“Impact at the community level doesn’t happen overnight.” says Ngozi Blessing OTTI, co-founder and executive director of the African Community Investment Co-operative of Canada (ACICC). “We’ve been doing this since 2013 and it’s now 2016. It has taken time, but we’re getting to the point now where we can see results.”
Ngozi tells us about one ACICC member who just graduated from university with a commerce degree. “She had an idea to add African prints to conventional North American fashion designs. She didn’t know how to do that, but through our incubator, she is remodeling jeans with African prints and has a place here for display and sale.” Another member used to have a sewing business in Liberia. “When we started the co-op, she moved in to display her products and build her client base,” says Ngozi “Now she’s one of the potential trainers and getting more orders than ever!”
ACICC is an asset-based social enterprise that creates economic opportunities for people with economic barriers, with a focus on immigrants, women and seniors. The ACICC team combines small business incubation with skill development to reduce procurement, operational and management costs as well as other socio-cultural barriers to business development.
Ngozi notes that sometimes members don’t have the business or language skills needed. The co-op provides a safe place to learn those skills; supporting members in acquiring relevant certification and licenses needed to operate a business or secure employment. “It’s a way to give people opportunities in their industry; it’s giving them a chance to try for a couple of months or years to gain confidence and learn skills before committing to business registration and pursuing financing.”
ACICC hosts a variety of micro-businesses including a café and catering services, recipe and food product development, arts and crafts, and hair making and designing. Their team provides training in sewing, food handling, jewelry-making, bag-making, quilting, embroidery, and aquaponics food production.
The aquaponics food production component of the incubator is particularly exciting. “We are working with Dalhousie College of Agriculture to conduct research on non-traditional fruits and vegetables such as okro, egg-plant, hot pepper, Jamaican thyme, tiger nuts, white potatoes, among others. The use and efficiency of the aquaponics system is one of the ways being researched for growing non-traditional fruits and vegetables to reduce food insecurity among immigrant populations.” says Ngozi. “The farming and agribusiness component of the incubator focuses on growing ethnic and non-traditional fruits and vegetables commonly consumed by immigrants. The co-op hopes to go through the process of acquiring land and finding farmers who are experienced in growing these non-traditional fruits and vegetables, since the process of buying farmland here is not easy for them.”
For ACICC, being Buy Social certified is an opportunity to showcase the work they’re doing and reach customers who value businesses and products that not only generate revenue, but help build prosperous communities.
As their slogan says: Believe in community, grow together.
To learn more about ACICC visit acicc.ca or to contact, send the team an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn more about Buy Social here: buysocialcanada.ca