Incubating Cultural Diversity One Meal At A Time
The Entrepreneurial Journey of Sankara Online Multicultural Marketplace to Improve Cultural Diversity in Canada Experience
In This Episode
With over 200 countries and territories in the world and even more distinct cultures that make up each one, we have a near endless amount of cultural experiences powering our world. Diversity brings strength and understanding into communities that helps to break down prejudice and discrimination. Individuals who are building social enterprises that help level the playing field and promote people’s talent from different cultural backgrounds should be celebrated and highlighted. Today’s guests, the co-founders of Sankara Online Multicultural Marketplace, Lily Lynch and Chinweotito (Otito) Atansi, are individuals we want to celebrate and highlight.
Lily and Otito’s business serves as an incubator of cultural diversity growth in every community they add to their marketplace. These two co-founders represent everything about the entrepreneurial mindset. They started with an idea and have pivoted to make that idea possible. Even when they’ve hit walls and heard the word No, they’ve stepped back and found another path. Throughout their business journey, they’ve remained true to their goal of helping vendors from every background connect with people who want to understand more about a culture through enjoying a meal.
Listen in to this episode to get inspired and learn more about challenges being faced in communities in Canada. Then head over to https://www.sankaracuisine.com/ and order yourself a meal!
First 10 Minutes
Dave and Greg are hungry today, and they’re ready to explore different cuisine. We are happy to have the co-founders of Sankara Online Multicultural Marketplace. The co-founders, Lily Lynch and Chinweotito (Otito) Atansi join us to explain how they started their business to help cuisines from different cultures represented in Saint John and Canada. They talk us through the various paths they followed to make this business a reality, from planning a restaurant with different cuisines, a possible food truck, and ultimately landing on an online marketplace for connecting people with chefs in their local area who represents different cultures. Otito explains how even though they were unsuccessful in securing funding from a pitch competition, it showed them an opportunity in taking their efforts to an online space and mobile application.
10 Minutes – 20 Minutes
We hear how powerful their business is in helping people represent their culture through food in communities that may have no other person from that culture sharing their experience. Greg asks about some of the challenges they identify, such as access to a kitchen for fulfilling orders. Otito explains how they identify and work with existing licensed kitchens to negotiate an affordable rate for chefs to use the kitchen when they go to a new city. If they solve the issue once, it solves it for many people. Another effort that Sankara works to achieve is getting more awareness for chefs in the communities, so everyone is aware of the talent that exists.
20 Minutes – 30 Minutes
Dave asks about what some of the barriers that their chefs are facing. Lily shares the barriers like getting the correct licenses, timing to finish orders, cultural barriers in Canada and prejudices that suppliers might face. Otito explains the challenges around maintaining professionalism and the importance of the cultural experience when working with 3rd party services like delivery drivers. They also face challenges if the chefs get overwhelmed with the orders that are coming in. Finally, the group talks about future entrepreneurial ideas.
Co-founder, Sankara Online Multicultural Marketplace
I believe there is no better tool to building the compassion required to address the problems in our modern world than cross-cultural empathy. I am a woman of a White mother, Black and Mi’kmaq father and a direct descendant of Black Loyalists. As a multiracial individual, I am passionate about creating experiences and public commemorations centred around BIPOC history and culture. In February 2020, the month after the passing of my paternal grandfather, I organized the inaugural raising of the Pan-African flag in New Brunswick to commemorate Black History Month. In 2021, the Pan-African flag-raising was expanded to impact and engage communities across New Brunswick.
I am drawn towards creating opportunities for the community to participate in cultural appreciation, to provoke deeper questions of one another and to build cross-cultural empathy. So far these interests and values have been met with open arms in the communities I work within. Our company, Sankara, allows me to actively express these values onto our wider community and witness them reach back excitedly for more.
Our social enterprise, Sankara, is built of these passions and values. Sankara is a social enterprise which runs an online multicultural marketplace (www.sankaracuisine.com) to buy and sell authentic cultural cuisines, grocery, arts and crafts by local cultural vendors. We’re a collective of independent cultural chefs, restaurants, grocers, and artisans who plant roots in our communities by sharing our culture. We’re on a mission to build more culturally empathetic communities by making products by diverse vendors more accessible and more celebrated.
Our marketplace bridges cultural gaps and allows people from different cultural backgrounds to experience each other’s worlds. We work with BIPOC-identifying vendors to build their capacity and increase awareness and sales of their products and services. Some of our past offline community-building initiatives include events like two dozen pop-up restaurants featuring our partner Chefs, art installations, travel storytelling evenings, and Chef-led cooking classes.
We’re a Black, Indigenous, Immigrant and Woman-owned mission-driven company who are unapologetic and bold.
Chinweotito (Otito) Atansi
Co-founder, Sankara Online Multicultural Marketplace