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OBAMA TRAILBLAZERS Natteal Battiste Alfred Burgesson GEEK SPEAK To create or not to create FEATURE Turbocharging Young Leaders into a Future of Excellent Leadership

Elevate your impact. Achieve your purpose. Start your career here. Sobey School of Business at Saint Mary’s University is the right choice to help you start, or continue, your journey. Our students pursue their passions and achieve goals, from building a local start up to climbing the ranks of international business.

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Black to Business is the official periodical of The Black Business Initiative Its goal is to support the BBI as it fosters a dynamic and vibrant Black presence within the Nova Scotia Business Community. For advertising information, rates, submitting story ideas, notices or community events, and for more information, call: 902-426-8683 Publisher: The Black Business Initiative Editor in Chief: S.I. Rustum Southwell Managing Editor: Sharon Ishimwe Sales Manager: Patty Baxter Creative Director: Jamie Playfair Art Director: Mike Cugno Graphic Designer: Barbara Raymont

Contents SUMMER 2020

Message from the Board of Directors


Message from the CEO




TRAILBLAZERS: Representation in Politics Natteal Battiste


Alfred Burgussen




Nzingha Millar – Courage Communications



Gaynete Jones – G.A.M.E. Changing Industries 14 Nicholas Stoddard – Antimatter Labs and Dart Frog Events


FEATURES Turbocharging Young Leaders into a Future of Excellent Leadership


Geek Speak


Production Coordinator: Paige Sawler

Entrepreneur Tool Kit – Opportunities during the COVID-19 Crisis 20

Cover Photography: Contributed


The Black Business Initiative Centennial Building Suite 910, 1660 Hollis Street, Halifax, Nova Scotia B3J 1V7 Phone: 902.426.8683 Fax: 902.426.8699 Toll Free: 1.888.664.9333 E-mail:

A New Normal Isn’t What We Need


Partner Showcase


Meet the Staff / Meet the Board


BIJ Report – Winter 2020


Ask the BBI


Regional Report


Training Report




On the cover:

Black to Business WINTER 2020 / Issue 70



Summer 2020

Photography contributed

BBI News

Message from the Board of Directors I don’t think that I would be lying when I say that these past few months have been challenging for Nova Scotia. For businesses, community members, and families. We have endured hardships that our country, let alone province has never seen before - with COVID-19, the tragic events that began in Portapique NS, and losing two members of the Canadian Armed Forces. These past few months have collectively tried our province, but if there is one thing that I know about Nova Scotia, it is our resilience and our ability to press on.

by; and churches look different via recorded services or live streamed sermons. However, I feel a great sense of community and support with how our province has come together to uplift small businesses. The economy is starting to re-open and Nova Scotians are ready to patronize small businesses again. As my team and I have begun booking work, we’re actually busier than this time last year! I see people coming together to support local Black-owned businesses. Throughout COVID-19, small businesses have almost come to a standstill. Rustum and his team have been diligently working remotely to the best of their abilities to support entrepreneurs through this time. BBI has been constantly updating and providing resources to the community, business-owners, and the board members. BBI has been imperative to educating the community on the provincial and federal programs for those affected by COVID-19.

In recent news, with Black Lives Matter trending on social media platforms, I reminisce on November’s “Conversation with Barack Obama” event hosted by the Nova Scotia Cooperative Council. A historic moment in which the 44th President took to the stage to inspire Nova Scotia. Being able to attend this event and meet Barack Obama was second to none! With over 3,000 youth in attendance, it was a helpful reminder to the community and to our youth to pursue their dreams. Barack Obama engaged the youth by speaking to them about his experience and not knowing what he wanted to be until after the age of 30. He spoke about continuing education and always learning. We’re thankful that Future Leaders Champion, Stewart McKelvey and BBI’s charitable youth component, Business Is Jammin’ (BIJ) are helping youth realize their potential, pursue post-secondary education, and become the future leaders.

Moving forward, safety is the priority as we begin to mobilize. We’re about to discover what the new normal is, which is a testament to the ever shifting tides. I’ve noticed how we do business differently; we should take this experience and apply our learnings to how we can better support our employees, our customers, and our communities. On the horizon, BBI is gearing up for our Annual General Meeting, which due to COVID-19, has been postponed until September. We remain focused on supporting entrepreneurs, especially as we begin to re-open our doors. We will continue to strive towards positively impacting the community and capacity building for African Nova Scotians. Finally, I want to thank our care service providers and those essential workers who had to risk their and their families’ safety to continue serving Nova Scotians. We are all grateful.

Since March, COVID-19 has drastically changed the way that we approach business, education, and community. Being a small business operator, I think we are all used to engaging with customers and potential clients in a certain way. The handshakes, the conversations, being personable - I miss that. The coronavirus has affected every aspect of life; not being able to see my immediate family members even though they are close



Carlo Simmons, Chair


Summer 2020

Message from the CEO Just last month, we got the sad news of the passing of inventor, businessman, entrepreneur, and loving father, Dana Emerson. He was the quintessential entrepreneur and a very hard worker. I recall in the very first issue of Black to Business magazine in Spring 1997, how coy he was about his invention. He would later on become one of our early investments. He traveled with us on the first Boston Trade Mission. He was a seasoned business owner having dabbled in the flooring and carpeting retail market, before what became his innovative venture.

From May 2019 when Dianne Kelderman and her team at Nova Scotia Cooperative Council asked us to be part of planning President Obama’s visit, to the night of the event in November, we were on cloud nine. One of the major highlights of the night was Candace Thomas of Stewart McKelvey’s remarkably touching welcome message from the African Nova Scotian community. We were made proud. It is difficult to believe that we are now all held captive by COVID-19. This is a health crisis that will change every single aspect of life. It’s not unrealistic to say that the world has changed, never to go back to what it was a mere three or four months ago. Before the pandemic, black businesses were already continuously working at a deficit. Struggling to find ways to overcome decades of systematic marginalization and inequality while adopting the new technology needed to survive in the digital age. We were starting to gain some traction among newer and younger entrepreneurs, but, collectively, we had not broken through.

The title of the article was ‘Dana Emerson’s Bright Idea’. Interestingly, by the time we went to press, he had not divulged what the idea was. Danna had developed an innovative solution to a major environmental hazard in the workplace. His product christened as the ‘Bulb Eater’ was an environmentally safe way to dispose of fluorescent bulbs and remove the inert gases. He continued to innovate and modify it over the years.

Black voices are generally excluded from business and economic conversations that define the future of our economy and industries. We are just not invited to the table. Even so, COVID-19 has raised a mirror in front of the face of government and industries to reflect on the damage that is done to vulnerable communities rendering us defenceless at such a time.

We have lost a very good businessman and member of our community. Our condolences go out to his wife Debra and family.

Black communities are undervalued. Our companies are overrepresented in the service and construction sectors. “Mom and Pop”, a term of endearment that recognizes the doggedness and regality in owning a business, is rarely applied to blackowned businesses. Our History has taught us that the most vulnerable are left behind, and a similar pattern will likely occur post COVID-19. Institutional change is inevitable. Because if not now, when?

We had planned to revisit the powerful experience we had when we hosted President Barack Obama last November in this issue of B2B. What we did not anticipate, was that the world would be in the grasp of COVID-19. In late October 2008, we were delegates at a National Minority Supplier Diversity business conference in Las Vegas. We watched with excitement as America elected and celebrated the victory of their first Black President Looking back now, those were the good days. Tiger Woods was on top of the world of Golf and Barack Hussein Obama had been elected President of the United States. These two exceptionally significant achievements certainly gave hope to not only an often marginalized people of African descent, but the entire world.


S.I. Rustum Southwell BBI, Founding and Interim CEO


Summer 2020

A conversation with

Kane on set for Diggstown



Summer 2020

By Feleshia Chandler Photography contributed

proud to represent Stewart McKelvey, Dalhousie University and most importantly, African Nova Scotians. I was also equally overjoyed for the opportunity to give a shout out to one of our local giants, Dr. Senator Donald H. Oliver who has since been appointed to the Order of Canada.”

