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Afro Women and Youth Foundation
The Afro Women and Youth Foundation founded by Seneca student Adebola Adefioye is one of the HELIX ventures that received support from the CIBC Innovators Fund.

Sept. 16, 2020

The CIBC Innovators Fund has extended financial assistance to eight business ventures in the ACCELERATION Strand at HELIX, Seneca’s entrepreneurial incubator, to support them in their work to help Canadians overcome financial and societal barriers.

While it seeks to promote inclusion and diversity in society, the CIBC funding is also a lifeline for these emerging businesses which have been struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic.

“It came when we were experiencing a very challenging time due to COVID-19,” said Adebola Adefioye, founder of Afro Women and Youth Foundation (AWYF) and a student in Seneca’s Honours Bachelor of Child Development degree program.

AWYF’s mission is to empower, mentor and provide leadership development programs to immigrants, refugees and other vulnerable women and youth of African origin. Ms. Adefioye said the grant helped AWYF offer mental health supports to African refugees living in a Toronto shelter. These included an online self-care event, outdoor yoga exercises and information sessions on positive parenting and positioning black people for scholarships in Canada.

“The CIBC support has enabled AWYF to provide a space for women and youth to express their concerns, receive direct support and followup referrals,” she said.

In a nod to the fund’s objectives, Jeff Pledger, CEO of cyber security firm Cyber AI, says he is committed to having a diverse team, at least 20 per cent of which will comprise people with disabilities.

“My commitment is a demonstration of how diversity can pull innovation and creative thinking from all members of society,” said Mr. Pledger, a student of Seneca’s Project Management – Information Technology graduate certificate program.

Kisha Bolton’s venture, Kiss These Feet, caters to women looking for hard-to-find fashion footwear in larger sizes. A student in the Honours Bachelor of Commerce – International Business Management degree program, Ms. Bolton says the CIBC grant is extremely important to her as an entrepreneur and a woman of colour.

“It means a lot that CIBC believes in my vision and would invest in me,” she said. “We are helping Canadians overcome their challenges with body image. CIBC’s generosity, support and confidence in me is greatly appreciated and I look forward to the day when I can support emerging businesses just like CIBC did for me.”

CIBC’s contribution to support new ventures is one of the ways it is demonstrating leadership in promoting inclusion and diversity.

“We value the uniqueness that each and every person brings to the table,” said Jackie Goldman, Seneca graduate and Senior Vice-President, Total Rewards, CIBC.

CIBC Innovators Fund recipients

  • Afro Women and Youth Foundation (AWYF): A non-profit organization committed to leadership development, empowerment and mentoring of African refugee women, girls and youth in Toronto.
  • CyberAI: A leader in the global fintech cyber security industry, CyberAI is committed to a diverse team, at least 20 per cent of which will comprise people with disabilities.
  • EMERGE: A patient-centric mobile application that aims to improve information flow between patients and healthcare providers.
  • EZBeanz: Connects international students with educational institutions, payment platforms and other services to make it easier and faster for them to settle overseas.
  • Infralum: Designs high-precision, rugged instruments and machinery to be used in infrastructure projects to measure environmental and geotechnical parameters.
  • InnScience: A marketplace that allows organizations and researchers to post or to find research and development projects worldwide.
  • Kiss These Feet: An online shoe boutique for women with shoe sizes 9-14.
  • Nexus Health: Provides digital access in the form of a QR code wristband to a secure and shareable database of personal patient data.