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NOBEEP celebrates a year of entrepreneurial spirit in Sudbury

The Northern Ontario Black Entrepreneurial Empowerment Program began as a way to support people of colour in the North who are hoping to open their own small business

The Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program (NOBEEP) celebrated its first anniversary on July 22. To Chamirai ‘Charles’ Nyabeze, executive director, that means the real work will now begin. 

“We didn't go into this with the prescription,” he told at the event. “We wanted to actually understand what the real issues were. Now, after a full cycle we're now able to implement programming that can identify the real gaps.” 

The entrepreneurial program began to help the many people of colour who are moving to Northern Ontario, bringing specialized services and tradecraft with them. But, as Nyabze puts it, “not everyone is gifted at writing business plans; they are gifted with the work they do.”

And so, they can have the support of NOBEEP. 

“What makes a thriving community are small businesses, the little services. And with COVID, we learned that we needed to have more reliance on our local supply chains,” said Nyabeze.

“Having more local businesses and offering smaller services is a method that will create more employment for many people.”

He said, at the moment, there are many grassroots services and organizations getting assistance from NOBEEP. 

“People who are doing hairstyling or wedding food businesses, people who are doing entertainment businesses, filling that gap, working with communities, coming in from the ground up,” said Nyabeze. “I see a lot of entry-level businesses, but entry-level businesses mature.”

Many owners spoke at the anniversary celebration, including Omobolanle Abajingin, who began her business, Zena’s Popcorn, in the wake of the pandemic and everyone staying home for movie nights.

Also speaking was Olitise Olowabi, founder and CEO of Curves and Silhouettes; Bayode Gegeoju, founder and CEO of Strokes Inc.; Jesse Bertrand-Byard of The Black Yard Entertainmentz; and Tsitsi Mhende, founder of Poverty Alleviation Initiative Africa.  For a directory of some of the businesses supported by NOBEEP, click here

The opening speech came from the Afro-Heritage Association's president, Chantae Robinson. NOBEEP was born of the work of the Afro Heritage Association. Robinson, who was born in Jamaica and is now studying at NOSM, thanked the generations that came before them for starting their homes in Sudbury, and giving the future generations a chance to build something beautiful for their community. That gift, she said, is NOBEEP. 

Nyabeze said the future of NOBEEP and everything they are able to offer rests on stable funding sources, but more than anything, clients coming to ask for help. 

“Our clients are everything,” he said. “Sudbury is our main partner here in Northern Ontario. But we've been to Sault Ste. Marie, to Thunder Bay, Wawa, Timmins, North Bay and Parry Sound. We go across all of Northern Ontario. And this next year, we'll be going all over the place again to let you know that we're here for you.”

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with