Reflections from WCC’s Black History Month Event

On February 2nd, the Whitby Chamber of Commerce’s IDEA Committee (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Accessibility) celebrated Black History Month with our annual BHM event, Creating Community.

Our first speaker, Mr. Isaac Olowolafe Jr., Co-founder & General Partner of BKR Capital got right down to business. He walked the audience through practical stages and opportunities which he harnessed to develop and expand his amazing and ever growing businesses; inspiring Black and minority communities to consider similar opportunities. Identifying homeownership as a game changer for entrepreneurs looking to grow their business, he highlighted how it provides a reliable asset that may be leveraged for financing. Lack of access to capital keeps business from reaching their full potential, but being creative and wise about the assets you accumulate, can provide the wind you need in the sails of your venture.

Once launched, Isaac identified the importance of building infrastructures that help your business thrive; so be intentional and forward thinking when you structure your business. Dream big, plan ahead, and ensure your business plan includes opportunities to assess and reevaluate opportunities that may not have existed before. This includes engaging with community partners whose services can support your business, whether they be big banks, or local incubators and advisory centres. Stepping outside our community circles doesn’t just broaden our world, but exposes new opportunities. Relationship building is at the core of this strategy, because we, especially as small businesses, can’t do it all. Why not leverage institutional relationships and their resources to add fuel to your business?

Locally, (as our panel emphasized) organizations like the Business Advisory Centre Durham, the Sparks Centre, and 1855 are here to do just that; they provide distinct practical services to support, strengthen, and grow your business, no matter how small. So take up space, own and celebrate your amazing business ideas, and utilize the local services that are here solely with the purpose to support you. Often, especially for POC, one can’t help but wonder: do I belong, will I be heard, will my needs actually be addressed? I ask that you not let those doubts limit your potential. Take the risks and be your businesses biggest advocate; we’re all better for it. As our IDEA Committee Chair, Deanna Thompson put it, “although we might be dreaming big, are we dreaming big enough? And what do you want your legacy to be? How can we carry the hopes and dreams of our ancestors forward?”

To wrap the event, Ontario’s first Poet Laureate, Mr. Randell Adjei’s poetry brought soul and spirit to the event by speaking to the monumental journey of Black people in Canada. Speaking from his personal experience, Randell’s poetry gives an intimate and moving look into the life of a Black immigrant finding his place and voice in Canada. If you have the opportunity, I encourage you to watch him perform (in-person or online). You’re sure to feel inspired.

In the month since our event, I’ve witnessed an empowering celebration of Black businesses and people; let’s continue the celebration and conversation. We at the IDEA Committee, are doing just that.

This event, like many other programs at our Chamber, would not be possible without our sponsors; thank you to Paramount Pallet, Bell, ITS Global, NPX, LiveWireMedia, Frank Auddino, GeekSpeak, and Aspin Films. Your continued commitment to the Chamber community allows for valuable programing that aims to empower all our members.


– Preeti Sangwan, Advocacy and Policy Advisor