Business owner welcomes new program for Black entrepreneurs in northern Ontario

Sudbury’s Roby Joseph says he hopes the new Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program (NOBEEP) will help Black entrepreneurs like him grow their businesses.

The Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program received $1.1 million to run for the next 3 years

Cuisine Tropicale is located in a strip mall off Notre Dame Avenue in Greater Sudbury. Restaurant co-owner Roby Joseph hopes he can add a second washroom in order to get a liquor license. (Jonathan Pinto/CBC)

Sudbury's Roby Joseph says he hopes the new Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program (NOBEEP) will help Black entrepreneurs like him grow their businesses.

Joseph opened his Afro-Caribbean restaurant, Cuisine Tropicale, last March, but said he hasn't reached profitability yet.

"I started the business with no money. It was just an idea," Joseph said.

After looking at the local restaurant market, he realized selling alcohol would help improve his margins.

But to get a liquor license he would need to renovate his restaurant and add a second washroom.

That's where NOBEEP could help.

"The best way to help Black people in the community is to empower them financially," Joseph said.

"And there's only one way to do that is, instead of having people working everywhere with their resume asking for a job, let's have them being entrepreneurs so they can employ themselves."

In March FedNor invested $1.1 million to fund NOBEEP for three years. Its Sudbury office opened its doors on Wednesday, July 20.

Charles Nyabeze is interim executive director of the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program. He says they plan to identify and support 70 Black business owners over the next three years. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Overcoming challenges

Charles Nyabeze, the program's interim executive director, said they plan to identify 70 Black business owners in northern Ontario that they can support over those three years and beyond.

Nyabeze said many Black entrepreneurs are new immigrants to Canada, and face a number of challenges when they start their businesses.

"When you come to Canada, the way business works in Canada and the way it's regulated, you know, it's very different," he said. "So there's different governance structures, different standards."

Before he opened his restaurant, for example, Joseph said he and his business partners sold Hatian dishes they cooked at home.

"And then I learned that it's not legal to be selling, you know, food you're cooking from home," he said.

Nyabeze said language barriers can also discourage new immigrants who want to start a business. Even if they speak English or French, he said the language of business in Canada is different than it is in a lot of other countries.

He said NOBEEP will help Black business owners navigate that world.

"So we want to work hand-in-hand with the broader communities in advancing business in northern Ontario," Nyabeze said. "We are part of Northern Ontario's economic development play."

Owning a business can be tough. There can be all sorts of challenges, but sometimes challenges are specific to a cultural group of entrepreneurs. There's a new program that will help black entrepreneurs across northern Ontario grow and expand their businesses. Charles Nyabeze joined us with more details about the Northern Ontario Black Economic Empowerment Program... also called NOBEEP.


Jonathan Migneault

Digital reporter/editor

Jonathan Migneault is a CBC digital reporter/editor based in Sudbury. He is always looking for good stories about northeastern Ontario. Send story ideas to

With files from Angela Gemmill