MARLENE GRANT - ROLE MODEL & AMBASSADOR
Officially Inducted into the “National Wall of Role Models” on June 7, 2014 ( See full list www.BlackCanadianAwards.com )
Tell us a little bit about yourself?
“I believe I can do anything that I set my mind to, and with a bit of time, God’s help and a lot of hard work… I will!”
I emigrated from Jamaica on January 14, 1988 to continue my education in Canada. By 1993 I had completed high school, a 3-year Business Administration program at Algonquin College, and became a Canadian citizen.
In 1996 I enrolled in the Certified General Accounting program through CGA-Ontario on a part-time basis while working in a local public accounting firm, and obtained my designation in 2002.
In 2009, after working in various full-time positions as both an accountant and auditor; while raising a family, I made the decision to become self-employed and formed ‘Marlene L. Grant Professional Corporation’, a Certified General Accounting Firm. I am proud to say that my company currently has four staff members; two of whom are studying to become CGA’s, and one Intern working on a CPA designation.
Our services include personal and corporate tax planning; financial statements preparation; controllership; business start-up services; consulting; budget analysis; bookkeeping; payroll setup and preparation and accounting software installation and training.
As the owner of the company my day is spent providing leadership to my team; business planning and implementation; as well as meeting with clients and ensuring that clients filing deadlines are met.
My evenings are spent with my husband, David and out two parrots Mercury and Phoenix and our children: Kim (25), and Shawn (26) when they are free; Out time is also spent on our other 2 businesses, which are:
Simple Industries – A licensed importer and seller of ‘certified genuine 100% Jamaican Blue Mountain® Coffee’. The link is http://www.simpleindustries.ca/. WA McLeod Co Ltd – A Jamaican based company named after my grandmother, currently operating as a small grocery store and leasing some farmland.
In the past I have taught accounting software to new Canadians at the Ottawa Chinese Community Service Centre, who were interested in pursuing an accounting career and found it to be very rewarding. I also take on speaking engagements within the community one which I was asked by the Black Students Leadership Association at the University of Ottawa to speak at their inaugural conference as an inspiration to the young black attendees. During the spring I provide free tax seminars through the Ottawa Public Library and other forums.
I remain active within the community with two of my latest passions being:
Serving on the Parish Council of St James Anglican Church and assisting in the outreach program.
Co-Founder and Treasurer of the Network of Black Business and Professional Women http://www.nb2pw.net/
I also act in the position of Treasurer for the following organizations:
Barrhaven Business Improvement Area – serving since 2011
Business Advantage – serving since 2009
Barrhaven Business Exchange – serving since 2009
Nepean Chamber of Commerce – served 2009-2012
Jamaican Ottawa Community Association – served in 2010
I am proud to say that I was nominated in 2009 for the Nepean Chamber of Commerce ‘Home Based Business Award’, in 2010 for the ‘Business Woman of the Year Award’, and in 2011 I proudly brought home the ‘Business Woman of The Year Award’!
In 2012 I was also nominated for the ‘WBN (Women’s’ Business Network) Business Woman of the Year Award’ and the ‘Nepean Chamber of Commerce - Professional Excellence Award’.
Tell us what many people may not know about you?
I was very athletic when I was younger; as a matter of fact I was a sprinter, netballer and a rounder in Jamaica!
There was a coach during my high school years, who, after seeing me compete in school challenges, wanted me to join the track and field team. He could not understand why I refused!
Even though I was very athletic, competitive, and really enjoyed sports; I didn’t want to join because of the way he motivated the team. He yelled and screamed at his team and that did not motivate me! He could have had a star player, but his leadership style prevented it. To this day I think of that coach when motivating those on my team; and exercise a much different leadership style!
What's your inspiration and how do you get motivated?
My grandmother Wilhel McLeod and my mother Pamela Hamilton have both been my inspiration and motivation. They both taught me to go and get what I wanted in life and to never give up. I credit them with instilling many of the values I hold dear today!
Even though my grandmother has passed on, she still manages to motivate me. So much so, that I named my Jamaican business after her. She is the one who taught me how to treat others and what my responsibility is to those who are less fortunate than we are. As a result of those values, I have been a sponsor of children through World Vision of Canada since 1989!
I also believe that everyone should reach out and find a mentor to help guide and advise them. One should also surround oneself with like-minded people. Similarly stay far from those who work to discourage you. That is how I continue to stay motivated! My beliefs and faith has helped me to stay motivated and positive that it could always be worst even through the tough times
How did you get to where you are now and what more should, we expect?
I believe I am where I am today because of my faith in God and the support system I have in place with my husband, family, staff and friends. I know that it is also because I never gave up… and never will!
