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Black Innovation
Social Impact Stream


An initiative for Black entrepreneurs with a
social mission and purpose


Not sure if you qualify for this program or want to learn more? Get in touch with our Startup Recruitment Manager here.

About the program

Social entrepreneurship has become a rapidly-growing approach to business, and for a good reason – social entrepreneurs are pioneers focused on tackling some of the world’s biggest societal issues. Fuelled by Unilever Canada, the Black Innovation Program’s (BIP) Social Impact Stream is a 6-month virtual business incubator program designed to help Black entrepreneurs scale operations, make lucrative industry connections, and build sustainable solutions to maximize their impact on Canadian communities. Over the course of the 6-month program, socially-driven organizations are equipped with the tools, mentorship and community needed to generate company growth, while accelerating their ability to create meaningful change and contribute to their core mission.

With more than 400 iconic brands in over 100 countries, Unilever’s vision is to be the global leader in sustainable business, and demonstrate why having a purpose-led, future-fit business model can contribute to superior performance. The organization focuses on unlocking capacity through agility and digital transformation, and aims to be a beacon for diversity, inclusion, and values-based leadership.

What program participants get

A select cohort of 15 Black-led social enterprises will receive access to:

  • Expert-led workshops to expand their knowledge and apply learning in areas like Marketing, Selling for Social Enterprise, Design Thinking, Financing, Raising Capital, Business Law, and more
  • A dedicated DMZ Program Lead for guidance and advice to track and achieve goals and objectives
  • Peer-to-peer engagements, mentorship sessions and community events, along with other opportunities to engage in shared learning opportunities
  • A close network of Black entrepreneurs in a space to discuss unique challenges Black founders face
  • An exclusive demo day event with the opportunity to pitch their business to secure grant funding; up to $35,000 in funding will be distributed to pitch winners from the cohort.

Meet cohort 1 mentors & facilitators

headshot image of Nouhaila Chelkhaoui

Nouhaila Chelkhaoui,
Founder of Scale Without Borders
headshot image of T.J Steve Ehounou

T.J Steve Ehounou,
CPA, CA, Associate Partner, MNP
headshot image of Laurel Sabur

Laurel Sabur
Manager, Private Investment Research, Rally Assets
headshot image of Hakim Farrel

Hakim Farrel, EIR
Cybersecurity & Product
headshot image of Lola Adeyemi

Lola Adeyemi,
Founder, It's Souper
headshot image of Myron Parks

Myron Parks,
Principal Agile Coach
headshot image of Daisy Gobina

Daisy Gobina,
Head of Supply Chain at Antares Diamonds
Director of Youth Programs at Black Women Business Network
headshot image of Konata Lake

Konata Lake,
Partner and Head
Torys' Emerging Companies and Venture Capital Group, Torys LLP
headshot image of Narinder Dhami

Narinder Dhami
Managing Partner, Marigold Capital
headshot image of Manu Kabahizi

Manu Kabahizi,
Co-founder, Ulula
Canadian Digital Service's Head of Accelerator
headshot image of Tara Rhodes

Tara Rhodes
Certified leadership coach
headshot image of Frank Erschen

Frank Erschen
Coach & Mentor
headshot image of Gbemi Akande

Gbemi Akande,
Director of Venture Programs at; Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Pacer VC
headshot image of Baba Ajayi

Baba Ajayi
Founder, Andie
headshot image of Daniella Mastracci

Daniella Mastracci
Executive Director, Trade + Impact
headshot image of Natoya Abiola

Natoya Abiola
Program Mentor
headshot image of Eric In

Eric In Director of Investments, DragonFly Ventures
headshot image of Ismael O Fanny

Ismael O Fanny
Associate Investment Office, IFC Co-Founder, Kajou
headshot image of Darace Rose

Darace Rose,
Founder, Oppos

Program roadmap

Here's what your journey will look like in the BIP Social Impact Stream.

