CANOE Network

The Toronto Sun CareerConnection


Launching a biz in a new country

By Roger Pierce

Toronto attracts more new immigrants than any other Canadian city. Drawn to its endless opportunities and cultural diversity, many newcomers choose to launch a small business in this great city.
Newcomer Lama Jaafari shares the talents of South American artisans with Canadian consumers through her company, Acquamarine.

"I wanted to take advantage of everything Canada offers and start a business that I love," entrepreneur Lama Jaafari says.

Born and raised in Venezuela, Jaafari came to Canada in May of 2004 and started her business later that summer. Her company, called Acquamarine (, imports colourful handicrafts and fashion accessories made by artisans and designers in Venezuela, Ecuador and Columbia.

Instead of taking a job, Jaafari decided to change her career path when she changed countries. "I've always worked answering to someone and prioritizing other people's projects," she explains. "Here, I want to be independent as my own boss."


Like most newcomers, Jaafari knew she would face some challenges starting her new life here. "I've had to adapt to the move, learn about the city, absorb Canadian culture and deal with missing my friends back in Venezuela," she says.

While people born in Canada may take it for granted, New Canadian entrepreneurs must learn how to do business here. "I spent a lot of time learning how to run a company in this country, making sure I understood the legal

aspects, government regulations and taxation issues," Jaafari says.

She recommends that newcomers interested in launching a business in Canada conduct thorough market research to truly understand our shopping mentality. For example, retailing giant Wal-Mart found that Canadians respond more strongly to sales promotions than Americans.

Jaafari says she's enjoying bringing a taste of Latin America to her Canadian clients. "I love fashion and the uniqueness of our products," she says. "I believe that South America has a lot to offer to Canada. It's a great feeling to bridge those worlds through my business."

-- Entrepreneurship expert Roger Pierce trains people on how to start a small business in the Up & Running Biz Launch Program.

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