BLK Owned is a new Hamilton networking venture aimed at empowering young Black entrepreneurs through training, business services and accessing funding. The origination was founded by Ashleigh Montague and her sisters in the wake of the George Floyd murder. “We saw this great outpouring of support, and I started wondering what all this support means in terms of supporting Black entrepreneurs,” Ashleigh said. They started out by compiling a list of the Black-owned business in Hamilton and area and came up with a roster of over 200 ventures. They then established a social media presence so the entrepreneurs would connect with each other. Because of the COVID pandemic they were forced to stage some marketing events online, such as their Countdown to Christmas event which put the spotlight on local Black-owned businesses.
With the pandemic easing, BLK Owned is now ready to stage its first public event. Saturday August 14 the group will stage an outdoor market at Pier 8 near the Discovery Centre. There will be 14 booths featuring Black-owned businesses, a DJ, and two food vendors. The event has been set up to ensure appropriate social distancing. “We had 40 business apply for the market, but we could only pick 14,” Ashleigh said.
BLK Owned has conducted a survey, which shows the Black entrepreneur community in Hamilton is predominantly young. Less than half are in business full time, 32 percent are operating as a side business and 30 percent are in start-up mode. They identified their three main needs as marketing support, online support and access to start-up funding.
“Our next step is top establish a training program for Black entrepreneurship,” says Ashleigh. “Many are looking for the skills they need to take them to the next level.”