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Best Buy Canada Launches Mentorship and Accelerator Program for Black and Indigenous Entrepreneurs to Bring Products to Market

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Best Buy Canada has launched a new Mentorship and Accelerator Program (MAP) aimed at connecting and supporting entrepreneurs from Black and Indigenous communities to the retailer’s network and helping them by bringing products to market.

Zayn Jaffer

“Business is all about people and connections. We are thrilled to launch this program to offer our significant infrastructure and expertise to support entrepreneurs from Black and Indigenous communities,” said Zayn Jaffer, Best Buy Canada Category Officer and Vice President in Merchandising.

“Over the years, we have built phenomenal relationships with our vendor partners, and I am excited to do the same with the professionals that will join Best Buy MAP. I can’t wait to see what products may emerge from this program.

“Although there are many communities which are underrepresented in business, we identified both the Black and Indigenous communities as underrepresented in the tech space. As Canada’s largest electronics retailer, we are excited to work more closely with these two communities to bring their tech products to market.”

Jaffer said that in 2020 Best Buy made several bold commitments to address underrepresentation in all parts of its business. The commitments include measurable goals to achieve by 2025. Building off these commitments, the Best Buy team has identified an initiative to support BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of colour) tech product entrepreneurs when launching their business with Best Buy in Canada.

“One of the biggest challenges for a small business or start-up is the lack of access to senior counsel in areas like business development, distribution, and other key resources like marketing, HR, and retail. As Canada’s largest electronics retailer, Best Buy’s network includes access to robust resources from various external and internal stakeholders,” said Jaffer.

“A business mentorship program takes the already existing system and adapts it to support BIPOC entrepreneurs with a focus on Black and Indigenous owned businesses that sell tech products. The Best Buy team is constantly in search of new vendors and products. This mentorship program will help new vendors benefit from the Best Buy network and resources to help advance the success of their business.”

The application period is open September 15 to November 30.

Jaffer said this is the first year of the pilot program and the company wants to learn and adapt with the chosen applicants. The core purpose of this program is to support these communities and it’s imperative Best Buy builds the program around them, tailoring to each participant’s specific needs.

He said entrepreneurship is vital for growing the Canadian economy and entrepreneurs are responsible for 48 per cent of Canada’s GDP. Entrepreneurs are leading the way in job creation and thrive in communities that have a supportive culture and ecosystem.

“Fostering innovation and entrepreneurship of Black and Indigenous businesses will catapult Canadian businesses into the global market,” he said.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, according to research from Statistics Canada. The research found that businesses owned by visible minorities, Indigenous people and women had their COVID-related requests to financial institutions rejected more frequently than the rate for all businesses.”

Jaffer said Best Buy has always had a proven track record of launching start-ups, small businesses, and bringing their products to market in the technology space.

“When you look at a small business or an entrepreneur in some of these under-represented communities around Black and Indigenous areas, they’ve traditionally not had access to senior leadership within some of these bigger companies and how to kind of move forward,” he said. “We want to give them some form of mentorship in areas like business development, supply chain, distribution, marketing, ecommerce, retail. And then also have them have access to some of our external stakeholders and putting that all together to help them bring those products to market.”

Best Buy at the CF Toronto Eaton Centre – Image by Dustin Fuhs

Jaffer said because this is a pilot year for the program there are no specifics about range or size of businesses involved or numbers of different companies.

“I think what we’ll end up doing is evaluate these companies and where they are in terms of a life cycle. Do they have a prototype ready? Have they got financing in place? How far away are they from actually coming to market? And then determine is there the right fit? Can we support this specific entrepreneur and really elevate their product coming to market?”

In terms of products, Jaffer said Best Buy is looking for anything that is tech specific. It could be a cell phone case. It could be a computer accessory. It could be a small appliance. Or it could be a smart home product.

“At the end of the day, entrepreneurship is a pretty vital part to growing the overall economy,” he said.

More information on the program can be found here: https://bestbuy.ca/en-ca/about/mentorship-acceleration-program-for-black-indigenous-entrepreneurs/blt34293c73af3a2f77

There are over 160 Best Buy and Best Buy Mobile stores across Canada.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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