Nova Scotia·First Person

I come from the land of North Preston, the birthplace of so many entrepreneurs

Musician Keonté Beals talks with young Black Nova Scotian entrepreneurs about building their businesses — and finding balance.

Black-owned businesses are building on a long history of hard work

Keonté Beals, the owner of KBeals Entertainment, has wanted to be an entrepreneur from the time he was six years old. (Ryan Williams)

This First Person column was written by Keonté Beals, an R&B artist, entertainer and entrepreneur from North Preston, N.S. For more information about CBC's First Person stories, please see the FAQ.

I can remember the first time I saw business in action.

My great-grandmother Lillian Smith was an entrepreneur. She had a candy store and she would also sell baked goods. She had the best rolls in all of Nova Scotia, hands down. 

I would see many nickels, dimes, toonies and loonies get counted as people young and old came through the back door of my family's home, and into our kitchen to purchase all kinds of treats. Penny candies, mini sips, gummy worms, you name it.

Seeing a home business functioning almost effortlessly became the norm for me, and being in the space where the action happened clearly impacted me more than I realized.

I come from the land of North Preston, N.S., which birthed many entrepreneurs. Cooks, musicians, mechanics and so many more. 

When I look around, I'm struck by how many young people are building on that history. They're committed to making products and services that are culturally relevant to Black communities, and also rooted in Black culture.

Nevell Provo from North Preston founded Smooth Meal Prep and R&B Kitchen, a soul food restaurant in Dartmouth. (Submitted by Nevell Provo)

One of them is Nevell Provo.

He owns Smooth Meal Prep and R&B Kitchen in Dartmouth, and I wanted to get his perspective on how growing up in North Preston influenced his business mind and drive.

"Growing up we would always see different entrepreneurs. Old ladies selling wreaths, little stores selling candy," Nevell told me.

"Entrepreneurship came from need. We weren't doing it for fun; they needed to survive."

Entrepreneurship came from need. We weren't doing it for fun; they needed to survive.- Nevell Provo, Smooth Meal Prep and R&B Kitchen

Now at 24 years old, through my company KBeals Entertainment, I am able to do both — make a living and do what I love. Our communities have come so far, and it's important to acknowledge the generations who came before and got us to this point today. 

Finding balance in business

Trevor Silver is another amazing creative mind. He's also the owner of the clothing brand tREv, and somebody I am proud to call a friend. He told me that even though the scoreboard of success is often based on finances, he's also striving toward a different goal.

"You have to balance to succeed," Trevor said.

Trevor Silver grew up in North Preston and created tREv. (Rachael Shrum)

"Being empathetic and showing love for your family and stuff like that, these are all things that are important to me."

Balance is the key to success but it can also be one of the hardest things to achieve.

My message to this next generation of Black entrepreneurs is to take care of themselves. Outside of running your business, you have family, your mental and physical health and the personal time that you need for yourself.

LISTEN: Keonté talks with young Black business owners about creativity, success and taking care of their mental health:

Creating generational wealth

Kayla Borden owns Pineapple Express Media, one of the few Black-owned media companies in Canada. She told me she's always been focused on the bigger picture, and what she can do to pave the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs.

"Creating that wealth in our family and in our communities so that we can continue to build and … get back to where we were as kings and queens before we were colonized," she said. 

Kayla Borden is the CEO of Pineapple Express Media. (MNEO Designs)

Just like our ancestors broke so many chains for us, we must do the same for the generation coming after us.

Representation is so important. I saw my great-grandmother Lillian pave the way in North Preston, and I want the kids growing up in this province today to know just how beautiful and unique their differences make them.

That's why I recently released a children's book called I Am Perfectly Me that highlights kids of colour, and as you go through the book each one of them displays the power of self love. 

We have so much more growing to do but our future is bright. The triumph in the end is great, but what I've learned is that the journey is where strength and character are built, and this is where our testimony will build and live on forever. Legacy work.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.