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How This Successful CEO Helped Launch Black Entrepreneurs On Their Path To Success

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province’s Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the 2023 Black Changemakers.

Vickie Joseph couldn’t believe the words that left her employer’s mouth.

It was the early 2000s, and Joseph was working as a sales executive. She had just told her boss she was pregnant with her first child. Then came the gut punch.

“They were like, ‘You’re going to be too stressed having a child, and we’re looking more for women that are blond with blue eyes,'” Joseph said. “We’re no longer going to need you.”

Up until then, Joseph says she had encountered few problems with discrimination, so the comments threw her off completely.

But after an evening at home drowning her sorrows in ice cream, she listened to her husband, Frantz Saintellemy. He persuaded her to do the market research to launch her original clothing line.

“It’s either you stay there and you cry your life away, or you take that obstacle and you turn it into an opportunity,” Joseph recalled her husband telling her.

Fast-forward to 2023. Joseph has a thriving line of women’s clothing, Nu.I. by Vickie, and is the co-founder of V Kosmetik International — a makeup company that caters to clients with skin tones and conditions that are underrepresented in the beauty industry.

Black Changemakers: Giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future

Then there is Groupe 3737, the non-profit business incubator she and Saintellemy co-founded in 2012, named for the address on Crémazie Boulevard where it occupies three floors in a former factory.

In 2019, Joseph was named Startup Canada Entrepreneur of the Year by the Innovators and Entrepreneurs Foundation for that project, which has provided coaching and support to more than 1,000 business owners of colour in the last decade.

“We need to fight to have our own space and our own voices,” Joseph said. “When I talk to a buyer, I tell them, ‘If you get me on the shelves of the stores, then you have to get other women, other Black-owned businesses, as well.'”

Nolie Imprévert, who was among the first to be mentored by Groupe 3737, counts Joseph as a personal role model for opening doors and demystifying business administration for her and other female entrepreneurs.

Before Imprévert launched her web series Les Rendez-vous de Nolie, which highlights the work and contributions of professionals of colour, Joseph acted as a sounding board for her programming ideas and taught her how to conduct market research and write a persuasive business plan.

“Sometimes, women at work will stick to themselves to have some kind of notoriety, but she’s there to elevate other women, in such a humble, human way and with so much kindness,” Imprévert said. “She puts all her positive energy into you and makes you believe in yourself.”

To this day, Imprévert says Joseph is always willing to give her advice whenever she asks.

“She’s a woman of action, and she’s a woman of her word,” Imprévert said.

Ensuring that more entrepreneurs of colour have the knowledge to sustain their businesses has become a personal mission for Joseph.

She says that without the proper resources, female entrepreneurs — especially women of colour — will continue to be sidelined across industries.

“If we don’t have the capital power, we are not part of the conversation,” she said.

“The more powerful we become … the less they’re going to be able to steal and appropriate our culture.”

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.

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