Black History Month Kerin John

How one Toronto woman gave Black owned businesses a boost

First of its kind store supporting Black owned business is expanding for Black History Month.

Feb 1, 2023

It’s a great feeling to see your dream become a reality.

And that’s exactly what Kerin John is doing.

John came up with an idea for a business in 2020 and ran with it.

She wanted to promote locally owned Black businesses and help them sell their products.

Like most young people, she kicked things off on social media.

Her company, BlackOwnedTO, started with just a few followers and a couple products. It now has more than 70,000 followers, a website and a brick and mortar store.

And it’s that online popularity that led to the idea for a pop-up shop. What was only supposed to be a few months has become more than a year and a half and counting at Scarborough Town Centre.

“I feel really proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish,” says John.

“It’s particularly important to reflect on what this business means to the community during Black History Month.”

Customers come from all over the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area to pick up things like skin care products, children’s books and Jamaican spices. Almost exclusively sourced from Ontario-based Black owned businesses.

While most people drive to Scarborough Town Centre, how people get to her store is going to change.

Last month, the tunnelling began for the Scarborough Subway Extension that will extend the existing TTC Line 2 Subway from Kennedy to Sheppard. With stops at Lawrence, Scarborough Town Centre, and Sheppard.

The extension will replace Line 3 (the Scarborough RT), helping to reduce travel times and improve access to jobs, schools and other key destinations throughout the city.

While taking the TTC was part of her childhood, John is looking forward to using the subway extension herself and giving her customers an easier method of transit to visit her shop.

“I’m excited to see more transit getting built, especially for the people of Scarborough,” said John.

“I know a lot of my customers rely on transit every day.”

Black History Month Kerin John

Kerin John outside her flagship store at Scarborough Town Centre. (Metrolinx photo)

Black History Month

While Canadian Black pioneers are less known, John says people like Viola Desmond and Jean Augustine deserve equal credit to their American counterparts.

John says Black History Month inspires her because of all the people that have paved the way for her to succeed.

And that success has allowed her to expand her business in time for Black History Month this year.

Her second Black Owned TO store is set to open this month at Square One mall in Mississauga – which is also being connected to the expanding transit network.

The Hazel McCallion Line is currently under construction along Hurontario Street and will help residents get to Square One more easily.

by Scott Money Metrolinx editorial content manager