Nearly 10,000 people gathered at the Scotiabank Centre on the 13th of November, last year for a sold-out event which would go down in Maritime history. The 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama graced the stage of the Scotiabank Centre at 6:30 p.m. for “A Conversation with Barack Obama.”

Candace is a Partner at Stewart McKelvey, who were platinum sponsors, and she chairs the Board of Governors at Dalhousie University, a gold sponsor. She was recently appointed Deputy Minister of Justice and the Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches.

Diane Kelderman, CEO of Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council spearheaded the event as part of the council’s 70th anniversary celebration. “We wanted to do something special and we have had high profile speakers in the past.” But, it was no easy feat getting a former president to visit Halifax, a place some might call an insignificant blip on the map. “There were lots of times along the way when we felt discouraged,” intimates Diane. In the end, their persistence paid off. “Everyone thought it was a class ‘A’ event and I think and hope they were inspired.”

President Obama addressed several topics, including climate change, America - Canada relations as well as Canadian culture, all suggested by sponsors and the community and posed to the President by event moderator, Diane. “He talked a lot about our responsibility as global citizens to be a part of creating change, to be involved and to provide leadership in our communities,” says Diane.

Presenting welcoming remarks was Candace Thomas. “For the four minutes that I was on the stage that evening, I was immensely



Summer 2020

He talked a lot about our responsibility as global citizens to be a part of creating change, to be involved and to provide leadership in our communities.

Prior to President Obama’s talk, there was a pre- show put on by the Black Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, Develop Nova Scotia, and BBI, a platinum sponsor of the event. Titled the Cultural Expressions Showcase, the pre-show featured live local performances, one of which was DRUM, a musical production which tells the story of arrival and settlement in Canada from a First Nation person’s perspective. “Our role in the project was that we were assisting as community navigators helping to put a historical and cultural relevance to President Obama’s visit,” says Executive Director of the Cultural Centre for Nova Scotia, Russell Grosse.



Summer 2020

“To have a person of President Obama’s stature come to this province was of quite the impact and I think it is a true example of the power of diversity and how together as a society, we can support each other and make things happen.” BBI board chair Carlo Simmons also recognizes the impact that President Obama’s visit had on Halifax saying, “President Obama encouraged young people to continue to dream and work hard.” A Conversation with Obama brought together people from all walks of life. In the audience was Quentrel Provo, Founder, Stop the Violence, a community outreach program aimed at ending gun violence. Prior to the

event, Quentrel had been named to the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD), under 40 Global 100 List for his community leadership work. A long-time admirer of President Obama, following not only his presidency in great detail but also other aspects of his life such as his grassroots activism, Quentrel was thrilled when he learned that he would not only attend the event, but he would get a chance to meet the President.

Arguably one of the most influential human beings alive, meeting and greeting President Obama was an unforgettable experience for many. “I got to meet and shake hands with, I believe, the greatest president of our time. A man of intellect and moral character, and whose compassion for people transcends race and all things that divide us. A man whose ascension to the presidency of the United States of America was historic and whose message remains one that unites us,” narrates Candace.

“I was nervous. It’s definitely a moment I’ll never forget. A once in a lifetime moment,” he notes, remembering the nervousness and excitement he felt before meeting President Obama.

At one point during the talk, President Obama addressed the youth directly, 2,000 of whom were gifted tickets through Future Leaders. For Quentrel, ‘you are never too young to start

anything or do anything. You can do it now. Don’t let anything hold you back,’ are some of the President’s words that stuck with him. Filled to capacity, Candace describes the atmosphere at Scotiabank Centre that night as one of “an intimate gathering of friends, to hear President Obama’s take on why we can dare to continue to have hope in the future.” One thing is for certain, A conversation with Barack Obama will be remembered as one of Nova Scotia’s most notable historical and influential high-profile events.

I think everyone thought it was a class ‘A’ event. I think and hope they were inspired. - Diane Kelderman



Summer 2020

Trailblazers: Representation in Politics By Georgina Mbamalu

Natteal Battiste Photography contributed Natteal Batiste was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Growing up African American and Native American, her family instilled a pride in using her voice for both of her cultures. Her interest in working within the community started when she moved to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia. “I was a part of activist spaces such as Idle No More and extracurricular competitions where I represented my reserve in both sports and pageants.” In 2010, Battiste moved to Halifax where she attended Saint Mary’s University and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Psychology. In her final year of school, she started working as an Aboriginal Student Advisor, a role in which she helped her community’s students navigate the ups and downs of university. During this time, she became involved in the Loretta Saunders case. Loretta Saunders was an Indigenous student who was working on a master’s thesis on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. This thesis also included the story of Anna Mae Aquash, Battiste’s grandmother’s best friend. “Loretta had caused a huge, much needed shift at Saint Mary’s that year as hundreds of previously non-identified First Nations students surfaced.” Natteal used this momentum to become a key organizer of the memorial and aided the community in Halifax through talking circles, sacred fires and tobacco ties. Since graduating, Natteal continues to give back to the community. “My full-time job is at RBC where they give me a lot of freedom to directly work in the communities. I understood the importance of basic financial management and the lack of education our communities are faced with, so, I teach everything I learn back to my people.” However, her community outreach doesn’t just stop at work. She spends her evenings and weekends at foster and group homes working as a youth care counselor. She is also the co-founder of the Strive to Reach Association and the Lighthouse Association, two outreach groups that support Black communities in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Their most recent projects include the delivery of over 250 “Do Not Visit” door signs to raise awareness of COVID-19 and encourage Preston residents to stay home and stay safe. “Recently, I have decided to take my passion for community work into the political sphere,” Natteal states. “This fall, I am running in the elections as a Councillor for my reserve, Acadia First Nation. I want to use my entire background and connections to give back to my communities in a meaningful way.” Natteal resides in Dartmouth with her partner, Robert, and new addition to the family, daughter, Nevelynn.



Summer 2020

Alfred Burgesson Photography contributed When Alfred Burgesson was seven years old, he and his family moved from Ghana to Nova Scotia. “We had an understanding as a family that we would not take this opportunity to live in Canada for granted and this continues to fuel my dedication to the work I do.” It was Burgesson’s parents who sparked his interest in community work, something he is known for today. “Growing up, treating people with respect was their (his parents) version of success. My siblings and I were taught that in order to earn respect, you must give it.”

Winnipeg, Toronto, Saint John’s, just to name a few. I know that the connections and relationships I make will last a lifetime.” Voices like Burgesson’s are extremely important when it comes to policies that affect youth and entire communities. When government centers the lived experiences of youth and gives their voices a platform, young people’s issues are reflected in policy making regardless of their ability or socio-economic status. “I am a strong believer that youth need to be leaders today. We must give everyone the opportunities to be leaders right now. This goes for many underrepresented demographics. Youth should not be waiting until they have a degree or years of experience to be given authority or access to decision-makers or influence.”

Living in Halifax, Burgesson is now a community organizer, coach and mentor for young people. This work started with his project, the HFX Collective. Burgesson found himself surrounded by like-minded peers who were driven to create and showcase their skills in digital media production. “We wanted to build a brand and entity that would allow us to engage with our city.” This further inspired Burgesson to create an organization that offers services in youth program development, research and engagement.

Burgesson has continued this work with other government initiatives including the African Nova Scotian Youth Employment Lab, Nova Scotia Aging Well GovLab, and developing youthful engagement strategies with Develop Nova Scotia. Burgesson currently works at the Centre for Employment Innovation out of Saint Frances Xavier University launching the NOW Nova Scotia Young Leaders Initiative. The program will give fifteen diverse youth across Nova Scotia an opportunity to engage with peers in their communities and learn together in a fellowship over a two-year period.

Connections through the HFX Collective introduced Burgesson to attending and supporting other collectives and events in the city including the Halifax Social Network. This helped him build the confidence, trust and credibility needed to apply to the Prime Minister’s Youth Advisory Council.

