Business incubator helps diverse entrepreneurs plan, launch and grow their ideas

DIVERSEcity and Canadian Western Bank partner to support immigrant and BIPOC entrepreneurs build businesses

About one in 10 British Columbians are small business entrepreneurs of some kind. In fact, self-employment is more common in BC than in any other province, according to the 2021 B.C. Small Business Profile. And immigrant and BIPOC entrepreneurs are among the most likely to take the entrepreneurial leap.

For example, immigrants are 41.7 per cent more likely than Canadian-born people to start a business or be self-employed, according to Statistics Canada. Canadian-born business owners who have immigrant parents were also more likely than those with Canadian-born parents to become entrepreneurs.

But going out on your own can be risky business. That’s where DIVERSEcity’s revamped Diverse Entrepreneurs Business Incubator presented by Canadian Western Bank (CWB) comes in.

“We want to help diverse entrepreneurs not only start a business, but start a successful business,” says Florence Kao, DIVERSEcity’s self-employment program coordinator. “Entrepreneurship comes with a lot of risk, and not every business makes it. At DIVERSEcity, we have built up an approach to help immigrant and BIPOC entrepreneurs learn the tools and strategies they need to navigate the Canadian business landscape with confidence and success.”

This approach — which includes business plan writing circles, a business startup bootcamp, one-on-one support, and ongoing peer support and collective business model opportunities — is award-winning, having won a CANIE Award in 2020 for Enterprise Support (BC Region) in 2020 from the Innovators and Entrepreneurs Foundation.

That same year, DIVERSEcity first partnered with CWB to launch the CWB Business Incubator for Women Entrepreneurs, with a focus on women makers and creators. With CWB’s continued support, DIVERSEcity is now combining the learnings from its past programs to create one supersized program — the Diverse Entrepreneurs Business Incubator.

Funded by CWB, this innovative, free 18+ week program for immigrant and BIPOC entrepreneurs is a self-employment training program, networking and support system, and business incubation platform rolled into one. The goal is to help emerging entrepreneurs plan, launch and grow their business!

“It’s inspiring to see participants in DIVERSEcity’s programs turn their passion and creativity into their business,” says Blaine Forer, CWB Senior Vice-president, British Columbia Region. “As a bank focused on business owners, we’re proud to play a role in stoking the entrepreneurial spirit of these aspiring entrepreneurs as they develop and grow their business acumen.”

Starting in January 2023, participants in the Diverse Entrepreneurs Business Incubator will be able to:

  • Explore and develop business ideas and opportunities
  • Learn business basics and operations
  • Develop a business and marketing plan
  • Test out products or ideas in the marketplace
  • Take part in business pitch presentations, Dragons’ Den style
  • Build a peer network with other entrepreneurs
  • Receive ongoing support as they launch their business independently or in a collective business model through our two collective business networks: Immipreneurs Network and Infinity Womenpreneurs

“Empowering diverse entrepreneurs is a passion of mine,” adds Florence Kao, who was awarded the Surrey Women in Business Award in the “Social Trailblazer” category in 2022. “As an immigrant from Taiwan, I know how overwhelming it can be to find your way in a new country, so to start a business here on top of that is a courageous and bold move, but full of risk. We’re here to provide these emerging entrepreneurs with the guidance, mentorship and business planning basics to overcome the startup challenges.”

Past client Jhansi Yedluri shares a little about the impact DIVERSEcity’s program had on her candle-making startup Pamjy Candles. “I learned a lot in the program from social media marketing and sales, and the financial, legal and operational aspects of a business. Brainstorming with [the other entrepreneurs] also helped a great deal to understand potential customers’ perspective,” she says. “I hope more people take advantage of this program. It is mutually beneficial to everyone – as diverse entrepreneurs contribute to the local economy, and introduce diverse ideas and culture to beautiful Canada. Thanks for believing in my business.”

Learn more about the program and apply to participate at