Photo: Lyndsay Doyle Photography
From Sea-doos to Sandwiches: How one alumnus is making waves in Nova Scotia tourism
Ossama Nasrallah BComm'18 MBA'22
Running one small business is enough to think about for most people. Never one to adhere to the status quo, Ossama Nasrallah BComm'18 MBA'22 runs four. As the number of his businesses grows, his can-do attitude and love for Nova Scotia are quickly making a name for him in the Nova Scotia tourism industry.
Nasrallah's connection to Saint Mary's runs deep. Not just because of his two degrees (he graduated in 2018 with his Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing and with his MBA in 2022) but because of his involvement with many on-campus societies and his two terms as President and CEO of the Saint Mary's Students' Association (SMUSA). Ask anyone from the Saint Mary's community who has interacted with Nasrallah over the years, and most would agree that he is destined for great things.
In 2019, Nasrallah, his business partner, and fellow Saint Mary's alum Omar Hassan BComm'16 launched The Harbour Watercraft Tours & Adventures, a sea-doo and sea-kayak company located on the Halifax Waterfront. Customers have their pick of thrill or chill as they zip across the water on sea-doos, under the Halifax Harbour bridges and around Georges Island or gently rock on the waves in a sea-kayak tour around the harbour.
While COVID-19 tried to throw a wrench into their plans, Nasrallah and Hassan could not be deterred from opening their second business in 2021, Sea Halifax. Their purchase of two speed boats would allow more guests to sit back and take in the sights around the harbour.
"Omar and I are so grateful for the success of The Harbour Watercraft and Sea Halifax over the last few years. We wanted to start and offer a unique experience on the Halifax harbour for all Haligonians, visitors and tourists. We are so happy to provide accessible and fun water adventures across the harbour and hear about our customers' fun times."
Omar Hassan BComm'16 and Ossama Nasrallah BComm'18 MBA'22
Boats and Sea-doos at the Halifax Waterfront
After a few years in business and gaining commercial banking experience in his role as Small Business Advisor and Commercial Business Advisor at Scotiabank, Nasrallah came across a realtor listing for a small island and cabin for sale in West Dover, NS. Never one to shy away from a challenge, he set his sights on island life, seeing the untapped potential of an island with a unique view of the iconic Peggy's Cove lighthouse. Nasrallah, with the support of his partner and fellow Saint Mary's alum Mary Navas BComm'20, they quickly drew up plans and began construction on two luxury camping domes. And just like that, Nova Glamping was born.
Accessible by a quick boat ride (typically captained by Nasrallah or Navas), the island features an original wood cabin and two new ocean-view "glamping" domes, each with a wood-fired hot tub filled with fresh salt water. Starting with walking trails, a sauna and a dock for swimming, Nasrallah has even bigger plans for the island with additions of yoga and wedding spaces along with a third dome coming in summer 2023.
With Nova Glamping almost fully booked for Summer 2023, Nasrallah figured it was time to try his hand at the food and beverage industry. Staying true to his love and expertise for all things tourism and camping, he recently was awarded a five-year contract with Parks Canada to re-imagine and open the former canteen at the Kejimkujik National Park and National Historic Site. As with everything he dives into, he has big plans for Keji.
"When I saw the request for proposal go up for the Kejimkujik canteen, I immediately knew I needed to bid. We are in the planning process of the new café and opening details. We are excited to offer a place where visitors and campers can enjoy a cup of coffee, ice cream and many other food options, including healthy sandwiches and smoothie options after a long day of hiking, swimming and just having fun."
With so much accomplished during and after his time at Saint Mary's, Nasrallah offers sincere advice for new grads or fellow alumni looking to follow their passions.
"You can accomplish anything you set your mind to. Saint Mary's community has always been very supportive of every step. Remember that our community of alumni is wide and has many successful entrepreneurs. Don't be afraid to reach out, connect with someone new and take the first step towards your dreams."
