Black ownership has been a hurdle in foreign countries for many decades. We’ve historically struggled to own land. We’ve worked to hold and strive in our own communities. We’ve even fought to be seen as Canadians. However, these hurdles have never crushed Black people’s resilience. Through strife, we’ve always strived for excellence. We’re starting to be heard as we stand on the shoulders of giants that fought before us. Black-Canadian progress can be seen with the new Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund. This 221 million dollars Canadian government-backed fund is dedicated to giving Black-Canadian businesses up to $250,000 in funding. This is fitting since a new generation of Black owners is starting to emerge. 10 at 10 sat down with YYC’s latest Black business owner, Shiri Ateam, the CEO of Melanated Roots. Melanated Roots is a natural hair care and skincare line.
What inspired you to start your business?
I’ve always been an entrepreneur at heart; being young, I remember me and my brother would go out & sell flowers for money. At 16, I was running my own shop on Instagram, re-selling my unwanted clothes. Looking back in retrospect, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. I just strayed away from it while I was in school and after I graduate, trying to figure out my life. The main reason why I started my business this time around was after losing my only stream of income due to COVID-19. I had to get back into the hustler mentality and thought to myself, “What can I sell that I know I use & people in my community would love?” That’s when I came up with starting a natural hair care & skincare line and just haven’t stopped since. I launched my business with 3 products, 2 hair oils and 1 body butter; now I have 5 products & were just expanding and expanding as God reveals to me what’s next, I execute.
What are your aspirations when it comes to your business?
Expand, grow and be the next biggest thing in natural skincare and haircare. I see my business globally helping those with hair growth problems and skincare issues around the world. I want to make an impact on my people, instill confidence in them and let them see that it’s possible! Anything is possible.
What is it like to own a Black-owned business?
I love it; it’s empowering. I wasn’t dealt the best cards in life, but I can only thank God for the mind and passion he has put into me. Coming from where I come from, everyone’s idea of success is going to school, getting a degree, then getting a job. Going against what my family wanted me to do and embarking on this journey of entrepreneurship is empowering. It has its challenges at times, like lack of resources, but God always makes a way for me, so I can’t complain. I can only keep going forward.
Have you heard of the Black Entrepreneurship Loan Fund, and how do you feel about it?
I have heard of it, but the people who have started that fund haven’t really been vocal on how they will be distributing this fund. I wish them nothing but the best and hope to see and hear from those who started the fund.
Do you feel that Canada or Calgary is supporting you as a Black business owner?
I feel as though I am being supported by people in my community, my family, friends and my amazing customers who have found me online. I am grateful to everyone who has ever supported me because they are pushing me to the next level.
Many of Calgary’s mayoral candidates’ campaigns focus on building up small businesses while ignoring BIPOC issues. Since you’re at the intersection of Blackness and business ownership, how do you feel about this?
I’m not surprised. Most of the candidates aren’t people of colour, so their main focus wouldn’t really be on people of colour. What I feel is necessary for us to do as BIPOC is to support each other and get involved, make sure our voices are heard and try to get in positions of power to make a change. We can’t depend on someone that has never experienced anything we have experienced to understand our struggles. They never will get it, and they don’t have to because they’re not us, and they will never be us. If we want our voice heard, we have to come together and demand it, but until then, I don’t really depend on mayoral candidates to make a change for us. The change has to start with us; we must demand it.
Many of Black-Canadians are ready to demand for change now. As Black Canada’s culture shifts, there is only room for advancement. Current advancements happening locally. Melanated Roots is teaming up with Braids by Akur. Now when you get your braids done by Akur, you can get your scalped oiled with Melanated Roots products. Melanated Roots products can also be bought from Akur herself.