Nova Scotia's new business community

Nova Scotia's new business community

< Back to Articles | Topics: Chair's Message

Contributors:

Cynthia Dorrington

In the last few years the Halifax Chamber has seen some distinct changes. Our events are getting bigger. The member benefits are growing. The Chamber’s advocacy efforts to government at all levels is making a difference for small business in Nova Scotia. The biggest change I’ve noticed, however, is in the crowds.

If you attended our annual Spring Dinner this year, you would have seen it, too. We had more than 750 people in the new Halifax Convention Centre. We had 30+ immigrants in the room, thanks to our Driving Diversity Initiative that sees corporations hosting a newcomer as their guest for the evening.

I gave a welcome to the room as the new Chair of the Board. I looked out at the crowd and saw a sea of opportunity and diversity. Each table boasted a variety of students, entrepreneurs, both new and established, minorities, immigrants, and women. As the first African Nova Scotian and only the fourth woman to hold my current position with the Halifax Chamber, I swelled with pride.

Nova Scotia’s economic climate for minorities and women has never been stronger. Leaders in our region like the Black Business Initiative, ISANS and the Centre for Women in Business create opportunities for our marginalized communities to succeed in their ventures.

The Black Business Initiative is launching their TD Spark Mentorship Program aimed at creating a networking, mentorship and leadership training platform for African Nova Scotian and other racially visible minority post-secondary youth.

ISANS’ Immigrant Women Entrepreneurship Program (IWEP) provides valuable training in business skills. This 48-hour certificate program offers a flexible approach for immigrant women to gain hands-on knowledge of starting and running a business.

The Centre for Women in Business joined forces with RBC to create the RBC Alliance of Young Women Entrepreneurs (AYWE). This initiative encourages students to think in an entrepreneurial mindset before graduating. Students represent a key asset to the region and programs like AYWE show them the possibility of creating a life for themselves in Nova Scotia.

My experience in the province as a black woman in business has shown me the gaps in our business community. We have a plan to fill those gaps. The Halifax Chamber membership is growing and increasingly becoming more diverse, and one of our strategic goals is to increase our membership to reflect our changing demographic. This doesn’t mean increase by numbers only — this is a chance to ensure that we not only reflect the varying industry sectors found in our city, but we are inclusive in reflecting the changing face of our businesses in Halifax. From business sector to ownership, we want a membership wholly representative of our rich and varied diverse community.

The Halifax Chamber cannot do it alone. We need a business community that is actively recruiting members of underrepresented groups with varying backgrounds. Whether it’s mentoring a minority and/or immigrant-run start-up or working with a group of students on a case study, local leaders can step up and create an inclusive environment.

It is important to note that an inclusive environment not only comes through one’s recruitment strategy, it can be driven through one’s procurement strategy. Buying goods and/or services from diverse businesses not only helps to build the economic fabric of our city, it grows and strengthens Halifax’s SME business community. Ultimately, inclusive procurement is a way to engage with a new, growing and varied set of suppliers that have started business right here in our city.

Our province is not growing at the rate we need. Our aging population is (rightfully) slowing down and our students continue to move out of province for lower taxes and bigger opportunities. Let’s encourage an entrepreneurial ecosystem for all Nova Scotians with accessible funding, training, mentorship, procurement opportunities and support. Let’s celebrate our strength in both diversity and community. Let’s make Nova Scotia the global centre of mosaic entrepreneurial talent.

< Back to Articles | Topics: Chair's Message

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