Imagine travelling halfway around the world to start a new life only to be unable to find any work in the field for which you’re trained.
That’s the predicament — not uncommon for immigrants — that faced Shivani Dhamija, a communications specialist, after she and her husband arrived here in Canada from India in 2012.
So what did Shivani do?
With a mix of resourcefulness, ingenuity, drive and perseverance, she remade herself, becoming a successful businesswoman in Nova Scotia. Last week, she was named the Immigrant Entrepreneurship Network Entrepreneur of the Year (an honour given during the Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia’s Small Business Week).
It wasn’t easy.
Shivani’s first jobs were scooping french fries and washing dishes. Eventually, she started hosting Indian cooking classes, where she realized there was a, pardon the pun, healthy appetite for “really good spice blends” in Halifax.
Using her mother’s recipes, Shivani began selling freshly made, unsalted spice blends — under the label Shivani’s Kitchen — at a neighbourhood farmer’s market. She later moved downtown to Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market, where she opened Shivani’s Kitchen restaurant.
Sobeys and other local retailers also began stocking her spices in Halifax stores.
As Shivani puts it, every time they saw an opportunity, they grabbed it.
This year, COVID-19 threw her a tough curveball, forcing closure of her restaurant.
At first depressed, Shivani, with her husband’s encouragement, responded by moving her spices and sauces business online. She’s now planning to expand sales across Canada and, eventually, globally. Sobeys plans to stock her products across the Maritimes
Her advice to other immigrant entrepreneurs? “Don’t give up.”
It’s an inspiring story, one reinforcing the value of immigrants to Canada.
Everyone should understand the basic case for immigration.
Canada’s demographics reflect an aging population. That doesn’t refer to the obvious fact people get older, but to the relative proportions of older (rising) vs. younger (falling) people within the population.
As a result, average age in Canada has been creeping upwards for decades.
Why does that matter? Because as the percentage of retired people grows compared to those still working, the tax burden to pay for government services, such as health care, falls increasingly on relatively fewer shoulders.
The main driver behind Canada’s aging demographic is that the country’s fertility rate, about 1.47 in 2019, has been below replacement value (2.1 children per woman over her lifetime) for almost 50 years. Without immigration, the country’s population would naturally be falling.
Instead, Canada’s population has been growing, to 37.59 million people as of last year. The reason? Immigration.
In the 12 months ending on June 30, almost 82 per cent of the country’s rise in population came from immigration.
So, we need immigrants, especially in Atlantic Canada where populations are older compared to the rest of the country and mostly grow more slowly (in Newfoundland and Labrador, the population has fallen for the last four years).
The more smart, energetic immigrants like Shivani Dhamija who want to make Canada their home, the better.