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Association Helps Blacks (Originally Published in Centretown News)

In Education, Writing (all kinds) on September 8, 2016 at 3:00 AM

What does a business of frozen cassava and fresh crushed peppers have in common with a business of permed hair and painted toes? It’s the Black Business and Professional Association.

Black professionals and black-owned businesses have a chance to build contacts with other association members and in many communities, which will help them to succeed.

The association offers its members free seminars and lectures on information important to businesses, such as legal issues involved in signing leases.

“We’re looking for people who are black,” says Dave Tulloch, president of the association. “We feel we can offer them some kind of comradeship and information that we don’t’ normally get because we find ourselves on the fringe of many of the mainstream organizations.”

This association gives black-owned businesses and professionals an opportunity to be in the spotlight and a support system they may not get from other organizations.

“What I get from the association is support,” says Ottawa lawyer Hugh Fraser. “The contacts that you make are important. Networking is a very important aspect as you develop your career.”

The association has provided its members a support system for three years in Ottawa. The association has been in Canada for over 10 years.

Statistics Canada does not keep figures on the number of black-owned businesses in Ottawa.

Tulloch estimates the association’s membership is between 45 and 55 businesses and professionals. But, only 20 per cent of the businesses and professionals in Ottawa-Carleton belong to the association.

“The wider population is just not interested in getting involved,” explains Tulloch. “Perhaps, they are too preoccupied or for whatever reason, we don’t have them on our membership list.”

But one restaurant owner says his is not even aware of the association. The Lion’s Den at 399A Catherine St. is not a part of the association.

“It’s not that I wouldn’t get involved with the association, but I’ve never heard of it,” said Robinson.

The owner of the year-old restaurant, Edward Robinson, does not advertise either.

Robinson does his own cooking, and the menu offers mainly West Indian food, like jerk chicken and curried goat.

Beneath the loud reggae music, the red, yellow and green décor reflects Robinson’s Jamaican heritage.

Robinson’s business is expanding. He has plans of offering more Canadian food for his younger clientele and adding a cultural boutique including information on Ethiopia.

“I’m sure the association could help me in my plans for expanding my business,” said Robinson.

Perhaps, if Robinson were a member he would benefit from the business experience of Fay Campbell-Lenz.

Campbell-Lenz, owner of the beauty salon Head to Toe at 429 MacLaren St., is a board member of the association.

Campbell-Lenz, has owned the salon for 10 years. As an established business in Centretown, she says she does not benefit the same way younger businesses do from the information the association puts out.

“My work on the committee is to help other businesses,” she says.

Campbell-Lenz shares her experience in business with less established association members.

She says one of the keys to her success is the support she gets from various communities, not just the black one.

“I have a multicultural clientele. I would not like to call my business a black business. It’s a business that’s owned by a black person. I am able to give service to anyone who requires service.”

The association gives its members a chance to make contacts with other business communities. This widens the market of customers and clients for the members.

“We target organizations and institutions outside of the black community to get them sympathetic to our causes, and to get their assistance so they can help our members,” said the association’s president.

Last year, the association organized a black exposition. Business and professionals had a chance to expose the larger community to their services.

Negril, at 787 ½ Somerset St. W. has been in business for 14 years. Frozen fish and fresh crushed peppers give the place a scent of West Indian cooking.

“We couldn’t survive with just the business in the black community,” says the owner of Negril Tropical Mart Co., Lincoln Brown.

Brown is a member of the association.

“Our primary objective is to give our membership a way to access other people,” said Tulloch.

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