Get to Know DRABPE
Durham Region Association of Black Professionals & Entrepreneurs (DRABPE) is an organization committed to supporting and empowering Black business professionals and entrepreneurs in the Durham region. We figured what better way to introduce DRABPE and the amazing people who run it, than by asking them a few questions to learn more about the organization and the work they do for the community. In this interview, we hope to shed some light on the present and future of DRABPE and the role the organization plays in uplifting Black professionals and entrepreneurs.
Q: First, let’s start with the basics, what is DRABPE?
A: Durham Region Association of Black Professionals & Entrepreneurs (DRABPE) is a non-profit organization run by and for Black business professionals and entrepreneurs in the Durham region. We provide networking opportunities and access to resources and support for your business through our business registry network, courses, and events. DRABPE is focused on raising awareness about the challenges and opportunities that Black-owned businesses face. We host programs and events that create a supportive and inclusive environment to network and build useful relationships.
Q: What an amazing initiative! What made you choose to launch DRABPE?
A: We noticed a lack of support and networking opportunities for Black entrepreneurs and business owners in our community and realized that people had to travel to neighbouring cities to find the resources they needed. We recognized this need and wanted to create a safe space for Black business owners and professionals to connect and grow. Through our programs, events, and mentorships, DRABPE has created an environment for like-minded Black residents to meet, share ideas, and get support for their businesses.
Q: Who are the Board of Directors of DRABPE and what do they do?
A: First we have our President and Chief of Sales, Dane Lawrence. He is a Certified Sales Professional and a Critical Thinker (CT). Dane has established a network of national and international manufacturers, vendors, and independent sales representatives with a focus on driving business development opportunities with various retail and trade customers. With several years of regional and national sales experience at companies such as Sears, Home Depot, and ICI, Dane has a successful track record of developing lucrative business relationships and capturing market share in mid to large businesses, including construction, national chains, non-profit organizations, and buying groups. He has received awards such as “Excelling as a Highly Effective Team Leader”.
Silvan Murray CPA, M.Sc. is DRABPE’s Treasurer. Silvan is a business risk professional with over 30 years of Public Accounting, Management Consultancy, General Management, and Internal Audit experience. Silvan has worked with KPMG and Price Waterhouse Coopers (PWC) as an external auditor and management consultant, with Swiss Re and RBC as Internal Auditor and with OPSEU Pension Trust as Manager, Data Management. After a long career as a Senior Audit Manager at RBC, Silvan left this role in December 2015 and started his own consulting practice.
Tennille Spencer who has worked with the Ontario Public Service in various administrative capacities for over 14 years. Aside from her inter-ministerial experience with the Ministry of the Attorney General and the Ministry of Economic Development and Entrepreneurship and Innovation (MAG and MEDEI). She sits on the Board of Directors of the Matty Jae Youth Mental Health organization supporting young people and suicide prevention. Tennille also sat on the Board for Bereaved Families of Ontario and helps her mother and aunt run Eagle Ridge Seniors Services, supporting seniors, and giving them the opportunity to stay home and maintain a quality of life for as long as possible.
Tennille also owns Deeply Dope Tees which is a custom printing and designing business based out of Durham Region. She offers packages for artists, small business owners, and individuals seeking merchandise or promotional items to showcase their brand.
Keeshon Bonterre is a strategic partnership connector and wealth builder for DRABPE. As a reliable and trustworthy matchmaker, Keeshon helps to find strategic partners for various endeavours. His responsibility is to find businesses that have the potential to make other businesses more successful and to help clients achieve their financial goals through wealth-building opportunities.
Susan Blake, Ed.D., MBA, BBA is a motivated and responsible educator with over 15 years of teaching experience both online and in-person; building curricula, lesson, and unit plans. Demonstrating her commitment to excellence in teaching methods and helping students develop their full potential. Susan’s strong philosophy of teaching and knowledge of different methods motivate students to develop their expertise in specific areas. Susan has created a methodical, customer-focused approach to work and can establish direct, clear, and helpful boundaries with students of varying cultural, emotional, and intellectual capabilities to foster social and academic growth
Trevin Noble is a university student with a strong desire for personal growth and challenges. In late 2019, he co-founded Tomovski-Noble, a media and creative company that has provided superior and evolving services for businesses in the Durham region.
Lastly, Carlene Honigan is the business owner of Patty Gyal in Ajax and a passionate social worker with the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
Q: What an incredible collection of esteemed professionals, with that in mind, where do you see DRABPE in five years?
A: One key focus for the organization is supporting the development of Black professionals and business owners, especially among younger generations. DRABPE has a thriving youth program that helps Black youth to launch and advance their careers. In addition, DRABPE hopes to be the go-to resource for information on Business ownership and entrepreneurship in the Durham region. We are working to create lasting partnerships with all levels of government, educational institutions, and employees, while also expanding visibility through regular events that meet the needs of our community. Through these events, DRABPE is striving to create a supportive and inclusive environment for years to come.
Q: Amazing goals, I can’t wait to see what the future hold for DRABPE. How does one become a member?
A: It’s quite simple, to become a member of DRABPE, prospective members need to register on our website. Once registered, they will have access to various resources and to a database of Black professionals and entrepreneurs in your community.
Q: Finally, what are some of your favourite Black-Owned Businesses in the Durham region, and why?
A: There are so many great Black businesses in Durham but, at the risk of leaving out others, we will name just a few:
- Volker and Engels is a Black run real estate office in Pickering that provides services to international clients and presents itself in a professional manner.
- Harmony MedSpa, run by Dr. Victoria Udoeyop, is a modern, upscale laser clinic located in the Durham Region. They offer a wide range of advanced non-surgical cosmetic procedures in a relaxing spa-like environment using only FDA-approved equipment. Their center also offers an effective solution to improve women’s sexual health. Their dedicated OB-GYN utilizes the Mona Lisa Touch laser to help women achieve their full potential in a safe and supportive environment.
- Cultural Expressions Art Gallery, led by Esther Forde, has staged the Durham Black History Month celebrations for over 15 years and has brought cultural awareness to, not just the Black community, but to other ethnic groups within Durham.
- United Computers, run by Louis Plummer, is a computer equipment sales and service store in Pickering that has been providing great sales and service for several years where you can drop by to purchase a new or used laptop and have yours repaired if you are not ready for a new one.
Created to address the lack of support and networking opportunities for Black entrepreneurs in the Durham Region, DRABPE and its Board of Directors aim to fill this gap in the community and are truly on their way to fostering a supportive and inclusive environment for Black business owners and entrepreneurs to thrive. We can’t wait to see what’s next for DRABPE.