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Celebrating Abena Perryman, HBA ’95, MBA ’01

Feb 9, 2024

Abena Perryman Black History Month

February is Black History Month and we’re celebrating Ivey alumni who have demonstrated Black excellence in their professional and personal life. In their own words, they share who and what helped them to define Black excellence and how that influenced their career and life, as well as ways to empower Black excellence all year round. Read on to learn how Abena Perryman was encouraged to build her personal brand, which involves delivering Black excellence every day, as well as her insights on how organizational partnerships can fuel change. 

Get to know Abena Perryman, HBA ’95, MBA ’01

Abena PerrymanMy name is Abena Perryman and I am a business owner, wife, and mom. I'm happily married to Ellis Perryman, MBA ’01, and we have two kids and a mini Goldendoodle named Bailey.

I founded (with Leah Andrew) the strategic marketing and communications firm, Andrew Perry, approximately seven years ago, to help firms fill their marketing gap. In recent years, specifically on the heels of the police killing of George Floyd, I’ve focused on helping Black not-for-profit organizations to be seen and increase their impact.

In September 2023, I had a children’s book called I AM Big published, which was inspired by my son’s challenges with racism and discrimination in his hockey journey. It was written by award-winning children’s author, Itah Sadu, who is managing director of Blackhurst Cultural Centre, one of my past clients. While working with the Blackhurst Cultural Centre, I often shared the story of my family’s hockey journey and the fact that racism and discrimination is still alive and well. That’s why we need organizations like Blackhurst making inroads within the community.

How do you define or describe Black excellence?

For me, Black excellence is being your best authentic self. This means looking to deliver value with each interaction or opportunity – looking to touch lives and make a difference. It requires one to drive forward in the face of unimaginable obstacles. Not just daring to dream, but pursuing that dream bravely and confidently.

What foundational experiences supported your Black excellence?

When I think about my foundational experiences, there are three categories: school, work, and home. Here is a summary of each.

School – For me, the greatest lessons I learned from my time at Ivey were:

  • Problem-solving – That every problem has a solution if you are creative enough and brave enough to ask for help when needed; and,
  • Resiliency – To not quit when the going gets tough, but to instead brace yourself for the storm because storms always pass. After the rain, comes rainbows.

Workforce – During my career, the greatest lessons have been about:

  • Collaboration – Thinking about "and" instead of "or" and how much better we are working together than separately; and,
  • Really listening – Hearing what is NOT being said, and trying to understand the people speaking and their motivators.

Family – When I was growing up as a first-generation Canadian, the lessons my parents instilled in me were about the importance of your personal brand. This meant being true to your word and delivering Black excellence every day. In more recent years, upon experiencing loss, I’ve learned about the importance of gratitude – appreciating the small things life brings each day. I’ve also learned to appreciate that some life lessons are painful, but also provide an opportunity for incredible growth.

How can business schools/institutions empower Black excellence all year round?

Ensure that diversity is represented everywhere, from faculty and students to case studies, social events, and sponsorship. My work with not-for-profits has highlighted a need for greater access to talent from organizations that nurture Black talent, such as the Blackhurst Cultural Centre in Toronto.

Partnering with organizations such as these can amplify their impact, create good, and deliver value to the organization, community, and students. It can fuel the change we need to see in the world.