Ontario-based group supports Black businesses, pushes for diversity

Ontario-based group supports Black businesses, pushes for diversity

An Ontario organization is working to create support systems for African American businesses and to close the racial wealth gap.

As a former executive with the McDonald’s corporation, Reggie Webb recognized that 20% of Black McDonald’s franchisees were successful. Webb worked to ensure that opportunities to own a franchise in prime locations were equitable and that franchisees from underrepresented communities had the support they needed. However, Webb believed he could do more to support entrepreneurship in the Black community.

Founded in 2016, Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement was launched as Webb’s answer to helping African Americans achieve financial independence across all sectors. The cooperative believes that through education, investments, and support for African American professionals and entrepreneurs, it can improve economic outcomes for the community.

The cooperative became a family affair. Today, his son Kyle Webb, CFO of Webb Family Enterprises, also works as CEO of the cooperative. Under his leadership, the cooperative is working to achieve parity, which to Webb means that business opportunities and success mirror the diversity of the region’s population.

Some of the Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement and its Coalition for Cultural Change nonprofit teams are seen at the Power Leadership and Achievement training in November 2021. From left are: Pastor George Lamb, Judy White, Kalleah Clerkley, Lisha Smith and Ron Brown. (Courtesy of Cooperative Economic Empowerment Movement)

A membership organization, one of the cooperative’s primary focuses is convening. The organization creates a space where the community can come together and agree on the issues it wants to champion and craft its own solutions. Rather than leading, the cooperative is built to facilitate, listen and help provide resources to tackle these challenges.

The organization also provides educational opportunities for members. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperative offered a webinar series. Topics included real estate investment, starting a business and how women can be seen and heard in entrepreneurial spaces. The organization also encourages members to support the African American-owned businesses in its network so that all can rise together.

“We’ve created CEEM to build power and build wealth in the African American community,” Kyle Webb said. “It’s a test project. If we can create a model that creates commutable wealth, then quality of life improves across the entire community.”

The cooperative has also launched a Start Up Studio to help build new Black-led businesses that are member owned. Its first company is CEEM Interactive. CEEM Interactive is a cognitive training and development company specializing in education, art and gaming experiences. CEEM Interactive hired a CEO from its community and is working to create its first product.

A main request of organization members has been to teach youth career pathways. LevelUp, a multi-faceted board game that highlights career exploration and financial literacy, is the first product from CEEM Interactive.

“We need more solutions like this and more people to help build them,” Webb said. “We want to be the rising tide that lifts all boats.”

Recently, the cooperative received a grant from the IE Black Equity Fund through the Inland Empire Community Foundation to support its work convening the community. The organization’s biggest achievement, Webb said, has been creating a space where leadership can come together and align on what is needed. The organization can then connect with stakeholders and legislators who can address the needs highlighted by members.

The cooperative welcomes new members, who can join as an individual or business for $100. While the organization focuses on supporting, educating and investing in Black entrepreneurs, membership is open to all who support its mission. Members have a voice and a vote in the cooperative’s economic initiatives and have access to funding, training opportunities and its consulting services.

“As a not-for-profit, we want participation from our current and future members,” Webb said. “We are listening and want to execute on their behalf.”

Information: 833-OUR-CEEM or https://www.ceem.coop/

Inland Empire Community Foundation works to strengthen Inland Southern California through philanthropy.

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