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Empowering Canadian Entrepreneurs: The Impact of Pizza Hut’s Equal Slice Program

Partnership between Initiative for a Competitive Inner City and Pizza Hut Canada makes a difference for small business owners from underrepresented communities across Canada

October 18, 2023

In 2023, Inner City Capital Connections (ICCC), ICIC’s signature program for small business owners in the mid-stage of their growth, is thrilled to mark its third return to Canada, made possible by the generous support and partnership of our lead sponsor, Pizza Hut Canada, as part of YUM’s Unlocking Opportunity Initiative. The program provides free education, mentorship, and grants to small business owners from underrepresented communities across Canada. At the heart of this initiative is the Equal Slice Program, a pivotal component offering participants the opportunity to vie for one of five $20,000 CAD grants designed to fuel the growth and scalability of their businesses.

“Pizza Hut exists on a foundation of entrepreneurship, built on our franchise network, with each restaurant compiled of a diverse and varied team of employees,” said Pizza Hut Canada General Manager Lauren Leahy. “At Pizza Hut, we believe we can achieve a system of fair and equal slices in life, for everyone. That’s why we’ve partnered with Initiative for a Competitive Inner City to give entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds a chance to make their dreams a reality. Our new Equal Slice Program provides underrepresented small business owners with access to capital, coaching, and capability-building education at no cost. Pizza Hut is committed to providing financial grants, educational tools, and support to these exceptional individuals across Canada. Through this program we are committed to supporting growth of underrepresented entrepreneurs in our communities and providing everyone an equal slice of opportunity.”

This year, we’re delighted to present two Canada Cohorts—one conducted virtually and the other in-person in Toronto, ON. The in-person Opening Seminar for the ICCC Toronto Equal Slice Cohort will be held on Tuesday, November 7th, 2023.  The virtual Opening Seminar for the ICCC Canada National Equal Slice Cohort will be held on Tuesday, October 17th & Thursday, October 19th, 2023. It’s not too late to join the program! Learn more here:

Program Impact: Empowering Growth and Resilience

Equal Slice has provided a combined $200,000 in grants to small business owners since its inception, helping them build capacity for sustainable growth and resiliency. The nation is home to 98 ICCC alumni, and since their participation in our programs, have achieved an outstanding average growth of 112% in revenue and collectively raised an impressive $170,000 in additional capital. This success underscores the impactful outcomes of the ICCC program, and the vital role played by Pizza Hut Canada in supporting the growth and resilience of small businesses across the country.

Steve Grossman, CEO of ICIC, shares his perspective on the impact of the program:
“At ICIC, our commitment is to empower entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities, and partnerships like the one with Pizza Hut Canada exemplify the transformative impact we can achieve. The Equal Slice Program goes beyond financial support; it provides a pathway for these entrepreneurs to access education, mentorship, and resources, fostering a thriving ecosystem of empowered business leaders. This collaborative effort embodies our shared vision for inclusive economic growth and community empowerment.”

Grant Recipients

Explore the stories of the 2022 grant winners and the transformative impact of this program.

  • Carolyn Simon, Choose Life Foods– Toronto, ON
    Choose Life Foods is the home of plant-based Caribbean Goodness. It is a woman-owned food business that produces delicious vegan Jamaican Patties made with quality ingredients. Its mission is to fill a void in the food industry: create nutritious plant-based alternatives to the Caribbean’s most beloved dishes that can be enjoyed by all, regardless of dietary requirements.

“The Equal Slice Program was a great opportunity to connect with small business owners and share experiences with each other. The courses challenged me to re-evaluate my business model and growth plans as Choose Life Foods continues to expand its presence across the country.”

  • Tique Chandler, Chandler Honey– Toronto, ON
    Chandler Honey offers a collection of organic raw honey sourced from her family farm in the small town of Scandia, Alberta and lovingly hand-infused with whole ingredients such as lemon zest and vanilla beans in Toronto. The result is creamy, white prairie honey available in unique flavours like Crème Brûlée, Lemon & Ginger, Earl Grey, and more.

“Equal Slice helped me slow down and look at the big picture, and it introduced me to some really, really impressive speakers. The education I received helped me see my business in new ways and equipped me with tools to continue to increase my sales and growth.”

  • Dodie Ellenbogen, County Bounty Artisanal Soda Co.– Toronto, ON
    Specializing in unique and delicious farm-to-glass sodas made in Nappanee, Ontario, Country Bounty Artisanal Soda Co. derives its ingredients from locally grown Ontario fruits with up to 50 per cent less sugar than other leading brands. They are sweetened with fair trade cane sugar, contain all-natural preservative or no preservative, and are gluten-free and vegan.

“I really enjoyed the time to work on my business rather than in my business. My key takeaways from the Equal Slice Program were to think more about my business structure and culture. We plan to use the funds to aid in our cash flow and help us buy more local fruit from local farms and grow our local economy.”

  • Susan Keast, Resources Ink– Toronto, ON
    Susan Keast is a self-employed human resource leader and CHRL (Certified Human Resource Professional) based in Muskoka, Ontario. At Resources Ink, she leads a team of HR specialists to help companies find the most qualified candidates to take their business to the next level, while providing job seekers with resources and support in finding their next ideal position.

“The Equal Slice Program was amazing. The grant money enabled me to expand my business to more rural markets and hire an additional co-op student, allowing me to serve my customers more cost effectively. The support, education and connections I gained throughout the Equal Slice Program have supported me in strategically building the business.”

  • Danielle Murrell Cox, Zuri & Dre– Montreal, QC
    Danielle Murrell Cox, author of My Hair, was inspired to create faces that would showcase people who looked like her and the people around her. Zuri & Dre is a women-owned and operated business out of Montreal, Quebec. With a goal of celebrating uniqueness and diversifying toy boxes, Zuri & Dre & their friends, are available in plush dolls & accessories.

“I’m a team of one, so it was really helpful to access the education component of the Equal Slice Program. The valuable insights and support I received, along with the grant money, will help me expand my vision of plush dolls that celebrate uniqueness in all forms.”

In the journey of empowering Canadian entrepreneurs, the Equal Slice Program partnership with ICCC stands as a catalyst for opportunity, where Pizza Hut Canada’s commitment resonates in the success stories and transformative impact on small businesses nationwide.


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