Michelle Meghie is the president of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce. (CBCC)
Michelle joins the CBCC with an established track record of improving member/customer experiences in a broad range of organizations and sectors. Michelle brings extensive experience in government, governance, and non-profit institutions. Additionally, Michelle brings relevant expertise that supports the CBCC as it navigates through the complexities of a nationwide post-pandemic world that are challenging the black businesses sector.
Michelle believes in collaborative leadership thus works closely with the Board and senior management to articulate strategy, as CBCC continues to deliver its vision to help black entrepreneurs and their businesses prosper and grow.
Prior to assuming her role as president, Michelle had an illustrious career in the public sector spanning over three decades with a focus on Community, Children, and Social Services.
Michelle was honoured to be the first black woman to receive a public appointment to the Transitional Council for the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario. Upon proclamation, she was appointed to the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario. The first self-regulatory body of its kind in the world. Within her tenure, she chaired the Governance, Examination Appeals, and Patient Relations Committees.
Black History Month is a critical time for reflection, for compassion, for improvement—but it is not and must not be the only time. We can always do better, and we can always do more. This interview features Michelle Meghie, the president of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce. (CBCC) Michelle joins the CBCC with an established track record of improving member/customer experiences in a broad range of organizations and sectors. Michelle brings extensive experience in government, governance, and non-profit institutions. Additionally, Michelle brings relevant expertise that supports the CBCC as it navigates through the complexities of a nationwide post-pandemic world that are challenging the black businesses sector. In this exclusive Q/A Michelle discusses the importance of taking the time of BHM to reflect, think back, and celebrate Blackness in all of its forms, what are some professional development workshops being offered this year by the Black Chamber of Commerce and she shares her special advice to black women entrepreneurs during this challenging time.
What Does Black History Month Mean to you?
Black History Month to me is a constant reminder of our struggles through centuries of enslavement, as well as the struggle for equality that continues even today. The hardship and anti-black racism that continues to stunt progress for black people sadden me. However, it is energizing to see so many brilliant black leaders in our community across Canada who are sitting and have sat at the table of a decision like Michaëlle Jean, Sen. Wanda Thomas Bernard, Sen. Anne Cools, Dr. Daurene Elaine Lewis, Rosemary Brown, and Jean Augustine to name a few.
This gives me hope, inspires me, and tells me that, even in the face of adversity, black people are strong and resilient people.
Black history month is a celebration of the large footprints of our ancestors and their excellence. Thus, BHM serves as an inspiration and a motivation to always strive for greatness. The recognition and the importance of BHM cannot just be for one month, it must be for every single day. We must provide a range of opportunities for future generations to ensure they are not left behind. It’s a call to action to continue to uplift those within our society who are most vulnerable.
Do you think there’s a lack of representation in the history textbooks taught across Canada? What are your thoughts?
Yes. The lack of representation is evident, and it is unequivocally a loss to us as a race. Black people have been in Canada for over 400-years, and to not bring this knowledge to the classrooms for the young people to learn, is saddening. It is important for black children to learn about their history in order to understand the modern-day struggle and the systemic barriers that they will encounter as they grow up.
Representation in historical textbooks is a must. Educational institutes must include a syllabus with an in-depth look at Black history in Canada. It has to be a large part of the foundation of learning for all students. It is the only way we can build a strong future for the black community across this nation and Canada as a whole.
Why do you think it is important to take the time of BHM to reflect, think back, and celebrate Blackness in all of its forms?
Black history and Blackness in all its form should be celebrated with every breathe that we take and should not be taken for granted. As black people, we cannot afford to forget or become complacent about who we are as a people and the struggles that continue to erect barriers. Thus, it is imperative that we take BHM as a reminder that we still have a lot of work to do to tear down these barriers, as just talking about Diversity, Inclusion and Equity is not enough. It is incumbent on each of us to say something when we see injustice.
What I often say to couples is that when you feel your relationship is not going well, then you both need to think back on what brought you together in the first place to move forward. Similarly, it is imperative for black people to reflect on the struggles of their history in order to move forward to ensure a strong and connected diaspora. We must reconnect and support the work that’s been done. This BHM gives us the opportunity to acknowledge people who have carved the path for us.
