Name: Christine Channer Auguste
Business: The Channer Group Inc.
Industry: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Management Consulting
Tanya: So, what is the name of your company?
Christine: My company is The Channer Group Incorporated. That is the parent. That’s the incorporation.
Tanya: Okay, awesome. And what industry does that fall under?
Christine: So, I’m under a few industries. I would say management consulting, simply because The Channer Group is the parent, underneath that is my podcast, and then my consulting and training firm. Management consulting is a good catch-all, but it’s also I do a lot of work in the EDI space. I do a lot of work in the marginalized and racialized space as well, especially me being a very proud Black woman. So yeah, but management consulting is kind of the dropdown top, I think.
Tanya: Awesome. Okay. So, question one, what was your path to entrepreneurship?
Christine: Oh, my path to entrepreneurship started at a very young age for me. My mother always had us in all of her endeavours. She had gone back to school when I was 10 to become a chef, but she had started to do little catering jobs here and there, and just stepping into that I was like, “I want to do this.” I would make her little flyers on our first computer and just get really into the taste of that hustle, and that drive.
Literally throughout my entire career working in corporate, I always had something on the side I was working on. Always. Because my goal was like, “I know I want to step into this eventually. I just don’t have all the tools yet.”
Tanya: What has been your boldest business move to date?
Christine: On Christmas of 2019, I had a breakup from my role with the company I was in. I was senior leadership but there was a definite misalignment of values, and they decided to let me go. It was absolutely the biggest blindside of my career by far, however there was something in that moment where I was like, “Now is the time.” So, on the heels of literally just feeling defeated, betrayed, and trying to figure out what’s going on – in my mind I was already saying, “Okay, this was not my long-term goal.” I was treating that job as kind of the last job before entrepreneurship, I just didn’t realize how quickly that would come.
I was let go on the Monday, and the Wednesday I incorporated. Then of course three beautiful months later we had a global pandemic that shut everything down. And I’m still going. Honestly, I think it was bold for me to be a new business owner, and to keep going. I told myself “No, this is worth me pursuing. My heart is in it.” And that’s how I really know it’s the right timing for me, because even with the pandemic and all of the hurdles it has presented, I’m still doing it. And I’m loving it, even the crazy stuff.
Tanya: What has been, so far, the biggest financial turning point for your company? Your, “I made it” moment?
Christine: I was talking to my bookkeeper and accountant and she’s like, “Christine, you know that you’ve already done the same numbers you did last year and it’s only June.” I looked at her and I was like, “What?” Because I just feel like … When you’re a business owner all you feel is that you’re working just to pay everyone else, right?
Christine: And I was just like, “There’s no way.” And then so, we hit our fiscal year end on September 30th, and I increased my revenue by 300% and I was like, “How the hell?” we were in the pandemic. But it just goes to show, you just have to keep on pushing, and for me, that was huge because I was hoping just to make the same. If I could make … My goal was if I could make what I did my first fiscal, I would be happy. But 300%. I’m like, “Okay, I’ll take it.”
Tanya: For sure. Absolutely. What would you say in terms of other than the revenue, and being able to maintain during a pandemic, so far is your business’s biggest triumph?
Christine: Our triumph is running the programs that we do in the communities that we do, and seeing the empowerment. Seeing the capacity development. And to be able to do that despite a pandemic, getting very creative in terms of how we deliver without compromising value. For example, one of the Indigenous nations was able to get their first-ever flight attendant through our program.
So for me, our triumph is when we are literally helping people, meeting them where they’re at, and helping people and or communities with those outcomes, with that skill development, with the strategic opportunity, with getting a new building or a center, or whatever the goal is, that’s what lights me up.
Tanya: Yeah, which is lovely. How has the … We talked a little bit about the health pandemics, but in terms of the racial pandemics, in the past two years we’ve seen George Floyd and everyone start paying attention to issues for Black communities, and then even more recently in the past, I would say six months to a year, in terms of truth and reconciliation, the reveals of the Indigenous genocides at the residential schools. Because those are predominantly the communities that you serve, has it been easier to get funding, or easier to get attention, or is it still just as difficult in terms of these racial and cultural pandemics that we’re going through as well?
Christine: Absolutely, and that’s a really great question. I will be as honest and transparent as possible. There’s this problem we have in this country and this world with performative allyship.
