C/O Lohifa Pogoson Acker

New Blk-Owned Hamont and BACEL training program helping Black-owned businesses grow 

Blk-Owned Hamont, started in June 2020 by Ashleigh, Alexandria and Abygail Montague, continues to model what it means to celebrate, showcase, explore and support Black-owned businesses through the new Black Youth Entrepreneurship Hub (BYEH): Trailblazer bootcamp

BYEH: Trailblazer bootcamp was created in partnership with Black Business and Professional Association (BBPA)’s Black African and Caribbean Entrepreneurship (BACEL) Training Program. Trailblazer is an 8-week program, running from March 5 to April 14, for Black-identifying entrepreneurs aged 18 to 39.  

As part of the program, attendees will have the chance to hear from guest speakers, mentors and coaches on topics such as marketing, sales, supply chain management and many more. The cost to sign-up is $200, however, the fee will be reimbursed by the BBPA upon successful completion of the curriculum.   

First bootcamp day. C/O Ashleigh Montague

Trailblazer consists of bootcamp and workshop days. Bootcamp days will explore multiple areas of business operation and management.  

In contrast, the weekly Workshop Wednesdays will delve deeper into more specific topics covered during the bootcamp and are optional and free for the campers. The public can also attend the workshops for a fee of $25.00 per session. Registration can be done through Blk-Owned Hamont’s Eventbrite.  

“[The workshops] give the large community an opportunity to see what it is that we are teaching in our cohort program . . . We also saw it as a great opportunity for folks who may not yet be sold on the bootcamp that they could give these workshops a try,” said Ashleigh Montague.   

In addition, the program offers mentorship and networking for participants.  

“What we’re hoping the business owners will take away are new skills they can use to tap into their business for growth, resources they can take away and apply to their businesses for growth, as well as, hopefully an expanded network,” said Montague.  

Trailblazer mentors. C/O Lohifa Pogoson Acker

The idea for Trailblazers came about last summer. The Montague sisters behind Blk-Owned Hamont wanted to address barriers for Black business owners and they conducted a feasibility study to better understand the existing gaps. From February through June 2021, the Montague sisters connected with over 100 business owners in Hamilton and ran a focus group.  

The results of the survey and their focus group showed a need for Black business owners to develop skills, have greater access to resources and build networks. The sisters also found most of the Black Hamilton business owners were young, in the age group of 17 to 45.  

The findings of the study led to the first Blk-Owned pop-up market in August 2021. Efforts to launch BYEH began shortly after.  

In total, 11 entrepreneur and business owners signed up to the pilot program and the reception has been overwhelmingly positive. The feedback form after the first bootcamp day revealed the participants enjoyed being able to engage in the program in-person, felt safe to share their experiences and enjoyed hearing from the speakers and facilitators.  

“It was just so amazing to hear that our hard work over the last year was for something positive,” said Montague.  

Aside from the Trailblazer program, Blk-Owned Hamont has organized numerous markets and grown drastically over the past year.  

CO Rose Senat 

Through counsel with their advisory team, lawyers and consultants who helped conduct the feasibility study, Blk-Owned Hamont launched their social enterprise, BMRKT, to continue highlighting local businesses while continuing Blk-Owned, which will continue to focus on education, advocacy and research.  

During Black history month, Blk-Owned Hamont also organized a merchandise box in partnership with McMaster Innovation Park. Purchase of one vendor boxes allows folks to support up to nine business owners in the greater Hamilton area. It has been a success and they have already sold over 90 vendor boxes. The organization released Black History Month hoodies as well, designed by Aaron Parry, a McMaster alum. The colours in the BLK logo are representative of various skin tones.  

Coming soon, Spring Ting market is scheduled to be held in St. Catharines on April 10. It is open to vendors in the greater Hamilton and Niagara regions. In May, they are hoping to organize a party event on James Street North. It will be in collaboration with local Black-owned storefronts.  

With all the work Blk-Owned Hamont has done and is continuing to do, the Montague sisters continue to be at the forefront of change in support of local Black-owned businesses. 

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