5 Minutes with Stacey Berry, Entrepreneur and Community Advocate
Stacey Berry is the founder and CEO of Bstellar Consulting Group, which provides soft skills and community development training, teaching practical tools for success. Prior to starting her own business, she worked for the Government of Ontario, as well as in private, non-profit sectors and gained federal policy experience in Washington, DC from America’s largest community development organization, Local Initiatives Support Corporation.
Stacey was appointed to the Toronto Board of Health and is a member of Maytree Foundations’ DiversityOnBoard. She was awarded the 2015 Outstanding Contribution to Student Experience from York University Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, and the Young Leaders Award from Endless Possibilities of Hope.
Get to know what inspires her, and how her personal and professional journey led to her becoming one of the incredible women featured in 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women.
Why did you choose your field of work?
I wanted to work in a field that would allow me to monetize my skills, professional experience and talents. In my company, I wear many hats, such as workshop facilitator, consultant, event manager, project manager, public speaker and writer. Being an entrepreneur was not in my plan A, B, or C. My first career choice was to be a lawyer — I applied to law school but was not accepted. This led me to working in politics for about 5 years. While working as a political staffer, I was then motivated to become a policy advisor and obtained a graduate degree in Public Policy Administration and Law but I was unable to find a permanent job on the bureaucratic. I launched my company with the support of the Ontario Self-Employment Benefit Program, which provided me with the basics tools for starting my business, such as creating a business plan, marketing, budgeting, and business registration. My business allows me create job opportunities for myself by doing the kind of work I have done in the community for the last 15 years.
What education and training did you pursue?
I completed a college diploma from in Court and Tribunal Administration, as well as a certificate in Alternative Dispute Resolution from Seneca College. I obtained a double major Honours degree in History and Law Society, as well as a Master’s degree in Public Policy Administration from York University. I also completed an internship at The Washington Centre for Academic Seminars and Internships in Washington. D.C., where I got experience in community development, federal policy, civic engagement and social advocacy.
Are there any elements of your upbringing that had an impact on your career choices?
I was inspired to pursue law originally due to a car accident that my late and beloved mother Winnifred Berry survived when I was in grade one. She did not have strong legal representation and had to change lawyers a couple of times. This bothered me so much at a young age that I was motivated to become a lawyer who would help others and protect them from being taken advantage of.
I was surrounded by books and educational board games as a child. Both my parents spent quality time with me and provided a caring, loving, faith filled and warm environment for my sibling and I. We had lots of family gatherings and birthday parties growing up. My mother and older sister went the extra mile by being involved in my studies and intervening when I was diagnosed with having a learning disability. They spent lots of time building my confidence and self-esteem. I was surrounded by supportive friends of my mother who treated me like their niece and provided me with strong mentorship. My mom instilled in me the love of learning and value of education. She inspired me to believe that I can do or be anything I desired. She was the most supportive and nurturing mother anyone could ask for. She would stay up with me until 4am editing my papers for while I was a student in university and college. She taught me the so many words of wisdom that she grew up with in Jamaica: “Labor for learning before you grow old; For learning is better than silver or gold. Silver and gold will vanish away, But a good education will never decay.”
How did you move from one position to the next?
Getting to the next level in business is based on who’s in your network. Make diverse connections with people from a variety of sectors, but ensure you know experts that can help you grow your business, such as accountants, lawyers, real estate agents, and graphic designers and videographers. Do not try to be good at everything or work alone. Delegate tasks to the experts.
If you want to know what it is like to be a CEO or journalist conduct an informational interview with people who are in that position. This is something I did while I was a student. I conducted several informational interviews of lawyers, a former CEO for General Motors, an Awarding winning American news anchor. The lessons I learned from each interview is priceless, like the importance of striving for excellence in all that I do, and how to select people for your team if you are the CEO of a company. The advice I received from these informational interviews is helping me so much today, especially now that I’m an entrepreneur.
What mistakes have you made and what did you learn?
Ignoring my artistic gifts and not investing in them. Only my immediate family know how much I love to sing but I keep it hidden. Since everyone expected me to be a lawyer this is what I focused on becoming. Take time to invest in your gifts and grow your talents, then you will become who you were born to be and not what or who you think you should be.
What are you passionate about?
I am passionate about singing, song writing and making a difference in the community. I am involved in supporting many non-profits, including the Helping Hands Jamaica Foundation, which builds and funds basic schools in Jamaica. I am a mentor and member for Inspire North, a non-profit that hosts free speaker series at Universities across Ontario. I volunteer as the Event Co-Chair for The Olive Branch of Hope’s annual We Believe Charity gala. The Olive Branch of Hope is a non-profit that provides educational workshops, awareness programs, resources and financial support for women of African Ancestry battling cancer. I am also a member of Black Pearls Community Service Inc., which provides scholarships and community development work for women of African descent.
Out of all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of?
Being appointed to a municipal health board in 2015, where I apply what I learned in grad school and the grass roots health initiatives that I was involved in. Being on a health board, gives me the opportunity to bring my perspective on how to improve the health challenges facing the people of the Toronto. It allows me to be a voice for oppressed or equity seeking groups whose health needs may not at the decision table. I am also applying the governance training I completed through DiverseCity OnBoard a program that seeks to get more women and people of colour on government boards, agencies and commissions.
What would you like to be known for contributing to the community, industry or world?
I hope to be known as someone who is compassionate, innovate and genuine. I want to be known in the community for leaving a legacy that positively impacts the lives of others, especially the professional and academic development of youth. I want to be known in my industry for changing unfair public policies, being a voice for the voiceless and elevating those who are economically disenfranchised. Most importantly, I want to be known in world for living according to the motto of my company, which is “Helping People IGNITE their Inner Essence.”
Stacey Berry is one of the women featured in 100 Accomplished Black Canadian Women, a book that aims to bring to light the accomplishments of Black Canadian women across every industry, from government to entertainment, celebrating the success stories, the trailblazers, and the posthumous heroes who have helped shape our country to date. Learn more about one of the authors here.