Saturday, 17 March 2018 05:36

Niche Businesses in Smaller Cities

By Florence Hwang

Starting a business can be hard. Startup capital, asset management, and just attracting customers; are all obstacles new small businesses must learn to overcome on the fly. But these challenges can be amplified for female immigrants, most especially for those in rural areas that are not accustomed to working with diverse populations.

“It’s a constant battle with people questioning your qualifications because of your background and overlook[ing] your business,” says Tia Luangomba. A small business owner, who immigrated from the Republic of Congo almost 10 years ago. She has worked diligently to build a strong reputation. 

“I realize that people fear what they don’t know [so] I let my work and talent speak for me. If you are confident in your work and your talent, people will trust you and the outcome will be a satisfied customer,” she continues. 

When Luangomba first moved to Niagara Falls, she had trouble finding salons that could do her hair. This would then force her to trek out to either Toronto or St. Catharines in her various searches. Identifying a glaring need within her community, she decided to become a licensed hairdresser. 

In 2012, she came out with her own salon, Hair by Tia Nicole. Beginning as a multicultural hairstylist, in a relatively new country, she didn’t have much support. In need of additional guidance she began a course in business application from the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program. 

“I needed help with the business aspect of things, where to register, how to start, where to build a business, demographics and other important aspect[s] of starting a business,” she admits. 

The program has helped her with social media advertisements, gaining clients, adjusting financial strategies and understanding different legal aspects including taxes and name registration. But it has also benefited her in a variety of other ways as well. 

“Since the course I have a lot more confidence in how I am running my business,” she says, stating that she would have not been able to start her own business in Congo. 

“In my country there is no resources available for one to get help to start a business on their own and with war raging every day and violence, poverty and hunger level rising.  No one has time to even try. Here in Canada there are so much resources, help and places like [the] multicultural center available for anyone who is will[ing] to seek help, work hard enough and achieve their dream,” she says. 

In her own salon, she takes comfort in the effect she has on those around her. “Knowing that I not only have an impact in my clients’ appearance but their confidence makes it all worth it,” she concludes. 

Catering to the Caribbean community

Luangomba’s experiences with a lack of offerings for her individual needs, are one that is all to well known for many immigrants. With Naomie Cesar, it was beauty products for her hair, which she had trouble purchasing.

“Lot of newcomers all of us have the same problem,” says Cesar who originally came from Haiti. 

Like Luangomba, Cesar applied and was accepted into the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program. 

Following completion, she purchased beauty supplies from Toronto and went to local multicultural centres, churches and other places newcomers gathered. But she soon realized customers were not just looking for hair products, they were also looking for other things from their homelands – food. Realizing the demand in the area, she opened a shop in downtown Welland called CaribAfrica Specialty Store.

Soon, she was selling Caribbean staples such as okra and cornmeal before eventually moving to full on dinners. A jack of all trades, she now sells food products as well as makeup and hair products. 

“In the afternoon I make chicken roti. I also make rice and beans, oxtail, soups. Different meals. I explain to them how to cook it at home. It keeps me busy,” says Cesar, referring to her two children. 

But her heart wasn’t always set on entrepreneurship. With previous training as a nurse, she looked at bridging courses upon arrival in Canada, before settling on specialization in foot care. Prioritizing a work-life balance, she looked for alternatives to the scheduling requirements of nursing. 

“I love to be independent, meet other people, be inspired, get inspired. I enjoy it. Get to spend time with my kids. The most special time is to have time with kids and be able to do other things. I get to do other things like missionary work. I get to do those things instead of being somewhere [to] just work,” she says. 

Providing Welland with ethnic alternatives that were previously missed, its clear there are many in the community that are happy with her decision. 

Entrepreneurial Development

Lori Webster is the coordinator of the Women’s Entrepreneur Development Program and has worked with the organization for the past five years. Meeting with a variety of immigrant women, she identifies language as one of the biggest barriers for those looking to learn about the Canadian marketplace. 

“We have seen women start businesses in graphic design, commercial cleaning, hair styling, ethnic food store[s], imported products, online grocery delivery, jewelry-making, seamstress, holistic health care, and pet grooming, for example,” says Webster. 

When the program began in 2013, it was originally set up as a two-year pilot project for six programs across Ontario. However, it continues to receive funding almost three years after the initial two-year pilot project. Helping educate immigrant women about the regulations and legal requirements of starting a business in Canada.

Over the years, a total of 102 women have completed the program. And of those, 56 have gone on to start their own businesses within 12 months of graduation.

Although the true success of these start-ups cannot be accurately measured until more time has elapsed, if the 2013 program is any indication, they should continue to thrive. Of the 23 net new businesses started since that initial program, 20 are still in operation.

Coordinators of the project hope to further the progress they’ve made and await a funding decision that could extend it for at least another 3 years.


This piece is part of the "Ethnic Women as Active Participants in Ontario" series.

Published in Economy

by Peter Uduehi (@kogibobo) in Toronto

From the fight against radicalization and professional roadblocks to the question of whether a Black police chief would have any impact in Toronto, here are some recent headlines in the African-Canadian diaspora media.                             

Radicals Have No Chance With Our Youth: Toronto's Somali Community

Somalis in Toronto are not taking chances. Neither will they take a wait-and-see approach.

Tired of reports of how Jihadist terrorists have successfully recruited African youths in the U.S. state of Minnesota, Kenya and several European countries, community activist Jibril Muhammed told the African World News, “We cannot pretend that our children in Canada could not be influenced by these crazy people who call themselves Muslims. We are aware of how terrorist groups like Al-Shabaab and ISIS have poisoned the minds of innocent Somali and other African youths everywhere they can find them.”

