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Hinda’s Story:

EMBERS kindles hope for newcomer

By Cheryl Rossi

Reprinted with permission from Vancouver Courier
Published November 29, 2006
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When Hinda Abdillahi made food for her friends, they raved about it and encouraged her to start her own culinary business. But Abdillahi, a chef who emigrated from East Africa to Canada in 1990 with a baby son, didn’t know where to start. She had no connections, no capital and no clue about legal requirements.

She struggled to support her small family and although she found work with well known restaurants, working late hours compromised her ability to care for her son. She also couldn’t afford a babysitter. Then she found out about the Eastside Movement for Business Renewal Society, or EMBERS. “It opened my doors because I had no connections,” she said. EMBERS helped her network, register for farmers markets and connect with the church kitchen where she makes Hinda’s Fine Preserves.

Abdillahi first sold her sauces, jams, chutneys, salsas and vinaigrettes at craft fairs in 2005. Since April, she’s sold her products at Granville Island.

Although she’s working more than before, Abdillahi enjoys the freedom of setting her own hours so she can care for her now 15-year-old son. She’s supporting her family with her micro-enterprise and feels good about making her own way.

EMBERS was founded in 2002 by Marcia Nozick, a Strathcona resident and community economic development specialist. It was born out of community economic development projects run by the city with municipal and federal funding.

EMBERS participants receive individual coaching and pay only for printing costs. It offers mentorships, financial literacy classes and offers grants to participants equal to three times the savings they’ve put aside for marketing or startup. The program also offers help for up to three years while the business gets off the ground.

“People are doing what they love to do and it’s just very empowering,” Nozick said. Nozick noted more than 98 per cent of all B.C. businesses are small businesses, with most regarded as micro-enterprises. For the majority the owner is also the sole employee. “We sometimes look at the very large projects, the multimillion dollar projects, that they’re more sexy in some way, but really the small entrepreneurs have the largest impact,” Nozick said.

Update, July 2009

As of July 2009, Hinda has her own commercial kitchen and continues to sell her products at Granville Island and other farmers markets in the Lower Mainland.

Since 2004, the Vancouver Agreement has provided funding to EMBERS for business development support, entrepreneurship training and the Micro-enterprise Development Program.

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