Black Business Initiative Announces Succession Plan: Matthew Martel to Succeed Rustum Southwell as CEO

Halifax, NS – On April 27, 2023, Rustum Southwell, the CEO of the Black Business Initiative (BBI), announced his retirement after 25 years of successfully leading the organization. Matthew Martel, the current Chief Operating Officer of BBI, will succeed Southwell, effective May 1, 2023. The transition plan for the new CEO is already in place to ensure a seamless transfer of authority. Southwell will continue to support the BBI in an advisory role.

As the founding CEO of the BBI, Rustum Southwell has played a significant role in developing a thriving and robust Black business community in Halifax and throughout the region. His retirement follows a string of impressive achievements, including the introduction of Business is Jammin’, Black Business Consulting, and Black Business Community Investment Fund Limited, all of which have helped the BBI fulfill its mission of promoting and assisting in the development of Black-owned businesses. In 2019, under Southwell’s leadership, the BBI expanded from a provincial organization to having a presence across Atlantic Canada and throughout the country.

Entrepreneurial leader and outgoing BBI Founding CEO, Rustum Southwell (left) and incoming BBI CEO, Matthew Martel (right). (Black Business Initiative) (CNW Group/Black Business Initiative (BBI))

The BBI’s Black Business Initiative Society Chair, Joseph Parris, expressed his gratitude for Rustum’s exemplary service and welcomed Matthew Martel as the new CEO. Martel, a Project Manager who believes in a ‘people-first’ approach to business, has been with BBI since 2019 as the Chief Operating Officer. With a Master’s Degree in Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Innovation from Saint Mary’s University, Martel has extensive experience in leadership, human resources, change management, and strategic planning.

As Martel takes on his new role as CEO, he expresses his excitement and eagerness to work with the BBI team in promoting and supporting black-owned businesses. With his business acumen and people-first approach, Martel is confident that the organization will continue to make a real difference in the lives of black entrepreneurs and the communities it serves.

The BBI Society formed a committee consisting of a recruitment firm and the organization’s Board of Directors to hire the new CEO. After a rigorous interviewing process, Matthew Martel was selected from a pool of applicants both provincially and nationally.

Founded in 1996 by the Government of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia, the Black Business Initiative (BBI) is a catalyst for job creation, equitable participation, and advancing economic prosperity across Canada. The BBI has grown into an essential organization that addresses the unique needs of Nova Scotia’s Black business community.

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