Mona Abow and her team at the CHNGE MKER HUB

Sunday 14 April 2024

Diverse range of Black business  entrepreneurs showcase their products and services at Third Annual Black Business Expo

by Olivia Barrett

There was one very obvious change at this year’s Black Business Expo: the size.

The third edition of the expo had over 100 vendors from the Black community, aisles of booths, lined the Canada Room at the Shaw Centre. Food, hair care, services, event and home décor were just some of the booths at the expo, showing the vast diversity being showcased.

“I feel like it’s double the size this year,” said Amoune Omer, the owner of Mama Africa Shea Butter, an all-natural hair and body care company. She said this was her second year at the expo and being there felt like a full circle moment.

“When I participated [last year], I was only one month into my business,” Omer said, “this year we went full circle. We celebrated our one-year anniversary and again we’re back at the Black Business Expo.”

With so many new and returning vendors, Omer said the expo is also a great opportunity for business owners.

“It’s a great opportunity to network, to meet other Black entrepreneurs, and to be able to showcase all the Black businesses of the city,” she said, adding that she spoke to some business owners who travelled from Montreal and Toronto to attend the expo.

Soul Art booth

Sagine Cavé, the multi-disciplinary artist behind Soul Art, echoed Omer’s enthusiasm for meeting other entrepreneurs at the expo. “Meeting other Black business has been actually the highlight for me,” she said. With this being her first time at the Black Business Expo, Cavé added that she didn’t know how many other Black businesses there were in Ottawa.

“In big events like this that are mainly in the city, often times I’m the only Black person, the only Black artist, so it’s nice to see other black businesses kinda do what they do,” Cavé added.

With the expo offering many unique businesses, it drew in attendees of all ages and backgrounds. As the aisles of the expo were lined with attendees at each booth, Karly Anderson of Cooking with Karly saw the opportunity to spread her message.

“It doesn’t matter your ability, anybody can cook,” she said, “I’m here to help make it easier, make it safer, make it more approachable.”

Karly Anderson from Cooking with Karly booth

Cooking with Karly offers inclusive and accessible cooking classes for people living with special needs. At the expo, Anderson had some of the safe kitchen tools she uses in the cooking classes on display.

“It’s been wonderful being at the expo,” said Anderson, adding she heard about the expo from her friends who had attended last year. After starting her business this year, Anderson said she got in contact with the organizers to be a part of the expo.

Simply Mod Box booth

In addition to the many aisles of vendors, the expo offered panel discussions throughout the day on a variety of topics, such as financial advice and how to have discussions about mental health. Attendees could enjoyed a variety of reggae, dancehall, Afrobeats and more from Carivibe, who provided energetic music for attendees to enjoy all day long.

Panel discussion with Don Ayiti

With business owners from across the Black community, both in Ottawa and from nearby cities, the Black Business Expo showcased these entrepreneurs, while also providing them and attendees with what many described as a great networking opportunity.

Carivibe DJ