Southern Ontario Spotlight - February 2023

Southern Ontario Spotlight

FedDev Ontario's focus on economic development


In celebration of Black History Month, this issue of the Southern Ontario Spotlight highlights a number of Black entrepreneurs and Black-led businesses in southern Ontario.

decoration Making headlines

FedDev Ontario invests in next generation of Black entrepreneurs

The Government of Canada is committed to addressing the barriers to success faced by many Black entrepreneurs, and prioritizes projects that invest in the potential of Black Canadians.

On February 21, at the University of Toronto Scarborough campus, FedDev Ontario Minister Filomena Tassi met with key stakeholders from the surrounding region for a roundtable discussion. The Minister and MP Anandasangaree spoke with local stakeholders about challenges facing Black entrepreneurs and Black-owned businesses, and their plans for growth, recovery, collaboration and collective action. Participants included representatives from the Black Business and Professional Association, the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, Blacks in Technology, and more. The discussion covered a wide-range of topics related to Black entrepreneurs, including: top challenges faced in starting and growing a business, current gaps in the innovation ecosystem, and ways we can all work together to support Black-owned businesses in southern Ontario.

Later that day, Minister Tassi announced an investment of over $1.3 million for the Federation of Black Canadians (FBC), delivered through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund. The FBC will use this investment to provide tools and resources to 170 Black youth entrepreneurs across multiple regions, including the Greater Toronto Area, Montréal and Edmonton, supporting them to successfully launch and grow their businesses. In partnership with U of T Scarborough’s The BRIDGE, FBC will develop and deliver a four-month entrepreneurial program focused on business planning, finance, risk management, legislation and commercialization and a 12-month mentorship program with leaders from the Black community, focused on managing debt, technology, brand and business development, stress and mental health. This investment will support the creation of 70 full-time jobs in the Greater Toronto Area.

“We are truly thankful for the opportunity to support young Black entrepreneurs through this funding provided by the Government of Canada through FedDev Ontario. This project speaks directly to our Economic Security Pillar and allows us to further inspire the current and next generation of entrepreneurs. Through our partnership with University of Toronto Scarborough, The Bridge and the Black Founders Network, participants will gain access to passionate facilitators and mentors, as well as a greater understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur and what goes into developing a business.”

– Christopher Thompson, Executive Director, Federation of Black Canadians

FedDev Ontario has provided over $50 million for 23 Black-led not-for-profit organizations through the BEP Ecosystem Fund in southern Ontario. These investments play a crucial role for so many small businesses across southern Ontario as they provide the means necessary to help them to grow.

Government of Canada celebrates Canadian unveiling of Project Arrow at Canadian International AutoShow

The Canadian International AutoShow has been Canada’s largest celebration of the automobile industry for 50 years, welcoming more than 330,000 visitors annually. The show recently returned from a two-year hiatus and brought together manufacturers, part suppliers, auto enthusiasts and experts from across Canada to share the latest innovations in the automotive sector.

On February 16, Minister Tassi joined fellow ministers and representatives from Canadian auto manufacturers and retailers at the Canadian International AutoShow to celebrate the Canadian unveiling of the Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association (APMA) Project Arrow concept vehicle. The first Canadian-made zero-emissions vehicle of its kind, Project Arrow is a collaboration between over 50 Canadian manufacturers who lent expertise and parts to the project, and is an example of the power of innovative thinking and Canadian manufacturing excellence. Minister Tassi also announced an investment of $1.5 million for Myant Inc., which provided knitted sensors and actuators into the fabric of Project Arrow’s steering wheel, enabling it to measure vital signs and display readings to warn of any potential medical situation. The funding will help Myant Inc. scale-up in the wearables tech market, notably to support the expansion of their Health Digital Platform in Canadian, United States, and United Kingdom markets, and will create 15 jobs. Lastly, the Minister visited the new Electric Vehicle (EV) exhibit, Electric City, which was supported with a repayable investment of $500,000 through the Tourism Relief Fund.

“In 2019, the Prime Minister dared us to imagine Canada’s net zero mobility future.  Through the generous support of partners like FedDev Ontario, we were able to prove that Canada can offer a complete, globally relevant mobility solution to the world.”

– Flavio Volpe, President, Automotive Parts Manufacturers’ Association

In 2021, the APMA received a $5-million FedDev Ontario investment to support the creation of Project Arrow. This month’s unveiling represents the culmination of two years of dedication, expertise, and remarkable collaborative efforts on behalf of Canada’s automobility manufacturing sector.

Support for infrastructure and economic growth in eastern Ontario

The corridor between Toronto and Montreal is home to more than 1.7 million people, with world-class educational institutions and diverse businesses in a variety of sectors, from tourism to manufacturing and beyond.

