2 Black B.C. entrepreneurs advance to top 5 in Canada-wide pitch contest

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To mark Black History Month, the non-profit Black Entrepreneurs and Businesses of Canada Society (BEBCS) has launched a nationwide contest for aspiring Black entrepreneurs in need of a financial boost to their business.

Deress Asghedom, of Vancouver, and Mwenda Dyck, of Abbotsford, are two of the five finalists set to pitch in front of a panel of judges later this month.

The winner of the top prize receives $25,000.

“It’s completely barrier-free,” said BEBCS founder Jackee Kasandy.

“Anyone can enter it as long as you are Black. You can be a 12-year-old, a 64-year-old, all we needed was a two-minute video talking about your business and your idea.”

Asghedom is working on a new app called Vasper that aims to improve the shopping experience for cannabis users.

“I believe firmly that people should have information available for them to help make better decisions,” said Asghedom, an Ethiopian immigrant who moved to Canada in 1989.

He says his app allows users to take pictures of cannabis products in their packaging, which then prompt all kinds of information for users to better understand what they’re buying.

Dyck grew up in a farming background and is pitching his start-up that focuses on micro-greens.

“My goal is to take some of these technologies and develop a system that can really be adaptable to any part of the world, whether that be a community up north, a community in the desert,” said Dyck.

Kasandy says she was motivated to launch the contest in an effort to better unite the Black business community and address the issue of Black entrepreneurs often struggling to receive funding from traditional lenders.

“It’s much-needed,” said Asghedom, who recalls several times he’s been denied crucial funding.

“I had, early on, conversations with (venture capitalists) that very truthfully told me, ‘It’s going to be very hard for you to raise funds because often times, VCs when they invest, tend to invest with people who look like them.'”

Dyck says regardless of the outcome, the experience has been priceless.

“Even if I don’t win the $25K, I still have all these great resources (and) connections; and the network that I’ve built made entering this contest so worth it,” Dyck said.

The pitch takes place at the virtual Black Business Summit, with the winner announced Feb. 25.

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