Local Black-Owned Travel Company Gets Funding to Expand

What started less than two years ago with a single Instagram post — a photo of an African Nova Scotian visitor to Africville Park — is now a profitable local Black-owned tourism business. Now, the company founder said she is using the funds she received to help her business grow.

René Boudreau is the founder of Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia, a tourism company for black travelers in the Atlantic region. The company’s tours highlight Nova Scotia’s Black history and culture to potential Black tourists from around the world.

“The goal and vision of Elevate and Explore is to encourage more black travelers to visit the province, but also to inspire people from all walks of life to also explore the province,” she said.

“I thought that if more [Black] people could see themselves traveling around the province, so we would probably feel more comfortable going at different paces or more inclined to want to visit.

Boudreau hails from the black community of Truro and has family roots in East Preston. She works for the Association of Black Social Workers. Recently, she was one of 100 business owners accepted into a mentorship program by American Express called Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses. The program is for Black, Indigenous, and other people of color business owners.

Each participant received a grant of $10,000 to invest in their business. Boudreau said the 15-week program also includes a roster of weekly guest speakers and networking opportunities with other BIPOC entrepreneurs across Canada.

“When I started I wasn’t registered as a business or anything, I was sort of starting it with the goal of making it a business,” Boudreau said.

“I just started posting photos of black people exploring the province. It would be pictures that I took, or pictures that I asked people to send me, and I just posted them. From there, I was able to build partnerships with different companies and organizations.

One of the first partnerships was through Tourism Nova Scotia. Last summer, Boudreau was hired to take a group of friends and a photographer on an excursion to Mahone Bay where they were paid to document their experience to help promote a “Sail and Sea” package.

“When I started, my goal was really to try and get more black travelers to the province, but when COVID came around and travel wasn’t really a thing anymore, I kind of had to focusing on encouraging people in the province to explore, which fit perfectly because everyone was doing that anyway,” she said.

She was able to take advantage of influencer opportunities towards her business and then worked to grow her business by hosting events and experiences.]

Black History Bike Tour

The first was a sold-out black history bike tour in Halifax last summer. Boudreau partnered with I Heart Bikes on the Halifax waterfront and sold tickets to attendees from all walks of life, though the majority, she said, were predominantly white.

The group started at the Halifax waterfront and traveled to:

From there, the group cycled back to the waterfront and made additional stops to view various statues and plaques along the boardwalk that highlight the Black experience and history in Halifax and New Brunswick. -Scotland.

Last summer, Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia partnered with Change is Brewing Collective, a group of Black, Indigenous and other people of color who brew craft beer, for a Black Excellence Boat cruise at departure from the port of Halifax. They worked with Ambassatours to commission The Harbor Queen boat.

“It was open to everyone, but our target audience was black people,” Boudreau said.

This event also sold out.

Participants were welcomed on the boat by a group of African drummers and were treated to entertainment in the form of musical performances by various black artists and a live DJ on board.

“The goal is to create experiences for people that showcase black excellence, black history, everything black. It’s something that’s needed here and often when it comes to experiences here, you don’t always see yourself on a boat. Or we don’t always see each other on the bike.“

“[I was] just trying to be creative and come up with different ideas to engage people and create a space where people feel comfortable trying new things or just getting together.

Boudreau said part of the application process for the mentorship program is identifying the milestones participants have for their business. Besides a work laptop, Boudreau said she wants to spend the rest on future events to generate profit and grow her business.

“I’m planning a Black Girls Ski Trip, which will hopefully take place in March,” she said.

Last October, she organized a retreat which she said was well received.

“It was really successful and everyone who was there was like, ‘Okay, when’s the next one? You should make one for each season.

Additionally, Boudreau said she plans to launch an official website for Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia in December, which she says will promote her business and other Black-owned businesses and experiences across the country. Province.

“It will be a good resource for people from afar to go to this website and just browse. And if they decide to visit Nova Scotia, here are different black-owned businesses you can support; here are some black-owned Airbnbs where you can stay; here are some cities and attractions; here [is an “about” section] for Raise and Explore; there will be pictures [from my] Social media.”

Through social media, Boudreau said people from the United States, Montreal and Ontario have reached out to express both an interest in history and Nova Scotia’s Black communities. and to potentially travel here one day.

“When you get into the real story, people are just mesmerized, like, ‘Wow! “”

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