On February 13 in Vars, Minister Tassi visited Les Ateliers Beau-Roc (Beau-Roc), a woman-owned and led Francophone manufacturer of custom-built dump truck bodies and accessories. As part of her tour, the Minister was able to speak to the workers on the floor and let them know that FedDev Ontario will be investing $4.1 million in Beau-Roc to support the purchase and installation of new manufacturing equipment to boost production of the company’s Multi-Purpose Heavy Duty (MPHD) & Stainless Steel dump truck bodies. This announcement was part of a larger investment of more than $16.5 million towards the growth of Eastern Ontario’s economy, with support for three manufacturers (including Beau-Roc) and 27 tourism and community projects in the region. These projects will help local businesses to scale up, create and rejuvenate community spaces, and enhance tourism attractions to welcome more visitors, create over 150 jobs, and build stronger, more vibrant communities.

FedDev Ontario announces new support through the Community Futures Program

Rural communities across Ontario are home to businesses and organizations that have a major impact on Canada’s economy. Community Futures Development Corporations (CFDCs) deliver regionally-tailored business programs and services to support community economic development and small business growth, and are each governed by a volunteer board of directors, made up of local residents representing the community. FedDev Ontario provides support for CFDCs across southern Ontario through the Community Futures Program.

On February 13, Minister Tassi visited Family-owned Brasserie Tuque de Broue Brewery Inc. in Embrun, which received support through the Prescott-Russell CFDC to grow its facilities and generate more business. While there, Minister Tassi announced an investment of nearly $40 million over the next three years for southern Ontario’s trusted network of CFDCs, delivered through the Community Futures Program. This investment will allow 36 CFDCs and three CFDC associations in southern Ontario to continue to offer expert knowledge and tailored on-the-ground support to the rural businesses, organizations and communities they serve. This includes providing business counselling and access to capital, as well as support for community economic development and strategic community economic planning.

“When we opened the brewery eight years ago, we were met with tremendous demand and our growth through various markets was acute. Working closely with our local CFDC office we were able to purchase additional equipment and hire a qualified workforce to respond to the demand and meet our sales goals. Over the years and as programs open up we have been able to access additional financing and grants to help with our continued success.”

– Nicolas Malboeuf, Owner, Brasserie Tuque de Broue Brewery Inc.

To find your local Community Futures organization, or for more information on the services and support they offer, visit the Community Futures Ontario website.


FedDev Ontario recipient news and updates

Reelworld Screen Institute continues to invest in future generations of talent through Black Entrepreneur Program

Reelworld Screen Institute continues to invest in future generations of talent through Black Entrepreneur Program

Founded in 2001 by actress and producer Tonya Williams, the Reelworld Screen Institute is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to advancing opportunities for Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and People of Colour in the Canadian screen-based industries. In 2022, with support from FedDev Ontario, the institute launched the Black Entrepreneur Program, an initiative that provides Black film industry professionals with transformational business advisory services, job shadowing, mentorship from industry leaders and networking opportunities. The first cohort consisted of 14 participants, including casting directors, agents, talent managers and producers, and wrapped in December 2022. Currently reviewing applications for its soon-to-be-announced second cohort, the program has been a resounding success and a champion for Canadian Artists of Colour.

“Through this program, I attended Content London and was able to network with high-profile producers who I have begun conversations with about possible collaborations.”

- Chibie Louis-Okoye, Producer, Colo Studios and Reelworld Black Entrepreneur Program graduate

In 2022, FedDev Ontario provided Reelworld Screen Institute with $1.4 million, through the Government of Canada’s Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, to support the creation of the Black Entrepreneur Program and increase black representation in the Canadian screen industry.

Waterloo Region Black entrepreneurs get a boost through LiftOff accelerator program

Waterloo Region Black entrepreneurs get a boost through LiftOff accelerator program

Created by the Caribbean-Canadian Association of Waterloo Region (CCAWR), in collaboration with Communitech, the Waterloo Regional Small Business Centre and Conestoga College, the LiftOff Black Entrepreneurship Program is an incubator and accelerator program for Black early-stage and growth entrepreneurs. LiftOff gives entrepreneurs access to coaching, mentorship and networking opportunities, office space to help build their business, and access to important ecosystem investors and partnerships. LiftOff’s inaugural cohort recently completed the program, and was comprised of a diverse group of entrepreneurs spanning a diverse range of industries, including media production, food service, dance, beauty, massage therapy and more.

“The LiftOff program is a challenge but the level of support and expertise available to us is beyond anything that I expected. Thus far, the program has helped me to clarify the vision for the future of my business and helped me to create my own roadmap to get there. Overall, the program has provided me with the tools and guidance to take a renewed look at my present business and plan thoughtfully for the future.”

- Suzanne Phillips, Suzanne Phillips RMT

Founded in 1975, the CCAWR promotes and advocates for the social and economic interests of the Caribbean community in the Region of Waterloo, with programming objectives designed to support and nurture an empowered, engaged and equitably represented community of Black entrepreneurs. A 2021 FedDev Ontario investment of close to $3 million, through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, provided CCAWR with the resources needed to get the LiftOff incubator and accelerator up and running.

Casa Foundation’s Black Advisory Hub provides support to growing number of Black entrepreneurs

Casa Foundation’s Black Advisory Hub provides support to growing number of Black entrepreneurs

Casa Foundation for International Development (Casa Foundation) is a Canadian not-for-profit dedicated to advancing women, youths, and emerging leaders through economic, entrepreneurship, and business development initiatives. In 2021, Casa Foundation launched the Black Advisory Hub (BAH), an incubator/accelerator platform focused on the integration and inclusion of the Black entrepreneur community in Canada. Programs involve training, mentorship, sponsorship, coaching, paid and unpaid work placements, networking, short courses, and access to grants and loans. To date, the BAH has supported more than 7,500 southern Ontario entrepreneurs through its various programming and events.

