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Vancouver non-profit helps Black entrepreneurs build their businesses

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Jackee Kasandy now owns and operates a retail store on Granville Island in Vancouver, and while she is successful now, it was a difficult road to get here.

“I couldn’t get anyone to fund me for the life of me for the first three years of my business,” she told Global News.

Kasandy left her job in the corporate world in 2015 and took a leap of faith to start her own store.

“I drained all my savings, all my credit cards, all my RRSPs, to just get off the ground,” she said.

She found he was facing even more hurdles than she had expected.

“I am a woman, I am an immigrant, I’m Black,” she said. “I have to work a little bit harder. I have to prove my humanity first, and then prove my smarts and then prove my business to get someone to actually look at me, listen to me, and provide.”

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Now Kasandy is using what she learned to help other Black entrepreneurs.

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The organization, Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada is holding a free Black Business Summit Feb. 24-25 for everyone who is interested.

They are also running a contest where the winner would get $25,000.

Among the contestants, Deress Asghedom is the founder of Vaster, an AI-powered app for cannabis products.

Mwenda Dyck is also in the running for his microgreens verticle farming system.

“I’m just kind of running out of the spare bedroom in my house right now,” Dyck said. “But the grant money will allow me to renovate a barn just outside of Chilliwack that I’ll be able to really scale up the production.”

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Kasandy said it is all about opening the door to business opportunities.

“We are in Black history, but I want us to celebrate the future of what blackness looks like in Canada.”