Reconciliation is everyone’s business
Corey Mattie BComm’16
From C-Suites to Non-Profits, conversations and actions towards Reconciliation need to be happening. Corey Mattie BComm’16, a founding partner at Indigenous Treaty Partners (ITP) is on a mission to Indigenize corporate Canada. Indigenous Treaty Partners is a Halifax company that offers Indigenous cultural training and consulting for organizations of all sizes. Mattie, a Canadian with historic Indigenous roots and his business partner Houston Barnaby, who is Mi’kmaw are leading organizations through cultural awareness training, Reconciliation Action Plans, developing Land Acknowledgements and Indigenous Ally Training.
“Indigenous values are what the world needs right now,” says Mattie, “Indigenous ethos in business is needed to remind us that the future needs to be collectively negotiated.” ITP has made its services accessible from anywhere in the world, offering a Reconciliation tool in the form of an online e-course that is self-directed, with interactive components that make it impactful and engaging.
“My time at Saint Mary’s has definitely helped me be a better entrepreneur—the support I received pushed me to work hard and I quickly learned the value of good communication skills and networking,” says, Mattie, “I was lucky to have great mentors and surrounded myself with wonderful allies, I found a place in every room I could—this has all helped me today.” Mattie credits involvement in Enactus and SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) as key learning opportunities that helped prepare him for his career.
He wants to encourage students and especially those from Indigenous communities and backgrounds to get involved in student life and not to be afraid to ask for things. Thinking of the future workforce and to increase Indigenous philanthropy, ITP has committed to donating five per cent of company sales to the ITP L’nu Scholarship Fund, a fund developed in partnership with the Ulnooweg Indigenous Communities Foundation, which will support Indigenous youth pursuing academic studies in commerce or in creating their own business. This idea has caught on with some of their clients, who have taken action to develop their own scholarship funds for Indigenous youth through ITP. Indigenous Treaty Partners is helping break down barriers, creating accountability and encouraging relationships built on trust through intention.
Milk on the Moove
Robert Forsythe MBA'21
"Got Milk?" Even though it's been years since the iconic slogan has been used, Robert Forsythe MBA'21, and his company, Milk Moovement, still have nothing but milk on their minds.
What started as an idea between two university friends grew into a multi-million dollar company within five years. Milk Moovement, a cloud-based and data-driven platform, helps dairy cooperatives, producers, haulers and processors work seamlessly to supply dairy products to consumers across North America.
After graduating in 2015 with business degrees, Forsythe and his friend, Jon King, began their careers. Forsythe joined the Hebron Project, while King joined the Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador. Through King's work and conversations about the dairy industry, King saw an opportunity to modernize the dairy supply chain.
"Jon was surprised to see how manual the dairy industry was. They still used fax machines," chuckles Forsythe. "Everyone was working hard to get milk from the farm to the processing plant and then to the grocery store without any centralized system. Each farmer, hauler, producer and retailer used their own spreadsheets and tracking processes. It was so administratively cumbersome and often resulted in errors and disputes about the volume of milk shipped, received and produced."
The solution was clear. Forsythe and King set out to design a platform that everyone from farmers to truck drivers and accountants could use to make the supply chain efficient and accurate. In 2018, Milk Moovement was born. Considering each data point within the dairy supply chain, they worked with software developers to create a cloud-based portal and mobile app that houses data related to milk pick-ups, driver locations, scheduling, quality monitoring, invoicing, and many other data points. Each stakeholder can access relevant and real-time information that helps them get the right milk to the right location.
As Milk Moovement was in its start-up phase, Forsythe left his job at the Hebron Project to begin full-time studies in the MBA program at Saint Mary's.
"Studying and joining Milk Moovement together was perfect timing. I was in the right mindset for joining a start-up and was surrounded by people and knowledge to help," says Forsythe. "I sometimes wish I was doing my MBA now, knowing what I know and having so much business experience under my belt. Looking back, I appreciate how the program was multi-disciplinary. It combined all the aspects of business that people need to succeed."