Any fears and lack of confidence at the beginning were quickly overcome by my ability to believe that I could accomplish anything that I set out to do. Because I strongly believe that we are in charge of our own destiny and that we create our own mental roadblocks through a fear of failure, or a lack of self-confidence. When I came to Canada I wanted to finish my education, get a job, climb the corporate ladder, and be a decision maker. You can accomplish anything you set your mind to, and I am living proof of that motto!!
My ultimate goal is to build a legacy in Canada so that I am an inspiration to others and remain healthy and happy. I look forward to someday retiring to Jamaica and opening up additional companies. I want to be able to offer opportunities to others who are less fortunate who have the desire to succeed in life.
I want to continue to give back to the community, help the Network of Black Business and Professional Women to grow, and to become a positive beacon in our community.
What would you like to be remembered for?
I want to be a role model for young people who have ambition and dreams of success and I would like to help motivate and mentor them. When they do succeed, they will remember me as an inspiration in their development and pay it forward; in much the same way as I remember my Grandmother!
How do you balance work, family, friends and leisure?
In October 2011, I was diagnosed with Lupus and then in Feb 2012, with Rheumatoid Arthritis! With both being autoimmune diseases, I was forced to find a way to balance my life. I decided that I could no longer work weekends and changed my working hours to be Monday to Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additionally, I set up an auto-responder on my email to inform people that I will get back to them within 2 business days. My husband and I began to enjoy picnics again and the simple things in life, which forced me to slow down a bit. With all of the other activities I was engaged in, I knew it was necessary to make these changes if I wanted to continue functioning efficiently as a self-employed professional with a family.
What are your favorite food, book, musical genre and movie?
I have several favorite foods such as oxtail with lima beans, bulgur wheat, ackee and salt fish, and boiled green bananas! Although I no longer get to read as much as I would like, I love to read just about anything except a biography. If music touches my soul…I love it! I recently found a DVD (the best movie of all time), that had somehow become buried under some books and I immediately sat down to watch ‘Pretty Woman’, just one more time!
What's your experience as a Black person in Canada?
As a young black woman I had to adjust to a new way of life, climate and culture when I came to Canada! I found most things in Canada completely different from what I was used to in Jamaica, but I kept reminding myself that I came to this country to follow a dream and to take advantage of the opportunities available to me. That dream was to better my education and build a career for myself. Hence, the essence of my experience as a Black person in Canada was to constantly remind myself that I was in charge of my own destiny and that through hard work, perseverance and strength, I could overcome any obstacle!
Are there as many opportunities for Blacks in Canada that can produce role models and institutions like TD Jakes, Beyonce, Tyler Perry, Obama, BET, etc?
Absolutely! When I first arrived in Canada, it was a culture shock. Especially when I saw young people who had chosen not to do anything with their lives! I could not understand this way of thinking; and how (when we are in a country with so much opportunity) could they choose not to be successful!
Mention a few of your favorite Black Canadian Leaders, Artists and Role Models.
Michaëlle Jean (first black Governor General)
Tonya Lee Williams (a great actress)
Anne Cools (first black person to be named to the senate of Canada)
Reverend Don Meredith (co-founder of the GTA Faith Alliance- finding solutions to youth violence) and a Senator.
Donovan Bailey (a great Canadian Sprinter)
Should and do Blacks support / patronize black music, events and businesses?
I whole-heartedly believe we should and do for the most part! That being said, I do not feel that a black business owner is automatically entitled to my support if they do not provide excellent products and services. I am of the mindset that everyone should be given a chance to prove they have something worthwhile to offer. I will do my best to support them whenever the opportunity arises.
What is your understanding of Black History in Canada?
It was minimal until Feb 2013 when Sarah Onyango (from the weekly radio program Black on Black) spoke of the many black Canadians that helped to shape this country, and left me feeling like I wanted and needed to understand more. Definitely a work in progress!
A few words from you to an uninspired person?
The day I found out I had Lupus (October 19th, 2011); was probably the lowest point in my life. I felt that I had lost control of my destiny and my dreams. Everything came to a screeching halt for me… or so I thought!
The following night I was scheduled to attend an event as a nominee for “Business Woman of the Year”. I really did not feel like attending, as the news that I had received the day before had simply drained me, but I knew I had to attend and once that was decided then I knew I had to draw on all of my inner strength and that was what I did.
No one could have guessed at the Gala that there was anything wrong with me, I looked fabulous on the outside despite what was going on inside!
As they read the names of each nominee, then the biography of the actual winner…I wasn’t even listening. I had shut down! It wasn’t until my husband turned to me and said; “They are talking about you up there.” that I started to pay attention to what was being said. I was shocked and overjoyed as I accepted the “Business Woman of the Year” award!
I took home more than the award that night. I had learned a valuable lesson!
My whole life was based on the philosophy of never giving up! I saw once again how quickly things can turn around and how I had gone from an extreme low to the ultimate high in a matter of hours! I knew that night was a reminder to me, that ‘when confronted with a road block; you have to put your faith in God, lean on your family and friends, and simply shift your direction!