Make One's Peace with the Rocks

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Expressing thanks to "My Halifax Experience" and founder Ifeanyi Emeshi for creating a platform for immigrants in the Maritimes (New Foundland, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), to showcase their stories. How we have built our lives, faced barriers, challenges and overcame to become good citizens who are giving back to our communities. 

I was honoured to be nominated and received an award as one of the Top 25 Immigrants in the Maritimes. The evening was particularly special because among the other award recipients was my husband David Divine and our son David P B Divine, the official photographer for the night.

I must confess I shed a tear, and my friend Barbara Miller Nix (one of the first people to befriend me in Canada), sitting beside me said, "look how far you've come. If I had told you, then it would get better you would have never believed me."  And that is the truth.

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Reflecting back on the early years of struggles, pain, fear, being separated from family and friends and being a strange environment took its toll. 

My story is not unique but listening to others, we all share that common bond of the emotional and physical feelings of loss when we first arrived as new immigrants. It takes about ten years to settle finally. 

The Maritimes is not a leisurely picnic nor Canada's playground. It takes courage, perseverance, risking everything, being patient, hard work and finally making one's peace with the rocks. At least that's what I did.

I am thankful for all the incredible things I have accomplished. 
Taking one step at a time to climb the mountain of challenges we face. I stretched myself beyond my comfort zone. And with the help and support from people in my community, even those beyond believed in me, and cheered me on when the chips were down. We also shared great memories of fun, joy, and laughter. We created family and friends around us.

An event such as this is inspiring for all of us, and I was so excited to see the diversity of brilliant young minds joining from all over the world to attend our universities. We can only grow from here!

Congratulations to my fellow Award Winners. We are but a few named individuals who have contributed to enriching our region and clearing a path for others to follow.

Thanks to the organizers, the sponsors and other supporters for their commitment to seeing our Maritimes grow and prosper.



























Sexual Harassment in the Workplace - "You were Flattered"

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Women have been suffering in silence, internalizing their pain and feeling the shame of being sexually harassed for what seems like an eternity.  

Victims of sexual harassment in the workplace or who seek or provide a particular service are accused of "asking for it" or they ought to feel "flattered by the attention." 
No matter how women are dressed, how educated they are, or the position they hold.  Sexual harassment is a shared experience.

When women are courageous enough to challenge such unwanted behaviour by men, they are often made to feel degraded. This behaviour by men is across the social and cultural divide, regardless of race and ethnicity or profession. 
Victims are expected to prove that they are impeccable and without blame even when they seek justice as in the recent case in Montreal ((Judge Braun, A similar situation occurred in Nova Scotia.  

It is unfortunate that although laws have been in place for decades to protect women, the system is designed to protect the perpetrators because our workplaces are male-dominated and it is biased towards men.

I am glad the topic is being headlined in the recent weeks because it has generated conversation, people are now being held to account for their actions. Some will face or feel the consequence of their actions where it hurts the most. Money speaks volumes, and the business must go on.

It is encouraging to know that women now speak with a collective voice and feel empowered enough to name and shame.
However, the majority of women who have been victimized and abused by men in the workplace will be afraid to come forward or speak up for fear of losing their jobs.  The most vulnerable often feel they have nowhere to go.

Anyone who is a victim of abuse in the workplace, particularly in Canada can approach the Human Rights Commission in their province or territory with confidence for help and support in lodging a complaint.  Other countries may have a similar complaint process.

If you or your organization is interested in a Workshop on "Sexual Harassment in the Workplace." We have a solution for you.

Power Lunch at Centre for Women in Business - MSVU

Ann Divine, Nora Parry, CWB & Claire Milton, BoyneClarke LLP

Ann Divine, Nora Parry, CWB & Claire Milton, BoyneClarke LLP

Delighted with the attendance at the Power Lunch hosted by the Centre for Women in Business, and sponsored by the Boyneclarke legal firm, on 25 July 2017. The event was sold out. The topic presented by myself was Unconscious Bias.  The opportunity to have this conversation with a diverse audience of successful business women was unimaginable. Participants challenged themselves boundaries by acknowledging their own biases which are rooted in cultural and societal experiences.

Personal thanks to all those who attended, contributed to an informed discussion and gave such insight into our conversation.

Stay tuned for further details on up coming training sessions.

Lessons I Learnt from Arlene Dickinson

Photo from Ann Divine's private collection 

Photo from Ann Divine's private collection 

My business book of the month is "All In" by Arlene Dickinson, Co-star of Dragon's Den TV program and author of the number 1 bestseller Persuasion. Arlene is also an inspirational business woman, so I was excited to read her book and take away some lessons and apply them to myself.

I was captivated by the first paragraph, especially the opening sentence. "Entrepreneurship isn't a job." What is it then, I asked myself?

Arlene's reply was clear, and her words were; "It's a demanding, rewarding, scary, thrilling, and ultimately all-encompassing lifestyle." All of these feelings I have experienced and continued to feel them daily as a small business woman.

It has been three years this month since I left my  "excellent job" in government. There were few women of colour in a management position in the Public Service Commission of Nova Scotia Government. Something I had to grow accustomed to since arriving here in 2004. 

Many close friends and colleagues were afraid for me. Some questioned why would ''you", an immigrant, a black woman, leave management position in government, don't you know we don't get these jobs? For us, those senior management jobs are akin to winning the lottery. 

I knew it was not going to be easy, but I was completely unprepared for some of what I'd experience.  It was no easy picnic! 
According to Arlene, everything we own, cash, savings, home, whether we are at the dinner table or on the beach (if you can get there), all have to coexist to support the business. There is that close bond between business, family and work. All are interconnected. "There are no half measures." You have to put everything into the business. In my case, I did not have savings, the finance or the capacity to borrow. What I had was my talents,  family support, determination and gift of a good sell. 
She reminds us "to be an entrepreneur is to pursue a dream with everything you have and all that you are." We must also expect to face challenges beyond our imagination. We have to draw on our inner strength deep inside us to succeed.

