Diverse communities continue to face barriers in accessing lucrative entrepreneurship opportunities created by Canada’s burgeoning technology-driven innovation sector. Black entrepreneurs, in particular, encounter steep challenges when starting and growing a business. Those challenges can be multiple and magnified for black immigrants and women.
Ryerson University, in collaboration with philanthropist and founder of Dream Maker Ventures Inc., Isaac Olowolafe Jr., is aiming to address these challenges through the creation of the Black Innovation Fellowship. The fellowship will support Black entrepreneur-led startups by providing support and mentorship from successful black professionals, technologists and startup founders, and connect them to wider networks, including the innovation community, alumni and investors.
“As a son of African immigrants, my parents constantly stressed the importance of learning and collaboration – the education I received in this city has always inspired me to pay it forward,” said Olowolafe Jr. “Tech is moving Toronto forward, so this program will not only help get black founders’ foot in the door, but also assist them in building something great that can create job opportunities and provide economic empowerment to the community. To help ensure the long-term success of the entrepreneurs, I also created Dream Maker Ventures to invest in founders of colour, accelerating their businesses.”
The Black Innovation Fellowship was made possible through Olowolafe Jr.’s lead gift of $200,000, and he is working alongside Ryerson to raise another $800,000, for a total fund of $1,000,000, to launch and run the program.
Photo: Isaac Olowolafe Jr.