A Golden Moment with Entrepreneur Nadine Spencer
As part of our campaign Golden Together, we’re introducing “Golden Moments”: a seven-part interview series highlighting women who are barrier-breakers and industry disruptors empowering others to do the same.
Nadine Spencer has always been the type of person who has what we’d call the Midas touch, creating one successful business venture after the other. The Jamaican-born Canadian businesswoman is behind Brand EQ, a global marketing, communications and PR agency with clients ranging from P.Diddy to Burberry and Mercedes Benz. She's also the President of the Black Business and Professional Association, the organization we partnered with for our inaugural Empowerment Fund initiative to award 10 scholarships to Black Canadian women to pursue their leadership goals and higher education. Nadine is living proof that empowered women empower women—and the rest of their community. Her drive to be present and supportive of those around her is all the inspiration we need for 2021. Here, we talk to Nadine about how 'mentor' is her most important role and about the confidence it takes to make your own opportunities and make real change.
Where did your passion for entrepreneurship begin?
I’ve always had an entrepreneurial spirit. When I lived in Jamaica, my mother immigrated to Canada first so she could set up roots before bringing me over and left me in her friend's care. Unfortunately, her friend wasn’t well suited to caretaking and I would often have to make the best of a situation. On one such occasion, I was sent to the marketplace to buy cakes for her with just enough money to get the cakes but not enough to return home. I ended up negotiating prices for more cakes, buying beautiful paper to package them up, and selling enough for the fare. I taught myself how to create something out of nothing in that moment and it’s been with me ever since.
That drive, that ability to recognize an opportunity, is what I bring to the table when I work with women. I want to help enable a future economy for themselves and their family through entrepreneurship.
You’ve been at the helm of quite a few business ventures in multiple industries—how did you manage your different interests and land on Brand EQ?
Before Brand EQ I was in the food industry. I had a product that was chosen for a White House dinner, and it was received so well, they continued to order from me. It inspired me to create branding, marketing, and all sorts of communications for it. One day, I was at a trade show and someone thought an agency had done it for me. I realized I had an eye for marketing. I realized I could provide that service to Black businesses who don’t have the resources, and aren’t given the same funding or sponsorship as the rest. Fast forward to now, Brand EQ now does training on diversity and inclusion in marketing and communications.
Looking at what you’ve accomplished, it’s clear you’ve made some bold moves. Where does that confidence come from?
I wouldn’t say it comes naturally. But when I see something or someone worth championing, I need to get involved. This desire to fight for equity comes easy. Whether it’s encouraging a woman who’s learning English that she's worthy, or inspiring my mentees to believe that even if you don’t feel confident, you have to act as though you are, it’s all about the bigger picture for me. Seeing other people tap into their confidence, gives me confidence.
I believe in allyship, I believe in sponsorship, and I believe in women supporting women. Knowing that there’s a teacher who believes in you, a student who looks up to you, and a community behind you is a powerful thing.
That belief comes from a moment in my childhood. When I first arrived in Canada, my mother and I lived in public housing. It was a horrible experience because people would judge you and there wasn’t much to facilitate your dreams. One day, a woman came to my class, she looked fabulous, she wore a fur coat, she had her hair immaculately done, and just exuded confidence. I sat up. She told us that if you were educated, if you had a business, if you strove for success, you could change your trajectory. And I never forgot that. So, for me, showing up for yourself and showing up for others really makes a difference. And sometimes, in more ways than you know.
Starting a business can involve quite a few setbacks, what advice would you give someone facing those challenges?
Every time you come across a moment like that, don’t be afraid to fail. You will always amaze yourself. Take action. Take risks. Show up, even if you don’t feel or look perfect. Because that’s not what people look for—they want to work with you, and perfection is all in the process.
Describe your role as President of the Black Business and Professional Association.
I lead the strategy for economic opportunity and sustainability in the black business community. We look specifically at equity, impact and systemic barriers. I’m serious about these entrepreneurs. I know their names. I know their stories. I know the issues they face. When I do something, I do it 110%.
You’re managing such a wide scope of interests, ventures and projects, can you give us an example of what you’re working on right now?
We’re looking at all the ways Black-owned businesses have been affected differently than mainstream businesses during the pandemic. We’re working with the government on a Black entrepreneurship fund program. Our goal is to close the gap so that more people can contribute to the economy and aren’t doing so at a disadvantage.
Right now, I have a lot of young business women calling me, asking for support. They’ve got these great ideas—companies with immense potential—but don’t yet have confidence or the necessary knowledge. I’m here to help them organize a business plan, take them seriously, navigate new spaces, get into the gritty details, and above all, embrace their inner boss. Not enough people give women that kind of inspiration—entrepreneurial or otherwise.
When it comes to building a support network, who would you say are your biggest champions?
That’s easy. I have two amazing daughters, and I can always count on them to tell me how it is. I also have several key confidants and friends who are very honest. Everything they say comes from a place of love and respect—I thrive off that.
What’s been the defining Golden Moment of your career?
Realizing that all the small little things the BBPA programs have provided to children and their families means so much more to them than I had thought. Scholarships and mentorship programs can really have a huge impact. Because it’s not just about the money—it certainly helps—what’s more meaningful, is that it represents someone believing in them. They’ll take that forward and use that to achieve much more than the scholarship initially funded.
What does Golden Together mean to you?
I think of light. I think of inspiration. I think of hope. I think of warmth, healing, brightness, glow. Put that all together and I see a thriving community.
SHOP NADINE'S JEWELRY
14k Yellow Gold
Curb Chain Necklace
14k Yellow Gold
Diamond Tennis Bracelet 1.3mm
14k Yellow Gold, Natural Diamond
Double Curb Chain Necklace
14k Yellow Gold, Garnet
Pavé Diamond Slim Signet
14k Yellow Gold, Natural Diamond
Bold Link Chain Necklace
14k Yellow Gold
Photographed by Renée Rodenkirchen