Getting a successful business off the ground is hard, but systemic obstacles make it even harder for Canadians who are Black, Indigenous or People of Colour (BIPOC). With the help of TD Bank, Toronto-based Hxouse is helping artists and entrepreneurs of colour through its newly created incubator for Black-Owned businesses, Black Hxouse. Ahmed Ismail, co-founder of Hxouse, and Al Ramsay, AVP at TD Wealth, speak with Kim Parlee about how we can level the playing field for BIPOC businesses.
Ahmed Ismail is one of the co-founders of HXOUSE and BLACK HXOUSE, and Al Ramsay is an associate vice president at TD Wealth and one of the heads of diversity inclusion initiatives. Welcome to both of you. Ahmed, I want to start with you. HXOUSE started back in 2018 when you launched it, and a few months ago you launched a separate program, BLACK HXOUSE. Why did you do that? Tell me a bit about it.
So HXOUSE was launched in 2018 with the issues facing the creative economy in Canada, where our biggest export was people at the time. We were mad as Canadians who had to leave abroad. We seen so much great talent that was wasted or gone to the benefit of the US markets and the global market. So we wanted to do something. And we were able to accomplish, in our first two years, significant impact in at least the understanding that there is a home for entrepreneurs in Canada.
And doing BLACK HXOUSE was something that was in our initial plans, but it was something that we wanted to methodically roll out and think about. And as early as October of last year, we started to realize that as much as the challenges exist for all entrepreneurs in the BIPOC communities, there's just no voice for you even to pursue opportunities because it's just stagnant amounts of barriers that you don't see in other traditional views. So I think as early as October of last year, we started having conversations with TD and other stakeholders, but the one that's really strongly resonated with this project was TD in supporting us. And I think it was necessary for us to open a separate pillar as three Black co-founders from Canada to support BIPOC people who have the same story as us and relate to us.
I want to get more into what it is and what it's actually doing. But Al, before I do, I just want to bring you in the conversations, too. Why do you think it's important to have-- or why is TD excited to be part of this?
Thanks, Kim. Quite simply, the Black community is an important part of our customer base. And so this makes good business sense. It's a great way, our partnership, to serve our customer better, to connect authentically with the community at large, but it also gives us an opportunity to hire and attract the best and brightest talent. And as you can tell, a couple months ago, our CEO, Bharat Masrani, came out with a strong statement about our commitment to diversity and inclusion. That yes, while we've made a ton of progress, we need to do more, especially supporting the Black community, and in an accelerated fashion. So this partnership with BLACK HXOUSE is really going to help us move that conversation and our support as we support the Black community.
Can we talk about the struggles that Black entrepreneurs or BIPOC entrepreneurs face? Ahmed, maybe you could just tell us a bit about some of what you faced in creating what you created, and you create an awful lot.
Thank you, I appreciate that. I mean, as an entrepreneur and somebody who co-founded HXOUSE, in my own private affairs as a marketing agent and building businesses and startups, I learned quickly that capital and access to capital is a non-factor. If you look at majority of entrepreneurs in the BIPOC community, they don't think of venture capital as an opportunity. They don't think of loans as an opportunity because for the longest time, the quietest secret was, banking while Black is a real thing. People knew that you would go to the bank and you would get triple-checked or questioned for everything, so you just knew who your allies were. And most of the time, financial instruments and institutions didn't really support a community that was reflective of the growing Canada.
Great. I mean, 100%. And it's so interesting to understand, really understand the core issues here. Al, I think some people would be understand-- would be surprised, I should say-- to understand that you've had your own obstacles, as well, when you were coming through and rising up the ranks of TD.
Oh, yes. For sure, Kim. So I was hired in a bank back in 2005, and first of all, this support for the Black community has been a long-standing history, but you're right, as an executive who identifies both as gay and Black, both my identities, I had to really stand tall in this space. And first of all, it was for me, first of all, to accept myself, but I believe TD, to be honest, was on the forefront because they gave me a platform to not only be my authentic self, but they hired me to go out in the community, in the Black community and other diverse communities, to build our brand authentically.
And we got some backlash, Kim, to be honest, in early days when we did some initiatives, especially in the LGBT community. So personally, to see our evolution, and now with this partnership, this major partnership which is going to make real change in our community, as Ahmed mentioned. In terms of us delivering the TD Bank, I am just proud that this is one of the-- our support as we evolve to make real impactful change in the Black community.
Let me ask, final question, Ahmed. I mean, one of the things that helps makes change is when that change is funded, to your point. And I mentioned the $221 million being earmarked for Black entrepreneurs in Canada. How is that going to make a difference? What needs to happen for that to make a difference?
Make no mistake, the government wants to get this right. And in consultations with myself and majority of leaders in the Black community, there's a lot of different stake to the relationship that they're trying to establish, because this is an opportunity. This is something that we see other communities get lending of support and opportunities. So the Canadian government will be able to-- not punish other Canadian members of society who are not being participants in this, but they're also now living up to their mandate that they've always said, which is supporting a new group of, a new class of, economic entrepreneurs and people who want to create employment as founders, as CEOs, as executives. I hire all communities, not just BIPOC.
So we want to put ourselves in a position where the society in Canada as a whole grows, and really the world's watching us.
That's awesome. And you know what, Ahmed? Your excitement is completely infectious, and we are so excited about what you're doing. Al, I'm going to give you the last word on this, because I think one thing that's important in all this is that people will hear announcements and think it's an overnight success. And as you both know, you've been rolling up your sleeves on this stuff for a really long time. So Al, your final thoughts?
You know, as Ahmed said, I love your passion. This is-- I love where the conversation is going now inside in general as a Black person, and really looking at how can we make a real impact and change. Now it's action time. And I think this partnership will definitely allow TD Bank to deliver the whole bank to our community. From a customer, serving them better as I mentioned before, but also, it's a great way for us to collaborate with our community at large and to hire the best and brightest talent in our community. So we're excited to partner with BLACK HXOUSE to see as we evolve our partnership. So I'm excited, Kim.
Thanks so much. Ahmed, Al, it's so great to talk to both of you. Best of luck, and we look forward to hearing about all the great things that are going to be coming. We look forward to having you.