Outside of work, Burgesson is connected to the community. He supports the youth employment efforts in Halifax through organizations such as ONE North End and ACCE HFX, a collective of young black professionals who self-fund projects locally that support pillars of (A) rts (C)ommunity (C)ulture and (E)conomics. He is also engaged in his local church, All Nations Full Gospel Church. “Our pastor, Ebenezer likes to remind me that it takes a village to raise a child. Halifax has certainly become my village and it is raising me well.” And certainly, Burgesson is helping raise others like him.

Burgesson didn’t get on the council easily. The first time, his application was rejected. By the next round of applications, he had greater experience and knowledge about how he’d be able to make an impact. Council members are from regions across Canada, and reflect a range of educational, employment and life experiences. He was accepted. “As individuals on the council, we provide non-partisan advice to the Prime Minister, Cabinet Ministers, and the Government of Canada on issues of importance to youth and to all Canadians,” he says. “It’s been an amazing experience to engage with youth from Iqaluit, Vancouver, BLACK to BUSINESS


Summer 2020 2019

By Wanda Taylor Photography contributed



From Athlete to Celebrated Entrepreneur When you put together a young go-getter with an entrepreneurial spirit, a mom who loves to cook, and a family who lend their skills to the cause; what you end up with is one very delicious startup. The well-oiled machine behind the company, Smooth Meal Prep, is Co-Founder and CEO, Nevell Provo who is from the community of North Preston, Nova Scotia. The idea was inspired by his mother and Co-Founder, Karen Provo. Karen had been preparing healthy meals for Nevell during his basketball season. To make some extra cash for a trip, she started preparing meals for ten other players, and according to Nevell, “things took off from there.” With some financial support from Blue Water Community Business Development Corporation, a bit of consultation with Saint Mary’s Entrepreneurship Centre, and business plan guidance from the Black Business Initiative, Nevell went from accomplished athlete to entrepreneur. Since launching in 2018, Smooth Meal Prep has served over 18,000 fitness-focused meals to clients across the Halifax Regional Municipality. Nevell’s hard work and entrepreneurial spirit have been recognized across the business community. In 2019, he placed second in the Global Student Entrepreneur Awards, Atlantic. This year, he received the 2020 Family Business Association’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which recognizes and celebrates entrepreneurial innovation and leadership. The visionary entrepreneur was also selected to compete in Canada’s only national student entrepreneur competition, Enactus Canada’s Top 12 Student Entrepreneur Pitch Competition presented by HSBC Bank. The competition empowers the next generation of business leaders, by bringing together young entrepreneurs who compete for a $10,000 grand prize. While Nevell is not quick to admit his successes, he reveals the road hasn’t been easy. As with the launch of any startup, there were risks and challenges. This being his first business venture, Nevell says there was a huge learning curve for him, and he made some rookie mistakes, particularly around regulations and food health certifications. Nonetheless, he was determined so he put in the work and navigated through those challenges until he came out victorious. Working through the challenges gave Nevell a deeper understanding and a greater focus on what he needed to do. He learned that organizational structures and systems were essential to growing a successful business. He also learned the importance of staying on task and building a solid team of people with different skills and abilities that would help to strengthen a business’ operations.

Nevell Provo, Smooth Meal Prep

Nevell Provo Smooth Meal Prep 902-448-MEAL

Nevell has no plans of slowing down and is already strategizing the next steps for his business, post-Covid-19 pandemic. His future plans include expanding and growing his brand beyond Nova Scotia. He is fortunate to have strong emotional support from his family who are also all hands on deck in the business. He gets a lot of motivation from community role models running their own successful businesses. One of his greatest role models is the late Nipsey Hussle, who he says came from a background similar to his own and went on to inspire whole communities through his business and entrepreneurship. To other young people trying to find inspiration, Nevell has a few words of wisdom. “Don’t be afraid to dream. Don’t be afraid to start. We started Smooth Meal Prep in my mom’s kitchen with two people. I was the cook, marketer, delivery guy, accountant, and a lot more. We delivered the food in grocery store bags. A year and a half later, we have a team of 11 employees and have sold over $250,000 worth of food.” BLACK to BUSINESS


Winter 2020


By Georgina Mbamalu


Photography contributed

It Takes Courage Nzingha Millar believes in supporting the strong ecosystem of entrepreneurship in Nova Scotia, especially within Black communities. That’s why she founded Courage Communications, a sole proprietorship designed to meet the public relations needs of changemakers, organizations and businesses that are ready to drive impact in Nova Scotia. “About two years ago, I was working with a group of high school students in Surrey and Burnaby, British Columbia to develop a campaign on the anti-Black racism they faced in their schools,” she says. “It was their willingness, to share their experiences and speak up that demonstrated their courage.” These students inspired Millar to name her company Courage Communications and continue her work with supporting Black communities in Canada. “Operating as a sole proprietorship today is in some ways much easier than in previous years,” she says. “I have access to a network of skilled individuals in design, digital influence, online content creation and more. This allows young business owners like me the flexibility to build a team to suit each project and each client’s needs.” Millar completed her first-degree program in International Development at Dalhousie University. International development students work with complex global structures like government, non-governmental organizations, businesses and corporations to help them communicate. “These bodies have issues talking to one another and working together and there is always need for a link to help them build a shared understanding. Communications work helps make complex structures simpler. We are able to bridge the divide between people and institutions.” Millar’s second degree also added to the already excellent skills she brings to the world of communications. “When I pursued my education in journalism school, I wasn’t interested in becoming a journalist, but, I knew the skills the degree provided for example; how to communicate effectively, how to understand an audience, how to break down information in a way that the public can understand it, would be useful to me in so many ways. In the communications world, public relations is perceived as presenting information in a way that looks like we’re ‘washing the facts’ and I think my background in journalism has taught me how to be authentic in that communication.” Every day, Nova Scotians are sifting and scrolling through messages and stories in newspapers, magazines, television programs, and social media. The constant bombardment of information attempts to influence behaviors and perceptions of businesses, individuals and communities. Courage Communications, through their mission to “impact with dignity, inform with accuracy and inspire with authenticity” promises to cut through the noise and share the messages that positively impact their clients. “Public relations brings people and ideas together allowing innovation to take place. However, you are also going to be in the fire as you’re managing crises and pivoting negative, harmful narratives to highlight and change them to something positive,” she says. “The attention to detail, code of ethics, integrity, and upholding the respect of the people you are working for and the people you are trying to reach takes a lot of commitment. When it gets tough, you can’t pull out. You have to double down. This is what gets your message heard” Millar’s commitment partly comes from her roots in the historic Black communities of Lake Loon and Cherry Brook and spending her formative years in North End Halifax where she received support from the community. It is only natural that she is ready to give that support back. “Courage Communications continues to take on new projects that will help expand its network Canada-wide and internationally,” states Millar confidently. “While growth is inevitable, our values will always stay the same: helping individuals, organizations and businesses connect purposefully with their audience and represent themselves with authenticity.”



