Business Owner Welcomes New Program for Black Entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario

Roby Joseph of Sudbury says he hopes the new Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program (NOBEEP) will help Black entrepreneurs like him grow their businesses.

Joseph opened his Afro-Caribbean restaurant, Cuisine Tropicale, last March but said he had yet to achieve profitability.

“I started the business with no money. It was just an idea,” Joseph said.

After looking at the local restaurant market, he realized that selling alcohol would help him improve his margins.

But to get a liquor license, he had to renovate his restaurant and add a second bathroom.

This is where NOBEEP could help.

“The best way to help black people in the community is to empower them financially,” Joseph said.

“And there’s only one way to do that, instead of having people working all over the place with their resumes asking for jobs, let’s make them entrepreneurs so they can employ themselves .”

In March, FedNor invested $1.1 million to fund NOBEEP for three years. Its Sudbury office opened on Wednesday, July 20.

Charles Nyabeze is the Acting Executive Director of the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program. He says they plan to identify and support 70 black business owners over the next three years. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Overcome Challenges

Charles Nyabeze, the program’s acting executive director, said he plans to identify 70 black business owners in northern Ontario who they can support over the three years and beyond.

Nyabeze said many black entrepreneurs are new immigrants to Canada and face a number of challenges when starting their businesses.

“When you come to Canada, the way business is done in Canada and the way it’s regulated, you know, it’s very different,” he said. “So there are different governance structures, different standards.”

Before opening his restaurant, for example, Joseph said he and his business partners sold Haitian dishes that they cooked at home.

“And then I learned that it’s not legal to sell, you know, food that you cook at home,” he said.

Nyabeze said language barriers can also discourage new immigrants who want to start a business. Even if they speak English or French, he said the language of business in Canada is different from many other countries.

He said NOBEEP will help black business owners navigate this world.

“So we want to work hand in hand with the wider communities to advance business in Northern Ontario,” Nyabeze said. “We are part of the Northern Ontario economic development game.”

Morning North5:52A new program will help Black entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario.

Owning a business can be difficult. There can be all kinds of challenges, but sometimes the challenges are specific to a cultural group of entrepreneurs. There is a new program that will help Black entrepreneurs in Northern Ontario grow and grow their businesses. Charles Nyabeze joined us with more details on the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program…also known as NOBEEP.

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