Canadian Immigrants Launch Business as Force for Good

Toronto (CA) – A new social enterprise called Valu Ventures has recently been launched in Toronto. Valu Ventures has a unique business model that helps immigrants start their own businesses.

The company has been launched by Majid Kazmi and Gerard Keledjian as the go-to place for immigrants looking for support to set on the path to entrepreneurship. Kazmi recalls he had trouble finding work in his field when he migrated to Canada three years ago. “As soon as I was able to land a job at a bank six months after moving half way across the world,” Kazmi adds, “I decided to use my learning to guide other newcomers in their job search.” Within one year, he became one of the most sought-after mentors for immigrant professionals in Toronto and a widely quoted authority on employment issues for immigrant communities in the Greater Toronto Area. Just one year after he migrated to Canada, he was sharing his success story with CBC television and radio – not as an immigrant but as a mentor for other newcomers.

He partnered with another successful immigrant Gerard Keledjian, and together they decided to build a unique social enterprise that would help immigrant professionals take the leap into the world of business. Valu Ventures will provide a one-window solution to aspiring immigrant entrepreneurs who want to start business ventures that have an underlying social objective as their raison d’être. Many of the services will be are provided free of cost. “The focus is clear; to help immigrant professionals who are stuck in routine jobs, leverage their skills, talents and creativity to solve problems for their communities and earn a decent income while doing it,” says Kazmi.

Valu Ventures does this by taking a hands-on approach to help immigrant, who might be working full-time or part-time, transition into business as full-time entrepreneurs. The services will include anything from shared workspace, computers and Internet to expert advice, mentoring and access to investors. “When it comes to helping startups get off the ground, Valu Ventures is not your average business accelerator,” Kazmi reiterates. “It takes in clients with well-developed business plans as well as those who have a nascent idea that needs validation by experts. But it is not just a nice place to park your laptop; we consider ourselves a stakeholder in our clients’ success.”

While Kazmi wanted to do something on these lines, the idea for Valu Ventures came about in a strange way. “My first client was my six year old daughter, who wanted to start a lemonade stall at her school gym,” Kazmi shares on a lighter note. “We were just sitting and chatting; I was telling her about the success stories in the business world and struggling to find the right words for a 6-year old to relate to when she suddenly expressed her idea to sell lemonade at her school,” recalls Kazmi. “We immediately got on with putting a one-page business plan together and later the same day did a survey of the business location. This gave me an idea.”

Over the next few weeks, Kazmi planned to launch Valu Ventures to take his volunteer work as a mentor to a whole new level. “I thought if we could help the government ease the pressures of unemployment in our own small way by helping people find work, why not do that and try to make some of the job seekers employers and help the economy some more.”

Over 98% of all new jobs in Canada are created by companies with less than 10 employees and 60% by companies with less than five employees. This points to the huge potential for the SME sector to be at the forefront of solving the unemployment problem for Canada’s economy. Although the last 10 years of Harper’s government did little to make Toronto the Silicon Valley of Canada, initiatives like Valu Ventures push the envelope by nurturing the spirit of entrepreneurialism among the most innovative of the lot—the immigrants.

Depending on the business idea that the clients bring to the table and its probability of success, Valu Ventures will provide clients anything from a basic suite of free services to full-fledged consulting in return for a nominal equity partnership. It also provides mentoring, networking, online tools and resources as well as expert advice on business registration, legal and regulatory aspects, accounting and tax, marketing and business development. In the future, Valu Ventures plans to partner with other like-minded organizations to launch a nation-wide talent hunt for immigrant entrepreneurs and to connect the successful candidates to investors. Valu Ventures will also recognize the contribution of successful immigrant entrepreneurs to Canada’s economy through an annual award program at national level.