There were many days I would go out, promote my business, follow a lead or a recommendation only to return empty handed. That hopeful contract, well, someone else clenched the deal. The product I was offering was not what they wanted.  I started to question myself, doubt myself and fear for my future. I was nervous among those I networked with because I was not in their league and could not participate in the conversations. What was rewarding are those individuals from the companies who invited me to various events. Given me a seat at the table with people who wanted to hear what I was offering. It allowed me to learn, listen and act on what I gained. I started to attend networking initiatives, navigating my way through the business world. 

Arlene Dickenson invites us to be confident and proud of our accomplishments, our small business and not to apologize for who you are in the company of the big boys and girls.  I found it was so comforting to read about how to behave in their presence and not to feel small.

Many large companies often have an army behind them, and as a sole proprietor, I'm doing everything myself, which can be a huge struggle. In these moments we experience fear and self-doubt.
I was encouraged by Arlene's candidness because she recognized that it takes "tremendous emotional resilience" to remain in the game. 
My biggest take away from reading Arlene's introductory chapter is,  I am "the cornerstone of my business." She said I have a "unique skill set to offer the world." No reading that made me proud of what I've accomplished.

Many times people would say to me, "I see you're everywhere; you're doing too much; you're just one person. You can't possibly do all those things; Do you sleep?; Are you making money; Does she eat?" Perhaps at one stage in my life, I would have said the same to a new business owner.  At that time I did not know about business, and the challenges entrepreneurs face starting out and struggling to maintain a business.

What Arlene said is true, I am the "greatest resource for my business." I have to promote myself, market, sell and close the deal for my business. I am the researcher, investor and must be able to build to sustain my knowledge base, as well as reinventing myself to keep abreast with changes in the world of business.

Being at the forefront or being visible does not equate tonnes of money in the bank.  It means using the tools I have at my disposal, such as being an active listener, social media, network, innovative and conventions ways to grow my business. Most of all I have to value my customers and clients.

Stay tuned for more lessons from Arlene Dickenson.
The passages in quotation marks are Arlene Dickinson's words.

Business Tips from Birthday Lady - Viola Desmond (6 July 1914 - 5 February 1965

Picture Courtesy of Cape Breton University/Wanda Robson (Viola's sister) Collection 2016

Picture Courtesy of Cape Breton University/Wanda Robson (Viola's sister) Collection 2016

Viola Irene Desmond, nee Davis (6 July 1914 - 7 February 1965), would have been 103 years old today. I would like to acknowledge her for the legacy in Business and Civil Liberation she has left in our community and for women, and marginalized people around the world.

In recent months, I have discovered a great deal about her entrepreneurial skills and business acumen.  In her field, she was extraordinary, outstanding and phenomenal. She was a beautician, teacher, mentor and inspired young women to become business owners. Black women did not have the opportunity to attend school and fulfil their dreams and ambitions because of racial segregation at the time.

In my view, Viola Desmond, "broke the mould and shattered the glass ceiling” long before the phrase was coined. She may not have had a C-Suit but she certainly owned and drove her own car.  A fiercely independent woman. She travelled across Canada and had strong connections with places like New Brunswick, Quebec and America. Viola started the Desmond School of Beauty and Culture and had graduates across the city of Halifax. She also encourages black women to build and their own businesses. Thereby creating her own customer base and extended her capacity for growth and development. She made a significant contribution to our economy as well as the import and export trade market at that time.

Picture Courtesy of Susan Bannon

Picture Courtesy of Susan Bannon

Viola Desmond is an example of what can be achieved even in the face of adversity.
 A savvy businesswoman with an endless list of dreams and ambitions.
She was determined to succeed and did not allow barriers to prevent her. 
Viola Desmond was a visionary, passionate, purposeful and with a mission in mind. She was ahead of her time and born to the cause.
She never gave up. Event when faced with insurmountable challenges.
My research showed me that Viola was innovative, creative and used her creative and cultural intelligence to raise the profile of other women who were less fortunate.
Viola surrounded herself with women who were of the same mindset. For example, her mentor Madame C J Walker the first African-American Woman Millionaire, Carrie Best, Owner of the Clarian Newspaper, the only black owner newspaper at that time in Canada and others not mentioned.
A confident woman. There is absolutely no doubt that her industry was dominated by men and she had to overcome sexism, racism and much more.
Viola Desmond understood the business of science and technology of her day. She knew how to blend chemical treatment for her customer's haircare and beauty products.  Viola also had a mail order business long before Amazon and other online services appeared.
 A strong negotiator, networker, and navigator.
 Viola was a risk-taker, bold and tenacious.
Self-starter and self-motivator.
Viola Desmond not only knew how to market her business but she was an excellent seller and deal closer.
 She understood her marketplace through research, records showed that she gave veterans discounts.
 Viola Desmond’s business would be known today as a “Vertical Integration.” She owned the supply chain and the company. I would go as far and say, she also had the monopoly of the market to grow and sustain her business.
She was a strategic thinker and invested in her education.
She left no one behind, Viola continued to share her knowledge, skills, and expertise through educating others.

Picture: Graduates of Desmond School of Beauty and Culture. Courtesy of the Black Cultural Centre

Picture: Graduates of Desmond School of Beauty and Culture. Courtesy of the Black Cultural Centre

This is just a fraction of what we know about this phenomenal and savvy businesswoman who has left a roadmap for us to follow. 
Happy Birthday Viola and may we as women, women of colour continue to draw courage and strength from what you have accomplished.  We look forward to seeing your face on Canada’s 10 dollar bill in 2018.