Winter 2020

Nzingha Millar, Courage Communications

Nzingha Millar Courage Communications 902-789-9464

By Feleshia Chandler Photography contributed



Tenacity for the Books Born and raised on the 21-square mile island of Bermuda, Gaynete Jones, had what she refers to as “a pretty good” childhood. While other young islanders took to swimming and frolicking on the sandy beaches, Jones found joy in books: particularly those meant to inspire or provide self-help advice. She had always been a tenacious go-getter, but her tenacity became fully realized after an event in 2005 that would change her life forever. While living in Maracaibo, Venezuela, where she was an exchange student, Jones and her host family were held hostage at gunpoint. The men ordered the family to follow instructions, or they would be shot dead. As they proceeded to pat everyone down, for the then 18-year-old Jones, it was as if time froze. She remembers thinking to herself, “What if I don’t survive?” However, her fear quickly turned into determination and she started to think, “I will make it. I have to.” Eventually, the men declared that they would be leaving and warned the family not to move for 20 minutes or call for help, and just like that, they disappeared with the family car, passports, money and computers. Shell shocked and barely able to comprehend what had just happened, Jones knew one thing for sure. “God wasn’t done with me yet.” She also discovered she could handle stress well and that even though fear was paralyzing, it could be controlled. These realizations catapulted her forward into a state of goal chasing. Jones became a teen mom, but even this did not stop her from chasing her goals. She pursued post-secondary education in finance and got a job at a bank. Although she was making a steady income at this time, she also knew she didn’t want to work hard for someone else to reap the benefits. “I realized I’d be trying to climb the corporate ladder to appease others instead of doing what it was that I loved,” she says. In 2015, she was faced with yet another reality check after both her parents became ill. “My parents’ illness reminded me that life was so fragile,” says Jones. “I needed to make an impact. I wanted to wake up every day doing something I loved.” With that in mind and while still working at the bank, she developed a side business offering masterclasses and coaching in business. “I was working full time while running the business. The start was a disaster,” says Jones. It’s been a little over a year since Jones left her bank job. She stresses that sometimes, to do what you love, you have first to do what you don’t love because that may be the only way to earn the money you need to venture into your true passion. While still working at the bank, she wrote her first book, Lucky Code and finished it in under three months. The book, which features self-help advice, went on to become a bestseller, helping her launch more projects.

Gaynete Jones, G.A.M.E. Changing Industries

“A lot of times, people think you have to be the best or the smartest or the richest person before you can succeed, but honestly, it’s the person who doesn’t give up that becomes the richest,” she states. Fast forward to now: Jones is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, founder of G.A.M.E Changing Industries, and creator of Cubicle Ditch Academy. She runs masterclasses, a YouTube channel and hosts a podcast.

Gaynete Jones G.A.M.E. Changing Industries

The Podcast, Freedom Slayer, is one of her most recent endeavors. It is focussed on business and features guests like Dana Corey, an international speaker and business strategist, as well as Ranay Orton, who made one million in Amazon sales in one year. When it comes to starting or maintaining your own business, Jones says, “Ensure that you invest in yourself. Understand that you are unique, your audience is unique and you shouldn’t try to sell to everybody.” Gaynete Jones has come a long way and her advice to other entrepreneurs is to “never give up,” because tenacity and perseverance is what makes a truly successful entrepreneur—and she’s living proof. BLACK to BUSINESS


Winter 2020



Pursuing the Cutting Edge of Technology

By Sharon Ishimwe Photography contributed

Last November, four terrific Black entrepreneurs pitched their businesses at the BBI’s InMotion pitch competition. Their ventures were excellent and their presentations superb. The judges had a difficult task on their hands. Nicholas Stoddard was announced winner. Stoddard is the personification of believing “in the grind”. At just 28 years old, he is the Co-founder of Antimatter Labs and Dart Frog Events. Antimatter Labs is a marketing agency providing a range of services including web design, graphic design and printing. Dart Frog Events is an augmented reality event company creating themed events and renting out photo booths for corporate events, weddings and parties. Stoddard and his partners started both companies in 2018. It is no surprise that Stoddard’s business partners describe him as a “machine.” His ambition and steadfastness are evident not only in business but in all areas of his life. Because he loves what he does, he says, he loves Mondays and he is excited about getting up every morning. It’s been said that necessity is the mother of invention. Stoddard’s entrepreneurship journey can be traced back to his need to buy a slice of pizza when he was in grade 5. The school brought in pizza every Friday and a slice went for $ 3.50. His mom would not give him the money, so he looked for ways to make his own. Someone in his neighborhood was collecting and returning grocery store carts for money. Stoddard wanted in and the gentleman agreed to pay him a dollar for every cart he brought. Before long, Stoddard had recruited his friends and they were bringing several carts each day. The young entrepreneurs were happy with the money they made but their joy was short-lived. Stores started using lock wheel systems that prevented people from taking the carts. “Tech put me out of business,” jokes Stoddard. With both his companies, Stoddard now vows to stay on the cutting edge of technology. In fact, Dart Frog Events hosted Canada’s first augmented reality event. Life hasn’t always been rosy for Stoddard. He grew up in public housing and didn’t have the supports that other children had. But what would have been challenges, he turned into drive for becoming an entrepreneur. “I didn’t want my parents’ lifestyle to be my lifestyle. I didn’t want it for them either.” Stoddard wanted to do more and earn more now and after retirement. “Even after they have retired, entrepreneurs have many young people asking for their advice. That’s the old age I dream of”. One of Stoddard’s greatest joys as an entrepreneur is being able to give back to the community. “Before I became an entrepreneur, I wasn’t donating to any organization. Now, we have donated thousands of dollars,” says Stoddard who coaches kids in soccer every Sunday. Antimatter Labs also offers subsidized rates for non-profit organizations in addition to helping them with grant writing. Like many other businesses, Stoddard’s companies have been interrupted by the COVID-19 outbreak. A lot of their events have been cancelled and he says one of the reasons they are still able to pay their bills is that they do not take on big debt and if they must, they will “find low interest loans from organizations like the BBI”.

Nicholas Stoddard, Animatter Labs & Dartfrog Events

His advice to other entrepreneurs is to look at the big picture, tread light and be moldable. “If the environment changes, are you ready to change with it?” He also adds that entrepreneurs need to think about businesses that are globally scalable over the internet.

Nicholas Stoddard

Dart Frog Events has been to 23 cities and they hope to cover all of Canada and have a representative in each city by 2021.


Stoddard’s entrepreneurship journey is one of courage, hard work, persistence, strong work ethic and striving for excellence. His tenacity is inspiring and some of it can be attributed to a lesson he learned while playing semi-professional and Varsity soccer. “Run until you puke. If you haven’t, you can still run some more.”

Animatter Labs & Dartfrog Events, 902-448-5610



Winter 2020

Turbocharging Young Leaders into a Future of Excellent Leadership By Feleshia Chandler Photography contributed

BIJ and DBDLI put a call out for youth to apply for the tickets. Over 246 applications were received from leaders from all over Nova Scotia, ranging in age from 16-30. All of them were vying for a coveted opportunity to hear from the first Black President of the United States. As part of the initiative, applicants were tasked with responding to a variety of questions, like how they demonstrated leadership in their community, what social justice issues mattered to them, and what they would ask President Obama if given the chance. After a review of all the applications, BIJ and DBDLI were faced with the tough job of selecting the 100 young leaders who would receive the tickets. Three of those selected were Marcel Desmond from Antigonish; Tyeshia Angel Jordan from Truro, and Robert Downey from North Preston. They describe the once in a lifetime experience, and what it has meant for them and their futures.

Marcel Desmond

Marcel Desmond is a grade 12 student from the community of Upper Big Tracadie. He is an advocate for equitable education for African Nova Scotian youth, and works with community programs to help advance that goal. Marcel’s drive is rooted in his own experiences with the education system, where he witnessed ongoing systemic inequities for people who looked like him. “It’s important that we eradicate these inequities for the next generation,” he said. Marcel who also lobbies education stakeholders about how they can support equitable education for African Nova Scotian youth describes his experience at the Obama event as a reminder of the strength that he and other Black youth have. He felt honored to be one of those selected to see the President in person. For him, the event was surreal. “It was very inspiring to hear such rich information, gained through wisdom and experience.”

In the Fall of 2019, 100 young leaders received tickets to attend A Conversation with Obama featuring former US President, Barack Obama. Held on November 13, the event was part of Nova Scotia Co-Operative Council’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

Like Marcel, Tyeshia Angel Jordan was in awe of the President. When she found out she was chosen to attend the event, she felt grateful to be included among so many talented young people.

Business and community leaders across Atlantic Canada including among others, Stewart McKelvey, Business is Jammin’ and The Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute used this opportunity to recognize Nova Scotia’s emerging leaders through the Future Leaders Initiative. BLACK to BUSINESS

Tyeshia is from a small Black community known as ‘The Island’. She is starting her second year of a Bachelor of Science in Biology degree at Dalhousie University. Her passion is giving back to communities, and she demonstrates that in her work helping to run a youth group for African Nova 16

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Robert Downey

the pandemic, but that would not deter Robert from continuing to support his community.

