Schulich ExecEd and York University Unites With the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance; Empowerment Through Programming

Posted on December 08, 2022
Schulich ExecEd and York University Unites With the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance; Empowerment Through Programming

The Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials from the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA) was a program designed for Black entrepreneurs and early-in-career professionals, granting them access to mentorship and helping them build business acumen and leadership skills to become effective business and community leaders.

Led by the Black Creek Community Health Centre in partnership with Schulich ExecEd, YSpace at York University, and the TD-Community Engagement Centre, this program was funded by the federal government’s first-ever Black Entrepreneurial Program investment of more than $400 million. The fund aims to support the long-term success of Black entrepreneurs and business owners in Canada, with $3 million dollars awarded through the fund to BEA.

On November 30th, 2022, the first in-person graduation for the program was held at the Arta Gallery in Toronto, celebrating the graduation of the first 2 cohorts. The event was attended by community leaders, professionals, and entrepreneurs, and it was a testament to the social innovation, change and programs to take place in the near future. The Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials united various departments of York University, joining them and the surrounding community together under the shared goal of social innovation and community change, as well. Rami Mayer, Executive Director of Schulich ExecEd, gave an exhilarating speech, sharing words of courage, perseverance and inspiration for current graduates and future cohorts:

“At Schulich ExecEd, our team is accustomed to working with entrepreneurs to support their success. It’s especially rewarding to represent York University in collaboration with other units and craft a program that will uplift and support the local community where we live and work. This program represents our strong commitment to social innovation and the development of equity deserving groups. We congratulate the first and second cohort on their accomplishment and look forward to celebrating future graduates.”

– Rami Mayer, Executive Director, Schulich ExecEd

Cohort 2 graduates from the Certificate in Business and Leadership Essentials program

Since 2021, approximately 50 participants from Cohorts 1 and 2 had the opportunity to learn valuable skills from faculty specializing in business essentials and leadership training. Additionally, all participants received mentorship from Program Director Michel Shah:

“I’m so delighted to lead this program and community. Real conversations that acknowledge the impact of the black experience on business and professional outcomes and provide concrete strategies that lead to real action is what this program is about. BEA was an idea, someone mapped out and sought partnerships and resources for because they believed in black entrepreneurs and professionals and their promise. They understood how Canadian history informs today’s outcomes, and that given the right level of support, these entrepreneurs and professionals can produce even more amazing results and make an even greater contribution to our economy.”

– Michel Shah, Program Director, Schulich ExecEd

It is important to sustain and promote organizations like BEA to uplift and support the voices of black entrepreneurs and professionals. These contributions are critical to the inclusive Canadian business ecosystem. Olu Villasa was the program’s fearless leader and change-maker, who is just getting started. With big plans for 2023, BEA is looking forward to what the future holds:

“Our partnership with Schulich ExecEd on the BEA Business and Leadership Essentials Certificate program is one of a kind. A perfect example of community-university partnership working in tandem to nurture the professional development skills in present and future Black business leaders within the community.”

– Olu Villasa, Manager, Black Entrepreneurship Alliance, Black Creek Community Health Centre

Right to left: Olu Villasa, Manager, BEA, Black Creek Community Heath Centre; Rami Mayer, Executive Director, Schulich ExecEd; Michel Shah, Program Director, Schulich ExecEd; Stefania Gargaro, Program Account Manager, Schulich ExecEd; Sharon Wong Fung Can, Program Coordinator, Schulich ExecEd.

Cheryl Prescod, from Black Creek Community Health Centre, was a key individual in collaborating with Schulich ExecEd to develop this program in providing a vision and direction towards community capability and capacity for vulnerable populations living in Toronto’s Northwest communities:

“BEA is a valued and essential program that addresses the generational disadvantage of Black Canadians through leadership development and capacity building. The graduates of this program have the unique and powerful opportunity to re-write the script toward improving economic health and well-being for generations to come. In partnership with York University’s Y-Space, TD Community Engagement Centre and Schulich ExecEd, we are pleased to support the current and future BEA cohorts towards this goal.”

– Cheryl Prescod, Executive Director, Black Creek Community Health Centre

The success of this program and its graduates provides a pathway of inspiration for the next 3 future cohorts. The next cohort is set to kick off in September 2023 with the support of each partner. BEA will continue empowering its community, creating accessibility, and paving paths to employment for program participants. Byron Gray elaborates on the importance of creating pathways for black communities:

“Sharing space with the Black Entrepreneurship Alliance (BEA) graduates of cohorts 1 & 2 and shaking their hands was an honour and a privilege. Partnering with the BEA is a true demonstration of what success looks like when partners are committed to elevating Black businesses and supporting the community. As mentioned at the BEA Kick-Off “we have not arrived” but we are certainly on the right path. The York University – TD Community Engagement Centre is excited to continue partnering and building with the BEA to support the hyperlocal Black Creek, Jane and Finch community, and the rest of Southern Ontario.”

– Byron Gray, Manager, York University – TD Community Engagement Centre

Black Entrepreneurship Alliance: Kanishia Mensah, Mary Olabanwo, Olu Villasa, Taiwo Oyewole; YSpace Team: Nafis Ahmed, Judy Chang, Marlina Ramchandran, Alina Ali, Sudipra Saha, Youngmi Lee

Furthermore, this program is about building skills for the future and joining together the community to achieve these goals. The Business and Leadership Essentials program features talent from multiple divisions of York University to support the surrounding community by providing tools, skills, and mentorship. David Kwok comments on these collaborative partnerships:

“The partnership with the Black Creek Community Health Centre and Schulich ExecEd has been transformative; we’ve seen so many amazing Black entrepreneurs and young professionals build genuine connections and enhancing their skills as future business and community leaders. The B&L Certificate is one example of how York University has partnered with local organizations to create impactful change from a grassroots level.”

– David Kwok, Associate Director of Entrepreneurship, Y-Space

Schulich ExecEd and YSpace look forward to continuing to be a part of accessible education for diverse communities and empowering tomorrow’s leaders, especially from equity-deserving groups. Schulich ExecEd is incredibly honoured to have partnered with the Black Creek Community Health Centre and the fellow York University neighbourhood in providing a learning journey that truly fosters a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment in a community that has faced many barriers to success. This excitement extends to the next program kick-off this September 2023, as well as future initiatives.