The next time you go to a Shoppers Drug Mart for a prescription to be filled out, you will be offered an in-store pager that will alert you when your medication is ready.
The company that supplies and distributes the beeping device was co-founded by 29-year-old Grenadian-born Ricky Neckles. Under Neckles Global Enterprise (NGE) launched seven years ago, the young entrepreneur co-founded TNTech Canada Inc., which is Canada’s leading supplier and distributor of on-site paging services.
The company’s clients also include Jack Astor’s, The Keg Steakhouse and Baton Rouge.
Life wasn’t meant to be easy, as Neckles found out along the way.
Just six months after migrating to Canada to join her partner in the city’s east end, Neckles’ mother ended the relationship and left the home with just $6 and a plastic bag with their clothes.
“As a young boy, I lined up at the food bank for my next meal and I didn’t know what it meant to have new clothes,” Neckles told the audience at the Durham Black Educators’ Network’s (DBEN) fourth annual “And Still We Rise” conference for Grades Five to Eight students and their families last Saturday at Bellwood Public School in Whitby.
Despite the challenges that included living in 11 Toronto community housing apartments in a six-year span before his 10th birthday, Neckles was determined to succeed and become a useful citizen.
“I grew up in the Mount St. Dennis community being labelled at-risk because of our socio-economic status and the fact that my mom was single and raising me in a designated priority neighbourhood,” he said. “I was at-risk of being extraordinary.”
At age nine while at a bus stop in the middle of winter with his mother and their groceries, Neckles promised he would buy her a car and that he would be her retirement plan.
“Even though we struggled to make ends meet, I considered myself growing up privileged because my mom provided food, clothes and a roof over my head and made sure I attended school every day on time,” he said.
Four years ago, he fulfilled the promise he made to his proud mom, who almost lost her son several years ago to senseless gun violence.
The memory of having a gun pointed at him as he ran for his life is still fresh in Neckles’ mind.
The then Grade 11 student was on his way to his Mount St. Dennis home after playing basketball when three young men approached him and demanded his personal possessions, which included his backpack with his school work, wallet and digital camera. After a brief struggle, he managed to escape with his belongings. While running away, he looked back briefly to judge the distance between himself and his pursuers only to realize that one of them was pointing a gun at him.
Evading his attackers by running as fast as he could, Neckles made it home safely.
After graduating with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of Toronto eight years ago, Neckles worked with Accenture – a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company – as a management consultant analyst for a year before founding NEG, which owns a collection of diversified businesses in trade, manufacturing and real estate.
“I now own more real estate than I lived in between the ages of three and nine,” the York Memorial Collegiate Institute graduate said.
A National Society of Black Engineers ex-president, Neckles encouraged the young people at the conference to identify and seek out opportunities and choose their friends wisely.
“It’s critical that you not follow the crowd and understand that once you are an eagle, you must find other eagles to soar with,” said Neckles, who started the Youth Legacy Program aimed at developing elementary and secondary school students’ academic and leadership skills and stimulating their interest in science and technology. “As you soar, make sure you help others and give back.”
Brandon Hay, who founded the Black Daddies Club (BDC) eight years ago to address the absence of male figures in a large number of Black households and help fathers become better parents and role models for their children, also spoke at the conference.
Raised by his mother, who brought him from Jamaica in 1990, Hay – on his first visit back to his birth country six years later – attempted to reach out to his father to resolve their differences and establish a relationship. They were close to forging a bond when Brian Hay was shot nine times in March 2004 while playing dominoes outside a bar he owned in Spanish Town. The young suspect was himself murdered two weeks later.
Determined not to make the same mistake his father did of staying out of his son’s life, Hay – who has three young sons – started the BDC.
The conference also featured author, Yahaya Baruwa, who migrated with his family from Nigeria in 2001.
One of eight children, he attended Sir Wilfrid Laurier and Marc Garneau Collegiate Institutes before entering York University to pursue a psychology degree.
Four years ago, Baruwa launched his first book – Struggles of a Dreamer: The Battle between a Dream and Tradition – that tells the story of a New York City beggar and a farmer’s son in a faraway land whose stories are woven together in a charming tale full of intriguing challenges and adventure.
Students from Bolton C. Falby Public School entertained the audience with pan music and step dancing while North York Suzuki School of Music pianist, Micah Weekes, made an appearance.
Established in 2005, the DBEN develops and implements programs to support students and parents of Caribbean and African descent.
“We work in schools and the community to optimize the educational experiences for students, educators and their families across this region,” said Durham District School Board administrative officer and DBEN chair, Eleanor McIntosh.
The rest of the DBEN board comprises Cheryl Rock, Claudette McDonald, Tanya Salmon, Matthew Sinclair, Tracey Grose, Nyla John, Shaundell Parris, Janet Robinson, Sharon Knights and Bellwood Public School principal, Andrea Walters.