The 2020 Ethnic Food Incubator: Guiding Founders Through Stages of Entrepreneurship

Ethnic Food Incubator Participants

There are many different ways to approach entrepreneurship, and each founder goes through a number of stages to grow their business. Every entrepreneur is unique, be it through their product or service, the motivation behind starting their business, their goals and definition of success, or where they are at in their journey.

The Ethnic Food Incubator, spearheaded by the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce and delivered by Spring Activator, is a pioneering program that has been designed to take a diverse group of food industry founders to the next destinations of their entrepreneurial endeavors.

The program, led by Spring Program Manager and food entrepreneurship expert Allison Gibson, is iterated upon in real-time to cater to the unique challenges and needs of each program participant.

A Tailored Experience for Each Founder

Through a combination of group sessions and 1:1 check-ins, the Ethnic Food Incubator takes into consideration the unique challenges each founder may face. This is to ensure they attain success corresponding to their individual business stages and goals. 

Regular feedback loops and priority discovery allow for the needs of each entrepreneur to be met. No matter which stage a particular founder is in, there is something to be gained from each session. From ideation and incorporation to launch and going mainstream, each stage of the food entrepreneur’s journey is covered. 

Along with being the first-ever incubator for Black food entrepreneurs, it is also the design flexibility and tailored approach of the program that define its pioneering nature.

Guest Speakers With a Focus on Mental Health

Personal check-ins with program participants also allow Allison as the Program Manager to gauge which experts to invite as guest speakers to best fulfill the needs of the cohort. Speakers have included Jacinthe Koddo of Tandem Innovation Group and Lisa Slater, a food marketing and operations professional with Whole Foods expertise who shared the ins and outs—from labeling recommendations to ingredients—of bringing food products to high-end grocery stores.

One of the program’s guest speakers has been involved in more depth to support the entrepreneurs through the challenge of balancing entrepreneurship with established professional careers and life during a pandemic. Joining in on 1:1 sessions, Nicola Brown, founder of Kokoro, is guiding participants through developing as leaders mindful of maintaining good mental health. Participants will walk away with valuable tools to maintain their well-being as entrepreneurs to be better able to achieve their goals and serve their communities.

Meet the Ethnic Food Incubator Participants

Keisha Harmon

Keisha Harmon

Dinaka Food & Drink
Keisha credits her grandmother for her love of cooking. Rekindling her childhood memories associated with flavors and using her hands-on knowledge, Keisha opened her catering business in Toronto in 2016. Her specialties include frozen Nigerian meat pies and Guyanese patties. She is looking to widen her product outreach and enter mainstream supply chain channels. Although cooking is her passion, Keisha sang professionally across Guyana and the Caribbean and also started her own videography business prior to migrating to Canada.
Tanya Mills

Tanya Mills

Sunshine T Catering Inc.
A love for cooking and food has accompanied Tanya since her early years. Born and raised in Toronto, she had a eureka moment when she realised she could turn her interest into a thriving business someday. A self-taught chef with expertise in fusion cuisine, she loves to blend West Indian, Canadian, and Asian flavours. Her favourite pastime is being in the kitchen and experimenting with creating new fine dishes. Specializing in delicious hand-made Afro-Canadian frozen foods, she is now looking for support in product and business development.
Onyii Adibe

Onyii Adibe

Gosiora Greens N Grains
With a solid background in public health, Onyi is now focusing on making organic, gluten-free and mostly allergen-free plant milk accessible for everyone. She is leveraging her African heritage to bring healthy flour alternatives from some relegated food crops to Canadian dinner tables. Onyi joined the program to map out her branding and marketing strategy while she charts out her product launch journey. She is looking forward to gaining insights on how to sell at retail chains and manage finances through the mentoring program, and she's also hoping to build a strong network.

A Thank You to the Program's Sponsors and Partners

This revolutionary program has been brought to life thanks to the generous support of: Sobeys, BDC, Retail Council of Canada, The Diversity Busines Network, Toronto Public Library, Black Female Funders, Uber, YSpace York University, Raven Luxury Events Inc., Royale Corporation, Food Prep, and International Food Store.

Follow Spring Activator and the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce to stay up to date on the Ethnic Food Incubator. To learn more about the program, reach out to Allison Gibson.

Rhea Alleyne
Rhea Alleyne

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