Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia travel company gets funding to grow

Rene Boudreau

What started less than two years ago with a single Instagram post a picture of an African Nova Scotian visitor to Africville Park is now a profitable local Black-owned tourism company. Now, the company’s founder said she’s using funding she received to help her company grow.

Rene Boudreau is the founder of Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia, a tourism company geared towards Black travelers within the Atlantic region. The company’s tours highlight Black Nova Scotian history and culture to potential Black tourists from around the world.

“The goal and the vision of Elevate and Explore is to encourage more Black travelers to visit the province, but also to inspire people from all backgrounds to explore the province as well,” she said.

“I thought that if more Black people could see themselves traveling around the province, then we would probably feel more comfortable to go to different paces or more inclined to want to visit.”

Boudreau is from the Black community in Truro and has family roots in East Preston. She works for the Association of Black Social Workers. Recently, she was one of a hundred business owners accepted into a mentorship program through American Express called Blueprint: Backing BIPOC Businesses. The program is geared towards business owners who are Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour.

Exploring Black Canadian history

Each participant received a $10,000 grant to put towards their business. Boudreau said the 15-week program also includes a lineup of weekly guest speakers and opportunities to network with other BIPOC entrepreneurs throughout Canada.

“When I started it, I wasn’t registered as a business or anything, I was kind of just starting it with the goal to create a business out of it,” said Boudreau.

“I just started posting pictures of Black people exploring the province. It would be pictures that I took, or pictures that I would ask people to send me, and I would just post them. From that I was able to form partnerships with different businesses and organizations.”

One of the first partnerships was through Tourism Nova Scotia. Last summer, Boudreau was contracted to take a group of friends, and a photographer on an excursion in Mahone Bay where they were paid to document their experience in order to help promote a “Sail and Sea” package.

“When I started, my focus was really to try to attract more Black travelers to the province, but when COVID happened and travel wasn’t really a thing anymore, I had to kind of shift my focus to encouraging people within the province to explore, which kind of fit perfectly because everyone was doing that anyway,” she said.

She was able to put profit from the influencer opportunities towards her business and then worked to expand her business by holding events and experiences.

The first was a sold-out Black History Bike tour in Halifax last summer. Boudreau partnered with I Heart Bikes on the Halifax waterfront, and sold tickets to participants from all backgrounds, though the majority, she said, were predominately white people.

This past Summer, Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia partnered with Change is Brewing Collective, a group of Black, Indigenous, and other people of colour who make craft beer, for a Black Excellence Boat Cruise that started from the Halifax Harbour. They worked with Ambassatours to commission the boat The Harbour Queen. That event also sold out.

Additionally, Boudreau said she has plans to launch an official website for Elevate and Explore Black Nova Scotia in December, which she said will promote her business and other Black-owned businesses and experiences throughout the province.

Through social media, Boudreau said people from the US, Montreal, and Ontario have reached out expressing both an interest in the Black history and communities of Nova Scotia, and in potentially travelling here someday.