New Canadian Media

In partnership with Apathy is Boring, New Canadian Media will be posting first-person accounts from the 150 Years Young Project, a campaign that highlights the positive impact youth are making throughout their communities.

Komal Minhas, Owner of Ko-Media and Co-Founder of Dream, Girl

“Entrepreneurship builds a huge amount of resilience, capacity, emotional intelligence, and growth. My advice to young entrepreneurs is to take your time and build a strong group of people around you who can help you down your path- and remember to keep an intentionality to the hustle.”

As a successful young female entrepreneur who is the co-founder of widely viewed documentary Dream, Girl and the owner of her own media company, KoMedia, you may be surprised to learn that Komal Minhas got her start in Grand Prairie, Alberta. This rural city played an integral role in Komal’s story, as she was raised there by parents who immigrated from India. She grew up watching her parents face the many trials and triumphs of new immigrants and was inspired by their entrepreneurial spirit as they created a home for themselves. She also grew up witnessing the effects that patriarchal culture can have on women, and particularly young women and women of colour. She was always taught to dream big and she took this belief with her across the country as she started on a new path in Ottawa to pursue her dream of empowering women and girls.

After completing a degree in Journalism from Carleton University and graduate studies in Social Innovation from the University of Waterloo, Komal fell in love with telling stories through video and documentary and gained an understanding of how business can have a positive impact when led by intentional and thoughtful leaders. Thus came the creation of KoMedia, which aims to create systemic change in how females are treated and does by undertaking projects that tell the complex and empowering stories of women and girls from around the world. Soon after, she connected with fellow entrepreneur Erin Bagwell, who had the innovative idea of creating a documentary that showcases the stories of female entrepreneurs, giving a voice to this underrepresented segment. Komal became a co-founder of the project, helping to create the documentary from pre-production, to production stages in New York City, to premiering across the world. The film has had many successes, from a sold-out public premiere at the Paris Theatre in NYC to a premiere hosted by Sophie Gregoire Trudeau in Ottawa. Komal is currently working out of Ottawa, a city that she continues to call her home-base despite having worked in many thriving cities around the world. 

Christo Bilukidi, Entrepreneur, OCH Ambassador, and Former NFL Player

“I just want to show youth that you are not limited to anything in this world because of your upbringing, your circumstances, or your environment. You can do anything you set your mind to. A lot of people might tell you this, but I believe this because I have lived it, and that’s why I am an OCH Ambassador”.

Growing up in Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) and coming from a single-parent immigrant household, Christo Bilukidi was taught the values of hard work and perseverance. These came in handy when he found himself playing football for the first time in the twelfth grade and having a natural affinity for the sport, beginning a journey that he never imagined himself undertaking. By pushing himself through trainings, try-outs, and SAT tests, Christo earned a full-ride scholarship to play football at Georgia State University. Soon after, he was drafted into the NFL and played for the Oakland Raiders, the Cincinnati Bengals, and the Baltimore Ravens. 

After five seasons in the NFL, Christo decided to take his retirement and follow a different passion: entrepreneurship. He is now a co-owner of a successful tailored suit business, Idlewood, and uses his free time for volunteerism. Christo decided to return to Ottawa, where he felt a strong sense of community in his home city and wanted the chance to give back. He is an OCH Ambassador, using his experiences growing up and in the sporting community to be a positive role model to youth. He cites that he will take part in as many community outreach opportunities as he can get his hands on, and is often engaging in public speaking at high schools or community centres in OCH neighbourhoods. On top of this, Christo is working on organizing a football camp for youth that he hopes will feature current NFL players and local Ottawa players to help empower young people through athleticism. He believes that sports are a great tool for youth empowerment, as they teach discipline, hard work, and motivation.


The 150 Years Young Project: In celebration of Canada's 150th birthday, Apathy is Boring is teaming up with community organizers and city ambassadors to recognize positive contributions by youth. Follow the hashtag #150yy for more!

Published in Arts & Culture

Starting a business in Canada can be a surprisingly straightforward experience for immigrant entrepreneurs.

Yet, every newcomer that travels the self-employment route faces bumps along the way. That’s why having an entrepreneurial mentor who’s had the same experience can make a big difference.

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Economy

by Florence Hwang in Regina 

Skilled immigrants are more likely than Canadian-born citizens to be their own boss, according to the Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council.

By the late 2000s, 19 per cent of Canada’s immigrants were self-employed. The report from the Metcalf Foundation and Maytree examines the challenges and opportunities immigrants face with regards to self-employment and entrepreneurship

While in the past Canada has used immigration to fill its labour market needs — Chinese migrants who helped build the railway, temporary foreign workers to supplement the agricultural industry — creating their own businesses also allowed many immigrants to bring family over from their homeland.

