My African Corner connects diaspora arts, culture and business

Sponsored feature: presented by Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University

The Social Ventures Zone at Ryerson University is home to unique entrepreneurial initiatives that are designed to make a positive impact in a variety of communities, both in Toronto and beyond. See all of our profiles here.

My African Corner

Who’s involved in this project? 

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro (co-founder/CEO) and Abdul-Aziz Garuba (co-founder).

What are your goals for this project? 

Chioma Ifeanyi-Okoro: My African Corner aims to transform word-of-mouth marketing among the African diaspora through an innovative digital media platform that brings African diaspora businesses, events, arts, culture and content to the limelight in cities across the world, starting in Toronto. On our blog, we tell positive stories, share business knowledge and showcase the beauty of the culture of people of African descent.

What is the biggest challenge you’re facing?

CIO: Funding and hiring.

Can you explain the mentorship process available to you through the Ryerson Social Ventures Zone (SVZ)? 

CIO: Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone is an absolutely amazing resource. We got into the Ideation program last summer and then into the Zone in the fall. SVZ staff are very resourceful. Anytime we have a challenge, Ryerson’s Social Ventures Zone is one of our first points of contact. We are proud to be associated with it.

The Ryerson SVZ is all about leveraging innovation to make a social impact. How will your project affect the communities you’re targeting?

CIO: Our offline events connect people of African descent – including students, newcomers to Canada, established professionals and business owners – with various tools and resources that position them to succeed. One of our projects is called Daraja, which means “bridge” in Swahili. It’s a two-day conference during Black History Month designed to connect students of African descent at universities and colleges across Ontario with employment opportunities, startup programs and mentors to help ease their transition into full-time employment or entrepreneurship ventures.

The events will include a career fair, panel discussions and mentorship sessions. There will also be a student tour of the startup ecosystem at MaRS Discovery District.

Have you been able to obtain any feedback from people who stand to benefit from your project? If so, what have they told you?

CIO: Yes. We built a pre-launch community of 2,000 people through our offline events, social media and partnerships with various organizations that serve people of African descent. We launched the platform in December 2017 and so far the response has been great.

What kind of public or private partnerships are you hoping to make (if any) to help grow your project?

CIO: In 2017, we were able to build partnerships with well-established brands. Our goal for 2018 is to take My African Corner business workshops and other programs across Canada with the help of both public and private partners. We are grateful to MaRS and many other players for partnering with us on Daraja.

Imagine if you could scale up your project to its full potential. What would that look like?

CIO: We would be a global company with a presence in every city across the world, reaching millions of people. We will help businesses listed on our platform grow and scale through easy access to their target audience on our platform. We want this to be a platform where anyone in any city across the world can find anything African in their city. We also want to challenge the narratives around the African continent and people of African descent through positive stories told on our platform.

Timing is a crucial factor that contributes to the success of a social venture. Why is now the right time for your project?

CIO: There’s no better time than now for our venture. The United Nations declared 2015 to 2024 the international decade for people of African descent, and on January 30, 2018, Canada finally recognized it. We are playing our part in highlighting everything that people of African descent have to offer the world through business, culture, arts and content. We also want to ensure that this demographic is well positioned to succeed.

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