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Shakara Russell Joseph (MBA’24) welcomes change while holding on to lifelong values

Posted by Jaideep Singh on May 29, 2024 in News

Shakara Russell Joseph (MBA’24) has always been open to change. But her lifelong commitment to mentorship, community, and education helps her to weather the turbulence change creates and move forward.

Upon completing her Bachelor of Arts in Economics at Acadia University in 2003, Joseph opened an international grocery store in Wolfville. Without guidance and the appropriate resources, she credits the unwavering support of a professor with helping her grow and thrive. Her store quickly evolved into a hub for the international students, fostering connections and helping people find accommodations.

Wants to help budding entrepreneurs

After running the store for five years, Joseph knew it was time to move on. She sold the business and proceeded to work as an accountant for a public accounting firm. Joseph says, “The process of creating and starting ventures can actually change your life trajectory; it can open up doors that you didn't realize.” But it wasn’t exactly a business venture she went to next.

“I've always been someone who's socially conscious. I wanted to do something that had a greater good and served more people than I was seeing in the accounting firm. And so, I made the transition and moved into the non-profit sector. I've worked with two or three big non-profits. The Black Business Initiative (BBI) was the first one.”

Someone did it for me

In her first position as the BBI's Entrepreneurship Manager, she focused on helping people in marginalized communities gain business skills and educating them about opportunities available to them. She even offered her finance and taxation skills, as that was one area many new businesses struggled with.

She then went on to Junior Achievement Nova Scotia (JA NS), where she spent eight years building strategic partnerships, such as the one with Dalhousie University's Faculty of Management. The faculty is the home to the JA NS Hall of Fame and works with JA to provide mentors for young businesspeople.

 “I do it [providing opportunity and mentorship] because someone did it for me, and I would not have been where I am if someone didn’t take the time and say, hey, I’m going to offer my skills and here are my learnings.”

As CEO of Junior Achievement, Joseph devoted her last two years to championing Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. Her drive to create change is deeply rooted in her personal experiences and the legacy of resilience in the African Nova Scotian and Black communities. Inspired by pioneers like Viola Desmond, she believes entrepreneurship is a means of economic empowerment and social justice for the marginalized and racialized.

Inspired by professors like Dr. Kent Williams, who taught the Ethics class in the MBA program, she further centred her knowledge on how socially conscious companies can prioritize both financial success and social good.

What the future holds for her

Supporting a family member with Alzheimer's, caring for her young child, and pursuing an MBA in leadership has been challenging for Joseph. However, she believes it has helped bridge the gap between her real-life experiences and academic knowledge.

Joseph remains grounded in her values, emphasizing the importance of community, the power of mentorship, and the transformative potential of education. She is also involved with charity organizations like Business is Jammin' and Tribe Network, where she mentors the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Currently, she is an instructor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Management, dedicated to promoting inclusive innovation and exploring emerging sectors. Her focus includes investigating collaborative finance models and researching with organizations at the forefront of climate and housing finance. Although she plans to pursue a PhD in the coming year, this summer she’ll focus on travelling with her family.

Shakara (R) moderates the Neville Gilfoy Entrepreneurship panel with Daniel Bartek and Faten Alshazly