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Charmain Emerson is a Strategic Communicator Passionate About Advancing Black Communities

As an entrepreneur and advocate, Charmain strives to make a meaningful difference

Meet Charmain Emerson, Founder and Managing Director of Cultured Communications, a boutique strategic communications firm comprising a diverse group of independent consultants. With nearly two decades of experience in senior leadership roles across various sectors, Charmain is an expert marketing and communications professional that has become a trusted authority and voice in her field. 

In addition to her work as a marketing and communications expert, Charmain is deeply invested in advancing Black communities across Canada as a co-founding director at the Black Opportunity Fund (BOF). The BOF’s mission is to address anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination by providing Black not-for-profit organizations and entrepreneurs an avenue to access funding. An advocate for workplace and boardroom diversity as well, Charmain serves on a number of boards including Trillium Health Partners Foundation, 100 Strong Foundation, Soul Pepper Theatre, and Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion.

Before I launched my consultancy group, Cultured Communications, I was… a marketing and communications strategist working across diverse industries from fashion to education to governance. Although I enjoyed my work, I often found myself limited by the traditional structures and conventional thinking within these industries. Launching Cultured Communications provided me with a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment, as I could finally apply my expertise and knowledge without the restrictions of old systems and unconscious biases.

I started Cultured Communications because… I wanted to create a platform for more creative input and innovative ideas. I believe that old systems and unconscious biases can hinder progress, and I wanted to build a company that encourages and fosters new ways of thinking.

 I’m passionate about communications because… of my innate curiosity and interest in other people’s stories and experiences. To me, effective communication is about building relationships, understanding diverse perspectives, and creating a sense of community. I believe that through open and authentic dialogue, we can foster deeper connections and drive positive change. As a communications professional, I am committed to utilizing my skills and expertise to facilitate meaningful conversations and create impactful messaging that resonates with audiences.

My proudest accomplishment is… giving birth to three children, who are now three terrific young men! On the professional side, helping to build an organization with a mission to combat anti-Black racism and systemic discrimination is definitely my proudest accomplishment; that organization is Black Opportunity Fund (BOFP). The meaningful and daily work that the organization carries out has been amplified in large part thanks to TD who recognized the need to level the playing field for Black entrepreneurs in Canada. The bank has invested $10M  in BOF that will help to create a philanthropic granting pool that can help build capacity of Canadian Black led businesses, as well as Black led, Black community serving charities and not for profit organizations. This is a critical move to positive change because it’s helping to tear down some of the financial barriers that have prevented so many Black Canadians from contributing to economic prosperity.       

My biggest setback was… when I was denied a business loan for one of my entrepreneurial endeavours, despite having done extensive research and putting together a comprehensive business plan that demonstrated the potential for success. This setback was particularly challenging, given my passion for the project and the hard work I had already invested. 

I overcame it by… maintaining my passion and belief in the business concept. Eventually, my unwavering dedication paid off. I booked an appointment at another bank and the advisor assigned to me read my plan, then looked up at me and said, “I like it and it’s obvious  you’ve put a lot of effort into producing it. I’m going to do my best to get you the business loan you need to get this off the ground.” I never forgot that. I’ve been a client of TD’s for two decades now. They manage all of my banking needs—business and personal.            

My best advice for anyone that cares about a cause and wants to contribute to it would be… what are you waiting for?! Get on with it. Make a difference and get involved.

The one piece of advice I give that I have trouble following myself is… learning to say “no.” You simply can’t balance everything and respond to all requests for your support, your guidance, or your time. Don’t sweat the small stuff; focus on the bigger picture. 

If I were to pick one thing that has helped me succeed… it would undoubtedly be my friendships. I am incredibly fortunate to have such exceptional friends in my life, and they have been a guiding force through every step of my journey — both in my personal and professional endeavours. I feel truly blessed to have them by my side.

If you Googled me, you still wouldn’t know… that as much as I love life, I also fear death. 

Staying inspired is… a constant pursuit for me, and I find that regular exercise helps me maintain focus and energy. However, my biggest source of inspiration is my mother. When I was growing up, she made numerous sacrifices to provide for our family and maintain our three-bedroom home. She worked tirelessly, often six days a week, to ensure that I had everything I needed to succeed — including the ability to attend school trips and pursue a university education without the burden of financial stress. My mother’s hard work and dedication were the driving force behind my eventual success, and I will always be grateful for her unwavering support.

The future excites me because… it’s full of surprises and possibilities. Who knows what’s next? That’s what makes it so intriguing! I’m thrilled to be part of an effort to make a difference by fighting systemic discrimination and anti-Black racism. I’m working with some amazing people at the Black Opportunity Fund, an organization that I co-founded. Our goal is to build a sustainable pool of capital that will empower Black communities across Canada, and I’m really proud of what we’ve accomplished so far. The future’s looking bright!

My next step is… to continue to support the vital work of the Black Opportunity Fund, while also ensuring that my clients at Cultured Communications receive exceptional service and results. I am eager to leverage the insights and perspectives gained through my involvement with the Black Opportunity Fund to provide even more innovative solutions and strategies for our clients.