Talking change with Ashleigh Montague for Black History Month

By Somer Slobodian and Piers Giffin

Photo By Sheridan Alumni

Sheridan College hosted Ashleigh Montague for their first of three Coffee Chats for Black History Month on February 3rd. The Coffee Chats are a series of three 30-minute sessions interviewing Sheridan Alumni about imagining futures and creating positive change within their communities. 

“In everything that I do, I try to find a way to give back to the community,” said Montague. 

The Coffee Chat with Montague was nothing short of inspiring. Sheridan student, Ganyo Soh, interviewed Montague who was accompanied by her younger sister and business partner, Abygail.  

Montague is a young entrepreneur within the Hamilton area. Her enthusiasm was felt through the screen during her interview with Soh. With a focus on the future, diversity, and positivity, Soh chatted with the sisters about their business, Blk Owned

The Montague sisters, Ashleigh, Abygail and Alexandria founded Blk Owned in Hamilton in June 2020. The inspiration for it came the same day as the online movement, Black Out Tuesday. Instead of posting a black square, they wanted to create a platform that displayed and supported local, Black-owned businesses.  

“So, our other sister Alex started asking her Instagram Black businesses that we can support instead of just posting a black square,” said Abygail Montague. 

The sisters wanted to make a difference, and that’s exactly what they have done. They have no intention of stopping though. 

Blk Owned focuses on helping the communities within the Greater Hamilton Area (GHA). It is a way for Black-owned businesses to gain recognition. The sisters help support them through online and in-person pop-up markets, workshops, courses and networking.  

They saw immense success at their first pop-up market this past August at Pier 8. The event was so successful, many vendors sold out of products. One vendor, the Glowing Garden, even secured her products in a local storefront. 

“Girl on the Wing loved the Glowing Garden products and brought her glowing garden and products into her storefront,” said Montague. 

After being backed by the Social Impact Catalyst powered by RBC Future Launch, which is run by EDGE, Sheridan’s entrepreneurial hub, they were able to reach a wider audience. They now have over 200 BIOPOC-owned businesses in their directory. 

“So being exposed to the EDGE community, we applied to this program. And because it was their future launch program, there was a $2,000 grant that was given,” says Montague. “And that $2,000 grant came a long way in helping us because we were able to afford giving an honorarium to our social media team who has helped us achieve the growth.” 

Blk Owned started with just an idea, dedication, and a hunger for change. The sisters prove that if you put your mind to something, you can achieve it.  

There are many ways Sheridan Students can become future changemakers in their communities too. 

“It’s about finding what means something to you, and then taking the steps to make those changes,” says Montague. 

Being a changemaker does not mean you need to create a global impact. Montague says it could start within your home. What matters is taking the step to create a change.  

Blk Owned has some exciting things coming up in 2022, including an 8-week boot camp for young entrepreneurs. They have also recently launched their BLK History Month gift boxes.  

Sheridan’s Coffee Chat with Ashleigh Montague was just the first of 3. This week on February 10th, Sierra Johnson will be speaking with Shantay Parsons. On February 16th, Tristan Pinnock will be speaking with Tredel Lambert

Infographic By Piers Giffin

We look forward to sitting down and chatting over coffee with more inspiring Sheridan Alumni.