Today, Milk Moovement has 70 employees working out of Halifax, NS, St. John’s, NL and across Canada and the United States. Those working in the Halifax office enjoy a beautiful harbour view accompanied by, of course, a large black and white cow-spot painted wall.
With people and customer-first values, combined with its light-hearted and uplifting brand, the Milk Moovement team is driven to positively impact the dairy supply chain. In 2022 Milk Moovement was named one of Deloitte's Tech Fast 50 Companies-to-watch. To date, Milk Moovement manages over 32 billion pounds of milk each year, has facilitated over 512,000 pick-ups, and operates in three countries. Its platform is used by Dairy Farmers of Prince Edward Island, Dairy Farmers of Newfoundland and Labrador, Cargill, California Dairies Inc., UDA and Riverina Fresh and many more that will soon be announced.
Forysthe, King and their team have their sights on breaking into dairy supply chains across Canada, the United States, Europe and Australia.
When thinking about what the future has in store for Milk Moovement, Forsythe is steadfast, "we are moving and growing fast. The dairy industry is almost a trillion-dollar industry, and people are ready for change. We are going for it and leaving nothing on the table."
Rapid to research
Barbara Goodall BSc'12
How COVID-19 rapid tests changed the way we think about models of health care.
In today's fast-paced world, waiting for test results can make time feel like it's standing still. Anyone who has used an at-home rapid pregnancy or COVID-19 test knows the experience of waiting in anticipation for results. While to most people, at-home rapid tests are means to finding an answer, to Barbara Goodall BSc'12, they are one example of how COVID-19 changed the game for how we think about and deliver healthcare.
Little did she know, but Goodall's preparation for the COVID-19 pandemic started in 2008 when she began her studies at Saint Mary's in the Bachelor of Science program. Going on to graduate with honours in chemistry, it was during her undergraduate studies that she found her passion for research.
"The Saint Mary's chemistry department is not only amazing, but they are doing phenomenal research," beams Goodall. "To have a program designed to engage undergraduate students in research is so rare. I met some amazing mentors with whom I still am in touch today."
After a two-year stint in Ontario to obtain her Master of Science, Goodall returned to Nova Scotia. Ready to put her knowledge into action, she taught two chemistry lab courses at Saint Mary's and joined a small rapid testing company where she researched and evaluated the efficacy of HIV and Hepatitis C rapid tests. She then joined the Nova Scotia Health Authority's Infectious Disease division as a Research Manager, where she continued her work on HIV and Hepatitis C rapid testing. Because of her experience in infectious disease rapid testing, her expertise was about to step into the spotlight as COVID-19 spread around the world in 2020.
Goodall led the research, evaluation and implementation of community-based COVID-19 testing within Nova Scotia in coordination and cooperation with various health departments. "My focus is on the implementation science and model of care evaluation for infectious diseases, and interestingly, COVID-19 brought so much innovation in terms of a model of care," says Goodall. "Recognizing the strain on the overburdened healthcare system, and knowing how easy and effective testing can be, we changed the perception of who can deliver COVID-19 tests."
When it was announced that the Atlantic bubble would open to allow university students to return, Goodall and her colleagues sprung into action to implement and evaluate a testing strategy. With a sincere smile, Goodall remarks, "universities and their students led the way with peer-delivered covid testing. We learned from our data that the fidelity of non-medical professionals testing people for COVID-19 was very good. With students stepping up to help administer and handout tests, we were helping to slow the spread of COVID-19."
Goodall and her colleagues followed the mantra of getting "the right tests, to the right people, at the right time," which led to organizing Nova Scotia's first community-based rapid COVID-19 testing experience at non-other than Halifax's Dome night club. Crediting the hospitality industry and university students for the event's success, Goodall could see the path forward for establishing COVID-19 rapid testing protocols across the province and training volunteers to administer rapid tests.
