Toronto’s Black Owned Holiday Market

Photo by Adele Lukusa.

Black Owned hosted the second edition of their Holiday Market earlier this month, bringing together multiple black business owners and consumers together for a holiday shopping themed festival filled with art, music and more at Toronto’s Enercare Centre.

The festival was hosted by Black Owned, an organization that regularly holds events throughout the year to educate and promote black business owners who sell products or provide services in Toronto. The group’s events are seen as an opportunities for budding black entrepreneurs and newcomers to the business world to expand their markets.

Chanel Forbes, a new business owner, is still in the early stages of building her company. This year’s Black Owned Holiday Market was the first event that gave her a platform to connect face-to-face with potential customers interested in her fashion line and compile a contact list for her company’s newsletter.

Forbes said she has always had a passion for wardrobe styling and was recently inspired to move forward with creating a warm and colorful unisex clothing line. The goal of her company Synchronize is to make clothes where “anyone can be stylish.”

While some business owners participate in the market to gain exposure for their companies and products, others participate to share their creative passions.

Samira Abuaker founded her business Exp.Through.Art after feeling like she needed more positivity in her life when her mother got sick last June. This month’s holiday market was her first time participating in a Black Owned event, where she sold mason jars filled with positive affirmations.

“If I’m not doing well, the children reflect on that,” said Abuaker, who often works with youth in after-school programs. “So, I try to stay as positive as I can.” Abuaker found a way to combine both her passions and work by having the children she works with create their own affirmations that are included in her jars.

She also said that “sometimes we get so caught up in our head,” and that these positive affirmations are a great method of boosting self-esteem.

This year’s holiday market also welcomed return participants like community health centre Women’s Health in Women’s Hands, who regularly appears at Black Owned’s events. At their table, the group’s representatives handed out informative flyers and brochures in addition to offering free HIV testing at another booth.

Businesswoman Lynn Saint is another regular at Toronto’s Black Owned events. She is the owner of fashion line Papaya and Co., which creates a variety of items designed with wax prints from countries like Nigeria, Haiti and Ghana.

After a recent trip to Haiti, Saint started collaborating with Haitian artists for her company “to bring employment and sustainable work to people there.”

By participating in an event like the Black Owned Holiday Market that is held by and for black business owners and consumers, Saint said she feels much more “comfortable” than at other events open to all entrepreneurs.

“In a city like Toronto, you’d think since it’s super multicultural and you’d run into [black people] more often,” said Saint, though she admits it isn’t always the case for her. “It’s just really nice to be surrounded by black people.”