You are now in the main content area

The Black African and Caribbean Entrepreneurship Leadership Program: Evaluation Insights

Canada | 2024

Entrepreneurship and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are crucial to Canada's economy, providing nearly 90% of private-sector employment. Supporting entrepreneurs, particularly those like Black entrepreneurs who are facing systemic barriers is essential. Research indicates that Black entrepreneurs encounter many challenges, including systemic anti-Black racism, that hinder their access to financial, social and human capital.

To address these challenges, the Diversity Institute, in collaboration with the Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA) and funded by the Future Skills Centre, developed the Black African and Caribbean Entrepreneurship Leadership (BACEL) training program. This pilot program builds on successful initiatives and aims to reduce barriers for Black entrepreneurs by defining key competencies, offering comprehensive support and assessing the program’s impact. The BACEL program was designed over 12 months and delivered to 563 participants from November 2021 to June 2023.

The learning objectives of the BACEL training program were as follows:

  1. Building confidence and a growth mindset along with core entrepreneurial competencies, including financial management, business planning and essential communication skills (e.g., pitching, negotiating and networking)
  2. Training and upskilling Black entrepreneurs on how to use and adapt technology (e.g., customer relationship management, software and business automation) to their business needs
  3. Developing practical strategies to erode barriers and create and grow Black-owned businesses
  4. Assessing best practices, and documenting and sharing training and support strategies
  5. Meeting the needs of 400 to 600 Black entrepreneurs across Canada.

Recognizing the diversity within the Black community in Canada, the BACEL program takes an intersectional approach. Different demographic groups, including Canadian-born and immigrant Black individuals, youth, older adults, men and women, face distinct challenges. Further, entrepreneurs are at different stages of development. Thus, BACEL provided a three-stage program with cohorts tailored to the needs of youth, women and men. Level 1 covered entrepreneurial basics. Level 2 focused on business planning and financial management. Level 3 emphasized technology adoption and business expansion.

Each stage defined competencies linked to the program content and delivery, with assessments embedded in the curriculum. Program evaluation was integrated to measure impact and achievement of objectives.

Highlights from the BACEL training program evaluation results:

  • Feedback was generally positive, with nearly all survey participants indicating that they would recommend the program to others. Most found the content interesting and easy to understand. The varied delivery methods were also appreciated.
  • Comparisons between pre- and post-program skills assessments showed improvement, particularly in financial literacy and networking skills. There was also a notable difference in technological skills, although progress varied among demographic groups:
    • Youth cohort participants reported improved contingency planning and increased access to funding.
    • Women’s cohort participants faced compounding barriers and persistent challenges, but experienced growth in networks and funding opportunities.
    • The men’s cohorts were smaller but benefitted from growth in confidence and improved access to business support, networking and mentorship.
  • Participants reported that programming had the greatest impact when it came to access to funding and network growth.
  • Several best practices were identified, including offering tailored support for different cohorts; enhancing technological proficiency training; strengthening mentorship, networking and collaboration opportunities; improving accessibility through diverse delivery methods; addressing mental health and well-being; implementing wraparound services, making continual improvements through evaluation; and expanding the definition of youth.
  • A limitation of the project was the lack of outcome assessment. The research did not uncover much information about the overall impact of the program on participants' business aspirations. This will be addressed with subsequent research.

In summary, the BACEL program has been effective in supporting Black entrepreneurs in Canada by offering targeted training and support, improving key competencies and addressing systemic barriers. Future efforts will focus on refining outcome assessments to better understand and enhance the program's impact.

The cover of a report featuring four Black business people talking and smiling with each other.