Visit Kitchener spearheads effort to support growth of Black and Brown businesses

According to a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, black-owned companies fail almost twice as often as companies overall during the pandemic.

“We know that small businesses are the lifeblood of Kitchener,” said Rachel Ferguson, Visit Kitchener’s chief innovation and global diversity officer.

“Diversity is the future of our economic growth. We can all have an impact on where we spend our money. So we want to make sure that people think about these businesses this season and beyond. “

The initiative started with the launch of the Love + Grit Sweepstakes, a holiday competition inspired by the Visit Kitchener podcast that runs until December 30th. The competition includes a prize package of curated gifts from black-owned companies.

“It is important to help small businesses because I know we need help so badly,” she said.

American Hats is located in Kitchener’s Frankford division and specializes in the manufacture of women’s hats. Morgan-Thomas said the factory had lost 48% of its wholesale business and a significant portion of its retail sales.

The pandemic forced Morgan-Thomas to close its retail store in the Fashion District mall. Now she’s trying to keep the hat factory afloat.

“We’re trying to survive,” said Morgan-Thomas. “We have shortened our hours. We are currently working three days a week and hope this will help us with expenses. We’re just doing everything we can to stay open and generate business during this difficult time. “

She is determined that her company will survive this challenging time.

“I have to win,” said Morgan-Thomas, who saved the hat factory when it bought it in 2018. “I have to beat COVID.” I can’t let COVID get the better of me. I’ve worked all my life, saving money and investing money that has grown and enabled myself to be able to buy the factory without funding. “

Ursula Augustine, who owns Ursula About Phace, appreciates Visit Kitchener’s efforts to increase the visibility of local businesses.

“Right now, any kind of small business recognition or PR is very much appreciated,” says the professional makeup artist.

Augustine hopes the notoriety will help expand her clientele. Due to the pandemic, about a third of their clients are working from home and have yet to return to town to visit their makeup studio.

“My customers are loyal,” she said. “They support, they are wonderful, but they are not all back in town. This gives us the opportunity to reach some of Visit Kitchener’s bases that have never heard of us. “

Augustine is still booking enough appointments to keep her business going. However, she has been hit by the cancellation of parties, theatrical performances, weddings and other social events due to restrictions from the coronavirus.

“I’m related to the restaurant industry, where we make a living from people’s social lives,” said Augustine. “We live from the city’s nightlife and with not that much nightlife, my hours are adjusted. I close earlier because nothing happens after four o’clock.”

Ayana Jones is a reporter for the Kitchener Tribune, where this story first appeared.

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