Behind her soft voice and gentle demeanor, Keithy Antoine carries a wealth of experience with close to 30 years as an entrepreneur, host, visual and graphic artist. She is also the founder of Boutique Espace Urbain, the largest Afro Caribbean urban store in Canada carrying the products of over 125 entrepreneurs and businesses, across the country.
Her beginnings are marked with curiosity and a thirst to understand herself and develop her capacity.
She met with the CONTACT virtually this past week to share her years of experience, failures, and successes.
Antoine believes in the power of curiosity, she studied architecture for three years before she decided to pursue Graphic Design and after this, she went on to study journalism at Cégep de Jonquière.
Her parents encouraged her to pursue her diverse passions. She chose to explore all her interests and she credits her inquisitiveness as giving her the chutzpah to dive into entrepreneurship.
“I am where I am because I chose to explore who I am by paying attention and observing how I feel about certain things and different dynamics,” she says, “how I feel when I do certain things. So as far as I can remember, I articulated to my parents that when I grow up, I want to draw, and I want to talk. Those were my words as a little human and it’s funny to see that that’s exactly what I’m doing, even though I took a few detours along the way.”
At the age of 24, the Haitian born Quebecer, took her first stab at entrepreneurship and together with her ex-partner when she launched her first marketing and visual company. The organisation boasted major brands such as Nike, Adidas, Warner Brother, and the like.
“We had that company for over 14 years and after we created our own top and accessory line that was very popular for over eight years, we were distributed over 33 stores in over eight countries. So, entrepreneurship is in my DNA,” Antoine remarks.
Not only is entrepreneurship a part of her make up so is creative and visual arts. Antoine was a host of the popular French hiphop show …. On…fm. Currently she’s a part of the show Pas T’ Mentir on ICTV that loosely translated means No Lies, which she co-hosts with Schelby Jean-Baptiste and Irdens Exantus .
The show aims to deconstruct preconceived ideas and demystifying certain taboos in Quebec’s Black and multi-ethnic communities.
And with all these irons in the fire, Antoine managed to create a conglomerate through Boutique Espace Urbain.
It started in 2015 a time she defines as a “tough year,” following the death of her ex-husband she threw herself into work.
She says her kids are the driving force behind every this she does: “I have to be an example to them not only through speaking but my actions. They pushed me to keep going.”
And she did.
From its inception, Boutique Espace Urbain has been a showcase of a business offering creators of different backgrounds in Montreal and beyond a space to present and sell their creations (products and arts) to an established clientele that is aware of the boutique’s purchasing power.
Her peers, other business owners and entrepreneurs have a chance to come and showcase their goods and reach an even bigger market.
She credits her grit and patience as reasons why the business continues to flourish even through the pandemic.
“I understand that good things take time. It took me five years to get to where I am today and it’s going to take more years to go where I really want to go and I’m ready for the road.”
She sees Montreal as a ripe market with plenty of opportunities and her advice to business people is to put their plan into action and exercise patience and listen to those who have gone before.
“I like to pay attention, observe, and listen,” she says. “I listen a lot: I listen to my customers. I listen to my partner. I listen to my clients. I listen to my friends. I listen to my friends who have other businesses. I listen to their challenges. What do they go through? I listen a lot. And then I make my own decisions from all I’ve learned.”
Adding to her laundry list of feats, Antoine will be organising the 4th edition of the Festival Afro Ubrain at Maison d’Haiti which
celebrates the art and culture of Afro -descendants. This year’s event will be held from the 25-27th of March.
And as if that’s not enough, this summer in June Keithy will be in Cameroon exhibiting her work at the festival of Hope together with other Afro Canadian descendants from Quebec.
A few months shy of 50, Keithy Antoine is only just getting started.