Success Story February 12, 2021 at 01:00 pm

How Kerin John’s online platform is making it easier to find Black-owned businesses in Toronto

Abu Mubarik February 12, 2021 at 01:00 pm

February 12, 2021 at 01:00 pm | Success Story

Kerin John is founder of Black Owned Toronto. Image via Kerin John/CBC

Several factors affect Black businesses. The common factors known among many people are access to capital and racism. Various publications have reported Black businesses having access to less than 9% of venture funding. Many Black businesses are also relatively unknown because they do not have the capital to expand their operations or run ads.

Meanwhile, Google trends show global searches for ‘Black-owned’ jumped from late May to June of 2020. It has fallen since then but has remained at a higher level than during the 10 years prior.

To promote Black businesses in a sustainable way, a Canadian entrepreneur has launched an online store and database to help people easily find Black-owned businesses in the city of Toronto. Founded by Kerin John, Black Owned Toronto allows Black businesses to enlist for the purposes of business promotion.

“I found I wasn’t putting enough money in my own community,” John told Daily Hive. “Many Black-owned businesses don’t have storefronts—they’re home-based chefs, bakers, clothing designers, in e-commerce—so when you google search or Google maps it, not a lot comes up.”

“I decided to make it a passion project, by contacting people and asking if they knew anyone I could put on the page.”

John first started promoting Black businesses using her Instagram page and she decided to push her initiative higher by founding Black Owned Toronto. John believes her new venture would be a better way for people to find Black businesses instead of just scrolling her Instagram page.

“Wherever you are in Canada, you’ll be able to go on the website and find what’s around you that’s Black-owned,” John told CBC. So far, she has over 20 companies listed and hopes to increase her capacity to about 1,000 companies listing.

John’s page came to light after many people began searching for Black businesses to support following the murder of George Floyd. The period saw her Instagram following rise to about 75,000.

One of the businesses that have listed on Black Owned Toronto is Chantelle Lewis-Walters, the founder of Melanin Martha, a lifestyle store that provides witty Caribbean-inspired kitchen towels, drinkware, socks among others. Lewis-Walters said she was able to see a 300% increase in her business sales and a 20% increase in her social media following.

“More importantly, I was able to see the need to continue to keep sharing my business and represent my culture proudly,” she told Daily Hive.

It costs business owners $50 to join Black Owned Canada. However, according to John, the challenge now is to sustain interest in Black businesses. She is nonetheless optimistic that her venture will help Black-owned businesses to overcome their financial challenges.

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