"Through the Black Entrepreneurship Program funding, Casa Foundation will empower, develop, and support Black Entrepreneurs at different stages of their business journey, and connect them to our ecosystems to get access to resources, foster collaborations, and develop new processes and partnerships for long-term sustainability. Thanks to the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario for supporting our initiative.”

- Dr. Olutoyin Oyelade, President, Casa Foundation

In 2021, Casa Foundation received a non-repayable investment of $4.7 million, through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund, to create the Black Advisory Hub across Canada. Click The Black Advisory Hub for more information on Casa Foundation’s BAH.

Foodpreneur Lab gives craft chocolatier One More Cocoa Inc. a sweet boost

Foodpreneur Lab gives craft chocolatier One More Cocoa Inc. a sweet boost

Foodpreneur Lab is a Canadian, Black woman-founded and led not-for-profit organization focused on advancing racial and gender equity in the food sector, and empowering underrepresented communities where would-be and established entrepreneurs can leverage cultural insights and experiences towards new food innovations.

One of the ways Foodpreneur Lab gives its participants industry exposure is though product exhibits at various industry trade shows. One participant in particular – One More Cocoa Inc. – received a major boost in exposure through contacts made at the Restaurant Canada Show in 2022. Kenesha Lewis, owner of One More Cocoa and participant in Foodpreneur Lab’s Cohort 1 Scale program, recently secured a three-month vendor contract with food delivery giant Hello Fresh as a supplier in their new online marketplace, with additional opportunities to showcase its chocolate products on the food delivery platform with recipe, blog and ad features.

“We are celebrating one of our biggest orders to date and this opportunity came my way because of Foodpreneur Lab’s project. Throughout this process, my advisors have been absolutely amazing. [They] helped us with building the whole Safe Food for Canadian Regulations Plan, from creating and implementing our plan to completing necessary paperwork Hello Fresh requested. [Foodpreneur Lab] Helped with pricing and getting me on track financially. Thank you with all my heart!”

- Kenesha Lewis, Owner of One More Cocoa Inc.

In 2021, Foodpreneur Lab received a $2.9-million FedDev Ontario investment through the Black Entrepreneurship Program (BEP) Ecosystem Fund to expand a nine-month incubator and accelerator program for early stage and growth stage Black food entrepreneurs, including business advisory services, financial literacy training and matchmaking opportunities. Through this funding, Foodpreneur Lab is also developing a Black Canadian Business database for Black-led businesses in the Canadian food ecosystem and evaluation and useability guides to help food entrepreneurs assess commercial kitchen spaces.

decoration Social media highlights

We’re proud to support diverse and inclusive infrastructure projects that fuel local community revitalization.FedDev Ontario contributed $480,800 through the Canada Community Revitalization Fund towards the transformation of Nia Centre’s existing facility into an accessible, energy-efficient indoor and outdoor multi-use space. The Centre will host programs and events and provide space for artist studios and galleries.

In celebration of #BlackHistoryMonth, we recognize the importance of investing in community hubs and businesses that connect people across diverse backgrounds and supporting the contributions of these hubs to Canadian society and our nation’s economy.


As part of the Main Street Recovery and Rebuild Initiative, FedDev Ontario is proud to support Black- and Caribbean-owned businesses in the city’s Little Jamaica. In collaboration with Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA), we are helping 40 local businesses scale and grow while revitalizing the vibrant neighbourhood. #BHM2023 #BlackHistoryMonth #ProudToSupport #southON #diversity #FDORecipient

Check out the Southwestern Ontario Black Entrepreneurship Network (SWOBEN), delivered by Empowerment Squared, as an example of some of the incredible work being done to support Black business owners, entrepreneurs and not-for-profit leaders in the region.

decoration Upcoming events

March 2

StrikeUP 2023 (Online)

StrikeUP Canada is a digital conference that focussing on women entrepreneurship and the women entrepreneurship ecosystem. Themes include equity and inclusive economic growth through entrepreneurship, funding, digital adoption, and global opportunities. StrikeUP is founded by Northumberland CFDC, and presented in partnership with The Scotiabank Women Initiative® and Export Development Canada.

March 7-9

First Nations Women's Leadership Summit (Toronto)

The purpose of this summit is to support and empower Ontario First Nations women in leadership or interested in leadership, and to provide an opportunity for First Nations women and women leaders to share their experiences, challenges and successes and to network. Chiefs, councillors, advocates, and community leaders are invited to spend time with other First Nations female leaders to hear, learn from, ask questions, and support one another in community work.

March 7-9

6th Annual Women in Manufacturing Success Forum (Online)

The three day forum will focus on how the industry can help manufacturers attract and retain women, and how it can engage and inspire young women to consider careers in manufacturing. This event is part of CME’s goal to increase the number of women in manufacturing by 100,000 by 2030.


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