Lily Lynch, co-founder of Saint John-based online multicultural marketplace Sankara, is one of 18 women recognized by the BMO Celebrating Women Grant.

Nationally, nearly a thousand women business owners applied for the grant that recognizes a company’s contributions to social, environmental and/or economic sustainability.

"Building a startup can be an isolating experience, being recognized by BMO alongside other powerful female entrepreneurs for the impact of our work is motivating and encouraging,” said Lynch in a statement.

Sankara’s pan-Atlantic platform represents around 25 different countries through partnerships with vendors across the region. The platform enables the buying and selling of authentic cultural cuisines, groceries, arts and crafts. Throughout the pandemic, their chef-created Meal Boxes have supplied international flavours to clients’ doors.

The venture began four years ago and Lynch’s technical co-founder Chinweotito Atansi and his team are currently finishing the 2.0 version of their platform. The majority of their partner vendors are BIPOC women and they are a big source of motivation, the founders said. 

A few months ago, Sankara was one of 100 winners of the Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses awards, run by the DMZ, a startup incubator at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

The 15-week DMZ program offers participants intensive mentorship and coaching and $10,000 in grant money. The program is designed to provide BIPOC entrepreneurs with the tools, resources, and the community to thrive.