New Halifax marketplace breaking down barriers for immigrant entrepreneurs

Overwhelming response from immigrant vendors for new university student-run craft and food market

Immigrant entrepreneurs will now have a new place to exhibit their unique craft and food products.

The New Venture Marketplace, which opens for the first time on Saturday, was put together by the Dalhousie Enactus Society and aims to provide a barrier-free marketplace where new entrepreneurs can show their work. 

Amal Ragab is one of the artists who will exhibit her work at the market. She moved to Nova Scotia five years ago from Alexandria, Egypt with her daughter Yassmin. 

“To start a business is hard, but to be an immigrant and start a business is even harder because you don’t know anything,” said Ragab. 

Ragab’s daughter is the one who got her involved in jewelry making. 

“She is my number one motivation,” said Ragab. “She is always encouraging me.”

Amal Ragab and her daughter Yassmin, who will also be exhibiting some of her hand-painted scarves with her mother’s jewelry.   Ellen Riopelle

Ragab said when she moved to Nova Scotia and her daughter started studying at NSCAD, she had a lot of time she didn’t know what to do with. 

“I have a bachelor of business and marketing, but I never worked. I just stayed at home. Since I came here, I found it’s good to do something useful,” said Ragab. 

“I love what I do. I feel free.”

Last year, Ragab had the opportunity to exhibit her work at the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS) stall at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market. 

“That’s how I started. They gave me the opportunity to do my market research, explore the market, and learn whether people like my designs free of charge,” said Ragab. “It was a very helpful thing.”

Removing the financial barrier was an important part of Dalhousie’s New Venture Marketplace, according to one of the organizers. Vendors don’t have to pay a fee to display their goods.

“One of the big barriers that I didn’t realize was as big as it is, is the financial barrier. A lot of people can’t afford the vendor fees because they are so high,” said Sarah Roberts, project manager for the market. 

There will be 40 different food and craft vendors showing their products at the Alexander Keith’s Brewery Market Saturday evening. 

Roberts said the response to the market has been better than expected. 

“I had no idea if people would be interested in selling at a market like this, but we’ve had to close our applications because we had too much interest,” she said. 

Part of the success is due to ISANS’ business and workforce integration program, which works to connect immigrants with local business opportunities. 

“We try to help individuals who are newly arrived or are immigrants through business counselling workshops, network events and some business language training to start a business or grow a business,” said D’Arcy Poultney,  the manager of the business and workforce integration at ISANS. 

He said the business and workforce integration program at ISANS tries to remove some of the barriers that immigrant entrepreneurs face while also connecting them with opportunities. 

“Immigrants face all the same barriers that individuals who are trying to start up a business face, plus they also face some that are either culturally-based or language-based” said Poultney. 

Ragab uses hammering techniques to create textured metal jewelry.   Ellen Riopelle

This program is how Ragab heard about the New Venture Marketplace. She said the market is a great opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurs. 

“I know how hard it is for an immigrant to come and to be lost and not know where to go,” she said. “You want someone to pick you and just give you a hand and tell you what to do because you don’t know anything.”

She said the marketplace will also be a good opportunity for immigrant entrepreneurs to connect with each other. 

“There will be a lot of new ideas and new products. Different people from different cultures and countries and this enhances the market. It gives more ideas,” said Ragab. 

“When immigrant entrepreneurs know each other, they can help each other and keep moving forward. They know the struggle and they can help each other.”

 

Ellen Riopelle

Ellen Riopelle

Ellen is a journalist currently living in Halifax. She has a penchant for travelling, craft beer, hammocks, good playlists and good stories.

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3 comments

  1. I love AR94’s jewelry. It’s avant garde with a traditional element, and customer service is amazing. You don’t normally get such creativity at this price level. I can’t recommend her enough. I’ve purchased a few sets from her and I’m sure to go back for more! If you appreciate beautiful, locally and ethically made products and want to support budding women’s small businesses, this is a fabulous way to go!

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