So what I can learn from this birthday lady? Well, everything I need to know about business and more.
“As long as you participate, you remain competitive and give yourself an opportunity to win.” JD Gershbein

Information for this article was gleaned from the Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, Gwen Tuinman - Harbinger of Change and the Black Business Initiative Magazine Issue 64 and other sources.

 Written by Ann Divine, Ashanti Leadership & PDS

Celebrating success in the Black Business Community

On June 23,  we were back showcasing business owners at the Black Business Initiative's 20th Anniversary and Summit with dignitaries and sponsors across our province. Our keynote Valerie Jarrett, former advisor to President Obama was phenomenal. 
We celebrated the best of our community's success with various Awards, such as the Hector Jacques Award of Business Excellence given to the Bin Doctors, the Entrepreneur of the Year Award and much more. I'm so proud to be a part of the organization that gave me a start in my business and many others over the years. Imagine our Top Four performing Black-owned businesses amassed over 20 years combined sales equaling over $1 Billion ( Danta Specialty Products, A.C. Dispensing Equipment Inc, SureShot Solutions, The Bin Doctors and BioMedica Diagnostics), and employing hundreds. these companies are internationally known around the world.
 This is a significant contribution to our economy and the economic sustainability of our province.
We recognized our internationally known female business owners like Eleanor Beaton, Cassandra and Cynthia Dorrington. Also, our young achievers such as Ross Simmonds and Mo Handahu featured in Essence Magazine.
Congratulations to all at Black Business Initiative, the only one of its kind in Canada. We also appreciate the vision and inspiration to "Expand our Reach."

Sharing Moments of Gratitude

Sharing moments of gratitude, appreciation and heartfelt thanks to my family, community, and women who have allowed me into their deepest personal lives and those who continue to support me.  
On April 17, 2017, a Member Statement was read by Diana Whalen, former Member of the Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia (MLA), and recorded in Hansard 2054, the official record of the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly  that I be recognized for being a trailblazer and my appearance on the front cover of the first Women's only feature of the Atlantic Business Magazine, January  2017.

This award was presented to me by Rafah DiCostanzo MLA,(our new MLA  for Clayton Park West), on Thursday, 15 June 2017.  Congratulations to the other community members who also received awards on that evening. Special thanks to Diana Whalen and Dawn Chafe, Executive Editor Atlantic Business Magazine.

Leadership and Women of Colour

This post was first written in May 2015, and thanks to Bridget C. Williams - Thanks!

Since re-reading my post, I have decided to do some further research to see where we currently stand and look at what has changes have occurred in the last two years.  Stay tuned!

Taking Risks:  Nine months ago I made one of the biggest decision of my life to step outside myself and take on the scariest thing I have ever done for me. "Flying Solo Professionally." Leaving one of the safest and secure jobs with the Nova Scotia Government was bold and tenacious. Why? As an immigrant and a woman of colour, management positions don't come very easily. I walked away from mine.

Employment Equity, Diversity and Inclusivity are words people find difficult to engage with because they are still viewed in the narrowest of terms. Being valued for what we bring to the table is yet to be discovered or recognized. So for many women of colour, even though we're highly qualified and accomplished, senior executive, director, and manager positions continues to exclude us.

Our participation at every level of decision-making is a democratic right and yet we're absent.  It is unclear who represents or speak to our interest.  It was Hilary Clinton who said, "Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in our world." In Nova Scotia, I believe women of colour are part of that large untapped resource to be discovered.

In order for may of us to achieve our ambitions, passion and purpose, we will have to create opportunities for ourselves. We will have to become our own CEOs.  Taking risks and starting our own businesses is a major step forward to having our voices heard. Creating our own networks, joining networking initiatives, forming allies and aligning ourselves with like-minded people is the only way forward.

Becoming entrepreneurs is our way to pursue our innovative and creative desires. As women of colour, we face unique challenges to starting and running businesses successfully such as racism, lack of information, lack of financial capital and appropriate legal advice. Accessing good business mentors is also critical when starting up a business, and for many women of colour,  we never get the valuable introduction or guidance to propel us forward.

The good news is that none of these structural barriers has prevented us from moving forward. As women of colour, we have always done business among ourselves. through home-based businesses,  we have raised our own capital,  borrow from family and friends, and used our personal savings to succeed. We even export and import products which promote our province.

Networking, participating, showing up and taking our position in those formal or informal arenas= will help us become more visible, give voice to our issues, and help change mindsets.  

Thanks to all those who have mentored, encouraged and supported me. Shared their journey, of success, failure and starting over again. 




Effective Communication for Leadership in the Workplace

On Monday, June 5, a Closing Ceremony was held for the participants who attended the Effective Communication for Leadership in the Workplace, (led by myself), Ann Divine CEO, Ashanti Leadership, and Professional Development Services.

This training was sponsored by the Spryfield and District Business Commission (S&DBC) in partnership with the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE) for small business owners and potential entrepreneurs to enhance their knowledge and skills to be productive and successful in their businesses. These programs are provided by the Nova Scotia Government free of charge to build skills necessary to increase our competitive advantage in the national and global marketplace. Participants are required to attend class for 40 hours for 10-12 weeks. 

Participants are taught by qualified and experienced instructors, recognized by the LAE, and must be a trained instructor and member of the Association of Workplace Educators of Nova Scotia (AWENS).

So far the S&DBC has hosted over 300 classes in Leadership, Social Media, Business Development, Customer Service Delivery, and more to inform and support business development, growth and sustainability in the community of Spryfield and beyond.

Warmest congratulations to those who completed the 40 hours over weekly 10 sessions. I appreciated your dedication, commitment, and determination to complete the program.

Thank you for the excellent evaluations and feedback you offered.

Here are some comments received from group participants. These were anonymous.

