Program grads eye career in business


They met through mutual friends at a concert two years ago. Natalie Hay and Nadine McKenzie immediately developed a friendship after realizing they had a few things in common, including love for children and a passion for designing kids wear.

To refine their business skills, they enrolled in the African Canadian Youth Entrepreneurship Training Program administered by the Scarborough-based Heritage Skills Development Centre (HSDC). Last Saturday, they graduated from the program and were presented with the $500 first prize awarded to the top graduate.

“We had an idea of what we wanted to do, but we needed a program such as the one we just completed to show us how we could run a successful business,” said McKenzie, who graduated from Dennis O’Connor High School in Ajax. “This program provided us with the tools we need to devise a strategic business plan that will work for what we want to do and turn our idea into a revenue generating entity. That’s what business is all about.”

Hay, who graduated from Lakeshore Collegiate and Humber College with a Social Work Diploma, said she and her business partner will use the financial reward to print business cards and flyers, develop a website and stock some stores in the Greater Toronto Area with their Bobby D. Kids Apparel product line that includes T-shirts, hoodies, cardigans and accessories.

The partners made it clear they will consider investors who share their passion and vision.

“We will also work with fashion interns and give back some money to organizations that are working with young people, like Tropicana and the Remix Project,” added McKenzie. “It’s important that someone stand up and present a helping hand to kids who roam the streets and need some guidance to pursue their dreams.”

Hay and McKenzie can be reached by email at: or by calling (416) 287-1824.

Shereen Ashman said she jumped at the opportunity to participate in the program because she desperately wanted to develop her non-profit organization, Mentor Match, which is an online mentorship program that seeks to align young people with experts in their respective areas of endeavour.

“With the business knowledge I now have, me and my business partner, Latania Christie, will now go out and look for funders, form a board and hopefully the company will become operational by 2010. It’s a lot of work, but we are committed.”

Ashman, a member of the Jamaica Diaspora Canada Foundation Future Leaders group, also runs an event management company, Stile Diva, which has worked with the St. Maarten Tourist Board to stage an International Hair and Fashion Show in 2007 and last year’s Caribbean World Beauty and Barber Show.

The young entrepreneur can be reached at:

The other graduates in the entrepreneurship training program were Asma Alfarsy (Cute Babies), Jermaine Barrett (Blue Bird Hand Crafted) and Tanya South (Culture Cards).

Graduates in the Computer/Internet training program were also presented with their awards last Saturday at Bendale Library.

They were Indira Rajkumar, Nigar Sultana, Luna Polissant, Asma Awaisy, Pam Church, Harold Louis Jean, David Johnston, Shiekh Hussain, Christine Niddery and Yuvathiranie Sellathamby.

The HSDC was founded in 1993 by a group of women concerned about the gap in integration services available to immigrants from the African continent. Over the years, the organization has expanded its scope to include all immigrants.

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