Canada Recognises Entrepreneurial Spirit Among Immigrants

All over the world, it is recognised that immigrants make a huge impact on their adoptive communities, often working extremely hard. Indeed, many expatriates and immigrants have the get up and go that not only sees them resettle in another part of the globe, but set up successful businesses, too. Although this entrepreneurial spirit amongst migrants can be found in virtually every community, in Canada the contribution of newcomers is really celebrated. Now in its third year, the Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards applaud the contribution made by overseas-born business people to the country's economy. This year's ceremony was held in the Canadian capital of Ottawa and featured a wide range of industries.

Put together by the city authorities, in partnership with the Economic Club of Canada, the Immigrant Entrepreneur Awards gave prizes to four very diverse types of businesses, each of which is doing well in the country under the auspices of immigrant founders. Chris Alexander, Canada's Citizenship and Immigration Minister, congratulated the winners of the awards, which his department said, “recognises the entrepreneurial success of people who have chosen to make Canada their home.” Alexander said that the government is proud to support both entrepreneurship and innovation that is of benefit to the Canadian economy and which makes such a positive contribution to job creation. “I am pleased to honour the hard work of these talented individuals,” he said. “They are living proof that newcomers from different regions of the globe can successfully bring new opportunities and ideas to communities across the country.”

Mr Alexander's department was keen to point out the measures that have been put in place to assist with the success of the overseas-born business community. According to them, the federal government has significantly augmented the funding available for newcomer settlement services. In provinces outside of Quebec, they say, levels of spending have risen from less than CA$200 million in 2005 to around CA$600 million in the current financial year. In addition, Alexander used the awards ceremony to single out programmes like the 'Start-Up Visa' which provides a link between organisations in Canada's private sector with new businesses set up from entrepreneurs from all over the world. The idea is to allow sections of the established business community with expertise in trading to support start-ups and to help them to plan and build a successful firm in Canada - just as the award winners have done.

Entrepreneurial Award Winners

Two of the four award winners recognised in January were Anand Aggarwal who runs of Manor Park Development, a real estate business, and Abdul Haseeb Awan of BitAccess, which installs Bitcoin cash machines. In addition, Mona Kalra, who runs her own clinic, Maple Care Physiotherapy, won a prize and Peyman Yazdani, who owns and runs no less than 17 Subway restaurants, was given an award. These four individuals' successes have been rightly celebrated, but – the awards organisers hope – their stories will be inspiring to other new and would-be Canadians to follow in their footsteps.

 Their stories can be inspirational. For example, Mr Aggarwal came to the country from India in 1967. Gaining degrees from the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi as well as the University of Alberta, Aggarwal he has built up his business over the course of the last 35 years. Like Aggarwal, Ms Kalra was Indian-born. She ran a successful physiotherapy clinic in her home country for several years before emulating that success in Canada. Mr Haseeb, on the other hand, moved to Canada from Pakistan as recently as September 2010. He initially studied as an international engineering student at the University of Ottawa. Haseeb then went on to co-found BitAccess which has operations in 48 cities in no less than 13 countries - all within its first year of trading. Lastly, Mr Yazdani, who was born in Iran, is a mechanical engineering graduate who got a job at Subway franchise after failing to find work in his chosen field. He rapidly took over as store manager, before opening his own franchises for himself. 

 “Each of the award recipients shows how important immigration is to our city,” said Jim Watson, the Mayor of Ottawa, who attended the ceremony. “Not only this, but they add to our cultural vitality and our economic prosperity,” he went on. Would-be immigrant business people who have been inspired by the stories of these high-flyers should note that further help is available for entrepreneurs from overseas in Canada. For example, over 700 service provider organisations across the country are in receipt of funds which are dedicated to helping newcomers adjust to, and make a success of, life in their new country.


February 2, 2015

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