Mona-Lisa Prosper is the Director of Black Entrepreneurs at Futurpreneur, which involves spearheading the BESP. Photo credit: RBC.

Entrepreneurship is a journey filled with challenges and hardships, more so for Black entrepreneurs who frequently encounter systemic barriers when starting their businesses in Canada. A recent study by QuickBooks emphasized these challenges, revealing that more than half of Black business owners in Canada have faced loan denial at least once, and many struggled to compensate themselves adequately.

Recognizing these obstacles, Futurpreneur Canada has strengthened its commitment to aid Black entrepreneurs through the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program (BESP). We had the distinct pleasure of sitting down with Mona-Lisa Prosper, Program Director of BESP, to discuss their initiatives and success stories.

Thank you for joining us, Ms. Prosper. To start off, can you tell us more about the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program and what it aims to achieve?

Mona-Lisa Prosper (MLP): Thank you for having me. The BESP, in partnership with the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), is a cornerstone initiative designed to equip Black entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39 with the tools necessary for success. Our objectives are threefold: to provide access to crucial seed capital, facilitate one-on-one mentorship, and enhance the entrepreneurial skills of participants. We recognize the systemic barriers they face, and we're focused on closing those gaps.

That sounds incredibly impactful. How do you feel the program helps specifically tackle the challenges faced by Black entrepreneurs?

MLP: By offering up to $60,000 in loan financing without the need for collateral, we directly address the challenge of accessing start-up capital. Furthermore, the mentorship and resources we provide, such as our interactive Business Plan Writer, ensure entrepreneurs aren't just receiving funds but are also gaining the knowledge to build and sustain a thriving business. Our approach is comprehensive, ensuring long-term sustainability and success.

Can you elaborate on the importance of community in the BESP program?

MLP: Absolutely. At Futurpreneur, we believe in "the power of the community." It's not just about financial support; it's about creating a network where our entrepreneurs can thrive. Engaging with fellow Black entrepreneurs, leaders, and Black-led organizations at our events fosters a sense of belonging and provides additional learning opportunities. This ecosystem of support amplifies the success of our entrepreneurs.

Could you share some success stories from the BESP program and the impacts on their communities?

MLP: With pleasure. Ingrid Broussill with Griottes Polyglottes, for instance, has developed an innovative way to combine language learning and improv. Her award-winning company is fostering confidence through playful, effective methods, which is transforming how her clients approach learning new languages. Alexandra Sabin's Siaana Tech is reshaping caregiving by simplifying respite service access through technology. And Dr. Keon Alman's work with Revita is proof of entrepreneurship's potential to revolutionize patient care by combining personalized treatment and education.

What makes BESP distinct from other entrepreneurship programs?

MLP: Our tailored approach defines us. We're not just a financial institution; we are allies, guides, and cheerleaders for Black entrepreneurs. The personalized mentorship and focus on fostering an engaged community of like-minded individuals provide a nurturing environment, which is critical for growth.

Looking towards the future, what are the aspirations of BESP?

MLP: We are committed to expanding our reach and enriching our program offerings. Our goal is to empower more young, Black entrepreneurs across Canada and help them realize their business dreams while overcoming systemic barriers. Fostering inclusive prosperity is at the heart of what we do.

Thank you, Ms. Prosper, for your insights and for the work you're doing with the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program.

MLP: It's my pleasure. We're here to serve and support our entrepreneurs, and I'm excited for what the future holds.

 

Futurpreneur Canada's BESP is more than a funding avenue; it's a bedrock for nurturing talent and ambition within the Black entrepreneur community. With leaders like Mona-Lisa Prosper at the helm, it's sure to leave an indelible mark on Canada's entrepreneurial landscape.

For readers interested in learning more about Futurpreneur Canada and the Black Entrepreneur Startup Program, please visit and explore the wealth of opportunities that await young Canadian entrepreneurs.

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