As if Goodall wasn't busy enough leading community-based testing efforts, she helped design the provinces Report & Support form, an algorithm used to identify and prioritize Nova Scotians who self-reported a COVID-19 infection and were at high risk for hospitalization. Her research and experience enabled her to integrate a system that automatically refers high-risk individuals directly to healthcare providers.
As the world moves forward with the "new normal" of living with COVID-19, Goodall is now studying and evaluating COVID-19 therapeutics (treatments) in vaccinated and unvaccinated patients living with multiple health conditions. Using Nova Scotia's hub and spoke model of care, she is using the learnings, barriers, challenges and successes from the COVID-19 pandemic to see how our healthcare system can be more effective and responsive to implement new models of care. Goodall is excited about the positive impacts of engaging individuals in testing and self-referral to healthcare, which can lead to improved access, empowerment, inclusivity and knowledge.
Behind the music
Katrina Lopes BA’97
By Tara Thorne
Saint Mary’s alum paves the way for black women in talent management.
From a degree in International Development Studies at Saint Mary’s to becoming one of Canada’s leading artist managers, Katrina Lopes BA’97 has paved her own path to success, taking care of the business side of music careers, including pop star Shawn Desman.
“I was interested in social justice, but at that time, there were not a lot of degrees that reflected that,” she says. “I chose IDS because that was the closest thing to what I wanted to do.”
After graduation, the Cole Harbour native started putting on nightclub parties in Halifax, flying in DJs from Toronto and Montreal.
“I discovered very quickly I didn't like that,” she says, laughing. “I had a cousin who was a DJ in Toronto. I would go up for things like Caribana, and he suggested I be a music manager because he thought I’d be good at it.”
Her cousin was correct. Lopes saw first-hand the gaps in his operation, a common occurrence when an artist tries to turn their passion into a career for the first time.
“He wasn’t always so organized, and I didn’t understand things like music publishing, rights and royalties yet. It was more helping artists reach their goal and help them be organized and efficient.”
She moved to Toronto in 2007 and met Desman when she was on the management team at the major label BMG. The artist was trapped in a 360 deal (as in 360 degrees, or all of it), meaning the company owned a percentage of his recordings and publishing, tour revenue, merchandise and any other ancillary income.
In 2010, Lopes left to start her own company, KL Management, and Desman followed.
“We were both eager to get out of that situation. I think we had both been chewed up by the industry, and the most important thing for us was working with people we trusted. We both worked hard and felt we could figure out what we didn’t know.”
Lopes’ roster has grown to include Desman’s producer side project with Tebey Ottoh, RadioClub; singer and “visual hypnotist” TiKA; singer-songwriter Kayla Diamond; and Colombian composer Sol Escobar.
When not managing careers, Lopes is an active mentor in Nova Scotia, having been steered herself by the likes of former BMG president Lisa Zbitneu and Johnnie Walker, the founder of the National Association of Black Female Executives in Music & Entertainment, who she met at a NABFEME conference in Toronto.
“That was the first time I had seen Black women in certain roles in the entertainment industry—in every role you could imagine. It was a lightbulb moment for me. You can have this as a job!”
Though Lopes has had to work hard to create her own success, she hopes to be a catalyst for change in the Nova Scotia entertainment industry.
“When I was in Nova Scotia, there was limited infrastructure in terms of the music industry. It was mostly centred around folk and Celtic music. It wasn’t possible to pursue a career. Nothing’s really changed in that regard.”
To help be the change, Lopes conducts annual masterclasses for Black creatives in the province, most recently in March 2023. She hopes her work in this field will give others the confidence to pursue their dreams.
“There’s so much talent, but why hasn’t the infrastructure grown at the same pace? But I’m passionate about my community—my dad always said, ‘Bring people with you wherever you’re going.’”
And bringing them with her, she does.