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.
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.
Mumbai (IANS): Star batsmen Lendl Simmons smashed an unbeaten 83 alongside Johnson Charles’s 52 as a spirited West Indian side chased down a challenging total to outclass India by seven wickets in the second semi-final at the Wankhede Stadium here on Thursday to enter the final of the World Twenty20 cricket tournament. Batting first, India posted […]
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by John Delva in Montreal
Blacks make up Montreal’s largest visible minority. According to the 2011 census, 147,100 live in the city. Why, then, are there so few in our media?
As far back as the 1930s, black journalists in Montreal have been creating and fighting for space for their voices.
Dorothy Williams, strategic development director at Collective Community Services, a local non-for-profit community organization, traces back to 1934 Montreal’s first newspaper aimed at black readers. The Free Lance, which folded in 1941, was meant "to counter the pervasive negative portrayals of Blacks in their city's media [sic]."
Community newspapers similar to the The Free Lance are still where the black media presence is strongest in the city. In fact, Community Contact, which has been around for more than 20 years, has been home to the first bylines of many reporters who went on to high-profile roles in the news business.
Shelley Walcott is one of them. Some 50 Canadian news organizations had turned her down before CNN came knocking in 1997. During her stint there, which ended in 2003, she was first a video journalist for the network, then a reporter for the children’s show “CNN Student News.”
Initially, she attributed the rejection letters to the province’s political climate, still searing over the 1995 referendum—being part of the province’s anglophone minority felt “like I was on the outside looking in,” she said.
Since 2013, Walcott has been a main anchor at New Hampshire’s WMUR-TV. Experience has deepened her hindsight.
“I’ve been in the business for 20 years and when I see people [coming out journalism school] and how green they are, I understand what an employer is looking for. To be successful at anything, you can’t blame anyone else, because it’s very competitive out there."
Breaking into the business
It can also be lonely. Shari Okeke, a writer and broadcaster at CBC Montreal’s “Daybreak,” recalls being the only black reporter in the Montreal newsroom when she arrived in 1999. She had reasons to be optimistic, though, she said via email.
"I landed a paid internship … at a newspaper in Ontario straight out of journalism school. After that, I was unemployed for about two months while I searched full-time for a job in television."
That’s when Okeke began at CBC’s national newsroom in Toronto in 1997. As an editorial assistant she was “splitting scripts, delivering scripts and rolling teleprompters,” she said. “Even changing toner in the printer.”
She became a chase producer four months in. The producer who hired her later revealed how she had stood out.
“He chose me because while working as an EA [editorial assistant] on his show, I paid attention to the program, contributed as much as I could and demonstrated a clear interest in being more than an EA.”
But while making it in journalism is difficult for hopefuls of all backgrounds, those from non-white communities shoulder heavier expectations, said CTV Montreal’s Maya Johnson via email.
“I do think visible minorities need to push harder, do more networking and really advocate for themselves. And once they get their foot in the door and pay their dues, they need to take initiative and ask for advancement opportunities."
Networking is an obstacle Shani O. Hilton, executive editor for news at BuzzFeed, also talked about—namely how many underestimate it.
"Many of us are so busy working twice as hard and hoping to get noticed that we don’t do the networking that seems like bullshit but is actually a key part of career advancement,” she wrote on Medium in March 2014.
Understanding the Quebecois mentality
But networking does not explain the shortage of blacks in Québec media, said Reginald Rivette. The editor-in-chief of Souche magazine thinks the insular mentality of Quebecois black communities is what restricts their media visibility.
He said media organizations’ disinterest with black communities starts with the latter’s entertainment choices. He explained that while a Denzel Washington or an Oprah may appeal to many demographics in America, this kind of crossover appeal is rare in Québec.
This is because second-generation Quebecois blacks favour U.S. celebrities, in addition to stars from their family’s home country—but reject local Québec culture and its celebrities. Rivette said this self-seclusion directly affects who media companies and advertisers covet.
"Québec show business should be bending over backward to sell us products, but if we’re not paying attention to local celebrities, why should they make the effort to reach out?”
He initially targeted a multicultural audience, handpicking Algeria-born Lynda Thalie, who’s based out of Montreal, for the cover of the first issue of Souche. Lack of interest shifted the magazine’s focus to a black-only readership.
“The idea of ‘multicultural' makes for nice speeches, but it’s a different story in everyday Montreal. People from different backgrounds don’t really just come and blend together."
Those who complain about the lack of black representation in the media, he said, should get more involved in local culture. Government grants available to top Québec producers are at every creator’s disposal.
“We can’t ask for the ‘establishment’ to look for us, find us, then give us work as we sit there waiting."
One glance at Johnson’s bio, and you would be hard-pressed using words like “sit" or “waiting.” The recipient of a Canadian Women's Press Club scholarship began at CTV Montreal as an intern in 2005. She was 21. The network hired her in 2012 permanently after close to a decade of freelancing, part-time and substituting work.
Johnson, who begins her job as CTV Montreal's Québec City bureau chief this February, mused that none of this might have happened had CTV not reached out.
"I was hired through a visible minority internship program. There’s no shame in that. The news director and executive producer made it clear to me: I wasn’t there to be a token. They had high expectations."
Shifting the reluctance to publicly address race
Okeke thinks minority reporters are essential to newsrooms, not just for the stories they can contribute, but what they can contribute to other reporters.
"It's...really important for journalists of colour to share what we're hearing and experiencing in our communities with colleagues in our newsrooms, in order to bring attention to those issues."
Neglecting minority issues comes with serious consequences, she said.
"When people do not feel the media reflects their reality, they can be hesitant to talk to the media at all," said Okeke.
Jean Numa Goudou, editor-in-chief of In Texto, said that ultimately the reluctance to address race publicly falls back on the shoulders of Québec officials. Goudou collided with the race wall first-hand when he asked for numbers related to blacks in the education system. The Québec government referred him to the province’s school boards. They, in turn, ignored his calls. He got an answer after approaching a non-profit organization.
“I was told that the government thinks the Haitian community would be stigmatized if such numbers were released. They do this to be politically correct—but this approach doesn’t help the community,” he said. “The mainstream media has to cover these topics, amongst others, so that people from different races learn more about each other."
Last August, Goudou broke a story on Héma-Québec, the province’s blood services agency, after it began accepting a larger pool of black female donors. The story received no attention in the mainstream media. This disinterest will affect the well-being of all Canadians, including future ones, he said.
“As more immigrants arrive, the public health system has to adapt. Blacks consume media too [and this helps] Héma-Québec to find more donors. This is a public health issue."
This article first appeared on J-Source.ca. Republished with permission.
The celebrated author, academic, and essayist, H. Nigel Thomas, says:“I write because reality mystifies me, and my temperament pushes me to explore it via my imagination. I know that my senses apprehend little more than the masks of reality. My desire, then, is to strip away the mask and send probes into the darkness beyond.”
In the powerful body of work that he has created, Thomas interrogates the complex impact of colonialization and its aftermath, both tangible and less tangible, on black Caribbeans, on those who stay on in their homelands and those who emigrate, showing how race, class, gender and sexuality come into play, within this context, to further disempower and trap people. Thomas’ latest novel, No Safeguards, is now available and will be officially launched in the fall.
This interview focuses on the themes that continue to haunt Thomas and the inspirations that fire his imagination and commitment.
Island gals jump up to medals
St. Lucia’s Levern Spencer led a trio of female high jump athletes from the Caribbean yesterday at the Pan Am Games, winning gold. Priscilla Frederick of Antigua won silver, followed by Barbados’ Akela Jones who took bronze.
The Caribbean Camera
-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit