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Lindork’s Lists: Q&A with Rochelle Ignacio
Originally published to newsletter subscribers on April 4, 2021
The first person I’m profiling in my new paid newsletter subscriber Q&A series is:
Rochelle Ignacio, Co-Founder and Operations Business Officer for the Black-Owned Market (BOMYEG).
Getting to Know Rochelle and Black Owned Market YEG:
Rochelle, 32, is one of the co-founders of Black-Owned Market Edmonton (BOM YEG), and Operations Business Officer. BOM YEG is a volunteer collective whose aim is to uplift, support and build Black owned businesses, entrepreneurs, creatives and community organizations in the Edmonton area by providing innovative forums to market products and services with the Edmonton community.
In her role with BOM YEG, Rochelle is something of a behind-the-scenes coordinator supporting stakeholder relations, email management, project management, social media and leading the vendor, logistics and finance teams.
Black Owned Market Edmonton started in July 2020 with six volunteers who had never really worked together. After their inaugural July 26 market, additional team members were recruited. Now BOM YEG is comprised of 12 highly skilled volunteer staff who are all professionals within the portfolios they support.
No one is being paid to be part of BOM YEG.
We’re a team of community builders who have a vision to collectively support economic prosperity for Black business owners in Edmonton. It’s humbling to surround myself with such a talented team. I’ve learned a lot during my short time with BOM YEG.
– Rochelle Ignacio
Outside of BOM YEG, Rochelle is a safety and inclusion specialist who feels very blessed that she’s able to work towards creating equitable and inclusive cultures in both her paid professional and voluntary work.
Let’s Dive Into the Q&A with Rochelle:
How and why did you get involved with BOM YEG?
It all started in such an organic and exciting way. Our sister market in Calgary, BOM YYC, announced their market and Ivan (co-founder of BOM YEG) and I were both interested. Initially we both stated we did not have the capacity to bring this idea to life in Edmonton but before I knew it Ivan had assembled the OG team of 6. I envisioned myself solely supporting Vendor Management however I quickly realized how passionate I was about planning the event as a way to showcase the talent within our community.
What do you love most about the work that you do?
I’ve had a tremendous year of growth which I primarily attribute to my work with BOM YEG. The work of BOM YEG has such an incredible impact within the community and we’re reminded of the value our platform brings on a daily basis. The vendors share messages of gratitude which light up my day; the community shows up and supports our initiatives and goes out of their way to thank our team for exposing them to new local businesses; organizations reach out and ask how they can support us. We hosted an e-market on our own platform over the Holidays and the entire team celebrated each sale like it was our very own.
The level of organization and hard work required to run BOM YEG is not for the faint at heart but the reward of ending your day knowing you’re creating new opportunities and reducing barriers for the Black community is oh so sweet.
Can you tell me about the other titles you have, and the work you do around them: Community Builder 🇨🇦 Community Connector 💜 Diversity Consultant 🇹🇹 Safety & Inclusion Specialist ✊🏾Visionary Consultant.
BOM YEG is a perfect example of my work as a community builder, I pride myself in creating spaces where people feel safe and comfortable to be their authentic selves.
I also help lead a small discussion group called Racial Justice Youth YEG and it’s a virtual space where racialized youth (or in my case youth-at-heart) talk about issues that matter to us without fear of judgement.
I like to connect interesting humans with other interesting humans.
I’m always recommending my network of friends and peers who are all such talented and caring individuals. I’m a big believer in the saying ‘leave it to the experts’. A successful day for me is one where I can amplify someone else’s voice or help someone get their foot in the door.
Enid Rose Collective was started as a consulting firm to house my portfolio related to equity, diversity, inclusion and safety projects. I named my company after my granny and mom to honour the two women who inspire me to show up for my community no matter the costs.
Visionary Consultant is one of my favourites as it was gifted to me by a friend. He recognized my unique gift to turn my own and other’s dreams into manageable plans, even when it’s hard to articulate your vision to others.
You received an AC Community Leader of the Year 2020 Award, can you share why you were awarded this, and what it means to get this recognition?
I received the African Caribbean Community Leader of the Year 2020 Award from Diversity Magazine. This is a peer nominated award program and I was recognized for my contributions in building spaces and platforms within the community to address Anti-Black racism.
In addition to BOM YEG and Racial Justice Youth YEG, I produced my first documentary, Community an Antidote Against Racism, which shares the perspectives of some of the Black Youth who call Edmonton home. To share this award title with Jeanne Lehman and Wunmi Idowu is truly an honour but I can’t take all the credit. I have a community of people behind me who support my work and help turn some of my dreams into a reality.
Why do you think it was important for BOM YEG to be created?
BOM YEG on the surface is a way to celebrate local vendors and celebrate the diversity of the Edmonton community however on a deeper level we’re finding innovative ways to address inequality gaps and systemic racism our vendors face in launching and sustaining businesses as Black owners. The initiatives the community sees are only part of the work we do.
BOM YEG representatives have attended meetings with corporate organizations, banking institutions and all levels of government to discuss barriers Black business owners face such as access to funding, venture capital, and policies which disqualify or prevent the BIPOC community from having equal access to opportunities.
BOM YEG was the first BOM branded market in Edmonton however we were inspired by our sister market BOM YYC. We’ve always had a very collaborative relationship with BOM YYC and we share ideas and offer support to one another.
What is your reaction to the support BOM YEG has received, and the greater attention being given (finally?) to BIPOC business owners, artists, underrepresented groups. Obviously, much more needs to be done, but is it moving in a positive direction?
We were all truly amazed at how the community showed up to support our first market in July 2020. We had support ranging from community members lending us their camping shelters for vendor stalls to cash donations the day of the event to help us feed our volunteers.
The community continues to support BOM YEG through donations, showing up to events, buying from the BOM vendor community, taking the time to fill out our community surveys and sharing our content on social media.
Our vendors have thanked us for the exposure and business we bring to their brands which at the end of the day is one of the reasons BOM exists, to bring brand exposure to businesses which face barriers to storefront retail locations and market eligibility requirements.
We also love sponsors at BOM YEG because it helps us cover our own costs as well as reduces financial costs for vendors. We recently received a donation from ATB Financial, and Jaysi Cuffy, our Communications Business Officer, had a brilliant idea to create a business bursary program for Black majority-owned businesses in Edmonton.
I mentioned the program to Sina Zere, one of the BOM vendors who owns Buff Wax Spot, and she financially backed the bursary to create a bigger reward for the 3 winners. I almost cried when she told me this because I was so happy that someone from our own vendor community was recognizing the work we do to make a better life for our Black entrepreneurs. We really go above and beyond for our vendors and we hope this bursary helps some of our emerging brands grow and expand to businesses like Buff Wax Spot in the future.
I would also encourage your readers to continue finding new BIPOC and LGBTQ2+ businesses to support whether it’s on a support (like, share, save, follow) or financial level.
Are there new local artists you can support? Can you try a new restaurant? Can you find a gift for a friend at a business you aren’t frequently visiting? Challenge yourself to spread out your dollars.
At BOM YEG we’re really happy to support not only our vendors but other underrepresented businesses within Edmonton. For example we love to partner with Glass Bookshop for our local delivery needs as they share some of our own values and focus their collection on Canadian writing with special attention paid to queer and racialized writers. We also hire local Black creatives in Edmonton to capture our events from our DJs, photographers and video production team.
What advice would you give allies, activists, or other entrepreneurs or Edmontonians in general when it comes to how they can support their communities, uplift BIPOC, volunteer or create projects like BOM YEG to make an impact?
Determine who your community is at the onset of your venture and keep them rooted at the centre of all your decision making.
Go out of your way to support BIPOC businesses, BIPOC causes and BIPOC people. Use your platforms to amplify their voices. Use your dollars, if you’re able, to help keep the lights on at their businesses.
If you have a skillset that you’d like to share, reach out and offer support even if it’s casual or on an ongoing basis. We’re currently recruiting for new voluntary roles within BOM YEG and we’d love to talk to anyone regarding the skills they may be able to offer to us.
We’re here for Edmonton as a community and while our goal is to uplift Black businesses we truly need everyone’s support, including our allies, to create economic justice.
Wrapping up our Q&A:
What show would you recommend people watch on Netflix (or other streaming services) and why?
I recently wanted Lupin on Netflix which is a heist genre French film that I found myself engrossed in. The show has flashbacks to the protagonist’s childhood and I found myself rooting for them, despite them being the master of disguise. I can’t wait for Season 2.
I want to add that streaming services are doing a great job of adding diverse content to their collections, the film industry has a long way to go but I’m happy to see better recognition towards the importance of representation in film and media.
Is there a book or podcast you recently read (or doesn’t have to be recent) that you would recommend to others and why?
My favourite Canadian author is Lawrence Hill who is most famous for the Book of Negroes but I was captivated by his other titles The Illegal and Any Known Blood. I can actually envision myself alongside the character’s of Hill’s books and a lot of research goes into his writing.
I won’t lie though I don’t have a lot of time for reading these days and right now I’m going through Brené Brown’s Dare to Lead podcast series. I find myself reflecting on my own leadership competency and reframing strategies that I can deploy in both my professional and personal settings.
What is one of your favourite restaurants or stores you’d recommend in Edmonton?
What’s something about Alberta you love or recommend others check out?
I love being in the mountains and whether it’s camping, snowboarding or hiking I always come back feeling refreshed and rejuvenated. I grew up near some amazing backcountry camping spots and It’s really heartbreaking to see people disrespect the land. If you’re planning on enjoying nature this year please clean up after yourselves so that we can enjoy Alberta’s beauty for generations to come.
Is there anything else you want to share?
I would love to see each of your readers at a future BOM YEG initiative.
A common misconception is that BOM YEG was created exclusively for the Black community. We strive to make each BOM YEG initiative a safe and inclusive space where all Edmontonians feel comfortable to come and support the vendors.
Thank you Rochelle for sharing your insights and experience.
You and the entire BOM YEG team are doing such important and inspirational work.
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