" The Instructor was very caring and easy to communicate with. The interaction between the group was phenomenal!! I think it is very good training and I hope to put my training into my job setting."

" I really enjoyed learning from all the other classmates that I took this course of. There is nothing I would change. I hope that I can become a better leader to mu staff and be a role model that they can look up to."

"Learning about communication styles, I hope to become better at communicating  effectively."

"Learning different ideas of leadership. Learning people's views from different communities and cultures. There is nothing to improve, the course is excellent. I have learned to trust  in myself, my decisions and my business culture."

"Ethically!! Be my authentic self and show my human skills, treat everyone equally and accept diversity and all difference. Be part of the team and do my show."

"Class participation, Instructor knowledge. Wonderful. Use my skills to be the authentic "me"

"Thank you for the opportunity"

"Conversations that increased my knowledge. I hope to become a more effective leader and increase my level of communication."

It has been a tremendous learning experience for me working with this group. They brought a great deal to the table. They also challenged my thinking. 

What I valued most about this group was they were multi-generational and diverse. Participants did not hesitate incorporate information that was of relevance to the topic. They brought ideas and information from their personal experiences, work environment, community, provincial, national and international.

A fantastic group to work with. 
Special thanks to Bruce Holland, Executive Director, S&DBC, Evan Williams and  Roger Peters, LAE Coordinators. This would not have been possible without your support.

A Proud Workshop Host for the 2017 Black Business Summit

BBI's 20th Anniversary Summit - June 22 & 23, 2017

BBI's 20th Anniversary Summit - June 22 & 23, 2017

I am excited to be given the opportunity to host a workshop at the Black Business Summit Marriott, Harbourfront Hotel,  Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada on June 22 & 23, 2017. Hosted by the Black Business Initiative (BBI), in celebration of the 20th Annual Anniversary, supporting black businesses in Nova Scotia.

Courtsey of the BBI

Courtsey of the BBI

This is an auspicious occasion for me because I have been following the work of BBI's via its Magazine prior to coming to Nova Scotia in 2004. There were many successful businesses i admired such as Pauline's Hair Salon, SureShot Dispensing, Bin Doctors and other that I read about in preparation for our move to Halifax. I wanted to emulate them but did not think it were possible.

This is a unique organization. It is the only one in the Maritimes and possible across Canada that is entirely dedicated to the educating and promoting the interest of black people in businesses.

There are many successful business owners who got their start from the BBI. My first business initiative to promote Black and Immigrant Women Home based businesses and the first International Women's Day conference in 2013, for racialized women, was sponsored by the BBI. Since then, I have had the privilege of working with several incredible staff, led training initiatives and network with community members affiliated with the BBI.

This organization bring together business owners and recognizes their talents, the contributions we make to the economic sustainability, development growth to our province and beyond.

Join us at the Summit.

When Women help Women, we all Succeed"

When Women Help Women, We All Succeed.


As I reflected on my own business, I have started to share my story about the lessons I learnt in my first year. Believe it or not there is enough for an entire book. It was in the winter that I started walking the streets of Halifax and knocking on doors to sell my product and ideas.

I learnt some invaluable lessons. The streets of Nova Scotia are tough terrain for all and finding your place in the market is critical.


Before I go any further, I wish to acknowledge the person who inspired me to write this blog - Polly-Anne Rhuland, Communications Coordinator at AWENS. We sat down on March 24 and shared stories about our businesses and what inspires us to do what we do.

I also want to say special thanks to a young woman who interviewed me for the CWB Spotlight, published on 10 August 2016, and played a role in influencing another woman to give me something I desperately needed recently. Thanks, Kirstin, and Debbie.

Special thanks to Iona, Rosanna and Gail for what you've done to help me succeed in recent months.


In 2013, I mentored a group of women from the Black Business Initiative. We met weekly for several months and shared stories of our dreams, passion, challenges, desire to succeed and how we wanted to define our own destiny. Today, none of us are in the same jobs or positions. This inspirational group of young women have all gone on to do some incredibly courageous things. Becoming a director, managers, took on positions out of the province and made great strides. One even stepped briefly into my former position as a manager at the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.  Their talents are now being recognized and valued.  These women are determined and phenomenal.  I, in turn, was also mentored by this group of insightful young women. They saw in me what I did not see in myself at the time.  On one occasion, they took over the session and built me a business brand. They told me that what I did for them,  needed to be shared with other women. They forced me to stretch my imagination to think of what I have in my tool box and how I could reinvent myself. I invited them to share in my success as I aspire each day.


As a result of their action, I stepped outside my comfort zone and into my die zone. I now have a stronger business base for Ashanti Leadership and Professional Development Services. They engaged me at the BBI to run my first "Business Cohort for Women Leadership" training. A leadership program specifically designed to empower women of colour who did not have access to development programs for leadership in business or at their place of work, led by an experienced individual, who had worked in government at a senior management level and who understood their challenges. To date, we have trained a growing number of women, many of whom have gone on to change their careers and have changed jobs, got promoted to management, and have become more confident in their defining of their own destiny. They have also given some credit to the value of attending the Business Cohort for Women Leadership for their professional growth.

Many of us have become personal friends, supporting each other during difficult times and celebrating each other's success on a daily basis.  As a result, we are stronger women in our professions, businesses, and communities. We have each other's backs.

These women have also helped me become a better business - woman as I grow into entrepreneurship. Thanks to everyone.

The Business Cohort for Women Leadership programs were sponsored by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, Workplace Education, in partnership with BBI. Thanks to our Metro Coordinator, Evan Williams, Margo Hampden and Roger Peters, in partnership with the BBI. 

I am privileged to be one of the many instructors who partner with the government of Nova Scotia, through the Department of Labour and Advanced Education to help build those essential skills in our workplaces. To help employers build a workforce, and raise our competitive advantage so that we can compete on the global economic platform and sustain our economy.

