A push to support Black-owned businesses is being felt across the country as Canadians look for ways to take tangible action following social media movements.
Toronto-based Afrobiz populates a directory of Black-owned businesses and Black entrepreneurs in various Canadian cities.
“We want to be able to increase the online presence of Black businesses,” founder Willy Mahailet said. “Businesses are the backbone of communities.”
Mahailet created the site in 2018 and it quickly gained popularity with people eager to sign up and put their own creation on the map.
On Wednesday, the website saw 58,000 hits.
“We’ve got tons of thank-you messages from businesses on the platform, because people have been going on the site and shopping at the businesses on the platform. It’s been really exciting,” Mahailet said.
Christine Gaspard’s business can be found in the Edmonton chapter of the website.
Gaspard is the founder and owner of Lil’ Rascalz Shop, a clothing and gift shop for kids.
She said she’s not always perceived as a business owner by customers.
“A lot of people come into the store and don’t realize I am a shop owner and not a shop employee,” said Gaspard. “I have a business in a predominantly white neighbourhood. Something like this [social media push] brings a lot of attention to myself and my business.”
Megan Vernon is the founder of The Melanin Studio. The business opened in 2020, but had to close its doors due to COVID-19.
Vernon said she’s seen an increase in social media traction for her business following Blackout Tuesday.
“I saw lots of people all around the city and Canada reaching out and reposting my page. I’m so grateful,” said Vernon. “But I also want to say, please keep having that same energy. For today and forever. This is really important.”
Mahailet said the dollars spent at these businesses translates into change at every level.
“Supporting these businesses can help a lot of issues. Black owners would hire more Black people, who are historically not hired as much in the wider corporate world,” said Mahailet. “It’s an investment in the community.”
“Every time you purchase something from the shop, you’re supporting my family. Right there you are already making change in our lives,” said Gaspard. “You’re also supporting someone else’s dream. I have just one employee, and she’s also a young Black girl. I think that shows her that she’s capable of starting a business too.”
These women say the next step, is to keep the movement going beyond a hashtag.
“I am a Black woman. I have black skin. This is not a trend, this is my life from the time I was born,” Vernon said. “One week paying attention to this and the Black Lives Matter Movement is not enough. Please pay attention to it.”
“When we think of local, sometimes we just think of the people that look like us,” Gaspard said. “Don’t just do this on Tuesday or Wednesday. Make a decision every day to make sure we’re supporting all communities.”