A perfect fit

A perfect fit

< Back to Articles | Topics: Member Profile | Contributors: Pam Sullivan | Published: September 6, 2023

Matthew Martel, the Black Business Association’s (BBI) newest CEO, wants to make sure the work culture he’s fostering at BBI itself reflects the culture around Black-owned businesses in the larger community.

And increasingly, that larger community refers to a regional and national, not just municipal or provincial focus, to — as their website states — help entrepreneurs thrive across the country. And Martel couldn’t be more on board with that ambitious goal.

Approaching his four-year anniversary working with the organization, Martel, a Cape Breton native who studied Entrepreneurship and Innovation at Dalhousie, before getting a master's degree in Business technology, Entrepreneurship & Innovation from Saint Mary’s, says he originally had his eye on a different position than the COO one he was offered.

“The job I really wanted was entrepreneurship because their job is working with entrepreneurs and helping them figure things out. That was my dream job,” he says. “It was that excitement around supporting people and giving them opportunities that can really make an impact in their lives.”

Martel, who says entrepreneurship was in his blood from an early age, is a natural fit for the position he now finds himself in after spending almost four years as Chief Operating Officer; something made clear to him by then CEO Rustum Southwell.

“I went through the process, and the plan was that I’d learn and have a strong understanding of the operations if I were to be interested in the position sometime in the future,” he says.

In operation since 1996, BBI, says Martel, helps entrepreneurs with little experience navigate an often complex and confusing system where even learning how to be competitive — once operational — can be daunting. Just being there to answer those initial questions, he says, is of value to the community. And though a strong, optimistic champion for the Black business community, he's also not naive about the economic, social, and societal challenges facing many entrepreneurs.

“I care about social mobility and community. I grew up in a very low-income family, so whatever I can do to help people go as far as they’d like to is extremely important to me,” he says. “What we see is a lot of people who really don’t have business networks as they’re getting up and going, with funding being a big mystery, compounded by not insignificant issues around credit in the community."

And that, says Martel, is where he wants to step in and help. Not just in Halifax, but increasingly, across the country.

“As we grow, we want to make sure we don’t lose our African Nova Scotian roots,” he says. “Right now we have two really great programs — one regional and one national in reach and scope, but they’re projects, and it’s important to me to take that opportunity and make it stable, past it’s formal end date.”

And what does Martel think he brings to the position? Beyond his passion for entrepreneurship, his strong background, impressive BBI support, and Board work — with the Halifax International Airport Authority and Efficiency One — he says it’s his Cape Breton roots which will hold him in good stead as he navigates his way through the position in the coming years.

“I think being an African Nova Scotian from Rural Nova Scotia will offer a new perspective for the organization, and though I have big shoes to fill, am up to and excited by the challenge ahead of me.”

< Back to Articles | Topics: Member Profile

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