Diversity and inclusion– do you know the difference?
Two of the co-founders of Black Owned Businesses Manitoba, Francine Bahati and Odette Bahati Bueckert, are speaking out to help make that distinction.
“When I look around I find the majority of workplaces have diversity, because diversity has always been there. But I think we really need to tackle inclusion diversity,” said Francine. “A person of colour may be sitting at the table, but they need to be a part of the decision making, not just at the table.”
Black Owned Manitoba is a business directory which was launched this past June and highlights, promotes and celebrates black owned businesses, professionals, and creatives in Manitoba. The goal of Black Owned Manitoba is to empower the black community to pursue entrepreneurship and build sustainable wealth that can be passed onto the next generation.
Aside from Black Owned Manitoba, Francine and Odette are business owners themselves. Francine is the owner and founder of Queenfidence Cosmetics by Francine B which is an all-inclusive black-owned beauty brand which sells cruelty free and vegan makeup. Odette is the founder of Timely Staging & Design which provides professional home staging and design services in Winnipeg, MB and surrounding areas.
At a young age, the sisters were forced to flee their small town in Democratic Republic of Congo due to the civil war. They migrated to Winnipeg in December of 2012 after living in Uganda as refugees for 10 years.
Since coming to Winnipeg, Francine and Odette began to notice the lack of diversity within the community they live and work in.
“I found myself going to a lot of tradeshows and as a black business owner there were oftentimes I would find that I was the only black person on the floor,” said Francine. “I knew something was not right. Either there was some blockage somewhere or people don’t know about these opportunities.”
This year, the Black Lives Matter movement has been at the forefront. The tragic death of George Floyd shone a light on the racial inequalities within our society. It was at that moment, Francine and Odette knew a change had to be made– and fast.
“When the black lives matter movement was in the media earlier this year, I realized that many people were tagging black owned businesses on social media and then I started asking myself is tagging really enough? Are you just tagging or you going and supporting these businesses?” said Francine. “I knew there had to be a tangible change or action that has to be sustainable for the black community in the long run. That’s when I called my sister, Odette and we started Black Owned Manitoba. We started it to empower and highlight the black community, businesses and professionals in our province.”
Francine and Odette knew there needed to be action behind these movements. They also knew there needed to be an easier way for people to be able to put action behind their words.
“We wanted to create a space where it is easy to find and search for black owned businesses and black professionals. We wanted to give these businesses and professionals a voice,” said Odette
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted small businesses in our province and around the world in a big way. They need our support now more than ever before.
“It’s hard right now, every small business is struggling. We want people to support all small businesses,” said Francine. “It isn’t about just supporting black owned businesses all the time, but it is important to integrate them into your routine. Our platform makes it easy to do that.”
As businesses, we need to reflect the community we serve. When there are seats around the table for individuals with different voices, life experiences and insights – we become better organizations, with even better global insights and understanding. But where do we start?
“We live in a diverse country and we need that to reflect in our organizations,” said Francine. “If the business community embraces diversity and inclusivity you’re building up the next generation where everyone feels like they matter. That change has to start now.”
We all have to start somewhere and now is the time to make that change! Francine and Odette will be joining us on November 19th for our Virtual Membership Luncheon titled: How Your Business can Support Diversity and Inclusivity.
“We are excited to share with The Chamber members how they can start to make that change,” said Odette. “They are going to be hearing from real people– real entrepreneurs, real black people that have lived it.”