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Unilever Canada funds incubator supporting Black social entrepreneurs

Unilever will fuel a new social impact stream within the DMZ’s Black Innovation Program that provides Black-owned businesses with the support needed to build sustainable solutions and maximize their impact for Canadian communities.

Developed in partnership with the DMZ, a leading business incubator, a new initiative for Black entrepreneurs with a social mission and purpose has been created: the Black Innovation Program (BIP) Social Impact Stream.

The BIP Social Impact Stream will support Black entrepreneurs leading social ventures by supporting them to scale business operations, make lucrative industry connections, and build sustainable solutions to maximize their impact. To be considered for the program, applicants must be a tech-based or tech-enabled social venture with the intent to scale their business.

A first-in-Canada program, the DMZ’s BIP was established to provide Black-led startups with the strengthening support of a top incubator network, as well as the programming, mentorship, events, and connections to industry and capital, to support their success. With the introduction of the Social Impact Stream, the DMZ has developed specialized programming for Black entrepreneurs in partnership with Unilever Canada, an industry-leading consumer goods company focused on sustainable, inclusive business practices.

What’s on offer

The virtual program’s first cohort will begin this September and run until March 2022. Over six months, 15 selected Black-led social enterprises will participate in a part-time program consisting of expert-led workshops, peer-to-peer and mentorship sessions, exclusive community events, and more. Through the program, social entrepreneurs will expand their knowledge and apply learnings back to their organization.

Participants can expect to receive hands-on support in areas like marketing, selling for social enterprise, design thinking, financing, raising capital, business law, and more. At the end of the program, entrepreneurs will participate in an exclusive Demo Day event and will have the opportunity to pitch their business to a panel of judges to secure one of many grant funding prizes to accelerate their company growth. Up to $35,000 in grant funding will be distributed to participants of the program’s first cohort. Together, Unilever Canada and the DMZ have allocated up to $70,000 in grants over two cohorts of the program.

Eligible businesses are welcome to apply for the BIP Social Impact Stream by August 31st, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. EST. To learn more about the program and apply, please visit dmz.to/socialimpact.

The Impact

“What’s incredible about our partnership with Unilever Canada is that the impact this initiative will have on Canadian business is two-fold,” said Janey Buzugbe, Head of the Black Innovation Programs and Partnerships at the DMZ. “Firstly, it will play an important role in strengthening the Canadian entrepreneurship ecosystem by providing high-potential Black founders with the knowledge and connections needed to become high-growth, high-impact ventures. Secondly, it’s supporting a community of entrepreneurs who are genuinely motivated to succeed – not just for themselves through profit, but for their communities and by the impact they will make on the world.”

“Unilever is proud to be partnering with the DMZ as an organization that has been proactive and attuned to the lived experience, research and the nuanced needs of Black entrepreneurs in Canada. The Black Innovation Program: Social Impact Stream embodies Unilever’s strategic commitment to unlocking capacity for sustainable living through agility and digital transformation while being a beacon for diversity, inclusion and values-based leadership.” said Monique Miller, Purpose Programs Manager at Unilever Canada.