Because I have the trust of my clients, I have to make sure that we’re partnering with corporations that get it. Corporations that are doing this work, and not just to check a box. And you would be surprised how many people are still out here just trying to check a box. They’re still centering themselves in it. They’re still saying, “Look at me.” Rather than, “Look at it.” It being the problem. It being a cause. It being a purpose.
So, in terms of accessing funding, getting support, getting attention, it can still be fleeting. Once it leaves the media cycle, 90% of people drop with it. And that’s not support, because that can create a bigger problem in my opinion. Because it’s telling me as a Black woman, my clients being Indigenous peoples, it’s telling us, “Oh, you matter but only while you’re in the news cycle.”
Now on the other side of that, yes, we have amazing funding partners who before the recoveries, and the reveals of the racial reckonings that we have seen and continue to see, there are partners that have been doing the work.
Tanya: I can imagine the frustration, and I’m in a similar boat. I run a non-profit as well and see who’s getting the money, and when they popped up. They incorporated in 2020 when it was hot, and now it’s just about being performative of the work and going after the money because there’s money to be had.
Christine: That’s exactly it.
Christine: Black people, First Nations, Metis, Inuit people, we are not your not-for-profit. We are not your charity. And that is a problem that I continue to see. People treat this realm like a not-for-profit in the sense of, “I gave them $100. They should be happy with that. Surely, that’s enough. Surely they’ll be grateful because I came in here with my savior complex and saved them. That’s never going to work. Ever. Never. Because usually, that’s transactional only too.
Tanya: Exactly. And also, those transactional dollars come with so many conditions.
Christine: Yeah, exactly.
Tanya: “We’re going to give you this money but you can’t use it for X, Y, and Z.” The biggest challenge for non-profits is being sustainable because no one wants to fund salaries. Because that does not feel good. Saying that you were able to pay, and pay a living wage to staff is not as sexy for your donors or your shareholders as it is, “Oh, we sent 14 kids to camp.” I’m just like, “But who do you think is doing the intake, and calling around, and making sure that these kids have what they need?” And all of the waivers, and doing … Who do you think is actually doing these programs? People.
Christine: Magic. But that’s what I’m saying. The system is meant to keep us oppressed.
Tanya: Yes. So last question, because I’ve gone a little bit over time. How do you find a balance between your personal and professional life?
Christine: Balance for me is critical because there was a point in my life where I had a lot of suicidal ideology, and things were really rough. For me, self-care, actual self-care beyond the hashtag is extremely important. Because there are pressures that come with entrepreneurship. There is an added pressure that comes with being a Black woman, and then being a Black businesswoman. It’s not the same game. It’s not the same playing field. And as we have said a few times in this conversation, it is exhausting. Physically exhausting. Emotionally exhausting.
I make intentional time for myself where I need to be by myself. Whether that’s to unpack, to journal, to cry, to think, to conceptualize. Whatever that looks like. Self-care is not always this – don’t get me wrong, I love a spa day, I love my bath time. Anyone that knows me knows I love that side of self-care. But self-care is silence and alone time. And I had to really learn that because I am such a social person.
But that’s how I separate the two by having very clear boundaries. My new favorite word, when I say new, new as of the past five years. Boundary is something that I’ve said before, but boundary is something I do now. It is an action for me. And so, between boundaries and just taking very intentional time, and sometimes that’s extremely hard and I understand that there will be some readers of this that are mothers and wear many different hats, and I get it. I’m not a mother yet, but life can be extremely demanding. So, it’s just holding that space for myself, and then making sure I surround myself with people that are going to help me be my best self. And that is everywhere from my therapist, to close family and friends, and the practitioners in my life.
Tanya: Yep, I love that. Christine, thank you so very much for your time today. This was an excellent conversation.
Christine: For sure.
Tanya: I can tell that you’re very passionate about what you do, and it’s clearly paying off both financially and you’re taking the time and setting the boundaries so that it is also paying off mentally and emotionally. So, I just wanted to say I see you, sis.
Christine: Thank you.
Bold & Black is a monthly interview series conducted by entrepreneur and Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence Honouree, Tanya Hayles. Tanya is the founder of Black Moms Connection, an online global village of almost 20,000 and a non-profit providing programs and financial tools through grant programs generously supported by BMO.