I have been supported and helped by other women on similar programs hosted by the Centre for Women in Business, notably the Export Sales and Marketing program instructed by my colleague Paula Greene. I am in the company of some of our most successful business- women in the Province who are sharing their knowledge with me so that I can grow my business.

Thanks to the many women out there in our community, those who follow me on social media and share my work. Those who take the time to read my blog, send me a comment and like my messages. You're supporting me and other women in business.

"There is nothing more exciting than to have women supporting, sharing and empowering each other. Because that's where our strength comes from." Ann Divine, 10 August 2016, CWB, spotlight.

Did you know that Viola Desmond "Shattered the Glass Ceiling"?

Borrowed from image from the internet

Borrowed from image from the internet


“The African Canadian Woman who broke the mould, “Shattered the Glass Ceiling” long before the phrase was coined.”

Recently, I was asked to comment on Viola Desmond's success as a business woman, what can we learn from her legacy and how this has impacted on Black women and women of colour like her human rights activism.

Until then, I had not given it much thought. The first person to speak of Viola Desmond's business acumen in some detail was the former Lieutenant Governor, Mayann Francis, at the launch of the ferry named after her. Even then, I did not grasp the magnitude of this women's entrepreneurial inventiveness.

During my research, I was astonished to learn about her accomplishments in business and would like to  share my finding. This is a proud moment for us, as Black women, and women generally.

In the past, I have struggled to find and note Black Women in business in Canada who had such business acumen in the 1940s, only to turn my attention to women such as Madame C. J. Walker, the first African American woman millionaire and others, without realizing we had such a powerful woman and a great teacher in my own backyard, right here in Nova Scotia.

 She was on mission to educate everyone, her family, students and communities where ever she  traveled.

Viola Desmond is one of those rare gems, a gift or a pink diamond we only find once in a lifetime. When I considered her gift box this is what I found.

Over the years, we have focused considerably on her human rights activities because of the racial discrimination she faced at the theatre in New Glasgow. However, there is so much more to this woman that is yet to be discovered.

As a person who teaches leadership, professional development and entrepreneurship, I have come to realize that Viola Desmond has given us so much and we must ensure that this body of work is shared in our institutions.

To be such a successful business woman, she would have had a tremendous amount of what I call my three "N's": Networker, Navigator and Negotiator skills. In addition, she knew her own Value so she could not be Undercut, undervalued nor Underestimated in her business.

Why was her business so unique?  and Why was she was so successful?

I believe Viola Desmond understood what made her the business so different. She knew her Unique Selling Proposition (USP). That is she found the right product and the right marketplace for her services.

She recognized there was a gap in the marketplace and because of who she was, she could fill that gap. For example, her adverts referred to hair texture and skin complexion, the “Nut Brown” face powder, the “Red or black lipstick” are my favourites.

She thought of everyone because she paid "special attention to veterans." Can you imagine this modern way of thinking?

Viola Desmond even had some technological skills too. You could have your products by “mail order”. She was a creative genius. She had an online business before Amazon.

She knew what it meant to be a Sales Woman first and foremost to build a relationship with her suppliers and consumers.

In addition, she must have been a keen researcher, who studied the needs of her customer carefully, trained her students well ,and in order to maintained her Competitive Advantage, Viola Desmond leveraged her Unique Selling Proposition by creating her own customer base through educating other women to start their own businesses and purchase her supplies. Thus ensuring economic prosperity for her community. It also meant that the dollar was circulating at least a few times in the community.

At that time in our history, women in business was not a popular thing. A woman's place was in the home and there were little or no support women in business let alone a Black Women owning a business of such magnitude. Women in business at the time were not taken seriously.

Here are some of her characteristics and leadership skills.

A Teacher with a creative flair for the programs she delivered in her school of cosmetology. There is no doubt she had insight and vision.

She was a chemist and scientist. Preparing her products to meet the needs of men and women. As most of us know the process we must go through to get that perfect hair relaxer or perm.  Skin Care products for Black women were not found so easily, and they are still very limited to date here in Nova Scotia. So, to have the right blend and balance, the chemicals had to meet a certain standards to protect her customer's skin.  

A distributor. The products were distributed and sold across the country. She even had a mail order process.  This was long before the online business before Amazon was invented. She used the technology of her day to grow her business.

Can you imagine she was also a vehicle owner for her times in the 1940s. This demonstrated her independence. She was also a feminist. Viola Desmond knew her own mind.  And to survive in a male dominated business environment, she must have been assertive too. Turning the nom into new opportunities.

Her leadership competencies surpassed her male counterparts of her time because she was a risk taker, fearless innovator, creative, and a person of whose sphere of influence spans way beyond the borders of Nova Scotia. She had business in Montreal, New Brunswick and traveled frequently to the US to meet her mentor Madame C J Walker. There were no mentors in Canada. She was an investor in her personal and professional development and took it very seriously.

Viola Desmond's business acumen cannot be questioned.  Researchers or academic lecturers in business and management programs would see her as an anomaly. One of a kind leader.

So what can we learn from Viola Desmond, the businesswoman's legacy?

In my humble  opinion, she is a priceless jewel in Canadian History. And this must be taught in all business program across Canada as an inspiration to women, marginalized women and girls, especially those who wish to enter the business world.

Viola Desmond "broke the mould and shattered the glass ceiling" and us as Women, African Nova Scotian Women, and African Canadian Women, immigrant women, Indigenous women, we can celebrate this fact every day.

 When I reflected on her sheer creative genius, as a visionary leader, I can't help but think what a loss her departure from the North End community in Halifax, African Nova Scotian and African Canadian communities generally.