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it.” - Mohammed Abdi, community activist[/quote]

Muhammed, who is also a former coordinator of many Somali community groups, said several organizations and individuals in the Somali community are working with the RCMP, the police and their parliamentarians in the Toronto area. “We have to protect our children against these bad eggs,” he says.

Another community activist, Mohammed Abdi, concurs. “Canada has been good to us and any terrorist trying to harm this country has no chance to use our kids against it. On my part, I am constantly educating my teenage children about what is the right Islam,” he explains. “I tell them always that the ISIS and Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab people they see on television are practising the wrong Islam.”

Will a Black Police Chief Really Make a Difference?

Writing in Pride News Magazine, educator and community organizer Ajamu Nangwaya says that simply having a Black police chief at the helm in Toronto is no cure for the poor relations between the force and the city’s African-Canadian community.

The organizer with the Toronto-based Network for the Elimination of Police Violence argues it’s like saying that the soured relations between American Blacks and the police would improve just because a Black president, Barack Obama, was elected the president of the United States.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica.” - Ajamu Nangwaya, educator and community organizer[/quote] 

He adds: “For a sobering dose of reality about race, class and policing, we may look at the behaviour of the police in major American cities that have or had African-American police chiefs or at police violence in global South countries such as Nigeria, South Africa, Brazil, Haiti, Kenya and Jamaica,” stressing that police-versus-society issues are institutionalized matters. 

Taking a swipe at those who are now calling for either deputy chiefs Peter Sloly (pictured to the left) and Mark Saunders (two African-Canadians in the Toronto Police Service) to replace the outgoing chief,  Nangwaya doubts that any police office that has successfully gone up the ladder would not belong to the same systemic ideology from which they emerged. “To what extent are we realistically expecting an African-Canadian police chief to be more committed to fighting institutional racism than a white one? Deputy Chiefs Peter Sloly and Mark Saunders have not made it this far up the organizational ladder, because of their tendency to ‘comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable,’” he writes. 

Why African Professionals Make Career Advancements Later in Canada

Many new African immigrants to Canada are often surprised to find themselves shut out of jobs in their professional disciplines.

So, not surprisingly, many African graduate and post-graduate degree holders end up driving taxis or taking menial jobs to make a living. The question is, why do newly arrived African professional immigrants to Canada make inroads to their chosen professions late?

Dr. Adeleye King (pictured to right), executive director of the Canadian Institute of Leadership and Development (Africa), told African World News the reasons are both professionally demanding and personal. He says when African professionals first come to the country as immigrants, they are shocked to learn that they must do more learning in their fields, “because Canada requires a different level of certification and designation from the ones in Africa.”

“Certain professions like engineering, for example, require a designation before you can be accepted for work as an engineer. It’s different in Africa where you are required only to be certified,” King explains. “[T]he same applies to other professions.”

King says that personal issues also prevent African professionals from making quick inroads into the Canadian marketplace. One issue is that many don’t do enough research about Canada before coming into the country. “If they did,” he says, “they would know exactly the type of skills needed to survive with their professional know-how.” He says it’s important to plan ahead before immigrating and, once here, “never lose concentration of why [you] are here, don’t straddle your life between here and the one you just left.”                                                                                                                            

Education Funding Cut May Negatively Impact African Nova Scotians

Recent cuts in funding to the Council on African Canadian Education (CACE) by Nova Scotia’s ministry of education may severely affect learning standards for Africans in the province, says the organization’s chairwoman Alma Johnston-Tynes.

[quote align="center" color="#999999"]“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners.” - Alma Johnston-Tynes, Council on African Canadian Education[/quote]

“The lack of staff and resources will have a detrimental impact on CACE’s ability to identify and meet the needs of African Nova Scotian learners and to fulfil its mandate under the Education Act, which is to monitor and continually analyze the policies of the Department of Education with respect to the needs of Black learners,” she said in a statement reported by the African Nova Scotian News.

The axe comes as education minister Karen Casey (pictured to left) announced that staff funding to CACE will no longer continue because of an audit that, “raised questions about the body’s governance and financial situation.” Casey described the findings as “very troubling.”

CACE was set up in 1996, after race riots in 1989, and following findings that not enough attention was being paid to improving standards for African and Black school children in the province. The council’s focus was to advise the education ministry on how to improve learning in African Nova Scotian communities, after a recent statistic showing that while reading comprehension test scores for third-graders in the Halifax regional school board was 70 per cent, it was particularly lower for African students at 54 per cent.

Immigrants Change Diet After Arriving in Canada

report by Statistics Canada cites studies that show immigrants who change their traditional diet after arriving in Canada tend to become less healthy later. Overall, the studies show, newly arrived immigrants to Canada had lower mortality rates than the Canadian-born, and also reported lower levels of fair or poor health. Those mortality rates tended to rise, the further removed immigrants were from their arrival in Canada, as did the reported levels of fair or poor health. 

Tanzanian-born Toronto resident Dr. Wasira Bokore, a family physician, told African World News that generally the African immigrant succumbs to, “a new environment where time is limited for cooking your meals and begins to adopt new eating habits, eating burgers, fast foods and fatty foods and these things are not good for your health.” She adds that matters are made worse when, “an exercise regimen is absent in one’s daily existence.”


Peter Uduehi is a journalist and publisher of the African World News in Toronto.

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Published in Africa

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