Scotians. As an African dancer, a public speaker, and a tireless volunteer, Tyeshia has also participated in numerous cultural, advocacy, and volunteer events that promote and celebrate Black culture.

He decided to take action to help the most vulnerable by providing COVID-19 related education and door signage to over 150 seniors. In part, the signs read: “During the Covid-19 shutdown, please, no visitors. This household has high risk people.”

“Mr. Obama was very inspiring and he gave me a lot of hope for the future.” She said. “His encouraging words to the youth were very uplifting. I have gained a new outlook. The experience showed me that people of African descent are capable of any and everything, despite the obstacles.”

Robert’s inspiration comes from supportive family like his mother, Diane Downey. “But the chance to be under the same roof as Barack Obama was very exhilarating. To see a man of his stature and the things he has accomplished come to Halifax and give such great insight was captivating and motivating,” he said.

Robert Downey couldn’t control his emotions when he received news that he had been selected to receive a free ticket to attend the event. “I was caught off guard a bit. I felt excited, a little nervous, and happy all at the same time.” Now 29 years old, Robert made himself a name as a teenager through the numerous contributions he made to his community, including countless hours of volunteer work at the North Preston Community Centre. In April 2019, Robert was presented with the HRM Volunteer Award by Mayor Mike Savage and MLA David Hendsbee.

Before the sold-out A Conversation with Obama event, the Future 100 youth were guests of honor at a networking reception hosted by Colour, a digital media agency in Halifax. The team opened the doors of their office to ‘provide a real VIP experience’, as one of the organizers put it. “I would say the Future 100 networking session was just as impactful as the conversation with President Barack Obama,” Marcel recalls. “The energy in the room was so powerful and inspiring. It was empowering to be in the same room as 99 other people with like minds.”

He now co-hosts the Quarter Past 4 podcast with a few close friends and works with the Strive to Reach Association. Over the past two years, the Association has distributed more than 300 backpacks filled with school supplies to kids. They also host the Crowning Royalty event, bringing parents and kids together for an evening of fun, dancing, photography, and video making. Unfortunately, the group has had to cease operations due to

As if those events were not incredible enough, a cultural showcase partly sponsored by the province of Nova Scotia and curated by the Black Cultural Centre, Develop Nova Scotia, and the Black Business Initiative, was held before President Obama’s speech. A segment of DRUM (telling the story of the arrival, settlement and struggles of Canada’s four founding cultures) was performed through the lens of the Indigenous experience, as well as performances by other community talent.

Tyeshia Jordan

These three young people still carry the momentum of that day with them. And through experiences like those, they have found the will and determination to follow their dreams and give something back to their communities. “I will continue to be active in my community and try my best to be a role model to youth, as so many other people have been to me,” said Tyeshia. Marcel will be attending Saint Francis Xavier University next year to obtain a BA in Public Policy and Governance. He hopes to one day pursue a career in political and constitutional law and policy. Tyeshia will continue her education for a degree in cell biology and plans to eventually go into the science research field. As Robert takes care of his family during the pandemic, he is hopeful that he will soon be able to return to the work he loves. “I am hoping that the experience from this isolation teaches us all to work on ourselves and value our time,” he says. “Growth is important, and there are endless opportunities around us for it to happen. We just need to utilize what we have to get what we need.” BLACK to BUSINESS


Summer 2020


GE K To Create or not to Create: Why you should Create Content During a Crisis Creating content during a crisis can feel like hammering a nail into a rock day after day. People walk by and think you’ve gone mad. You wake up each morning wondering if you’re actually doing the right thing. There’s a little bit of dust, and a few tiny chips of rock have flown off, but for the most part, the rock looks no different. One day though, you’re finally rewarded: With one final blow, the rock splits into two pieces. But you realize that it wasn’t that single final blow that got you here—it was the 620 blows to the rock that came before.


By Ross Simmonds


Hammering a nail into a rock can feel unfulfilling.

Creating content during a crisis can feel the same way—or even worse. Insensitive. Foolish. Wasteful. At the end of 2019, a worldwide crisis began to emerge, and grew rapidly. The exponential growth of COVID-19 created a global pandemic, causing social, mental, physical and economic upheaval that will influence the world for decades to come. In the midst of the chaos, we’ve seen both the beauty and the fragility of humanity and society as a whole. For many makers and entrepreneurs, the crisis has been a complete disaster, wiping out revenue, tanking investments and causing verbal agreements to be canned in the final hour. Much of this fallout can be attributed to people staying at home for the foreseeable future as a



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way to flatten the curve. Entire countries are enforcing lockdowns. Governments have shut down schools, restaurants, barber shops and museums. Massive events have been forced to cancel. And international air travel is on hold. The result: More people at home. More remote work. More education at home. More screen time. The disruption is real. But to keep food on the table and to meet stakeholder expectations, many companies and entrepreneurs must continue to move forward even during a global crisis. Businesses trying to operate in this landscape have tons of questions: What do we do next? How do we pivot? How do we continue to tell our story? Where do we cut expenses? What should we do with our marketing budget and resources moving forward? My advice: Create.

happened during the last crisis? 2What

your perspective before changing the budget 3Change

If you look at the Google search volume for some of the most popular topics of the last decade (for example, “social media marketing” or “software as a service”), you see no real dip between 2008 and 2009. In fact, the search volume skyrocketed during the recession…

Time is the friend of wonderful content, the enemy of the mediocre. Before you pump the breaks on your content creation efforts, take a step back and remember to think long term. Investing in content right now gives you a presence when activity is high and competitors are scaling back. Content created today is better than content created tomorrow not only for reaching your audience earlier but also for giving you more time to generate links, drive shares on social media, generate leads and rise in the search rankings. If you’re not creating content, the competition might be, and it’s very possible that they will successfully capture mind share, market share, traffic, brand authority, trust and awareness. While people will no doubt be spending less money on some products, many other products and services will thrive, and entire new markets will open up during this crisis. We’ve already seen this happening with video conferencing tools like Zoom, home gym equipment, and good ol’ fashioned Baker’s Yeast. Maybe that’s not you. Maybe your business is on pause because of the crisis. Let me tell you this: Creating valuable content still presents an opportunity for you.

The same thing happened with search terms like “Salesforce,” “Facebook” and “YouTube.” The number of people looking for these companies—or content about them—grew during and after the recession:

You can use content to serve your customers in new ways and build stronger relationships that will drive ROI once the dust settles. If you’re a barber unable to go into the barbershop, you can create video tutorials on how to cut your hair at home. If you’re a fitness instructor, you can create workout videos to help people stay fit during the quarantine. If you’re a photographer, you can create how-to guides for taking stunning shots indoors. Meanwhile, topics that weren’t exactly new or niche in the early 2000s (“fitness,” for example) showed relatively no change in search volume in 2008, 2009 or 2010…

All of these assets will meet and serve people where they are—at home, online. And you never know—some of these new strategies to serve your clients could unlock new revenue streams. You could very well go from serving the local market to serving people around the globe and never look back. The best part? This is a strategy that scales well. Create content today & increase your likelihood of thriving tomorrow.

What does this mean? It means that even during the recession, people were online, looking for content and information. Since the 2008 recession, technology has gotten better and more people are online than ever before. Combine that with the fact that today’s crisis is forcing everyone to be home and it’s somewhat of a perfect storm for creators. BLACK to BUSINESS


Summer 2020

Entrepreneur Tool Kit

Staff Contributed – The Entrepreneurship Department

Opportunities during the COVID-19 Crisis

The impact of COVID-19 cannot be overlooked. Businesses and entire industries have been affected tremendously. Many of us cannot wait for life and our businesses to go back to normal yet we also wonder whether the normal as we knew it will ever be back. Our team put together a few tips on maximizing your time now and preparing for business post-pandemic.

opportunity to spend time with loved ones who live with you. For many entrepreneurs, this can be one of the most difficult areas to control especially if you must travel frequently for your business. Enjoy this opportunity. It can also be a time to show your family a bit more of what you do daily. This can go a long way when it comes to understanding one another’s needs

Better work-life Balance

Flexibility of hours Another benefit of the situation brought on by COVID-19 is the ability to be more flexible with your workday. Individuals may be able to start their day earlier or extend their day later. This can be beneficial with children at home. You can adjust your working time to align with the time your children could use your attention. As clients adopt this work style as well there may be more room for flexibility in your service delivery.