Riding the wave of Italian immigration

Ever since Ralph Chiodo was young, he has loved cars. His dream was to open his own autobody shop. He now has 72 franchise locations in Ontario.

When Chiodo was 12, he worked in a blacksmith shop in Italy. He shoed horses, repaired wagons and plows for farmers. But what he really wanted to do was fix cars. 

At 14, he landed at Pier 21. In 1959, he started working at a gas station in Toronto — getting the job was the easy part. 

“He shoed horses, repaired wagons and plows for farmers.”

In the ‘50s and ‘60s, thousands of Italians immigrated to Canada annually. Many were sponsored by family members already in Canada, including Chiodo.

Once he got his mechanic’s license in 1965, he opened his own garage and auto repair centre. By 1972, he opened an autobody shop, followed by a Chrysler Dodge dealership in 1980.

His advice for new immigrant entrepreneurs: “Treat people fairly. This includes not only the customers, but the suppliers, landlords and everybody [else]. There’s no substitution for treating everyone fairly.” 

Iranian engineer starts own business

Mahboob Bolandi, who came to Canada from Iran in 2008 on a student visa, keeps himself motivated by not losing the big picture about the future of his business, Texers Inc.: “I always think of the objective and the success I will face and I will achieve through hard work. It has helped me to do and go forward.” 

He started his ceramic materials business after he took the Entrepreneurship Connections program ACCES Employment in June 2014. Texers specializes in technical ceramics used in high technology, engineering or medical applications.

“I was doing everything by myself… doing accounting, doing a website, doing social media.”

Starting his own business meant a lot of work because he was the only person running it: “I was doing everything by myself [. . .] doing accounting, doing a website, doing social media [. . .] Now I have enough time to focus on real business and growing the business.” 

Bolandi gained valuable insight into contributing to Canadian society by serving as a board member on non-profit organizations, particularly those that were serving newcomers.

“But I’m thinking out of box now […] that being useful to your society, to your community, to serve your country does not necessarily mean doing something related to what you studied,” he notes.

Hire yourself if no one hires you

When Rene C. Berrospi first came to Canada from Lima, Peru in July 2011, he had more than a decade of international experience in immigration law, but he couldn’t find an entry-level position.

His solution was to start his own consulting firm: A&R Global Consulting.

There weren’t any programs to help immigrants with starting their own business, Berrospi says. 

Luckily, he was able to get a business plan in place: “Because I have a legal background, I did my research … people without a legal background … have no idea … what kind of legal structure they need,” Berrospi says.

“This is the advice I also give my clients: If no one wants to hire, hire yourself."

Another challenge is adapting to marketing in North America: “The marketing is different in North America than other countries so you have to adapt to that too and what kind of market you will have.” 

“I [started] with two clients from two different countries. Now I’m helping a lot of different people from different backgrounds and nationalities. The Toronto Region Immigrant Employment Council chose me because part of the business I’m running [is] an internship program for young Canadians,” he says.

In addition to securing clients from all over the world — Korea, Ireland, Indian, Hungary, Romania, Brazil, Argentina — four of his interns have found work in legal or consulting firms.

Berrospi warns that entrepreneurship is not a nine-to-five job: “I’m very busy. I cannot complain.” 

He advises new immigrants looking to become entrepreneurs not to be scared. As history has shown, he thinks there are a lot of opportunities to do business in Canada: “This is the advice I also give my clients: If no one wants to hire, hire yourself.”  

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in History

 Moreno wants to make all women look beautiful in the one thing most of us hate buying — bathing suits....

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Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Latin America
Wednesday, 09 December 2015 00:41

Syrian Finds New Life, Success in Canada

by Tazeen Inam in Mississauga

Over the next six years, the cost of bringing Syrian refugees to Canada will reach $1.2 billion. The federal government has earmarked $275 million in support for the immediate processing of the refugees as well as financial support and health care for one year. 

While some Canadians have expressed concerns over this, others see it as a long-term investment.

A report issued by financial co-operative Vancity suggests that Syrian refugees are expected to boost British Columbia’s economy by more than half a billion dollars over the next 20 years.

According to Naveed Chaudhry, executive director of Peel Multicultural Council, this could be because Syrians coming to Canada are not from an under-developed country; they are educated and entrepreneurial in nature.

“Yes there is an upfront cost of bringing them into Canada, but I think the benefits far outweigh these costs,” says Chaudhry.

Oppression and entrepreneurship 

One immigrant who is currently living the Canadian dream is Nabil Orfali, an IT project manager from Syria, who now owns a consulting firm in Canada. 

