How Black Owned Toronto became Black Owned Canada and opened its first store
TORONTO – It has been an eventful year for Kerin John since setting up the â€œBlack Owned Torontoâ€ Instagram page last year.
Initially, it was simply an inviting online platform to promote Black-owned businesses in the city. â€œMy initial goal was to have a social media directory. I certainly didn’t know it would become so popular so quickly, â€she told Your Morning on CTV Tuesday.
But as more and more entrepreneurs from across the country asked to be included, it became â€œBlack Owned Canadaâ€- a nationwide online directory with hundreds of products ranging from clothing and toiletries to snacks and skin care, stationery and accessories.
And last week John took another step forward: opening a physical store in the Toronto area with everything under one roof.
â€œI knew it was essential for our community, so I went. And it’s been amazing so far, â€said John, adding that she wasâ€œ super grateful â€to see how far his idea has gone.
One of the goals of the downtown Scarborough store is to continue its goal of providing much-needed display and storage space for black-owned products. According to a study of the Black Chamber of Commerce of Canada, 34 percent of participants started their business to fill a gap in the market; and what was most important to them was getting publicity and promotion.
INSTAGRAM, PHYSICAL STORE AND BEYOND
It all started with John’s New Years resolution to support more black-owned businesses in 2020, she said Toronto Observer.
In May of last year, John, a photographer and graphic designer, decided to keep his promise. She used her aesthetic skills to create the Black-owned Toronto Instagram page as a bright and impactful gathering place for black entrepreneurs.
In the wake of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of police that same month, Black Lives Matter’s protests to end systemic racism have sparked the interest of those seeking to support black communities.
Last June, Google Trends showed a 300 percent peak in searches of “How to Find Black Owned Businesses in Your Area”, with searches of “Black possessedâ€Also on the rise and still higher than in the previous 10 years.
John’s Instagram page swelled to 70,000 followers.
His eye for attractive and fresh graphics continued when his page – due to popular demand – developed into a national online directory, Black Owned Canada.
He costs $ 50 for business owners to join in, with the money being spent on site maintenance, packaging, and payment for in-person showcase events.
Approximately 130 sellers and over 500 products from this website ended up on the shelves of the physical Black Owned Toronto store. John touted it as the first such physical space in the country to exclusively sell black-owned goods.
“The grand opening [last week] was amazing, â€she said, adding that it quickly became an impromptu networking session.
“For many of us, this was the first time we had been to the mall in monthsâ€¦ it was a time of community bonding.”
John said she is already aiming to have 1,000 businesses join its national online directory, as well as create more physical locations across the country.
â€œI really want to stretch out. 100 percent, â€she said. “So I hope I can open more and give business owners more storage space and more opportunities.”