The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council (TRIEC), through its Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program, organized an information and networking event, hosted by MaRS Discovery District, to support immigrants seeking to become entrepreneurs.
The event, Newcomer Start-ups: Building a Successful Business, featured four successful immigrant entrepreneurs and shared information on programs, services and supports to help immigrants start their business.
“Immigrants in the GTA are increasingly turning to entrepreneurship as a career option, both by choice and as an alternative when they are struggling to find meaningful employment,” says Margaret Eaton, Executive Director, TRIEC.
“Entrepreneurship is not without its own set of challenges, but immigrant entrepreneurs are key contributors to the economy, including job creators, and provide valuable links to international markets.”
Immigrant entrepreneurs bring tremendous value to the GTA and to Canada in many different ways.
“As an example, 27 per cent of the start-ups that we work with have all foreign-born founders and another 25 per cent have both Canadian and foreign-born founders,” says Usha Srinivasan, Vice President, Learning and Insights at MaRS Discovery District. “These entrepreneurs typically have high technical knowledge and we support them in launching their businesses with specific programming and scale their business with advice and capital.”
While immigrant entrepreneurship can be beneficial for both the individual and the broader economy, a 2011 report from the Metcalf Foundation and Maytree found that new Canadians face additional barriers to starting a business not faced by Canadian-born residents and often immigrants require different and/or additional support to be successful.
A range of resources and supports are available for entrepreneurs including some specifically geared towards immigrants. These supports cover a wide range of topics and can help immigrants with accessing financing, learning about Canadian business culture and building local connections and networks.
“Scotiabank is proud of our long history of support for newcomers in Canada through our StartRight and StartRight for Business programs and is delighted to be a sponsor of the Professional Immigrant Networks Program,” said John Roberts, Vice President, Small Business Banking at Scotiabank. “It is our pleasure to participate in this important event with TRIEC and to provide immigrant entrepreneurs with access to the financial tools and advice that they need to start their businesses in Canada.”
While many supports exist, given the diverse needs of entrepreneurs, there is still room for more of these types of programs to be made available. In addition, a 2014 report from the Newcomer Women’s Services Toronto on immigrant small business owners found that most had little awareness of the programs and services available to support self-employment and small business startup. It was these factors that led to the recent event.
“Event partners represent an amazing range of programs and services that immigrant entrepreneurs can access,” says Eaton. “Our hope is that more immigrants will access these resources and that this will lead to increased success for them and a greater impact for our region.”
Four immigrant entrepreneurs shared their stories:
Rene C. Berrospi Originally from Peru, Rene started A&R Global Consulting Firm, an immigration consulting firm, after he couldn’t find a job in his field in Canada. His business has far exceeded his expectations and he is now providing jobs to other Canadians.
“The lack of opportunities in my professional field of law and my strong desire to succeed in this country steered me onto the entrepreneurial path. Over these few years as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned that hard work always pays off. And I’m most proud of my success as a foreign lawyer and immigration consultant including the possibility to help people from different nationalities to comply with their dreams to live in a country like Canada and the chance to contribute to the Canadian society by helping young Canadians.”
Coraline Allard Originally from France, Coraline started Q&A Design with her husband. The company now designs, develops and manufactures prototypes, using a variety of material such as aluminum, sheet metal, and wood, as well as developing a line of outdoor living accessories.
“I like to create unique projects from the start to finish: from planning, designing to crafting it. My first job in Canada taught me that I had to make my own job in order to do what I love. My lesson learned as an entrepreneur and advice to others is always say “yes” when you have an opportunity to meet new people. I also recommend to every newcomer who is thinking about entrepreneurship the one-month entrepreneurship connection program at ACCES Employment. It is full of great resources, and you have the support of a mentor for few months after the program. My proud moments are when I receive good reviews and feedback on a final project that I created from scratch. It’s extremely rewarding and uplifting.”
George Botos Originally from Romania, George has been involved in three startups as founder or co-founder, both overseas and in Canada. He is currently the founder and CEO of Genemis Laboratories Inc, a Cleantech startup developing rapid water testing technologies that allow home and business users to quickly and inexpensively ensure their pool and drinking water is clean and safe to use.
“I have always been interested to be my own boss, but the tipping point for me was the opportunity to work at MaRS, where I was a part of the Market Intelligence team. It was a really inspirational time for me. Having the chance to talk to so many smart people and so many entrepreneurs inspired and convinced me that this is what I want to do with my life. I’ve learned that having the right mentor can speed up things quite a bit. Not being afraid to fail, but making sure you’ve learned your lessons and addressed any weaknesses that surfaced is important to your success. I proved to myself I can do this and that I can help and inspire others to take on this adventure.”
Mahboob Bolandi Originally from Iran, Mahboob started Texers Inc., a technical ceramics company right after taking the Entrepreneurship Connections program at ACCES Employment in June 2014. As is common, Mahboob has experienced ups and downs on the entrepreneurship path but all he has learned is to stay “motivated” in this journey. He values the lessons that contribution in non-profit organizations have taught him.
A wide range of information and resources exist for immigrants interested in entrepreneurship in the GTA. These can be found at www.triec.ca/immigrants/get-information/immigrant-entrepreneurship/
TRIEC’s Professional Immigrant Networks (PINs) program organized the event in collaboration with a range of partners. Event partners included ACCES Employment, Hire Immigrants, MaRS Discovery District, PINs@YorkU, Scotiabank, The Immigrant Café, Thorncliffe Neighbourhood Office, Toronto French Business Network, Toronto Public Library and TRIEC.
TRIEC brings leaders together who are committed to helping immigrants and employers succeed. TRIEC helps employers make the most of the Greater Toronto area’s culturally diverse workforce, while helping immigrants connect to employment. PINs program increases the capacity of immigrant associations to connect their members to employment.