Nfld. & Labrador

Entrepreneurs host Black-owned business market in St. John's

The market was organized by Nicole Obiodiaka, a Black-inclusion activist. The goals of the event were to provide an opportunity to network, she said, and eliminate barriers that Black entrepreneurs face regularly.

Entrepreneurs come together to network, eliminate barriers

An African American woman smiles for the camera at an entrepreneur fair.
Nicole Obiodiaka, organizer of the Black-owned business market, says the goal is to eliminate barriers faced by Black entrepreneurs. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Members of the Black business community in Newfoundland are highlighting diversity in the marketplace, hosting the annual Black-owned business market in St. John's on Thursday afternoon.

The market was organized by Nicole Obiodiaka, a Black-inclusion activist. The goals of the event were to provide an opportunity to network, she said, and eliminate barriers that Black entrepreneurs face regularly.

"As we know, small businesses face a lot of barriers," said Obiodiaka. "But Black-owned businesses face additional barriers such as racism, lack of access to capital, and a lack of access to support networks and government funding."

Given the popularity of the St. John's Farmers' Market, the venue seemed like the prime location to bring entrepreneurs face to face with customers and community partners, Obiodiaka said.

Nails, clothing, art, food and even a "rage room," where visitors could take out their aggression on an unsuspecting washing machine, were part of the market experience.

According to Obiodiaka, the most important aspect of the market, however, was the celebration of Black culture itself.

"If you speak to a lot of these vendors, you'll find out that a lot of their pieces or items are inspired by their story, their upbringing, their culture," said Obiodiaka. "To really let you appreciate Black culture and celebrate it as well."

A woman holds custom jewelry she designed.
Entrepreneur Margaret Asuquo says the market provided the opportunity to network with other business owners, while also building relationships with the community. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

Faces behind the businesses

One vendor at the event, Margaret Asuquo, runs two separate businesses. As a nail technician, she creates custom nails. Her other business is custom jewelry, each piece sporting unique designs.

The appeal of the Black-owned business market, says Asuquo, is the opportunity to meet members of the community, strengthening personal relationships between entrepreneur and customer.

"Not only does it give me exposure … I have the opportunity to see people and talk to them," said Asuquo. "It really helps when you see a face behind the business and you can connect with the person, rather than, like, texting and online shopping. This really puts me out there, and I love that."

A man smiles while holding a sledgehammer after destroying a washing machine.
The event had many types of businesses on hand, including a 'rage room,' where customers could take out their aggression on a washing machine. (Heather Gillis/CBC)

As for her fellow entrepreneurs, Asuquo says they do not see each other as competition. 

"Everybody is here to cheer themselves on and support each other," said Asuquo. "It's a beautiful, non-toxic community. We're all here for each other. We all support each other. It's amazing."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

with files from Heather Gillis

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