Orfali graduated in 1998 from a university in Damascus. Shortly after, he developed and launched the first online payment portal in Syria. At 20, he was one of the first people in the country to specialize in web development and worked for a newly established IT company, Syriancom.

While working full-time, he started an internet cafe as a side business with a group of friends but like many other shops, it fell prey to the corruption and oppression of local security forces and the government.

"I think the benefits far outweigh these costs.”

“There was no security in Damascus as they just wanted money and kept the shops closed for hours in the name of security. Incomes were very low,” remembers Orfali.

Things for Orfali and his peers deteriorated when they were conscripted into the army by the ruling government.

“I [would’ve had] to stay three years minimum in military service, which [meant being] out of touch with technology, so I just ran away to Saudi Arabia,” he shares.

He applied for immigration to Canada in 2001 and finally arrived in a the country six years later with his wife and two-year-old daughter. 

Adaptation in a new country 

Orfali’s story is not much different from those of other newcomers to Canada. Like many immigrants, he experienced difficulties initially landing a job.

But after he experimented with his resume, he got a job as a project manager in one of the larger IT companies, Navantis, in Toronto. 

The recession of 2008 hit him hard though, and he was laid off after three months. 

He applied for immigration to Canada in 2001 and finally arrived in a the country six years later.

“I was shocked and took it personally that I was probably not qualified,” Orfali remembers. “I did not [think] that it was the recession. This was tough and difficult to deal with, but again I didn’t give up and [I] kept my spirits high."

A few months later he managed to get another job with the Ontario government services, but was soon laid off again. 

“[The] manager said I [was] not a ‘good fit’ for the team. I don’t know why, I was doing a great job, but they laid me off, and it was another shock and shattered my confidence.”

Entrepreneurial success in Canada

After working for several years at a company called Cyberplex, Orfali decided to tap into some of the entrepreneurial spirit in his blood.

Orfali, who always dreamt of establishing his own company growing up in Syria, started working on an online startup: reviewsgurus.com. It was eventually recognized by the Canadian Trade Commission and Orfali was sponsored to go to the Silicon Valley. 

“That was a great experience. [I] got in touch with mentors, investors, entrepreneurs,” he shares. “Although I wasn’t able to raise money [from an] investor [. . .] those were the best three months of my life.

“[I] got to the bottom of how to build a successful business.”

After returning to Canada, Orfali started a project with Canadian Tire. He worked there for another two years until he started his own consultancy firm by the name of TechGuilds in December, 2014.

“In 10 months the firm is hitting a revenue of $1.2 million per year. I hired mostly newcomers, interns and fresh graduates, including three Syrians,” explains Orfali. “So that’s my contribution to Canada, and it’s still growing.” 

Based on the experience Chaudry has had with Syrian immigrants over the last 25 years, Orfali's entrepreneurial spirit doesn't seem uncommon.

“Syrians are from a very diverse and open-minded society. I have seen them settling fast and becoming contributing members of the society.” 


 Journalist Priya Ramanujam mentored the writer of this article through the NCM Mentoring Program

This content was developed exclusively for New Canadian Media and can be re-published with appropriate attribution. For syndication rights, please write to publisher@newcanadianmedia.ca

Published in Economy

Are you an immigrant business owner? An aspiring entrepreneur? An upcoming mentoring and networking event can give you guidance and connections on starting a business in Canada. The Immigrant Entrepreneur Exhibition, to be held on May 27, 6-8 p.m., at the Bonsor Recreation Complex Banquet Hall (6550 Bonsor Ave. Burnaby, B.C., near the Metrotown Skytrain […]

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Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Economy