Time with kids & loved ones One of the first and most obvious benefits of the unprecedented times of COVID-19 is the increased


Less commuting time There are significant studies that compare commute times, job satisfaction and overall wellbeing. In summary, the studies show that shorter commute times lead to overall more positive results for wellbeing. With many businesses and organizations working from home, we may be able to see a clear impact on people’s overall wellbeing. Time to reflect and review business practices As COVID-19 disrupts current businesses, there is an opportunity to reflect on your business model, including service delivery. Many businesses took a traditional approach to these elements and because they were generally successful, there was not much thought put into improving their models, for example implementation of new delivery methods. COVID-19 has forced many businesses to leverage technology and other tools to remain relevant. Now is our opportunity to continue reviewing and improving our models, where appropriate, into the recovery phase and beyond.

In this time of uncertainty, trust your local CBDC for financing, training and advice. Lending decisions made locally by volunteer business people.

To find your nearest CBDC visit or call 1-888-303-2232

The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency is pleased to provide financial support to the CBDCs in Atlantic Canada.



Summer 2020

of COVID-19. In many cases, the support provided is aimed at keeping the business operational and ensuring the founders and employees still have an income. While businesses are becoming more familiar with the process of searching for government programs, BBI continues working with founders to see what programs they may be eligible for. For us, this is an ongoing service for businesses even outside of a crisis such as this.

Testing new markets If your business has lost clients or suppliers, there is often an opportunity to explore additional markets. You may also find suppliers that work better for your business after recovery. When other organizations are looking to diversify their offerings and client group as well, the opportunities could come knocking on your door.

COVID-19 led us into an uncharted territory. As we try to make sense of what is going on around us, putting some thought and work into ways to improve our businesses will ensure that we survive and perhaps thrive after the crisis.

Developing new policies Many Organizations’ policies were created in the early days of the businesses and have not been reviewed since. COVID-19 has given such organizations the opportunity to review their existing policies and create new ones. A great example of a good policy to have right now is a remote work policy. Some organizations may have had a remote work policy that they have now had a chance to test. For those that did not have one, now is a great time to assess what works well and what does not and formally write it into a policy.

2020-21 Business Directory


Adopting new technology Businesses that previously employed only traditional tools and processes have been forced to adopt new ways of doing business. Business owners often find that the adoption of modern technology creates significant efficiencies in their businesses in the long term. Take for example, creating an online storefront. This is important for the continuity of businesses now and after the pandemic and there are many tools on the market such as Shopify that make the process easy.

Government support and programs

Looking for ways to support local and buy Black?

It is unfortunate to see how many businesses are experiencing hardships and need financial support from the provincial and federal government as a result





Summer 2020

Check out the listings of Black-owned businesses, organizations, and professional services in Nova Scotia.


A New Normal Isn’t What We Need By Rustum Southwell, BBI Founding and Interim CEO According to a Brookings Institute report, 60% of White owned businesses that were operating in the States in 2002 were still operational in 2011. For Black-owned businesses, the numbers were at 49%. The reasons behind such outcomes may be numerous but we cannot overlook the historic underinvestment in Black-owned businesses. With the brutality of racism rearing its head yet again with the murder of George Floyd, there is a heightened awareness that not enough is being done for wealth creation in the Black community. This atrocity combined with the impacts of the pandemic has exacerbated existing economic disparities and raised fresh concerns about the survival of Black businesses.

One of the terms being bandied about right now is “new normal”. When times are uncertain, people yearn for the familiar. “New normal” represents a longing for normalcy - a form of stability, old or new. In this case, we seem to have come to terms with the fact that the old will not be back. Not soon at least. Most of Black Business Initiative’s clients are small businesses and if early trends are any indication, we know that the pandemic is giving rise to major shifts and affecting businesses’ critical income and more often than not, reducing the owners’ chances at building wealth. As COVID-19 impacts global economies, governments, organizations and individuals are scrambling to find the best way forward, yet, times are uncertain and in many cases, resources are reduced. This is evermore present in the Black communities across Canada who compared to the mainstream communities, tend to be disproportionately impacted by such events. In Nova Scotia, for example, it is highly likely that a consequence of COVID-19’s would be a wipe out of 20 years of business and community economic development gains in the Black Community. Considering this, we need to back initiatives that support the unique business continuity plans of this vulnerable business sector. In addition, we know that there are many grassroot organizations and businesses in the Black communities that are “informal”

and therefore do not qualify for the existing government relief programs. By necessitating social distancing, COVID-19 has automatically dictated that nearly all human interaction has to be replaced by automation and technology. Main street and most businesses that depended on pedestrian traffic must figure out a way to sell online if they are to survive. It is acknowledged, among other things, that culture is a huge and unique element in Black businesses. It contributes a great deal to decisions around what kinds of businesses people and communities start and how they run them. For close-knit communities - which is every Black community- businesses largely depend on human interaction.

Despite, all we have suffered, I sense a collective optimism within the Black business community. While uncertainty lingers, Black business owners are resilient. They are doing what they can to keep their doors open and I have seen a lot of them swiftly pivot and adopt technology to continue operations. The question is, are our systems ready to help them survive? One way to ensure that the companies we have survive is to act quickly to lessen the impacts of COVID-19. A prompt response also means we spend less time and efforts in recovery. While speed is crucial, I hope we are not quick to feel that the solutions we create in the shortest time will be good enough in the long run. We must be careful not to settle for quick fixes in our quest to settle into our next normal.

Although it may be too early to conclusively tell what the long-term impacts of the pandemic will be on small businesses, lessons from past economic downturns give us a glimpse of what to expect. Consequently, the damage may be worse than forecasted.

In normalcy, a lot suffers, and unfortunately, we get so used to it that we don’t even recognize when things are not right. For Black communities who have been consistently left behind even when economies are thriving, a new normal will be threading water.

Let’s think about the 2007-2009 recession for example. Data shows that small businesses registered the highest job losses.

What Black-owned businesses need is long-term targeted commitments to help them not only survive but thrive post-pandemic.

Very small businesses often bear the greatest brunt of economic crises. Sadly, most of the Black-owned businesses in Nova Scotia are small businesses.

I am convinced that there are better days ahead. Days more stable than today. Days calmer than yesterday.

Race-based data is limited in Canada, but the data from South of our boarders tells a story which I am sure is not too different from our own. BLACK to BUSINESS


Summer 2020

Yet, my sincere hope is that we are not hasty in settling into a new normal, but rather that we commit to creating systems and processes that allow Black-owned businesses to thrive.


Serving Dalhousie University’s Black Students & Community for over 30 years The History of the Black Student Advising Centre (BSAC) On September 28, 1989, a report entitled, “Breaking Barriers: Report of the Task Force on Access for Black and Native People” was submitted internally to the president of Dalhousie University, H. C. Clark. The report served to address and redress the systemic barriers faced by Indigenous Black and Native learners in accessing academia as a result of years of inter-generational social, economic, racial and political marginalization, as well as to increase the visible representation of African Nova Scotian learners on the campus (McKay, et al 1989). One outcome of the report was the inception of the Black Student Advising Centre (BSAC). Current BSAC Today, BSAC continues to support African Nova Scotian students as well as all Black students from the diaspora at Dalhousie University and the University of King’s College. The Centre provides services and programs that offer personal, cultural and educational support, and acts as a link between Dalhousie and African Nova Scotian communities. Through in-house resources and partnerships with other university services, students can access numerous supports in the Centre including academic and career advising, writing tutors, and peer mentors, as just a few examples.

