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Black Opportunity Fund: Supporting Black-led Businesses

The Black Opportunity Fund is improving the well-being of Black communities and dismantling the impacts of anti-Black racism. Learn more in this exclusive interview with one of the founders and member of the Board of Directors, Dennis Mitchell, and Executive Director, Craig Wellington.

/ 5 mins / SparxTeam

Coming together as a community is an important and necessary step to ending systemic racism. The Black Opportunity Fund takes collective action a step further by improving the lives of Black communities through game-changing grants, partnerships, and financial support of Black-led businesses.  

We spoke with one of Black Opportunity Fund’s founders and member of the Board of Directors, Dennis Mitchell, and Executive Director, Craig Wellington, about how this Canadian charitable organization is leveraging capital to dismantle racism and disrupt ineffective funding practices.

Tell us about your organization’s mission.

DM: The Black Opportunity Fund (BOF) is a community-led registered Canadian charitable organization, whose mandate is to help dismantle the impacts of anti-Black racism by establishing a sustainable pool of capital to fund Black-led businesses and Black-led not-for-profits and charities, in order to improve the social and economic well-being of Canada’s Black communities.

What inspired you/your founders to start your organization?

DM: The project first began as a conversation among Black professionals about how best to serve the community, but in the wake of the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor, organizing efforts accelerated. 

The BOF is supported by a growing number of influential members within the Black Canadian business community from industries including technology, banking, capital markets, life sciences, marketing, and human resources. The BOF continues to form alliances across the country with like-minded professionals and philanthropists.

What were some of the challenges you/your founders encountered?

DM: The usual challenges that come with an initiative such as this – awareness and skepticism at first, quickly followed by an almost suffocating enthusiasm that threatened to dilute and divert our strategic focus. 

The biggest challenge for us has been marshalling volunteers and potential partners into BOF initiatives that strategically and sustainably address the needs and concerns of the Black community.

What do you consider your organization’s biggest success?

DM: We don’t have one biggest success – the BOF is not that type of organization. The BOF’s goal is to eliminate the impact of anti-Black racism, which is the denial of opportunity to Black Canadians. 

Recent successes include partnerships with SickKids, Facebook, TD, BMO, CIBC, NBF, DoorDash, UBC, and others to bring needed funding to the Black community. We have had a positive impact on Black entrepreneurs and in the areas of Black healthcare, education, and with Black students. This is what we are here for. 

CW: I believe that being able to deliver grants to Black-led businesses and Black community organizations so early in our organization’s history and to hear from the recipients about the impacts they are able to have in advancing their organizations and improving socio-economic outcomes in their communities, was truly inspiring and filled all of the BOF family with immense pride.

What makes your organization unique?

CW: BOF’s guiding principle, “for the community, by the community,” is rooted in the understanding that investments made into our communities, especially at scale, have not historically been Black-led and are rarely implemented with adequate consideration to the unique challenges of Black communities. BOF represents a new and world-leading paradigm in the fight to end anti-Black systemic racism in Canada. 

With a vast ecosystem of partners, extensive connections to Black communities, and unparalleled organizational expertise in growing and leveraging capital, BOF is uniquely positioned to support Black-led charities and nonprofits that serve Canada’s diverse Black communities and scale Black businesses.

How do you feel your organization makes the world better?

CW: BOF believes that Canada’s Black communities are a powerful investment, who provide a priceless return: we see our children and our children’s children thriving in a Canada that recognizes them for their incredible potential and awards them with the opportunities they deserve. And, by ensuring equitable access to opportunity for Black Canadians, we help to increase socio-economic outcomes for Canada as a whole.

How can capital be used as a force for positive change?

CW: There has been long standing underinvestment in Black communities. We address this by delivering sustainable and needs-informed capital streams, managed by Black people for the benefit of Black organizations, which disrupt ineffective and disempowering contemporary funding practices.

Tell us about your organization’s goals.

CW: To develop a truly community driven, Black-centred approach to dismantling systemic barriers to accessing capital faced by Black Canadians, so that Black communities across Canada are prosperous, healthy, and thriving.

Are there any upcoming initiatives or projects you’d like to share?

CW: The BOF just launched the Black Business Loan Program for Black entrepreneurs who have been unable to secure funding to-date through Canadian financial institutions. Black entrepreneurs may be eligible to apply for loans in the range of $10,000 to $50,000.

This new initiative is part of a $10 million, five-year commitment from TD Bank Group announced in September 2021, which is the largest contribution ever in Canada to a Black-focused, Black-led, and Black-serving organization. 

BOF also recently partnered with SickKids Hospital and Walmart Canada to improve health outcomes for Black Canadian children affected by sickle cell disease. Through this partnership, the Black Opportunity Fund established a Sickle Cell Disease Patient Amenities Fund at SickKids, to help Sickle Cell Disease patients and their families with costs not covered by the government. The grant also supports easier and safer access to at-home medication via a SickKids-developed technology called a “capsule shredder,” which will be distributed free of charge to children being treated for Sickle Cell Disease through all 13 children’s hospitals across Canada over the next five years. 

What do you most want people to know about your organization?

BOF is community led, community focused, and committed to helping dismantle the impacts of anti-Black systemic racism. 

How can people help or contribute to your organization’s mission?

Visit the Black Opportunity Fund website and go to “donate.” Organizations seeking to develop partnerships with BOF can reach out to the Black Opportunity Fund through our contact information.

This story was featured in the Make The World Better Magazine:

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