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Forerunner Friday: Meet Clinton and Carolyn Hosannah, Investors in BKR Capital


Clinton Hosannah and Carolyn Hosannah  – BKR Capital Investors

(Photo of Clinton Hosannah courtesy of Clinton Hosannah / Photo of Carolyn Hosannah courtesy of Intertek)


 

Carolyn Hosannah and Clinton Hosannah are a couple with a whole lot on the go.

He’s a former broadcast journalist turned financial entrepreneur. She works in regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry and holds a masters’ degree from Johns Hopkins. Prior to the pandemic, it wasn’t uncommon for Carolyn to make regular business trips across North America and Europe. Clinton, meanwhile, often worked late nights, sometimes not arriving home until 9 p.m.


They also, by the way, have five children — two of whom are still living at home!

Carolyn and Clinton first met in 1988, back when they were both teenage students. Though they went to different schools, they both happened to be on the campus of Weston Collegiate — Clinton was visiting with friends on campus, skipping his classes at De Lasalle, and Carolyn was walking back to her school, C.R. Marchant, on her way home from lunch.

Clinton was sitting on the bleachers with friends when he saw Carolyn making her way across the field, and he decided to take his chances and make his way over to her for an introduction.

They spoke for just a few minutes that first day — neither remembers what they chatted about — but it was the beginning of a 13-year friendship that had them bonding over a shared love of hip hop and rap music and the burgeoning club scene of Toronto, meeting up over the years at music venues like the Twilight Zone, Cave, The Concert Hall, and Inner City, where they once went on a double date — just friends — in the early 1990s.

By the year 2000, Clinton had decided to take another type of risk, and declare his feelings to Carolyn. He went over to her house — he describes it as an “out of the blue” meeting — to let it be known that he wanted to try taking their relationship to the next level. He laid his cards out on the table upfront so that there would be no confusion about why he’d knocked on her door that day.

Happily, Carolyn was receptive, and they were married just a few years later in 2004.

Over the years, the two have taken on other kinds of risk, like when Clinton, at the peak of his broadcast career and fresh off an award-winning investigative piece at City News, got an offer to work freelance with a new company, LM Credit. He helped them with business plans, pitches, and marketing strategies, and after about a year, they asked him to come on board full-time.

Naturally, he spoke to Carolyn about the offer. She asked him if he was sure he wanted to leave journalism — he loved it, after all, and had many friends and connections in the space that he valued highly. Yet something about the opportunity at LM seemed to call to him — he knew he would have decision-making power and the opportunity to shape something from the ground up. Together, they decided he would take the leap. Clinton was employee #3. Today, they’re at 27 employees and growing.

“And we’re just scratching the surface,” Clinton says. “When we started, we were lending in three provinces and now we’re Canada-wide. We see it growing to other products, financing for vehicles, boats, vacations.”

Carolyn says she’s glad he followed his heart. For her part, she has risen steadily within the pharmaceutical regulatory space, taking on meetings with the FDA and working with major companies like Pfizer and Amgen to get new drugs approved for the market.

Clinton credits journalism mentors like Dwight Drummond, Fennella Bruce, Merrella Fernandez, and JoJo Chintoh for getting him his start. He had worked as an intern for 18 months before securing his first full-time role. He is grateful to the Black journalists who came before him who offered him a leg up and gave him opportunities to shine in the large Toronto market, whereas most of his j-school peers needed to leave and come back if they wanted to break through.

Of course, it is more challenging for Black journalists — as it is more challenging for Black entrepreneurs — to break through the barriers of entrenched systemic racism.

“It happens to this day,” Clinton says. “In the newsroom at City News, there might be 50 people, and only three or four would be Black.”

Carolyn agrees: “In regulatory affairs, there are times I’m the only black person in the department. Nowadays, I think more black people are starting to break through and get senior roles. I’ve seen a few more black people in higher roles in the U.S.”

So things are changing, albeit slowly, for the better. Both Carolyn and Clinton say it’s extremely important to them to be able to give back and be part of the historic investment at BKR Capital.

“At the end of the day,” Clinton says, “if we can have any kind of influence over someone’s growth and they turn around and do something amazing, some kind of breakthrough tech, that would be awesome. And any part I can play in making that a reality is great.”

We didn’t have Black History Month when I was younger, growing up in Canada,” Carolyn says. “There wasn’t much focus on the accomplishments of Black people, so it’s only been in my adult life that I’ve started to understand all of those contributions.”

She feels it could be more than a month, perhaps a course in school and a part of the yearlong curriculum, so that an understanding of Black accomplishments could be more widespread. And with education, Carolyn says, people hopefully would not think of themselves as different to anyone else.

Clinton agrees.

“We often forget all the things Black people have contributed to advance our society,” he says. “The three-light stoplight: a black person invented that. So it’s almost ridiculous to think black people are not bankable. We are not only definitely bankable, but a good bet.”

He continues, “It is good to be part of bringing that trend to let Black people be bankable. Especially in Canada. There’s this widespread idea that Canada is not plagued by the same issues as America is as far as holding Black people back. But it is. But being here in Canada since I was two years old, I believe that this is the greatest country in the world, and it’s time that we show it."