Black people are deeply indebted to the people who have come before, and the people who are in the trenches continuously fighting for justice in different ways, often with little or no acknowledgement. Reflecting on our journey during BHM gives us an opportunity to acknowledge the people and all they made possible. This is a reminder to express gratitude.
What are some professional development workshops being offered this year by the Black Chamber of Commerce?
The Canadian Black Chamber Commerce business advisory will serve to elevate entrepreneurs through our Elevate Black Business Project with programming, mentorship, advocacy, promotion, and investment in their training and development. The Black entrepreneurial community has long been disenfranchised by the effects of systemic racism. The Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce endeavours through this program and is funded by the Government of Canada to “level the playing field” and provide startups and established Black entrepreneurs the support needed to help their businesses succeed. The effects of the pandemic have further highlighted the great need for this service in the Black community.
The Canadian Black Chamber is the voice of Black Canadian businesses and entrepreneurs. There is incredible power in being in the right place, with the right people and connected in the right way. The Canadian Black Chamber empowers you and your business with Black Business Direct, presented by Uber. Black Business Direct is the newest National, digital directory available to support Black entrepreneurs across the country.
What are some ways for corporations to retain their diverse talent in 2022 and beyond? Why is it important to address unconscious bias?
We often get to see that employees’ ethical and unbiased decisions are made by the corporations. It is the duty of train managers to have a full and in-depth understanding of what diverse employees may be experiencing. They should be aware of their biases since there’s so much availability of education today. In order to create a safe space or a proper working ecosystem, one needs to be creative and amiable when it comes to onboarding diverse employees.
Some of the strategies that can be helpful are:
● One should build a work environment that helps employees fall in love with their jobs and the environment they work in.
● One should bring proper value and see what’s beyond the surface
● Leaders or employers should support when it comes to creating an inspiring community within their company
● The trainer or leader should open the path for transparency and communication
● Creating mentorship and sponsorship opportunities
● Connect and stand in solidarity with diverse employees and create a culture of inclusion.
What is your special advice to black women entrepreneurs during this challenging time?
First, congratulations to every woman who made or are thinking of making the big plunge into entrepreneurship, because it takes courage. The rates of growth for Black female business owners are exponential especially since the emergence of COVID-19. This period of restriction and lockdown afforded many women the time to discover their inner talents and exposed their entrepreneurial spirit
Emerging businesswomen should ensure that their personal finances are in order and that they are financially Healthy to start their business.
Invest in your entrepreneurial aspiration, save money, reach out to their inner circle of friends and family to help to secure the required capital and resources to launch prior to starting up their businesses.
Some of the strategies I would like to share with the aspiring women entrepreneurs that can help them to break all the barriers that come in their path of entrepreneurship:
● Women should connect with mentors since it makes a difference
● Women should embrace the challenge and strategize for a pragmatic outcome
● Determination can empower you and help to eradicate barriers
● Women should research their ideas and the market trends
● Ask questions to the veteran business owner to learn about their journey to entrepreneurship.
● They should constantly ask themselves the purpose of becoming an entrepreneur. The “why” is so important
● They should complete a business plan, as it will help identify the path that could lead to profitable and sustainable business.
Michelle’s Pieces of Advice to Black Businesswoman and Leaders
If you have a team, keep them motivated to do great things together and make sure you and your team are always working toward the same concrete goals. Remember, self-care in the interim will rejuvenate and motivate you in this journey.
You should contact the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce. We are ready to help you to grow your business and take it to the next level with the Elevate Black Business Program funded by the Federal Government of Canada.
Enroll in any of these programs at no cost
Business Plan writing Program
AVRO Business Program
Food Incubator Program
Register your business in the Digital Black Business Direct Directory sponsored by Uber Canada at no cost to you
To stay informed
● Remain engaged and stay connected with mentors
● Attend regular CBCC monthly virtual programs like webinars, workshops and the new and exciting monthly Business & Entrepreneur Network (BEN) Member Engagement events
Offerings from the Canada Black Chamber of Commerce
● Canada Black Chamber of Commerce offers a 90-day membership at no cost
● Free access to Black Business Direct Directory and business listings
● Free personalized mastermind program and mentorship
● Participation in the Elevate Black Business Project, etc.
Have a wonderful Black History Month everyone!