Black entrepreneurs in Lethbridge share how their identity shapes the way they do business

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As people continue to honour Black History Month, Taz Dhaliwal speaks with two local Black business owners about how their perspectives and experiences shape the way they do business – Feb 23, 2021

Toyin Oyebola’s store — the Genesis Exotic Market — has items one can’t find anywhere else in Lethbridge.

The store offers clothes, hair accessories and products, and even food — not only from Africa, but from all over the world.

Oyebola says the multi-ethnic items her store has to offer gives some of her customers a nostalgic sense of being back home.

“When we got here we saw there was a need, because it’s a small city, but sometimes your access to things is limited,” Oyebola said.

“We looked around, I couldn’t really find things that spoke ‘exotic’ to me, or ‘tropical,'” she added.

Read more: ‘It’s not just a fad’: Black-owned businesses lack support months after George Floyd movement

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Originally from Nigeria, Oyebola started the family business in 2017 after they moved to the city in 2015.

She says it brings her an immense amount of joy to be able share her cultural roots with the southern Alberta community.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be easy because not many people look like us, but Lethbridge is a very accepting community and we found instant love wherever we turned to,” Oyebola explained.

“We found people that are non-Africans that were ready to help me install things for free, they were ready to help move things,” she said.

Oyebola goes on to say she hopes to open similar markets not only across Lethbridge, but the region.

Ivan Ivan Djomegni started his own web design and development company called Navii with the help of a few of his former friends from school after attending Lethbridge College.

Now he’s using his tech savvy skills to help uplift the Black business community across the country.

Read more: How to support local Black-owned businesses

“Recently I built a new website, kind of like Amazon, for Black-owned businesses,” Djomegni explained.

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“So, basically businesses can register on the website and be able to sell their products for free… that’s part of my contribution to help Black-owned businesses,” he added.

Djomegni says he’s happy to see so much support for Black-owned businesses during Black History Month, but it’s something he would like to see carry on.

“I’m just hoping it will stay that way, not just in one month, I hope we’ll keep building each other [up], knowing that Black-owned businesses, or the Black community in general can achieve great things too.”

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