BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
Inspiring and increasing the confidence of a community is no easy feat. Helping people to connect, challenging them to push their boundaries and test their limits is a demonstration of the potential for greatness they have within. This past weekend the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper, hosted their 2nd annual Business Conference and Expo rallying community members and leaders together to showcase their products and services, networking and building connections while combining their efforts to make a positive change in society.
Hosted in partnership with Jamaica National Building Society at the Pearson Convention Center in Brampton, The Toronto Caribbean Newspaper invited businesses and community entrepreneurs to connect and strengthen relationships with one another within the Caribbean community. At the beginning of this year The Toronto Caribbean News launched their company vision, one with the hope of bringing us closer together as a community, working together to share and communicate ideas that would eradicate the social stigmas that burden the Caribbean Community. The theme of this year’s Expo was centered on putting the ‘UNITY’ in CommUNITY, focusing on real people standing above the rest creating a movement and spotlighting those who are putting in an active effort to be the change they wish to see in this world.
The Expo commenced with the singing of the Canadian National Anthem by Latoya Mullings, a talented rising singer from Jamaica. Hosted by Charles Matthews of CMJ Entertainment, music provided by DJ Kevin and lighting and sound organized by Empire Entertainment.
As guests arrived they were invited to browse the vendor stalls set up inside the hall which offered exclusive access to a wide array of business professionals promoting their personal services, selling products and presenting the opportunity to network with potential clients and business operatives. This Expo offered a professional platform where business owners could reach the market within the Caribbean community, and also display their name, brand and services to business owners looking to network and potentially work together on future projects.
Throughout the course of the day guests were able to hear from a collection of eleven highly qualified business professionals from within the community including Tammy Flores, Jelani Daniel, Michelle Smith, Fitz ‘The Whip’ Vanderpool, Dewitt Lee, Keisha Johnson, Ash Silva, Randy Persaud, Priya Ali and Marc Trinidad. Each speaker brought a refreshing perspective on business whether it was leveraging social media, building your brand, the importance of community consciousness, community healthcare or personal and professional development, they offered interesting and engaging insight to get entrepreneurs in the mindset for success.
There was a steady flow of moderate traffic throughout the day and the inside of the hall was always bustling with energy, vendors pitching their products, promoting contests and giveaways enjoying the event and taking advantage of the multitude of opportunities presented. Some of the vendors on site included Arbor Memorial – Brampton Funeral Home, Andre Rose – Buns of Steel Underwear, Shades Hosiery, WiLime Sauces, Laparkan, ViBrandSee, V24K Gold Team, Monex, Younique, Mortgage Broker Charles Ayodele, Mile High Health & Wellness and many, many more. The youngest vendors in the house kept a lemonade stand out front selling refreshments and cookies to guests coming into the expo. Some vendors from last year who enjoyed themselves so much the first time around and came back to join in the excitement included Seacret, World Financial Group, and Print My Banner, who came out and invested their time in something that could help them make more connections and generate business all year long.
There was a collection of food vendor’s onsite who brought a mix of Caribbean, as well as West Indian Cooking and also Burgers and Fries from Lisa’s Cookhouse, Roti Roti, Caribbean Jerk House and 4orks.
At noon, the legendary Dark Knight and Brampton Batman rolled in with the Batmobile, a rare treat for many who were there and had only head whispers of this vigilante walking the streets of Brampton. He made his rounds through the hall presenting photo op moments for everyone in attendance taking them right back to the early days of their childhood.
Entertainment for the day included Samba performances by the beautiful ladies of Tropicana Queens, crowd favorites from last year who put on a captivating display of shaking their colourful tail feathers and performing this year for the first time amazing the crowd with their agile acrobatic skills was The WuShu Project Chinese Dragon Dancers whose unique performance was high energy and definitely something different for the community to enjoy.
The Toronto Caribbean Newspaper debuted three new videos at this year’s expo to provide the community further insight into their mission and hopes for the community. These videos highlighted the importance of realizing the potential of everyone here on Earth, investing in solutions, honoring our heritage, inspiring and empowering others to see the power and potential within everyone. It is important for us to remember that Toronto is a melting pot of different races, religions and cultures. No one race is above the other and we must take pride in the multiculturalism of our city, as it allows for us to experience the diversity of the world.
Brought to you in part by Jamaica National Building Society and The Jamaica Tourism Board, the Toronto Caribbean News was proud to announce the winner of their Selfie Contest that ran from January to April of this year. Readers were encouraged to take a photo or ‘selfie’ with the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper in hand and post it up on social media for a chance to be entered to win a vacation for two to Jamaica from RIU Hotel & Resorts and $1,000 spending money from Jamaica National. This exclusive all-inclusive five day four night stay was presented to Simone Johnson. Simone was ecstatic to hear that she had won sharing how it had come at an amazing time for her as she is set to be married next month. “Right now I am planning and preparing to get married and there is so much expense involved that I am so happy to have won this trip. It is truly something that I am so thankful for,” shares Johnson.
The Toronto Caribbean News presented community awards for Best Roti Shop, which for the third time in a row was awarded to Radica’s Hot and Spicy, Brampton Location and Best Jerk Restaurant that was awarded to Soulyve in Orangeville. A special Community Support award was given to Lynn’s Bucco Reef for their much appreciated support. The final award was given Mr. Jerrold Johnson for his hard work and dedication as a Community Leader, putting in 110% in anything he can do to help in the projects and events of the Caribbean Community.
Finally as the Expo wound down internationally renowned author and executive business coach Alvin Day took the stage for his Keynote address. His empowering and powerful address spoke to igniting the fire inside of your belly to make you realize that you must take action now, to get the ball rolling, there is no time to wait, if you want something you have to take advantage of today. His words of wisdom speaks to the procrastinator in us all, thinking that we still have time, that we can put things off till next year, when in reality time speeds up as the years go by and you need to find what resonates in your life to get what you want and make the most of your time here on earth.
All in all it was a satisfying, fulfilling day for everyone. Many of the vendors involved provided really great feedback and made suggestions for how the event can be improved upon next year. CEO Grant Browning shares, “It was a great success! It’s a great feeling to get feedback from the vendors and hear all of their own successes. These are businesses that may not have had the opportunity to get that type of exposure and network with others at any given time. We had a chance to stimulate growth in the communities’ economy with this event. This is a long term project that I feel it is really ramping up and gaining momentum!”
Plans are already in motion for next years Business Expo and Conference, with some vendors already reaching out to get on board for next year. This event is really about stimulating and encouraging growth in the community, offering businesses and entrepreneurs a platform to make their voice heard, launch a new and exciting project or network and build skyscrapers within the community.