Where passion meets purpose: a deep dive into Bow Valley College’s Black Entrepreneur Project led by Bunmi Obateru
Bunmi Obateru is a researcher at Bow Valley College who is making waves in the community and was recently recognized by the Immigrant Champions of Canada for her work with Black immigrants. Bunmi started her journey at Bow Valley College in 2018 as an instructor at the Chiu School of Business. She came to the College with a strong post-secondary background and experience in participatory research with Alberta’s newcomer populations. Considering her passion for research and education, Bunmi was excited when Bow Valley College’s President and CEO, Dr. Misheck Mwaba, shared his vision about the importance of applied research in the College community.
“I was inspired to keep an eye out for opportunities to contribute to the vision. When the federal government established the $200 million Black Entrepreneur Program to help Canadian Black entrepreneurs equitably grow and operate their businesses, I saw this as an opportunity for Bow Valley College to become involved in applied research, so I proposed the initiative,” Bunmi says. This led to her current role as Lead Researcher of Bow Valley College’s Black Entrepreneur Project.
The Black Entrepreneur Project is an initiative that uses student-supervised applied research to drive social innovation. Bunmi aims to use research to connect Bow Valley College to larger communities and industries. “Research suggests that up to 70% of Alberta's Black population are immigrants; and that they import a diversity of entrepreneurial skill, education, and business experience,” Bunmi says. “The goal of this initiative is to investigate the barriers immigrants face and create impactful real-life solutions which are measurable and sustainable.”
Supported by the leadership and expertise of Dean Alison Anderson and Special Advisor Tanya MacDonald, the Black Entrepreneur Project has identified its academic focus: entrepreneurship in the immigrant Black community. Bunmi has recently completed several grant-funding activities: The 3-year $360,000 College-Community Social Innovation Fund (NSERC-CCSIF), the $15,000 MITACS Accelerate fund, and up to $100,000 with the Calgary Foundation Community Grants Fund.
When asked about the impact she hopes to make with her research, Bumni highlights the real-life opportunities the Black Entrepreneur Project provides for Bow Valley College students. “It’s an opportunity for our learners to apply course-based knowledge to help entrepreneurs in real-time; within the context of intersectionality, social justice, and social innovation,” she says. “BVC provides an equitable space where an increasing number of entrepreneurs from marginalized communities can build capacity. The new research generated can inform the equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives within the Alberta innovation ecosystem.”
Bunmi describes being recognized by the Immigrant Champions of Canada as a humbling experience. “I acknowledge the dedicated team of BVC professionals whom I have worked with on this journey. The award inspires me to continue to find ways to make a meaningful difference.”