Viola Desmond did not allow the opinion of others to stopped her or barriers of discrimination. She refused to remain invisible and stepped out on her own. As I considered how she traveled alone from Halifax to New Glasgow she demonstrated she was not afraid to go it alone, and met the challenges head on. 

She must have encountered some steep terrains as she navigated the business world which would have been hostile toward her and her ideas on business growth and profitability.

Following the discrimination case, Viola Desmond moved to Montreal and we seem to have lost track of her business activities. Just think what a loss this was to the Nova Scotian economy and economic sustainability which was not recognized at the time. She was a savvy businesswoman.

By choosing to put Viola Desmond's image on the $10.00, Canadian Dollar bill in 2018, the most used Canadian currency in circulation, has finally given her the recognition and status she justly deserved in the financial world. She continues to be an exporter and importer because as Canadians travel and exchange their currency, Viola Desmond continues to be recognized not just for her human rights activities but her business acumen, something that even those who made the decision may not have fully understood.

From this moment on, I am owning this space, to prominently feature Viola Desmond in my leadership programs. In my speeches to all women about what we can achieve despite the barriers discrimination and challenges, we may face.  I will continue to draw on her as an example of a woman with tremendous leadership competencies, tenacity and intent.

I also believe that she should be recognized at the Centre for Women in Business, the Black Business Initiative and the Nova Business Inc.  A Business Award  of Accomplishment should be given out annually to a woman or women who inspired others to succeed.

Viola Desmond's legacy epitomized what we all aspire to be and can learn from irrespective of our race and ethnicity

So, next time when we are feeling that we have not much as African Nova Scotia’s, African Canadians, Women and Immigrant Women, however, we choose to identify ourselves let us remember that Viola Desmond did it and so can we.

Just take a look at one of her Adverts.

Happy International Women's Day 2017 - "Be Bold for Change


This International Women's Day 2017, we have so much to celebrate I hardly know where to begin. There have been some "Bold Actions", major accomplishments and changes among our women of all ages, races, religion and cultures in our network. I am overjoyed and you should be too.

 I have been keeping copious notes, making observations and doing the count. Believe it or not, we are making steady progress, and we are succeeding in many areas of our chosen professions. I am also trying to draw comparisons with other cities nationally and internationally.  From my conversations with friends around the world, anecdotally, it would seem per capita, we in Nova Scotia are making some significant steps forward in some instances. However, this can only be done with the appropriate research and statistic. What I do know is that we are creating our own opportunities and making changes. However, we cannot do it alone. We all need each other because we still have a long way to go to achieve real Gender plus (including women from all sectors).

We’re still lagging behind in certain sectors, especially government. We still do not have a deputy minister since 2005, following the departure of Dr. Mayann Francis, Former Lieutenant Governor from the executive position of  Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission or senior executives for that matter.  Hopefully, some serious attention will be given to this issue. We continue to need more women on boards, senior women in the private sectors.

I quote from Annette Verschuren on leadership “We need more and better leaders from diverse backgrounds, including women, aboriginals, the disabled. When you have more voices at the table you make better decisions.” I can’t wait to see those untapped potentials in government utilized.

My dream for next year is that we can all be featured online and share around the world among our members.

For so long many of us here in Nova Scotia have been "visible but yet invisible."

However, I must say that 2016 -2017, we have taken some Bold Steps and made Change happened in all aspect of our lives. These included social, economic, cultural and political achievements.

I have also noticed a shift in attitudes and thinking.  Many of us have collaborated and shared the bond of woman/sisterhood including our non-binary friends, irrespective of our diverse cultures or backgrounds. We have shared some incredible moments together. We shared our knowledge, skills, expertise and secrets of success with one another. This was evident when we hosted a roundtable discussion for the Women Who Ran for Public Office. That event was so inspirational, empowering and exhilarating. It also demonstrated that “when women help women, we all succeed." 

There are too many events to mention but notably, those hosted by the Black and Immigrant Women Network Association are as follows; We partnered with the International Women's Forum and Stewart McKelvie; Centre for Women in Business. Our members joined in the various events Honouring and celebrating Nova Scotia’s first Black Woman Senator, Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard, our two new judges, Catherine Benton, the first Mi'kmaq provincial judge along with Ronda van der Hoek an African-Nova Scotian. Our very own Candace Thomas was also appointed to Queen's Counsel. The QC designation is awarded each year to members of the legal profession to recognize exceptional merit and outstanding contribution to the legal community.

Eleanor Beaton, joining Yale University Board of Directors for the Visiting Women Executive Education Program, as well as her and I, appearing on the front cover of the first All Women feature of the Atlantic Business Magazine, January - February 2017. Eleanor also recently hosted her "OWN the Room event" for professional women.

Among some of our other partners were Lana MacLean and Associates, the Immigrant Migrant Women's Association Halifax, Teens Now Talk, Y Immigrant Settlement Services, YWCA, Gail Adams, Owner and President of ConsulWorks, the Black Business Initiative, Halifax Public Libraries, Atlantic Museum of the Maritimes, the United African Canadian Women Association, celebrating their 20th Anniversary, hosting Saturday Schools for our students. These are some of the organizations celebrating with us throughout this year.  We are also partnering with Halifax Regional Municipality on their Diverse Voices, a study which is a national initiative from Union of Municipalities to engage women in public office.

Many of us were privileged to participate in a number of truly phenomenal events during the African Heritage Month 2017. The events brought recognition for our youth and young women. AHM2017, and the African Nova Scotian Music Awards (ANSMA) 19th Annual event showcased our talented young people. These were proud moments as we witnessed the tremendous gifts among our youth have and not often seen. Their courage, fortitude, and strength in so many areas including the arts, film, history and music, all done while pursuing their academic careers. They gave us a glimpse of what our future would look like and we are in good hand.

