Meet five Canadian business leaders exemplifying Black Excellence.

Ottawa, ON: We are delighted to announce that Simi Olatunji, Chúk Odenigbo, Evelyne Nyairo, Vanessa Fajesmisin and Dr. Liza Egbogah are finalists for The 2021 CANIE Awards Black Entrepreneur of the Year.

A prize recognizing and celebrating visionary Black business leaders from across Canada, this year’s award is extended to those demonstrating excellence and outstanding achievements in entrepreneurship.

2020 was a year of racial reckoning and consciousness raising around the dangers and realities of inequality and unchecked privilege, of which the business world must not ignore.

We are certain that solutions will come from those most directly affected, so believe that supporting the talent, tenacity, innovation and audacity of entrepreneurs from the Black community is as vital as ever.

“Diversity and inclusion is at the centre of our mission and values at The Innovators & Entrepreneurs Foundation. We wanted to specifically celebrate the achievements of Canada’s black entrepreneurs, understanding that like so many people of colour, black entrepreneurs face even more hurdles while running their businesses.” said Kayla Isabelle, Executive Director of the Innovators and Entrepreneurs Foundation and CEO of Startup Canada. “It has been our privilege to learn more about the vital work being done by so many all across Canada.”

Individual Black Entrepreneur semi-finalist profile videos will roll out from tomorrow, June 15 – June 24 in the following order

Meet the 2021 Black Entrepreneur of the Year Finalists:

Simi Olatunji
Co-Founder, Youth Forward Toronto (YFT)
16 June 2021
Location: (Toronto, ON)
Black youth are exposed to racism, discrimination, anti-Blackness, violence, food insecurity and poverty – all factors that impact mental health and compromise potential for success. Youth Forward Toronto (YFT) responds by creating spaces, tools and resources to support the Black community, and its Operations and Logistics Director Simi Olatunji is on the front lines making it possible. In addition to giving away Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) in 2020, their meal delivery service paired Black-owned restaurants with families in need in Scarborough, Jane and Finch, and Rexdale. Another of YFT’s initiatives supports Black youth transitioning out of high school through mentorship, skill development and capacity building. The goal is to engage the most vulnerable Black youth who are living in Toronto’s priority neighbourhoods.
Learn more: @youthforwardto

Evelyne Nyairo (Calgary, AB)
Ellie Bianca
17 June 2021
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Ellie Bianca, an all-natural, certified organic skincare line with an ethos to be ‘Kind to Your Skin, Kind to the Earth, Kind to Women,’ was founded by Evelyne Nyairo, a Kenyan Canadian engineer who was deeply inspired by the women, superfoods and biodiversity she saw during her travels to Chad in Central Africa. A single mother, Evelyne put herself through university, earning a Bachelors of Environmental Sciences with a biology and chemistry major and then a Master of Science. She says she built Ellie Bianca to be an example to her daughter of what women are capable of and to help empower other women to succeed. Giving back to her community, she sources ingredients from African women, mentors other entrepreneurs and runs the Ellie Bianca Woman Scholarship for single mothers.
Learn more:

Chúk Odenigbo
Future Ancestors Services Inc.
22 June 2021
Location: Calgary, Alberta
Chúk Odenigbo is an intersectional environmentalist and the Founding Director for Future Ancestors Services Inc., an Indigenous and Black-owned, youth-led professional services social enterprise and startup. With a lens of anti-racism and accountability, it supports clients and community in honouring our responsibilities as future ancestors to shape a just and sustainable future for the next generation. Chúk is also co-founder of The Poison and The Apple, a non-profit that seeks to change the way Canadians interact with nature and a PhD Candidate in Medical Geography. He has recently worked with the City of Iqaluit, Youth Climate Lab, Global Affairs Canada and helped Parks Canada revise their hiring strategy to attract and retain more diverse employees.
Learn more:

Vanessa Fajemisin
Solid State Community Industries
23 June 2021
Location: Surrey, BC
Vanessa Fajemisin is a Co-Director of Solid State Community Industries, a co-op builder that supports its cohorts with training, skill-building, education and employment opportunities. Vanessa is instrumental in running cohorts like a Daily Dose of Blackness, made up of a group of teens producing digital content to draw attention to the experience of Black youth, and Black in School, a cooperative of youth working to erode the basis of white supremacy and anti-Blackness in BC high schools. She also supports a number of other cohorts, including BLAC: the Black Arts Centre. On top of a key leadership role in this full-time job, she is in her final semester of a communications degree from Simon Fraser University, runs her own clothing and design company and writes for VICE and other media publications. Most importantly, Vanessa is a primary caregiver, with her mother, for her live-in grandmother – handling a wide-range of caregiving, cooking, medical and translation tasks. Despite carrying such responsibility, her personality and presence is remarkable: she is upbeat, positive, encouraging and supportive, not to mention a creative and incredibly productive entrepreneur herself. Through her example and leadership, she is building a whole community of young Black entrepreneurs around her. Learn more:

Dr. Liza Egbogah (Dr Liza Shoes)
24 June 2021
Location: Toronto, ON
Dr. Liza Egbogah is a chiropractic doctor, manual osteopath and a leading North American body and posture expert. She is also the founder of dr. Liza shoes, a line of meticulously-designed footwear and posture-friendly bags that guarantee painless all day wear. When she’s not travelling to treat A-list celebrities in Hollywood, Dr. Liza practices at the[fix], her boutique clinic and showroom in Toronto. In 2017, she won Afroglobal’s Science and Technology award, was named one of 150 extraordinary Canadians in 2018 and was named as one of 24 most influential people of African descent in business by the United Nations in 2019. That year, she was also honoured with Women of Inspiration’s Innovator award. Learn more:

About The CANIE Awards:
Click here to learn more.

Celebrating Innovators and Entrepreneurs: 7 Award Categories across Canada with up to $10,000 prizes. Winners will be announced in July and celebrated at a virtual gala we plan for October 2021. #CANIEAwards



Social Copy + Handles

Simi Olatunji: N/A
Chúk Odenigbo: @RoyalChukz ; @ancestorsfuture
Evelyne Nyairo @elliebiancaint 
Vanessa Fajemisin N/A ; @SolidStateCoop
Dr. Liza Egbogah: @DrLiza

Simi Olatunji: @_simsimmma ; podcast @time00ut ;  @youthforwardto 
Chúk Odenigbo: @RoyalChukz ; @ancestorsfuture
Evelyne Nyairo: @elliebiancabeauty
Vanessa Fajemisin 
Dr. Liza Egbogah @drliza

Simi Olatunji N/A
Chúk Odenigbo N/A
Evelyne Nyairo: Ellie Bianca | Facebook
Vanessa Fajemisin N/A ; @SolidStateCoop
Dr. Liza Egbogah

Simi Olatunji ; Youth-Forward-Toronto 
Chúk Odenigbo 
Ellie Bianca Beauty 
Vanessa Fajemisin 
– TV:
– CTV Feature:
Dr. Liza Egbogah



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