Black businesses can benefit from federal contracting opportunities

Dark-skinned hands working on a computer.

A diverse economy is a strong economy. Canada’s prosperity depends on ensuring all Canadians have the tools to build their businesses, including access to federal contracting opportunities.

Procurement Assistance Canada, as part of Public Services and Procurement Canada (PSPC), provides education and guidance to Canadian businesses, including those owned or led by underrepresented groups, in order to help them navigate the federal procurement process.

Through its 6 regional offices across the country, Procurement Assistance Canada is working closely with Black entrepreneurs and business organizations to support the community.

Working with entrepreneurs

After completing law school and spending a decade building a career in the public sector, Ottawa-based Mante Molepo launched a consulting business that provides advice on diversity, equality and inclusion (DEI) to senior leaders in a range of organizations. “There is a focus on recruitment from underrepresented groups, but the structures for them to succeed aren’t always in place,” she says. “I offer advisory services and a 3-phase program to advance DEI at the governance level.”

One of Molepo’s clients is the Government of Canada, as she has won a number of federal contracts. Discussing the benefits of the services provided by Procurement Assistance Canada, she says: “They were incredibly helpful for me in the beginning. I learned a lot from the seminars and workshops I attended, such as how to register as a supplier and where to get more information.” She found further support in her one-on-one discussions with Procurement Assistance Canada staff. “That’s where you can ask questions more specific to your business, which is important.”

Securing federal contracts has allowed Molepo to strengthen her business on several levels. “It’s helped me build my corporate profile, expand my reach and gain insight into the direction and policy decisions of the government, which is knowledge that I can bring back to my other clients.”

Based on her positive experiences, she encourages Black entrepreneurs to take advantage of Procurement Assistance Canada’s services. “The federal government spends billions a year on goods and services, which it buys from all kinds of businesses. Yet, small business owners, especially in underrepresented groups, often feel like we can’t pursue these opportunities, that they’re not feasible for us or because we don’t know how, but there is excellent help available.”

Molepo acknowledges that there are still barriers to participation for small businesses like hers. Federal procurement is complex, and business owners or leaders from underrepresented groups may not have access to the same networks and resources as other entrepreneurs. Nevertheless, there is value in developing a partnership between these businesses and the federal government.

“There are amazing Black businesses that have so much to offer and would benefit immensely from having the chance to bid on federal contracting opportunities. Any time there’s an opportunity for Black businesses to participate in federal procurement, it’s mutually beneficial.”

Working with Black business associations

Garrett Johnson is with the Black Business Association of British Columbia (BBABC), whose mission is to help Black entrepreneurs find pathways to success. Procurement Assistance Canada has delivered a series of workshops and seminars to BBABC staff and members.

“They’ve opened my eyes, as a Business Development Advisor in close contact with our members, to the government’s procurement process,” says Johnson. This is key, as many BBABC members initially prefer to work with his organization. “They’re more comfortable going to people they have a relationship with, like me, and who understand their circumstances and the barriers they face.”

Johnson and the BBABC leadership can direct members to federal contracting opportunities and the services provided by Procurement Assistance Canada. “It’s a great door to open for people, because there are clearly defined steps that businesses can follow and an interest within Procurement Assistance Canada to see them succeed.” There are also opportunities for two-way dialogue about federal procurement, he notes, so BBABC members can share their feedback.

Procurement Assistance Canada is helping organizations like the BBABC promote economic growth for their members and community. “In that way, our values align well,” says Johnson.

Strengthening support for Black businesses

Through engagement and pilot programs, PSPC is exploring ways to provide Black businesses with more access to federal contracting opportunities. PSPC has also developed a Supplier Diversity Action Plan, which outlines concrete measures to increase the participation of many underrepresented groups in federal procurement. A number of other federal initiatives, such as the Black Entrepreneurship Program, focus on supporting Black-owned and led businesses.

For its part, Procurement Assistance Canada has strengthened its collaboration with Black business associations, such as the Rise Up Pitch Competition for Black women entrepreneurs and the BBABC, to reach more members of the community interested in becoming federal suppliers.

There is also a new coaching service for business owners and leaders from underrepresented groups who have had limited success competing for federal contracts. Eligible participants are offered an introductory meeting and 3 personalized sessions with an expert coach. To learn more, consult Increasing supplier diversity with a new coaching service for businesses.

For more information on selling to the Government of Canada, check out the video Procurement Assistance Canada: Helping you with federal procurement, or visit CanadaBuys: Getting Started. You can find more articles about PSPC people and projects on Our stories.

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