New Beginnings for Black Youth in Edmonton

Positive youth development programs help strengthen young people’s sense of identity, belief in the future, and self-efficacy while also providing opportunities for economic empowerment. Business Link is honored and excited to be a part of the ANZA Entrepreneurship Ecosystem, supporting Black youth in communities across Edmonton, Alberta through the ANZA Program. This program serves as a unique intervention for increasing opportunities for Black youth while simultaneously economically empowering them and teaching participants transferrable skills needed to become entrepreneurs.

What is ANZA?

ANZA is a Swahili term for a new beginning. The ANZA Black Entrepreneur Ecosystem Program is designed to help Black youths generate and develop business ideas, convert those ideas into business plans, and provides mentorship and help when seeking out and applying for loans that can be used to kick off their businesses with. This is providing them with ANZA (New Beginnings).

The uniqueness of this project is found in its framework, which is focused on poverty reduction and teaching youths the transferrable skills needed to become entrepreneurs. This unique approach focuses on the following elements:

  1. This program is intentionally designed to divert youth of African descent away from the criminal justice system by presenting an opportunity to strengthen their community protective factors.
  2. The program seeks to address Anti-Black racism by providing an alternative that utilizes a strategy for poverty reduction by teaching youths about starting their own business and being economically independent.
  3. The program connects youths to their respective cultures and communities as a strategy for healing and reconciliation.

Our ANZA Partners

The ANZA Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is a collaborative model between the African Canadian Civic Engagement Council (ACCEC), Business Link, Startup Edmonton, Edmonton Police Service (EPS), TD Canada Trust, and other stakeholders with shared values to spark a new beginning for Alberta’s Black youth interested in business.

The Process

The ANZA Entrepreneurship Ecosystem is unique because each phase of the project incorporates the realities of the youth perspective in all steps of the problem-solving process. The ecosystem will intake 15 youth every six months and provide them with training and access to essential support to be successful entrepreneurs. These supports include specialized and universal interventions, quality business & entrepreneurship skills training, business development training, equitable access to capital, experiential learning opportunities, mentorship, and bridging their access to new markets.

The Anza Entrepreneurship Ecosystem provides various culturally sensitive wrap-around care interventions. The program focuses on interrupting cycles of crimes or poverty and being a victim or perpetrator of violence.  The program also provides interventions that support Black youth who are at very high risk (justice-involved). The commitment from police, businesses, and community partners working together will contribute to changing the way we work with Black youth in the City of Edmonton.

The ANZA Entrepreneurship Ecosystem has four overarching objectives:

  1. Provide a high-risk youth diversion that will allow police-identified Black youth to become productive, law-abiding, and connected citizens.
  2. Provide Black youth incentives and adequate support to mitigate or negate the effects of personal and structural barriers to building successful businesses.
  3. Provide quality education and a nurturing environment for Black youth to explore their creativity and strengths towards building successful businesses.
  4. Provide Black youth sufficient access to capital, knowledge, and ongoing support and mentorship to grow and sustain their businesses

“I’m currently at the preparation stage for my business. I say this because, with the help of the program, I was able to narrow down what I wanted to do and eventually settle down on one idea, a liquor store. The lessons from Allan, Audrey, and Tristin have played a huge role in the shift from the contemplation to the preparation phase. They’ve given and continue to share knowledge and expertise of how the business world functions by providing a step-by-step process of creating a successful business. The life lessons from our interactions are a bonus and it always helps to get a reality check of one’s performance.”

“I have been able to empower other people due to the impact of ANZA on my journey; with that encouragement, I’m going to be providing jobs and opportunities for other youths who have been in situations that force them to mature at a young age or are going through personal challenges.”

“Now that I have been able to gain a significant amount of knowledge regarding entrepreneurship and building a solid business foundation, I have been able to initiate my planning phase. I am going through all the notes I have compiled and, using the tools and knowledge I have gained, I am building a plan that I feel is authentic, creative, and robust. I have done some preliminary surveys, however, I plan on putting together more structured interviews to gain more insight into the textiles market and the people that engage in it. I also plan on changing up my interview methods”

“Truthfully before this program, all I had were ideas that I could not act on to make viable business due to having no experience or knowledge on how to build a business, I did not know it was possible or viable for someone in my situation to actually start up a successful business.”

Our Commitment to ANZA

The ANZA program aligns with Business Link’s vision of supporting Alberta entrepreneurs, including diverse and underrepresented groups, and our specialized programming for immigrant and Indigenous small businesses in Alberta. This program gives us the opportunity to apply our expertise to support Black youth as they explore and start sustainable businesses.

We provide our unwavering support and expertise to the program while being culturally sensitive to the needs of Black youth in our community.  Business Link has dedicated a full-time staff member to this program.

Program Details

Who is it for?

This program is for Black youth (of African descent) between the ages of 18 and 30 years with a business idea or at the beginning stages of their business in Edmonton and surrounding areas. Youth must be available to commit to the requirements and timelines of the program: 6months of training plus 3 months post-program support.

What is the intake process?

Interested youth can complete a short application form here. The program facilitator will connect to discuss eligibility and suitability for the program.


Other ways we can help:

About the author: Audrey Allotey

Audrey is the ANZA Program Development Manager. She is a champion for entrepreneurs in Alberta. She is passionate about providing the necessary guidance and assistance to see entrepreneurs and businesses move from one stage of their business development to the next. She is experienced in business development processes, international business, economic development in social and natural resources, and Agri-food business. She successfully launched and operated a line of food products in her home country of Ghana that gave her valuable insights into the entrepreneurial world. With her experience combined with her education MBA – International business, she provides expert advice and guidance into the business world.

Audrey believes strongly in building meaningful relationships on every level and encourages other entrepreneurs to keep learning and remain persistent. She says, “persistence is the key to unlocking our potential.”

When Audrey isn’t out globetrotting, you can find her snuggled on the couch unwinding from her day with a cup of tea and a slice of cake watching Friends.

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