Canada will accept 500 immigrant applications from millionaires and their families who can invest at least $2 million in the country.
But only 60 of the 500 applications, which must be filed by Feb. 11, will be approved.
The new Venture Capital program replaces an old one critics dubbed the “cash for citizenship” program because it was found to be riddled by fraud, local media reported.
The idea is to lure international investors whose investments will boost the Canadian economy.
“This pilot program is designed to attract immigrant investors who will significantly benefit the Canadian economy and better integrate into our society, which will contribute to our long-term prosperity and economic growth,” Immigration Minister Chris Alexander said in a written statement.
Each applicant must make an investment that has risk with no guaranteed return on the $2 million. The money has to be invested over approximately 15 years into a fund operated by BDC Capital, which falls under the umbrella of the government’s Business Development Bank of Canada.
The new program represents a revamp of the old wealthy investor immigration regulation that was scrapped in June 2014.
“Under the former immigration investor program, immigrant investors had to invest $800,000 in Canada’s economy in the form of a repayable loan without meeting skills and abilities requirements of most of Canada’s economic immigration programs,” the government announced in a public statement. “Research indicated that immigrant investors under the previous program were less likely than other immigrants to stay in Canada in the medium to long term. Also, they contributed relatively little to the economy, earning very little income and paying very little tax.
But the new program is not a hit with everyone.
When plans to implement the program were announced last December, the South China Morning Post of Hong Kong called the program a “tiny scheme (that) would thwart 45,000 rich Chinese who were dumped from (the old) investor immigration queue.”
The scrapping of the old program resulted in a lawsuit brought by more than 1,000 wealthy immigrants waiting for permanent residency.
Last June, a Federal Court judge ruled against the plaintiffs.
The new millionaire migration program will also require applicants to undergo intensive background checks and scrutiny by private-sector forensic accountants and auditors, according to tendering documents on a government procurement website.
The documents on the procurement website point to a new thorough and extensive examination process being implemented by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, aiming to ensure that all the wealth invested under this scheme is lawfully obtained by applicants. In addition to financial audits, applicants will also be investigated for any possible history of criminal activity or problematic political involvement.
Experts believe that this increased scrutiny might pose problems for potential investors from certain countries, the SCMP reported.
The Investor Immigration Program had become increasingly popular among citizens of Hong Kong and China, thousands of who migrated to Canada in the past 28 years. However, a deluge of applications led Canada to discontinue the program last year. At the time, about 60,000 applications were pending and had to be cancelled. Under the program, each applicant was required to provide at least C$ 800,000 as an interest-free loan to the Canadian government in exchange for permanent residency in the country.
The new IIVC is the government’s promised replacement, although it has been criticized as being completely insignificant because its small quota does not even begin to meet the high demand from Chinese investors. “What I was told was that this was a pilot project for 50 spots. The only reason they are rolling it out at all is because it was mentioned in the budget that they would, so they had to go ahead with it,” said a source from immigration industry, reported the SCMP.
The stringent checks and appraisal conditions for the program have been introduced seemingly because of China’s complaints that immigration programs such as Canada’s IIP had been helping Chinese criminals escape the country. China’s foreign ministry has even accused American and Canadian authorities of not repatriating fugitive Chinese businessmen and individuals. The Chinese government further believes that the US and Canada are the most preferred destinations for white-collar criminals fleeing China.
Immigration Canada has also warned that any lack of cooperation from the applicant which hinders the audit work will be noted as well. The final audit report is given to the applicant who in turn would have be submit it along with the complete application form. This way applicants would have the chance to cancel their applications in case the audits reveal something that puts them in an unfavorable light, like dubious finances or criminal activities.

By arrangement with the Asian Pacific Post

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Published in Policy

Winners of the Third Annual Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards in Ottawa were recognized for the entrepreneurial success they have achieved in Canada.

The Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards, organized by the City of Ottawa in partnership with the Economic Club of Canada, recognize four exceptional individuals who have made great contributions to the entrepreneurial community in Ottawa. 

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in National

Do you have dreams of starting your own business one day? Are you a budding entrepreneur age 15-29? There are a few spots left in Skills for Change’s brand new Youth Entrepreneurs Program in Toronto.

The program allows participants to connect with like-minded peers and members of the business community and access the resources they need to take their business ideas to the next level.

The program starts on Thursday, Jan. 22, and includes a 12-week program (Thursdays 5.30-7.30 p.m.) with interactive workshops, networking events and more.

For more details contact Jin at olberg@skillsforchange.org.

Canadian Immigrant

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Published in Education

A Grenadian-born entrepreneur is first out of the blocks as a contender to fill the seat left vacant following the death of Conservative Member of Parliament and Finance Minister, Jim Flaherty.  

Last week, Celina Rayonne Caesar-Chavannes was acclaimed the Liberal candidate to fill the Whitby-Oshawa seat in a by-election.  

Flaherty represented the riding in Ottawa for eight years prior to his death last April.  

“This campaign has been a journey and tonight’s nomination is the first milestone on the road to our ultimate goal of electing a Liberal to represent our great community,” said Caesar-Chavannes. “Although I did not grow up here, my husband and I made the decision to raise our family here. This is our home.”

The Share News

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Published in Politics
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Poll Question

Do you agree with the new immigration levels for 2017?

Yes - 30.8%
No - 46.2%
Don't know - 23.1%
The voting for this poll has ended on: %05 %b %2016 - %21:%Dec

Featured Quote

The honest truth is there is still reluctance around immigration policy... When we want to talk about immigration and we say we want to bring more immigrants in because it's good for the economy, we still get pushback.

-- Canada's economic development minister Navdeep Bains at a Public Policy Forum economic summit

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