Editorial

How USoup is promoting the growth of Ottawa’s African businesses

USoup African accelerator for black businesses

Resourcefulness, brilliance, and togetherness are some of the attributes making the nucleus of the African diaspora. However, for all its promises, it often appears that the African diaspora is neglected when opportunities are discussed for the advancement of communities.

Ujamaa Soup (USoup) has stepped up to challenge the status quo and provide meaningful opportunities for the growth of African businesses in Ottawa.

USoup is a grassroots organization aimed at developing Canadian-based projects, with the target community being black.

Last week, USoup organized its second ‘Ideas, Accelerated‘ soup dinner bringing together a community of black entrepreneurs, business investors and leaders, students and youth with a focus on fostering a collaborative relationship.

The audience paying keen attention.

What makes USoup standout from the host of accelerators buzzing around Ottawa? Quite simply, USoup caters specifically to the black community.

The soup dinner featured a brilliant keynote address by Dane Bedward of Invest Ottawa and he oozed experience and confidence as he delivered consistent insights into the requirements in being a successful entrepreneur.

With focus on creating a profitable business venture, Bedward carried the audience through the process of building a team, finding the right mentorship, developing a business model, accessing business incubators and building a successful brand.

Dane Bedward.

“A business model entails how you make money. What is your value proposition? What is unique about your business?” Bedward’s mastery in communicating was evident in his engagement of the audience. His delivery in itself was a master class in sales, if anyone in the audience needed a live performance.

The event also featured a spotlight on Moe Omer, a 17-year old founder of Frank.

Frank is Ottawa’s latest tech start-up with a precise goal of providing alternative smartphones that are affordable ($180 for a smartphone is genuinely refreshing).

Omer’s presentation exposed innocence in his entrepreneurship journey and this inadvertently rubbed off positively on an audience that previously experienced Bedford’s artful delivery.

There was a calm reassurance in Omer’s narration of his journey into entrepreneurship, and his raw disgust at the exploitative intent of the smartphone industry.

If Bedward’s presentation was a bulwark of experience and pragmatism, Omer’s approach was a revelation into the future of how the new generation chooses to approach business. It is aggressively passionate.

The project pitches for the night were Frizé Frizé, Ubuntu Project by School of Afro-Caribbean Dance, and Young Leaders Advisory Council (YLAC).

With an attentive audience, each project was allocated five minutes to pitch their business idea. After each presentation, members of the audience were encouraged to engage with questions about the presentation.

The engagement between the audience and presenters afforded deeper insight into the vision, business acumen, and scalable impact of the pitches.

A member of the audience posing a question to one of the presenters.

All three project-pitches were very noble and worthy of support. However, only one project could be selected to win the prize money. And that was YLAC.

YLAC had pitched support for the continuum of its Smart Start Youth Summit that had drawn over one hundred youth (13 – 24) from across Ottawa for a two-day summit.

Khalid Egeh and Natalie Domey of YLAC

At the end of the night, everyone was a winner. The value of the event was to raise awareness of projects by members of the African community, and importantly, to foster networking opportunities. This was evidently achieved as the room was buzzing with laughter and positivity.

USoup’s Ideas Accelerated was a success and this was not only because it was able to pull together in one room vibrant entrepreneurs within Ottawa’s African community; it was largely a success because the outcome of this event revealed the need to build on this initiative because there is market within the African community for programs tailored to our community.

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