The Centre employs two Student Affairs professionals: Oluronke Taiwo, Black Student Advisor and Monique Thomas, Community Outreach and Transition to University Coordinator. Throughout the year BSAC holds multiple events for the on and off-campus Black community. In addition to our popular social gatherings, the Centre hosts a professional networking event and a winter speaker series tied to Martin Luther King Jr. Day, African Heritage Month, and the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Additionally, the Centre hosts an open house specifically designed for Black high school students. During the open house, students from across the province in grades 9 through 12 are invited to Dalhousie to learn about academic programs and hear from current Dalhousie students. All high school students who attend get their application fee waived. The Centre also supports off-campus community group initiatives. Over the past year BSAC has had the privilege of presenting and volunteering at some Business is Jammin’ initiatives including Architecture as a Profession, Experience in Computer Science initiative and the NEXT UP 2020 youth summit. BSAC believes in partnership and collaboration to develop our youth!



Summer 2020


Championing our Future Leaders Last fall marked a historic occasion for Halifax, Nova Scotia and the rest of the Maritimes. On November 13, 2019, President Barack Obama, the 44th President of the United States, visited the Scotiabank Centre for a speaking engagement titled, “A Conversation with President Barack Obama”, where he delivered a message of hope, leadership and civic engagement to Maritimers, near and far. The event was held in recognition of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council’s 70th anniversary, a group that supports co-ops and credit unions in the province. To no one’s surprise, it sold out in 22 minutes of opening sales, with a wait list in the thousands. Stewart McKelvey was proud to play a leading role in bringing this event to life as the Future Leaders Champion, a platinum-level sponsor. The Future Leaders program was designed to provide young people from diverse communities with the opportunity to attend the event. Being the Future Leaders Champion was a natural fit for the Firm. As leaders in the legal community Stewart McKelvey is also committed to supporting the people, businesses, and initiatives that help make Atlantic Canada a better place to live. Their

support of events focused on education, the arts, and health and wellness reveals a particular focus on causes related to youth education and wellness. Furthermore, the Firm’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee, comprised of 15 lawyers and 8 staff across six offices in Atlantic Canada, is dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion throughout the Firm and encouraging greater inclusion and cross-cultural understanding in our communities through sponsorship and support. The opportunity to help our young current and future leaders throughout our communities attend the event was well within the realm of our work. The Future Leaders initiative was launched on October 9th, 2019 at Dalhousie University’s LeMarchant Place Atrium. There, Stewart McKelvey’s CEO and Managing Partner, Lydia Bugden, QC, announced that because of the Future Leaders program, more than 2,000 students would be attending “A Conversation with President Barack Obama” through the support of local businesses, organizations, universities and individuals. “By standing behind the youth of today, and giving them the tools and opportunities they need to become tomorrow’s leaders, we believe



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that we can achieve an inclusive, diverse, and prosperous region for all,” said Lydia. “As Future Leaders Champion, we are thankful to the Nova Scotia Co-operative Council for this opportunity, and to the other Future Leaders sponsors for joining us in supporting this important initiative.” The Firm itself distributed tickets through community youth groups to deserving individuals who embody leadership qualities or demonstrate potential as future leaders. The main event drew more than 9,000 spectators, who were welcomed by Stewart McKelvey Partner and Diversity & Committee Co-Chair, Candace Thomas, QC, before President Obama took the stage.

Meet the Staff

Eunice Kenaz-Oguname An Accountant with over 10 years of local and international experience, Eunice Kenaz-Oguname is the Director of Corporate Services at the Black Business Initiative. Born in Nigeria, West Africa, Eunice obtained a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and Business Administration. She migrated to Canada four years ago under the Nova Scotia Provincial Nominee Program for internationally trained and skilled workers. A former family business joint owner, Eunice has an extensive background in management, strategy, financial reporting, payroll administration, supply chain management, contract negotiation and administration, Accounts Payable and Receivables, and Sustaining Client Performance. Before joining the BBI team, she held roles at GTL Transportation, BAASS Business Solutions and ADP. With a propensity for strategic thinking and process improvements, Eunice enjoys working with groups to create solutions and to offer practical recommendations to increase innovation while effectively obtaining cost savings. Working with various teams on their accounting needs is invaluable to her understanding the business and financial pain points to resolve. She values these skills as they support her team and the organization. Being a former entrepreneur, Eunice is passionate about entrepreneurship and loves being able to work for an organization that focuses on supporting Blackowned businesses. Eunice is proud that in her current profession, with her in depth knowledge and accounting skills and her lived experiences, she can use her knowledge and expertise to have a measurable impact in the Nova Scotian Business Community. Eunice is currently working towards her ACCA/CPA certification. When she is not in the office, Eunice enjoys volunteering, being with family and friends, cooking and travelling, which helps keep her grounded and increases her well-being.


Candace Thomas On behalf of the BBI Board and staff, we would like to extend our sincere congratulations to former BBI Board Director, Candace Thomas on being appointed the new Deputy Minister for Justice and the Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches. Ms. Thomas will be Nova Scotia’s first female African Nova Scotian deputy minister. As per official news release, the new Office of Social Innovation and Integrative Approaches, will work across government, with strong links to African Nova Scotian Affairs, Aboriginal Affairs, Status of Women and the Department of Community Services. With her strong leadership abilities and commitment to social justice, we are confident that Ms. Thomas will be an asset in her new positions. Congratulations!



Summer 2020

BIJ Report

Summer 2020 By Ashley Hill, Manager, Business is Jammin’

Experience in Computer Science In January, BIJ partnered with Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Computer Science to host BIJ’s Experience in Computer Science program. This initiative allowed students to dive into artificial intelligence software and create new computing technologies. Students were taught about different career streams and Dalhousie University waived admission and application fees for Grade 12 student participants.

“The program gave me the opportunity to get a hands-on experience with computer science, and programming. This experience helped me get a better understanding of the field, giving me a new perspective different from the stereotypes I have heard about computer science. No matter where I end up going in the future the new knowledge and skills are now ingrained in my mind, thanks to this opportunity with BIJ.” – Kaleb Vickers, Grade 12 CPA High School, HRCE.

TD Spark Mentorship BIJ’s second cohort of the TD Spark Mentorship Program has been concluded. The program aims to create a networking, mentorship and leadership training platform for African Nova Scotian and Black youth. Mentees are matched with business professionals and they take part in monthly professional development sessions, learning invaluable skills like leadership, the art of networking, personal branding, resume building, interviewing, and so much more.

“I was fortunate to be matched with a mentor in my professional field. She has been nurturing, attentive, caring, and extremely helpful throughout. This program also provides a variety of workshops and presentations that I have found very helpful in rounding out my career skills and honing my soft skills. After participating in the TD Spark Mentorship Program, I now feel that I am well prepared to break into the work force. I would encourage other young adults to participate in this program and benefit from the wealth of expertise offered.” – Shani Rollins, 3D Artist

RBC iCode+ Sydney Academy

BIJ joined forces with Brilliant Labs Nova Scotia and Cape Breton-Victoria Regional Centre for Education to launch a new RBC iCode+ site at Sydney Academy High School in Sydney, Nova Scotia. This free after school program introduces coding, prototyping, microcontrollers, design thinking and 3D printing, giving youth the opportunity to create using technology.



Summer 2020

Youth Summit

In partnership with the Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, we hosted the first NEXT UP 2020 Black Youth Leadership Summit during African Heritage Month. Youth learned how challenges can become opportunities to positively impact their communities. 80+ Black youth were engaged, nine HRCE schools participated, and ten community leaders led four different workshops. A huge thank you to our outstanding facilitators, volunteers, and Ryan Williams Photography (www. for capturing the energy and excitement throughout the day. Get Involved!



Summer 2020

Ask The BBI

By Ellis Ffrench, Entrepreneurial Engagement Manager

What Can Business-Owners Do to Combat COVID-19?