These young women hosted an amazing African Heritage Month 2017  dance session at the Keshen Goodman Library. 

These young women hosted an amazing African Heritage Month 2017  dance session at the Keshen Goodman Library. 

Yesterday, we heard about the launch of the Viola Desmond Alphabet book published by the Delmore "Buddy" Daye Institute. These will now be in our schools and book shops. I can't wait to see how fun it will be to re-learn the alphabet with my grandchildren. Designed by children for children. Incredible!

We also had a number of academic successes in Ph.D. graduates, Dr. Barbara Hamilton in the Health Profession and Dr. Sharane Simon as a Geologist. There are also women joining non-traditional trades. We also celebrate the new immigrant women among us will add to our strength in the coming years.

There were business and personal triumphs for many of our members.

Natalie Frederick-Wilson and her husband David, owners of House of Auto in Bedford, won the Small Business of the Year Award by the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

Congratulations to Sarah Fraser, Bank of Montreal, Commercial Bank Advisor, for winning their 2016, Annual Best of the Best Award. 

Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, President & CEO at Digital Nova Scotia. TEDxKelowna 2017. WXN Top 100 in Canada 2015 & 2016. She continues to blaze a trail before our eyes.                

Louise Adongo is among several Nova Scotians who will be attending the 2017 Governor General’s Canadian Leadership Conference for two weeks.

Ariel Gough, who is currently working on Capitol Hill as the Communication Advisor on the Atlantic Desk. Ariel was instrumental in ensuring that Nova Scotian was part of the national celebration of Black History Month in Canada. Some of us received invitations to attend the event in Ottawa. It was a very proud moment for me because Nova Scotia was prominently featured.

 In February, I was privileged to attend a roundtable with our new federal, Minister of Immigration, the Honourable Ahmed Hussen, to give an account of the issues pertaining to black and immigrant women in Nova Scotia.

I would like to acknowledge ALL our women friends and colleagues who have achieve so much in spite of the challenges of race, sexism, ageism, disability, gender expression and who suffer denigration because they are women.

Today, as we celebrate another International Women's Day 2017, let us pause to reflect for a moment on our good fortune and remember those women and girls who are still struggling for the right to have their voices hear, to education, the right to define their own destiny and be free. 

The challenges for women and girls to achieve economic grown and prosperity are still a long way off.

"The World Economic Forum predicts the gender gap won't close entirely until 2186. This is too long to wait. So around the world, International Women's Day provides an important opportunity for groundbreaking action that can truly drive greater change for women.

Use International Women's Day (IWD) on March 8 as an important opportunity to:

Celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women because visibility and awareness help drive positive change for women

Declare bold actions you'll take as an individual or organization to help progress the gender agenda because purposeful action can accelerate gender parity across the world" United Nations

I will be listing the names of some of our members who have accomplished so much in the last year.

Quote: The world is very competitive, and if you think you are going to get it on a silver platter, wake up. In most of my career, I've had to find it. You have to demonstrate pro-active aggressiveness" Annette Verschuren, Nova Scotian and Guest Speaker for International Forum, IWD 2017 Breakfast.

Enjoy your celebrations throughout the day and beyond.

Have a Great Day.


African Canadian Women Business Owners

Halifax Central Library - Bernadette Reid, Sankofo Sales and Marketing at the Podium. - photo from Ann's collection, Bridet Williams, Cathy Akinumni and Natalie Frederick-wilson.

Halifax Central Library - Bernadette Reid, Sankofo Sales and Marketing at the Podium. - photo from Ann's collection, Bridet Williams, Cathy Akinumni and Natalie Frederick-wilson.

It is incredible how the time had come and gone so quickly.
African Heritage Month 2017 will go down in our history as one of the most inspirational and with such a powerful message as "Passing the Torch.." we have a tremendous responsibility to act and "Be Bold for Change" as we gradually ease into Women's Month and International Women's Day 2017.
On behalf of the Black and Immigrant Women's Network and Ashanti Leadership and Professional Development Services, we wish to express thanks and appreciation to the Halifax  Central Library for partnering with us once again to host the African Canadian Women Doing Business in Canada. If you missed it, then let me share some highlights from four phenomenal business women in our community. 
Natalie Fredericks-Wilson, owner of House of Auto, and winner of the 2017 Small Business Award from the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.
 Bridget Williams, Author, a stage four cancer survivor and now an author of several books.
Bernadette Reid, owner Sankafo Marketing, and Sales, the first to bring African artifacts  to represent African Culture in Nova Scotia
  and Cathy Akinkumni, owner of Beautiful Linens, now owns a store front on Quinpool Road, were among our guest speakers. 
They shared their stories of triumph, overcoming challenges, taking risks were powerful. Breaking the mold by entering into non-traditional territories and not allowing fear to sabotage them were some of the key messages of the evening.
The women spoke to a packed room of diverse audiences (race, religion, gender and age).

The overwhelming message is together we are stronger. Our women are motivated, determined and fearless. 
Thanks to everyone who attended and made this event a success. We enjoyed the rich conversations and left feeling empowered to "Be Bold for Change" and create our own destiny.
We wish to thank Julia Khodos, Halifax Central Library our principle partner, Mary's African Cuisine, TD Bank, Office of African Nova Scotian Affairs, Ashanti Leadership and Professional Development  Services for their contributions.

Thanks also to Black Business Initiative and the Centre for Entrepreneur and Education Development representatives who shared information so willingly.

Professional Development - Communication for Leadership in the Workplace

Delighted to be partnering once again with the Spryfield and District Business Commission, Bruce Holland, Executive Director and his team as an instructor for the Communication in the Workplace Training. Sponsored by the Department of Labour and Advanced Education, and Workplace Education Program. The goal build a skilled workforce inorder to maintain our competitive advantage. Looking forward to working with a new group of participants from diverse background and multi-generational.

