Jefferson Darrell is the founder and CEO of Breakfast Culture, a business consulting firm based in Toronto, Canada. He is among Canada’s earliest outliers in the DEI (diversity, equity & inclusion) arena, successfully driving positive change management for organizations for the past five years resulting in more diverse & inclusive teams to increase revenue or new business opportunities. Jefferson is an accomplished marketing communications and public relations professional with more than 18 years of brand strategy expertise, generating earned & owned media using traditional and digital channels. He worked with organizations like Ontario Science Centre, KPMG Canada, Bell Media, and Aerial Communications Services.
Jefferson started Breakfast Culture due to facing systematic racism and homophobia in the workplace. He said, “ 10 years ago, I was actively looking to join the C-suite, and I remember meeting the CEO of a global PR agency here in Canada. You have to remember Perez; ten years ago, you could not say the words like diversity or inclusion. I wasn’t seeing people who looked like me in those roles: a Black Gay man. My strategy back then was when I met with senior people, and they brought up the conversation about diversity, I would walk through that door. So, she brought it up; she was a white woman, and she said, in the PR industry, we are 80% women, yet when we move to the C-suite, that number flips to 70% men.
I agreed with her and asked what her strategy was; she said her strategy was to look for more people who looked like her, other women. I thought to myself, wow, that’s such a great idea, and she recommended that for me; to look for people who looked like me. During the elevator ride after my meeting, by the time I hit the ground floor, I was in tears, Perez. I realized I had never thought of this idea because no one looked like me in the PR industry in Canada at the C-suite level at the time. They were all white and mostly men and some women. There was the occasional Chinese woman who was in charge of the ethnic practice; that was about it.”
This and many other experiences inspired Jefferson to educate himself about the challenges, barriers, and gaps facing the workplace from the perspective of marginalized groups like the LGBTQ+ peoples, Black peoples, people living with disabilities, etc. His encounters at the workplace motivated him to start Breakfast Culture. He said, “ I do not want to see other people go through what I have been through.”
“I do not want to see other people go through what I have been through.”
Jefferson also mentioned that once organizations embrace diversity, inclusion, equity, and belonging, three things will happen:
- Productivity will increase because people aren’t wasting time code-switching and pretending to be something they are not; hence they can focus on their jobs.
- You might find brand new audiences for your products or services that you hadn’t considered before.
- You may create entirely new lines of business for your current products or services as well.
He said that at its core, public relations is about changing perceptions. We want people to think differently and act differently. Typically, the action was to buy something DEI work is a lot of marketing because we are trying to get people to think differently and ultimately act differently.
The interview ended with Jefferson sharing who inspired him as a Black Gay man. Dr. Andrew B. Campbell inspires Jefferson. Andrew also works in the DEI space in education. When Jefferson first met him, Andrew was the treasure of the board of directors for the Black Coalition for AIDS Prevention in Toronto.
Jefferson was moved by the way he delivered the financials at the AGM and loved the fact that he is unapologetically Black, Gay, and Jamaican. He said, “Honestly, I was very intrigued and was interested in dating this man. I found out he was in a relationship and, five years later, became the chair of the board. I met him again at the fundraising ceremony, where he proclaimed his singleness and openness to new dating opportunities. I jumped into the opportunities and went out a couple of times with him, but it didn’t go anywhere. What I did say to him and loved about him was that he was the best version of myself that I could see every day. Being unapologetically Black and Gay, and I am moving in that direction.”