Help your employees practice social distancing with options like flex time or remote work. Once you decide on what projects and tasks can be completed from home, survey the staff to determine what tools and resources they may need at home to succeed in this unique situation. These may include a computer, a monitor, file folder from the office, etc.

your team can help you better support their needs. Can you help them navigate government programs or do they need assistance accessing other resources? Most likely, your employees will have lots of questions and it is important to stay informed so that you can help them. All of this can be learned through supportive communication with your team. On top of getting to know the team individually, take this time to get creative and interact in new ways as a big group. Use Zoom calls or Skype to get everyone together and play a game or just small talk to catch up. The relaxed non-work social interactions at the office cannot be replicated, but trying to keep employees connected and involved is so important.

Understand Your team:

Experiment with new Ideas:

It is a stressful time for all and taking the time to understand how COVID-19 is impacting

If you have been waiting to dive into e-commerce or branch into new revenue streams now is

COVID-19 has drastically affected the way businesses operate and our day-to-day routines. We’ve put together 5 quick tips for small business-owners navigating the global pandemic and its aftermath.

Increase Flexibility:

Raymond Tynes, Human Rights Commission

Explore Financial Supports: Now is the time to get in touch with your bank, credit and/or insurance providers, suppliers, landlords and the government to discuss how COVID-19 is impacting your business. There are tons of resources and accommodations being rolled out for businesses and it is important you take the steps to get as much support as possible during this time. Most financial institutions are helping their customers on a case by case basis. This means that if you don’t reach out to them, they won’t know you are in need. Take the time to make the phone calls and soldier through the twenty or more minutes on hold because a quick conversation can have a big impact on how your business navigates the next few months.

Give your business some TLC:

Unite Communities 1/3 Page ad

Whether you are getting to know staff, getting caught up on bills and the finances, or taking the time to simplify work flows and processes, take this time as an opportunity to not just get caught up but to set yourself up for success once you are back to normal business operations. Now is the time to create small and effective changes in your processes and again, to get creative with how you do things moving forward.

Join an agency, board, or commission With over 150 ways to volunteer, joining an agency, board, or commission allows you to help unite communities while supporting what matters to you.

If you are in need of support, services, or resources as a small business-owner, we encourage you to reach out to our team at bbi@ or 902-426-8683.

Applications are now open. The deadline for some applications is June 22, 2020. To learn more and apply, visit or call 1-866-206-6844 (toll free). The Government of Nova Scotia has an Employment Equity Policy. We welcome applications from Aboriginal people, African Nova Scotians, other racially visible people, persons with disabilities, women, and other employment equity groups. Applicants are encouraged to self-identify.


the time to do it. Use this time to learn and get creative. If you are unable to transform your business into e-commerce, then perhaps create a digital gift card so that customers can continue to support the business while they wait for things to get back to normal. Also, new creative ideas don’t simply include taking your old business and giving it a tweak, they can also mean offering brand new services or products. Some local businesses have now begun making masks as a way to use their time effectively, help the community, and create some cash flow for the business. Get Creative!


Summer 2020

Entrepreneurship Report By the Entrepreneurial Engagement Managers As the COVID-19 pandemic began to spread and health and safety measures were implemented in Nova Scotia, like many others, a work from home strategy had to be built for the BBI. During this time, we committed to working through and ensuring that our team was able to provide as much support as we could to our business clients navigating a very challenging season. One of the first steps we took was to immediately engage our loan clients to help them access relief programs offered by our partner financial institution. This helped relieve some of the financial pressure on businesses, some of whom were being compelled to shut down. Our team also kept abreast of the relief and support measures that were being introduced by federal and provincial governments to support individuals and businesses during the pandemic. As information became available, it was important for the BBI to pivot and find ways to engage our business clients quickly and efficiently. We began by conducting a mass outreach and calling clients to find out if they were safe and healthy, what impact the closures were having on their business, and how best we could be of service.

Dr. Rustum Southwell - Founding CEO BBI

Nothing About Us, Without Us How can you ask a man to rise up with your foot firmly planted on his neck, while he is in shackles? Tell me how is that possible? We cannot continue to be trapped in history; this is as good as anytime where victory shall not elude us. Everything we have been saying was laid out in front of everyone to see the ugliness of racism in its worst form. The violent and unnecessary death of George Floyd has shaken our world to its very foundation. When will it end? I cannot breathe. Our communities are grieving, yet again faced with the shock, sorrow, anger, and anxiety that is always being thrust to the forefront of our lives as a result of systematic racism still happening today. Too many young Black men and people, live in constant fear. Fear is not just livelihood but is our way of life. And the list keeps growing. The senseless violence rattles us all to our core. In the era of COVID-19 and with the repercussions to the murder of George Floyd , Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and Regis Korchinski Paquet coming on the heels of this global pandemic which has also disproportionately harmed Black communities - we need to join forces with our allies. Over the world, we watched this unfold as it became apparent that this story of anti-Black racism does not stop at borders. It is active and rampant in Canada. This horrific incident opens the door to a long overdue but necessary dialogue on anti-Black racism, systemic discrimination, and the lived injustices experienced by racialized Canadians. Too many lives are being lost. We must come together as communities of colour and allies, neighbors and friends, business leaders and decision makers to stop this crisis once and for all. Now is the time for action. We must work in solidarity to generate equality for all. Black people everywhere deserve better, our people deserve justice, we deserve respect, and our businesses deserve to thrive in a safe economy. Our organization joins with those enlightened groups in the private and public sectors who have called for expanded effort to fight alongside us to once and for all put an end to this violent scourge of racism. The time is “Right Now!!” #BlackLivesMatter

Federal programs like the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) and the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) were amongst several resources that businesses took advantage of. Although it seemed that most of our clients were staying up to date, there was simply too much information being sent out daily; between new programs, resources, or updates to announcements. To assist in sifting through the information and to best serve our business clients, we created the BBI COVID-19 Emergency Response newsletter. Every week we highlighted key takeaways that our businesses needed to be aware of. Along with a breakdown of the highlights, we also linked directly to important resources and information to help everyone navigate a very dynamic and often confusing pool of resources. As we now prepare to get back to some resemblance of “normal,” BBI is determined to be a valuable resource in getting black businesses not just opened but thriving in this new challenging environment.

Photo by: GoToVan (



Summer 2020

Training Report By Lydia Phillip, Training & Communications Manager

The Black Business Initiative (BBI)’s Training Department provides free business and professional development courses to Black and racially visible minority entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs. Training offerings are delivered through 11-week programs, workshops, conferences, business consultations, and more.

“I think the most powerful thing to do is to help someone know themselves or their path. This course helped me shift my perspective and analyze my audience, website, and other topics related to online marketing. Thank you to the Black Business Initiative.”

Congratulations to the Winter 2020 Training Graduates!

- Zainab Al-Habi, E-commerce graduate

Our Winter 2020 Training program began the first week of March, and was shifted online as COVID-19 became a growing threat. Fortunately, the participants had a chance to meet in person and the comradery continued digitally. The instructors quickly mobilized to have their material, lesson plans, and class activities to be engaging online. Although it may have looked and felt different, the learning opportunity was valuable for our clients. In a challenging and unprecedented time, BBI would like to extend a huge congratulations to our graduates of the following courses:

“From as long as I can remember, I’ve always heard the saying, ‘the customer is always right.’ Many might agree, however, I’ve always had an issue with aphorisms and the Entrepreneurial Essential course has helped to validate my contrasting opinion. Although a business relies on its customers to assist with achieving success, it cannot become truly successful unless it first invests in its employees, by genuinely caring and supporting them in order to help them to better themselves both personally and professionally.”

• E-commerce: Selling in a Digital World • Entrepreneurship Essentials We look forward to celebrating the graduates’ success when we are able to gather in groups again.


– Angella Hull, Entrepreneurship Essentials graduate


Summer 2020

We’re here to support your business. During these unprecedented times, NSBI is here to help you navigate businesses challenges as a result of COVID-19 and beyond. Contact Karen Williams, Export Development Executive, at to learn more.

Did you know that you can drop by the BBI office every Thursday from 2-3pm to learn more about





Profile for Metro Guide Publishing

B2B Summer 2020  

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