Shelley Jarrett, CEO of SJ Image Creations-Trailblazer

Born in Guyana, South America, raised in Guyana, London, UK and now resides in Mississauga, Canada. Shelley is a wife and mother of two adult sons, who are successful in their own professional capacity in the media industry.

This was one of my hardest Trailblazer Profiles, yet one of my proudest because Shelley Jarrett is very much a part of who I am today.  She is no ordinary person and is probably one of few people here in Canada, who could give you chapter and verse about who Ann Divine really is. We are first cousins. Her mother is the eldest of 9 children from my paternal grandparents, Simon and Emily Anderson. Shelley and I spent many happy holidays together both as children in Guyana, teenagers and young adults in London, England.

We are not surprised at Shelley’s success. As children, she was a skilled negotiator and networker. Shelley knew how to get us out of any trouble with our grandparents. Looking back, Shelley had a charming personality, filled with laughter and fun. Shelley would use her smoothest velvety tones and words like “Granny sugar plum”, “Granny love-a-dove,” "Oh granny nut you are the best." These words were so persuasive, they were guaranteed to get on our grandmother's good side and spare us a hiding. 

We were very fortunate to have had women in our lives who were role models. They were teachers and civil servants, stylish and sophisticated.  Even though our grandmothers and some aunts, did not have university degrees, or college education, they were perceptive, ambitious and industrious. They made a living by being innovative and creative. As children, we would often play dress up to emulate them. As well as made plans to be chauffer driven, wear hats and white gloves like our grandmother, Emily Anderson.

Shelley took her education seriously, she graduated with a Social Work Degree from Sheridan College, and then moved into finance. After working in a number of financial institutions for several years she finally found her niche in becoming an entrepreneur. She is described a hard working, determined, and ambitious woman. She is well known for her work of empowering women and girls, to rebuild their confidence as they re-enter into the workplace or try to navigate their career path or develop the self-esteem needed to thrive in the business environment. Shelley is also well known for hosted workshops in which she taught women how to dress for success, based on their body shape. Her business is based in Ontario and increasingly across Canada and more recently her magazine is being seen and read around the world.

After a year Shelley came to the realization that she wanted to reach more women at one time than she was able.  She became the Founder & Publisher of SMJ Magazine, an online image, lifestyle and business publication, formed in the summer of 2013.  It is primarily online with an App and with limited printed editions. The publication is now in its fourth year and is issued 4 times a year.

Shelley has her own Publisher notes in every issue, has started a Beauty Closet section in the magazine, and has written many articles in each issue herself, in the four interest areas of fashion & design, arts & entertainment, health & wellness, faith & community. For this, she has been recognized in the community for a number of awards and honours. In 2013 she was given a Canada Glass Woman of Excellence Award for Entrepreneur of the Year. In September 2014, she was a keynote speaker in Ottawa at the “Women in the Media” event for the Network of Black Business and Professional Women. The magazine and Shelley Jarrett have been nominated for two MARTY Awards at both the 21st and 22nd annual celebrations at The Living Arts Centre in 2015 and the Mississauga Convention Centre in 2016. On May 23rd, 2015, Shelley was part of a panel ‘Making it in the Media’ and honoured as one of the 100 Black Women to Watch in Canada in Toronto at the “Infinite: Canada International Black Women Event.”

More recently, has begun to host on-air conversations with leading African Canadian women such as Ms. Caesar-Chavannes served as Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister from December 2015 to January 2017, and other successful business women in Canada.  Some have referred to Shelley Jarrett as Canada's future Oprah Winfrey.

“It’s about the Rush I get when I take an idea and turn it into "Reality," something others can aspire to.”

Professional Development and Adult Education

Thanks to the Department of Labour and Advanced Education (LAE), Workplace Education Program and the Association of Workplace Education Nova Scotia (AWENS), I have now completed my Professional Development in Adult Education Training. Facilitated by Debbie Lawrence, Abundant Living Inc, Colleen O'Connor, and Robin Jardine, (LAE), and nancy Thompson, Association ofWorkplace Educators of Nova Scotia (AWENS). Special thanks to our Metro Coordinators, Evan Williams and Roger Peters for their on going support.

"Workplace Education is a unique opportunity for organizations to bring relevant, customized training directly to your workplace. By bringing partners together to form a project team, you will work closely with a Workplace Training Coordinator to help assess your company's training needs, develop programs with meaningful content, and create opportunities for your team or business membership to build  and strengthen workplace skills." (The Nova Scotia Workplace Education Initiative).

I am proud to be one of several Workplace Education Instructors who applied and was successful to participate in this training. I now hold my Professional Development Certificate for Adult Education Training.

The program helped tp provide the necessary tools and skills which are needed to work with businesses, institutions and communities and to strengthen our competitative advantage, put Nova Scotia insdustries on a path of continuous learning, and help support businesses with their employees learning needs. Ths means creating high performing and healthy workplaces.

Thanks to everyone who has palyed an active role in this program. Together we shared our thoughts, knowledge, as well as challenged each other's thinking in a respectful and safe space.

My most challenging area was the Practicum. Demonstrating that I can provide 240 minutes (4 hours) of taught content on a weekly basis and the presenting a slice of 30 minutes to my peers and instructors. This enable me to build my skills in the area of setting lesson objectives, and building my lesson plan, and presentation skills to an audience of peers and faciliators who can give constructive feedback. This was an invaluable experience. I learnt a great deal about myself, strengths and areas for improvement as well as a tremendous amoung of information and take away from my peers. 

The knowledge and skills gained fromthis training is transferrable to all aspectof my work as a consultant. So traveling to Truro with my friend and colleagues Corinne Boudeau was well worth it for six weeks. 

So excited that LAE and AWENS chose to invest in me.