Photos of 7 Black entrepreneurs on African print background
Thursday, February 1, 2024

Black History Month 2024

February marks the start of Black History Month. It’s a time to highlight Black Excellence, which is a term used to describe the individual achievements and successes, contributions and perseverance of the Black community. The Conrad School of Entrepreneurship and Business has many examples of Black Excellence to celebrate through our program offerings at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

Here, we highlight some of the recent achievements from Black alumni, graduate and undergraduate students.

Black History Month gives us pause to intentionally look at this collection of achievements, but the celebration continues beyond February.  Join us throughout the year as we share success of our Black students.

"As a Black woman, learning to navigate optics, advocating for myself and emphasizing my credibility are just a few aspects that I've had to constantly think about throughout my career."

-Aileen Agada

Aileen Agada

Aileen Agada

Disrupting the beauty industry for Black women

When Aileen Agada first came to Waterloo Region, she found it next to impossible to find a hairstylist that could cater to her needs. And she wasn’t alone. Almost 90% of Black women are not able to have their needs met when they walk into a salon.

Matched with her entrepreneurial drive, Aileen created BeBlended. An online marketplace that connects Black clients to freelance hairstylists who know how to work on afro-curly hair textures.

Now in her final year of MBET’s part-time option, things are moving forward for Aileen.

Read more about how she got here and watch her video.

Yvonne Osagie

Yvonne Osagie

Improving patient outcomes for Women of Colour

Yvonne Osagie graduated from the part-time MBET program in 2023. She found herself deeply moved by the challenges faced by Women of Colour in heath care, particularly instances of misdiagnosis and unequal treatment. She decided to do something about it and created her company.

Med Melanin is a platform that aspires to improve patient outcomes by combining medical consultation with advocacy programming and equity, diversity and inclusion, fostering an environment where every woman’s journey is respected and valued.

In true entrepreneurial style, Yvonne works a full-time job while working on Med Melanin whenever she can.

Darren Baine

Darren Baine

Creating deep social connections

Darren Harry Baine is passionate about inspiring youth to think beyond themselves and create initiatives that advance society. Darren founded the Young Eye Initiative - an initiative that represents the needs, interests and aspirations of young people.

During an E Co-op term at the Conrad School, Darren further developed the Young Eye Initiative to include a facet called Young and Restless. This youth focused organization provides spaces for young people to share, express and expand their passions with their peers. Its current focus is on entrepreneurial networking groups.

Read more about Darren’s entrepreneurial journey.

Folake Owodunni and Maame Poku

Folake Owodunni

Folake Owodunni

Creating access to emergency health care where it's needed

Shortly arriving in Canada from Nigeria, Folake Owodunni experienced every parents’ nightmare. When her 18-month old son woke up in screaming pain, Folake called 9-1-1. This event made her realize that in her hometown in Nigeria she would not have had access to the prompt and efficient emergency response she experienced in Canada.

She and Maame Poku co-founded Emergency Response Africa, a healthtech company that connects Nigerian communities to a large network of first responders, emergency vehicles and hospitals in minutes. 

We believe that by working together, we can create a future where health care is no longer a luxury but a basic human right that is accessible to all”.

Read the full story.

Yaa Yaa

Bertha Bridget Kankam (AKA Yaa Yaa)

Mastering her voice

Bertha Bridget Kankam (MBET ’22) was only 19 years old when she won a national competition in Ghana, Stars of the Future.

Using her stage name, Yaa Yaa she soon developed a fan base in Africa and the United States, but when her original contract ran out, it became clear that going it alone would mean honing her entrepreneurial skills.

“Everything was suddenly on me,” says Yaa Yaa. “I had to lead meetings, develop my own marketing strategy and build a trusted network. I was young and didn’t have a lot of business experience, so a lot of people tried to underpay, short-change or overwork me. It was a massive learning curve, but I stayed strong. By taking charge of my brand, I became an entrepreneur long before I knew that I was an entrepreneur.”  

She enrolled in the MBET program and hasn’t looked back.

Read more about Yaa Yaa’s journey to graduation.

Osose Itua

Osose Itua

Reducing waste in the food industry

Osose Itua she was inspired to start Foodage, a software solution for restaurants that predicts customer demand to make food stocks and preparation more efficient and less wasteful.

Osose said her drive to reduce food waste is in response to the differences she saw between her come country of Nigeria and Canada. "In Nigeria, we are taught not to waste food - we do everything possible to preserve it," she said. "Here restaurants face complications to giving away food but back home if someone needs food, we try to give it to them."

Now a Master of Business, Entrepreneurship and Technology student, she’s taking the business to the next level.

Read more about Itua’s entrepreneurial journey.

Uche Onuora

Uche Onuora

Overcoming tech barriers to bring education to underserved communities

His firsthand experience of Nigeria’s underserved online technology led Uche Onuora (MBET ’18) to co-found HITCH, an educational platform that uses machine-learning software to curate videos based on African curricula while operating independently of internet and power constraints. 

“For African teachers, finding trustworthy resources online is a significant pain point. There’s a lot of noise online for African teachers to wade through which can be extremely time consuming and frustrating, not to mention costly,” says Uche.

Learn more about HITCH.

Adanna Amechi

Adana Amechi

Finding a solution for an underserved market

After arriving in Canada from Nigeria in 2019, Adanna found that there were no affordable hair salons catering to her hair type. She was turned away from many salons and realized that there was a need for products and salon professionals in Ontario specifically trained to work with curly or coily hair.

Inspired by what she was learning in her Chemical Engineering undergrad program and the BET300 “Foundations of Venture Creation” course she took, she created The President Braids. Adanna's venture provides reliable, quality and easily accessible hair care and braiding services for People of Colour in Ontario.

Adanna's idea won her $5k at Velocity's Pitch Competition in 2022.