  • September 2022: Program Begins
    The virtual program begins with an orientation, team meet and greets, founder happy hour and networking sessions. Founders receive online access to the DMZ portal.
  • Months 1-6: Workshops Ongoing
    Founders take part in social impact-focused and business development sessions facilitated by mentors on topics surrounding business growth and sustainability for social ventures
  • Months 1-6: Program Lead Sessions Ongoing
    Founders join bi-weekly check-ins with a DMZ Program Lead and sessions dedicated to building community and engaging in shared learning.
  • March 2023: Demo Day
    Founders pitch their business to a panel of judges for the chance to secure a non-dilutive grant to accelerate their company growth.

Meet cohort 1 companies

Frequently asked questions

What is the Black Innovation Program’s Social Impact Stream?

The DMZ Black Innovation Program (BIP) Social Impact Stream is a 6-month virtual business incubator program fuelled by Unilever to help Black entrepreneurs with a social mission and purpose to scale operations, make lucrative industry connections, and build sustainable solutions to maximize their impact on Canadian Communities.

Who is eligible to apply?

To be eligible for the program, applicants must:

  • Identify as Black (i.e. of African descent or the diaspora)
  • Be 18 years of age or older at time of application
  • Have a business that primarily operates in Canada and is incorporated or will incorporate if selected for the program
  • Be a social venture, solving a compelling problem that impacts Canadians
  • Be a tech-based or tech-enabled business with intent to scale
  • Be comfortable speaking and participating in the program in English
  • Be a Canadian citizen, a Permanent resident of Canada, or Hold Current and Valid Authorization under the Canadian Immigration and Refugee Protection Act
  • Be a founder, owner, or hold a senior position where the startup is at least 50% owned by Black-identifying business owners or founders

Preference is given to applications that have:
  • Demonstrated a positive impact on Black-identified Canadians and/or the diaspora
  • Committed to building a scalable social enterprise
  • Committed to program activities and engagements
  • A driven, coachable and collaborative leadership, open to returning and mentoring future cohorts.
  • Received under $200,000 CAD in cumulative grants in the last two years
  • Incorporated as either a for-profit, not-for-profit, or are a registered charity
  • Committed to engaging in value-based leadership

Is there a participation fee?

No. There is no participation fee required to be a part of the program.

What is the time commitment required to join the program?

This is a part time program. Participants should expect to commit two to three hours a week to gain full benefits of the program.

What does the program entail?

The BIP Social Impact Stream is a 6-month, part time virtual program that consists of workshops, mentorship, peer-to-peer sessions, and guidance from DMZ Program Leads.

Over the course of the program, participants will also receive:

  • Perks and discounts: Through the DMZ’s partnerships, our startups receive exclusive perks and discounts from 110+ partners worth over $1 million in business savings.
  • Professionals-in-Residence (PiR) support: Our PiR program offers 1:1 advisory services to our portfolio companies in areas of legal, finance, grants and process-related activities.
  • Online resources (Google Launchpad, legal templates, financial modelling templates, etc.)
  • Access to peer and alumni mentorship
  • Year-round access to asynchronous Social Impact Learning modules
  • Access to legal support and resources for business registration, incorporation and other legal inquiries
  • Access to grant writing support

How much grant funding will be given away, and how can I access it?

Together, Unilever Canada and the DMZ will distribute up to $70,000 in grants over two cohorts. Up to $35,000 in grant funding will be distributed to participants of the program’s first cohort (September 2021).

During the program graduation and Demo Day, program participants will pitch their companies to a panel of judges for an opportunity to secure grant funding. More information on the grant prize amounts will be available soon.

If I am not selected, can I re-apply in the future? Can I still get access to business resources?

Yes, applicants who are not selected for the September 2022 cohort are welcome to apply for future programs should they meet eligibility criteria.

Applicants who are not selected to be a member of the September 2022 cohort will still be granted access to online learning content and video resources from workshops covered in the BIP Social Impact Stream’s core programming. Workshops include: Design Thinking 101, Selling for Social Enterprise, Brand & Marketing, Getting your Legal in Order, Setting up Your Finances for Success, Business Modelling, Pitching and Storytelling, and the Fundamentals of Raising Capital.

How is the program funded?

The Black Innovation Program’s Social Impact stream is funded by Unilever Canada with programming administered by the DMZ.