IWD: ‘We are powerful’: Nova Scotia entrepreneur helps pave the way for other black women to be successful

March 8 is International Women’s Day. In the week leading up to SaltWire Network is sharing stories, all written by women, focusing on this year’s theme: “A struggling world is a world on the alert, and the challenge comes change.” Each day we will tackle a different topic celebrating the achievements of women, raising awareness and encouraging our readers to take action for equality.

Tia Upshaw is an early riser.

Every day, the African Nova Scotian entrepreneur and mother of three wakes up around 4:30 a.m. and goes through a daily checklist.

Unread business emails – reply. Company staff Top-notch cleaners – registered on. Orders through its large online retail store Coco + and online vegan cosmetics store Lips and eyelashes – filled. Potential bookings at its Airbnb properties – confirmed.

After working on her morning chores, Upshaw takes her youngest daughter to school at 8 a.m. Then she’s back to work once she gets home.

She checks her emails and schedules meetings and coaching calls with black women attending her 16-week professional development workshops under the umbrella of her non-profit organization, Blk Women in Excellence.

At 3 p.m., she’s ready to pick up her daughter and is on her way to check her cleaners again. After that, she will participate in meetings or calls.

It wasn’t until 10 or 11pm that Upshaw said she could “relax and hit the bag.”

“Some days are really stressful, but when I go to bed at night I know I do it for a good reason. I enjoy my businesses, I value financial stability, and I like being self-reliant, which gives me a little more peace, knowing that it’s not going to spoil.

Upshaw’s success in the business world did not come overnight.


Tia Upshaw, an African Nova Scotian entrepreneur, runs four businesses and a non-profit organization called Blk Women in Excellence to help aspiring black women entrepreneurs across Canada. To his daughters and other businesswomen, Upshaw preaches time management, determination and commitment. – Eric Wynne

In 2013, she came out of a relationship, became a single mother of three on welfare, and the financial side of her life “was in disarray,” she said. Juggling being a single mom and part-time housekeeper for a cleaning company has proven difficult.

“I had to be done (working) at some point for my kids to leave school. If my kids were sick I couldn’t go to work so there were a lot of challenges, ”Upshaw said.

Wanting more for herself and her children, she decided to start her own cleaning business.

However, due to his “bad credit at the time, coming from low income, traditional bank loans were not an option, nor were loans from organizations in Nova Scotia,” he said. she declared.

People also doubted her not only because of her gender, but also because of her race.

“At first it wasn’t just because I was a woman, it was, I’m a black woman coming from an environment and a community where we don’t see black women coming out and being successful, so it’s like, how dare you? ”said Upshaw, who is from Mulgrave Park.

On top of that, having grown up in a large family in which no one had previously exercised an entrepreneurial spirit, Upshaw’s plans to start his business were criticized.

“A lot of older family members didn’t push me to do it like, ‘Oh my God, no. Go work for someone, it’s safer, you get benefits, you don’t have to worry about a, b, c and d. You can’t do this on your own. So for them it was scary, ”she said.

As a “defined and against the grain” person, Upshaw said she had “no choice but to keep doing what I was doing”. She got a job delivering overnight newspapers and used the money from that gig to help start Top Notch Cleaners.

She then launched her business Airbnb Lux Overnights in 2016, Coco + in 2018, Blk Women in Excellence in June 2020 to help other aspiring black women entrepreneurs and launched Lips and Lashes on February 14.

Preaching time management, dedication and commitment along the way, she also inspired her two daughters to start their own businesses.

“They need to see the positivity come out of our community and know that you can go through hell and come back and be down and you can get out of this rut,” she said.

Even today, Upshaw admits that she experiences self-doubt as a woman of color in business in a field historically dominated by men. But, she ultimately wants to pave the way for success for other women, so they don’t have to jump through the same hoops as her.

“We are powerful, we run households, we are the matriarch of the family. And once we realize that and realize the power that we have in society, we’ll go a long way, ”she said.

About Sally Dominguez

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