Chamber creates voice for Niagara’s Black businesses
Source: St. Catherine’s Standard
‘We see ourselves not as separatists, but as a part of a wider community’
For Dale and Diana Myrie, it was an opportunity they could not pass up.
They knew it would require a lot of work, with limited resources and a small group of volunteers. But to launch a local chapter of the Canadian Black Chamber of Commerce, and be in a position to give back to other Black businesses and members of the community?
It was worth it.
“The seniors, the young people, the persons who are in agribusiness — there are just so many different areas that we wanted to have an impact on and we know that right now is the right time,” said Diana Myrie, regional director, economic and business development of the Hamilton-Niagara chapter.
“There’s a need for what we are here to do.”
Last weekend, what was once an idea became a reality. CBCC executives, local businesses, community members and politicians gathered to celebrate the official launch of the Hamilton-Niagara chapter in St. Catharines.
“It was really a huge success,” said the chapter’s regional vice-president, Dale Myrie. “We want to get our voices out there, we want the wider community to recognize Black businesses are here to stay, and that there are resources available through the CBCC Hamilton-Niagara region that they can tap into.”
Funding and grants, workshops, partnerships, bringing in experts to assist and share expertise — the opportunities are countless. The Myries want CBCC to be a place Black businesses and entrepreneurs can turn to.
“We’re here to help Black businesses succeed. We work with them and we also work with people who would like to support them,” he said. “That’s very, very vital to get them going, to get them started, to get them to continue on their path to success.”
He said he hears the question often: why a Black chamber of commerce? Because, in addition to the CBCC being commitment to connect Black business in Canada to the global Black diaspora and mainstream global markets, it is the voice of Black Canadian businesses.
It is “dedicated to a prosperous Black Canadian community.”
“(We’re trying) to really engage Black businesses and help to motivate them, to navigate all the difficult areas that they face on a daily basis, trying to do business in a world dominated by white business and white powerbrokers, to get to that stage where they’re valued for what they’re bringing to the table as well.”
And in a smaller region such as Niagara (and Hamilton), where the number of Black business owners is a “very, very small community,” representation matters.
“We’re viewed as minor in the grand scheme of things and that is one of the reasons why we want our Black businesses and people to understand that there is a support base here,” he said. “To show people that we are just as excellent as anyone else in terms of the availability of the services that we offer.”
The Niagara-Hamilton chapter is still in the early assessment stages, trying to figure out how to navigate the waters. It will be crucial to involve the wider community to figure out what programs and services are needed.
It will bring on board programs established through CBCC, and partner with programs and businesses that are already in the local community.
That doesn’t mean only Black businesses.
“We see ourselves not as separatists, but as a part of a wider community and we believe that at the end of the day, there would not have really been a reason for a Black chamber if there was representation,” he said. “We can only voice our concerns but the people with the power to make those changes. We’re asking them to recognize us and to be able to sit down and to listen to our stories.”
It is partnerships with organizations such as Niagara Regional Police — it attended the chapter launch — that will allow CBCC to “bridge the gap and allow for more dialogue so that we can solve the problems that we are all facing,” said Diana.
The chapter’s immediatefocus is to drive up memberships and hold information sessions to let the community know it is “open for business.”
“Always feel free to reach out to us. We’re here, we’re ready and willing to give them the information they need.”
The chapter’s team members have all been through struggles and are looking forward to sharing those experiences with the Niagara-Hamilton community.
“We’re going to be tapping into those individuals so that they will be able to impart that type of knowledge and experience,” said Dale. “You cannot lead until you fail, and I have had my failures personally as a business owner and I’ve had my successes … That’s why I’m passionate about really helping people to be able to accomplish their goals.”
Source: St. Catherine’s Standard
Be the first to access updated blogs, podcast, events, educational courses and so much more.
Subscribe to our Newsletter today!