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Celebrating Canada's 2SLGBTQI+ Communities

10 Black Queer-Owned Canadian Businesses To Support

Show these brands, businesses and queerpreneurs some love…

By Jumol Royes
Brought to you by Fido
Click here to read this article in French/Cliquez ici pour lire l’article en français

Can you name a homegrown brand or business in your community that’s Black and queer-owned and -operated? If names don’t roll easily off the tongue, it’s not because these businesses don’t exist. They just rarely receive the recognition they rightly deserve.

To be clear: ground-breaking initiatives like the 15 Percent Pledge, which calls on major Canadian retailers to grow their share of BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) brands to at least 15 per cent, and Black Designers of Canada, the first-ever comprehensive Canadian index celebrating Black excellence in design, should be applauded for their work. But they aren’t Black and LGBTQ2+ specific. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a guide to help you discover businesses at the intersection of Black and queer without having to go searching for them?

You asked, we answered. We’ve compiled a list of 10 Black queer-owned businesses across Canada. From fashion labels to patty shops, there’s something for everyone. One caveat: this list is by no means exhaustive. It’s a starting point. So bookmark their websites and show these brands, businesses and queerpreneurs some love.

L’Uomo Strano
This very-queer, Toronto-based fashion brand is on a mission to “create affirming wardrobes for gender-nonconforming folx and their allies.” Founded by Mic. Carter, a non-binary Black designer, the brand’s ethos is grounded in social justice, and many of the pieces can be shopped online or rented short-term (be sure to check out the colourful and queerful creations featured in their Spring/Summer 2022 collection). Word on the street is that Hollywood Jade and Vivek Shraya are super fans.

Toni Marlow
Toni Marlow bills itself as more than just an underwear brand. It’s an innovative, gender-inclusive undergarment company founded in 2015 by Jaymin (Jalisa) Luces-Mendes, a Black queer entrepreneur. Products are produced locally in Toronto and include T.O.M. (time of month) period boxer briefs, Packer Boxers, and Boy Shorts designed for women, trans men and non-binary people. Toni Marlow donates $1 from each product sold to Friends of Ruby in support of suicide of prevention and awareness.

Queeriosity is an LGBTQ2+ social card game that “taps into the fun, the wholesome and the wild parts of the queer experience.” Black and trans created, owned and operated by Eli Holtz and Kai Jospeh, two BFFs from Toronto, Queeriosity is all-inclusive and questions can be personalized to make them more relatable to individual players. The game includes 110 cards covering six categories to play with friends or dates, in person or over Zoom. The goal? Creating meaningful connections with other queer people.

Little Rainbow Paper Co.
If you’re looking for a little something extra to brighten your day, look no further than the Little Rainbow Paper Co. This Black-owned LGBTQ2+ stationary brand based in Calgary carries queer and quirky greeting cards, enamel pins and novelty goods for everyone, with a commitment to serving the LGBTQ2+ community. The owner-operator, illustrator and artist Heather Hansler, strives to “reflect, affirm and celebrate all the ways we humans know how to live, love and be.” Giving back is baked into the brand’s philosophy: one per cent of each purchase is donated to organizations supporting LGBTQ2+ folks and Black women.

Elbo Patties
Who doesn’t love a good patty? In Vancouver, Elbo Patties is the perfect pit stop to fuel up and get your patty fix. Their handcrafted Jamaican patties are available for pickup and special events in a baker’s dozen or 50/50 dozen box with fillings like wild mushroom, jerk chicken, spicy beef, vegan spicy beef and garden chili. Coco bread, chutneys and sauces are also on the menu. Owner and culinary master Christopher Boreland, a.k.a. “Your Fav Auntie,” is a queer Black man serving queer Black joy one tasty bite at a time.

Goodee is a curated marketplace where good design meets good purpose, offering sustainable housewares and lifestyle products for better living. It was founded by Montreal-based twins Byron and Dexter Peart, two designer brothers who know what it takes to build a global brand (see Want Les Essentiels de la Vie). Bestsellers on their e-commerce platform include the Canopy Self Watering Planter crafted from recycled glass. The Peart brothers live in the same building, one designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie – Dexter with his wife and two daughters, and Byron with his husband – proving that good design is a family affair.

Michelle Osbourne & Co.
Quebec City
Michelle Osbourne may have many titles, but your average CEO is not one of them. The communications specialist, multi-disciplined educator, change agent and content creator is the principal of Michelle Osbourne & Co., a boutique communications consulting studio that helps marginalized communities build socially conscious brands. She’s also the creative director of Project Femme Noire, a photo series that celebrates women of colour in Quebec City. Osbourne is a queer Black woman and proud parent who champions diversity, equity and inclusion all day, every day.

Gloria C. Swain
If art has the power to change hearts and minds, Gloria C. Swain is making the world a better place one piece of art at a time. A multidisciplinary artist, activist and mental health advocate, Swain (more affectionately known as Auntie Gloria) uses her artwork to challenge systemic oppression against Black women and trans folks. Her art has been exhibited across Canada, including Toronto, Montreal and Manitoba. When she’s not busy creating art or facilitating arts-based workshops for marginalized communities, you can find Swain dropping it like it’s hot on the dance floor at local queer events.

Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance
For many young BIPOC members of Toronto’s LGBTQ2+ community, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom alliance is their chosen family. The alliance is a group for queer youth who embrace ballroom culture, and its mission is to “provide LGBT+POC (People of Colour) youth with opportunities and activities that build positive relationships, strengthen the community-at-large and develop their self-esteem and confidence.” Co-founded by Twysted Miyake-Mugler, a gay Black man and one of the biggest names in Canada’s vogue ballroom scene, the Toronto Kiki Ballroom Alliance creates a safe space for youth to show up and show out as their authentic selves.

Franyz Hair & Aesthetic
Frances Dadin-Alli knows a thing or two about hair. She’s a passionate and professional hairstylist and the owner of Franyz Hair & Aesthetic in Halifax, specializing in Afro-textured hair. But this busy entrepreneur and self-described alpha femme lesbian has more than one business in her portfolio: she’s also the owner of Franyz Nigerian Cuisine and Franyz Entertainment. Dadin-Alli immigrated to Canada from Nigeria in 2010 to pursue post-secondary studies at Dalhousie University, and last year, she was elected chair of the Halifax Pride board of directors. Here’s to Black queer girl magic.

JUMOL ROYES is a Toronto-area storyteller, communications strategist and glass-half-full kinda guy. He writes about compassion, community, identity and belonging. His guilty pleasure is watching the Real Housewives. Follow him on Twitter @Jumol and on Instagram @jumolroyes.

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