Looking to Support Black-Owned Calgary Businesses? Check Out This Instagram Account

Shenda Chimwaso’s account @blackowned.yyc is spreading the word on Black-owned shops, brands and services in Calgary.

L-R: Sphere Optometry photograph by @mjay.photography; Designs by Arewami photograph by @meaghan.baxter.photo; Minty World. All photographs courtesy of Shenda Chimwaso.

Shenda Chimwaso is the woman behind @blackowned.yyc, an Instagram account launched last month to help spread the word on Black-owned businesses in Calgary. As a photographer — you can find her work here — she knows that entrepreneurship comes with challenges. With @blackowned.yyc, she’s providing free marketing and visibility to dozens (and counting) of local Black-owned businesses.

“I wanted to start my account because I wanted to create a platform that would make it easier for other people to find Black-owned businesses, whether it’s other Black people or allies,” Chimwaso says. “I was hearing from many people that they’ve been wanting to support Black-owned businesses, but they never knew where to find them or how to find them, because you can’t necessarily go on Google and search ‘Black-owned hair store’ or ‘Black-owned makeup artists.'”

 

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She made her first post on June 2 of this year and has made more than 100 since. She has covered shops, brands and services of all different kinds, such as Sphere Optometry, the fashions of Designs by Arewami and jewellery-maker Minty World (all pictured above in lead image). More than 4,500 people are following along so far.

“I’ve been hearing from many peers that they’re glad that this page was made because now they can find these businesses, and a lot of businesses they didn’t even know existed — and neither did I, actually,” says Chimwaso. “I’m shocked with the amount of businesses that are out there and the range and variety that there are. Seeing how fast it has grown has really showed me that this was something that was needed in the community.”

Chimwaso was originally accepting requests to be featured via Instagram direct messages, but is now switching to a form-submission system to help manage the massive volume of inquiries she receives. There were roughly 50 submissions in the queue at the time of our interview, and that’s with Chimwaso spending two to four hours working on @blackowned.yyc every single day.

 

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Getting a bump in sales is just the beginning for some of the businesses Chimwaso has featured, especially those without storefronts of their own. “There are some people who want to be picked up and put in stores,” she says. “And I’ve been hearing from a lot of people who also want to be in markets.”

As far as markets are concerned, Chimwaso is exploring a collaboration with Calgary’s Black Owned Market (which had its inaugural event on July 18) for later this year. She’s also looking at building a website-based directory for businesses and customers who aren’t active on Instagram. You can follow @blackowned.yyc for updates.

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