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Audace au Féminin plans networking events, runs a mentorship program and develops educational programming.Supplied

The idea for Audace au Féminin, Dorothy Rhau’s non-profit organization focused on the empowerment of Black Quebecois women, was first sparked in 2016. Rhau went to her local drugstore in Montreal to pick up some foundation, but the person behind the makeup counter told her there was nothing that would work for her skin tone.

“I was so surprised, because the drugstore was located in an area where a lot of Black people lived,” she says.

A stand-up comedian at the time, she began thinking about how rarely she saw anyone who looked like her on TV; and even more importantly, how often the issues that affected Black women were ignored on the news or in other media.

Uplifting Black women entrepreneurs

Rhau decided to plan an event that would allow her to connect Black women’s businesses with Black consumers (think: Brown Diva Dolls, a line of diverse toys, and Humanet, which offers anti-bias training for businesses), as well as have speakers who would talk about issues that affect them most, from work to health to racism. It’d also help them connect with one another.

The first Salon International de la Femme Noire (International Fair of Black Women) was held in 2018 – and it was a resounding success. It attracted 1,000 attendees, who provided great feedback, sharing just how necessary it was. However, Rhau quickly realized that an annual event wasn’t enough. She shifted her organization’s focus to uplift Black women entrepreneurs.

While the organization has only existed for six years, it has already made a profound impact. Today, aided by project director Daisherling Cadet, as well as a team of more than a dozen Black women, Audace au Féminin plans networking events, runs a mentorship program and develops educational programming that covers everything from how to find small business funding to what you need to do to land an appointment on a board of directors.

According to a 2024 QuickBooks study, seven in 10 Black business owners in Canada feel their businesses are judged more critically than others; and that “pressure is threatening the momentum behind Black entrepreneurship.” However, thanks to Audace au Féminin, that is changing.

It’s worked with Réseau des Femmes d’Affaires du Québec, a provincial business women’s network, Evol (formerly Femmessor), a commercial loan company, and more. Both of these organizations provide support and funding to female entrepreneurs, but for years, the majority of their beneficiaries were white women. When Femmessor was evolving into Evol, it included an updated mandate to specifically target businesses with diverse founders, as well as a name change that reflected its new focus. Audace au Féminin consulted on its strategy.

“The previous CEO [of Evol] told me that what it has become today is because of Audace au Féminin. We opened up their minds to diversity,” Rhau says. “Because of our existence here in Quebec, we have seen a shift to more inclusion.”

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Dorothy Rhau's organization has only existed for six years, yet it has already made a profound impact.Supplied

Making money, making moves

Of course, all this work depends on cash flow – and that’s where QuickBooks comes in, Cadet says.

“When you are a small business, you need to know exactly how much money you’re working with, you need to know what’s going out, what’s coming in,” she says. “Some people think non-profit organizations cannot make money, but that’s false. A non-profit organization has to make money so they can provide new projects and new services. Using QuickBooks helped us understand where we’re spending, but also what our cash flow looks like.”

And they’re thinking big for the future. Next, the organization is looking to expand its influence outside of Montreal by hosting events in 10 more regions across the province. And Rhau has her eye on the rest of the country, too.

One way they’ll be testing the national market – and making a difference in Black women’s well-being – is an upcoming fundraising campaign. It will run in partnership with the Interdisciplinary Centre for Black Health, Mount Sinai and Dr. Juliet Daniel at McMaster University, who studies triple negative breast cancers, which are most prevalent in young Black and Hispanic women. The campaign’s goal is to raise enough money to fund Dr. Daniel’s work for three years, and to raise awareness about the importance of early cancer screenings for Black and racialized women.

“We want to make sure to show that we are our collective strength,” Rhau says.

Behind every small business is a ‘big why’ – the reason they started their company in the first place and what motivates them to keep going, even when times get tough. Intuit QuickBooks is proud to support Canadian small businesses through every step of their journey and is pleased to celebrate companies doing remarkable things in this “Small Business, Big Why” series. Are you a Canadian business fuelled by passion and purpose? Share your business’s ‘big why’ on Instagram and TikTok using #SmallBizBigWhy for a chance to be featured by Intuit QuickBooks.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with QuickBooks. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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