.
“It’s about improving the economic development of the North, so as much as we are targetting to empower Black business owners, they aren’t working in isolation from the rest of the community.”
The program is open to Black entrepreneurs from the moment they have a dream and are thinking about starting up a business, he said, at which point they’ll be brought into a structured intake process meant to help move forward with dreams most likely to become a reality.
“We don’t have any pre-meditated notions of what people need, exactly,” he said, and they will be flexible in helping entrepreneurs achieve their goals.
Although NOBEEP staff will help members navigate through the traditional banking world to secure financing for business opportunities, they’re also looking to enlist sponsors so they are able to award microloans to entrepreneurs.
“Unfortunately, we cannot redistribute funding with the money we have now, so we have to seek other funding sources for redistributional funding,” Nyabeze said.
“We definitely empower the entrepreneurs to become business owners, so we are very, very interested in that piece.”
NOBEEP is located at 73 Elm Street in downtown Sudbury, and more information about the organization is available on their website, nobeep.ca.
Tyler Clarke covers city hall and political affairs for Sudbury.com.