Empowering newcomer entrepreneurs

Empowering newcomer entrepreneurs


Russian immigrant Alexey Saltykov credits the support he received from the Canadian Youth Business Foundation for helping him get his company off the ground.

For Alexey Saltykov, an accident in a rental vehicle in Europe was the catalyst for a new business venture in Canada.

“I thought the damages to the car would be covered by my credit card protection and was surprised to find they were not,” Mr. Saltykov says. “I ended up paying the $6,000 in damages myself.” It was a lesson well-learned.

Born in Russia, Mr. Saltykov came to Canada in 2008 on a work transfer from Germany. His business idea percolated for several years while he worked as a management consultant. When the time was right he said goodbye to his consulting career and embarked on entrepreneurship together with his business partner, Dmitry Mityagin.

Today Mr. Saltykov, 33, is the co-founder and CEO of Toronto-based InsurEye Inc., a free online service educating Canadian consumers about home, auto, life and credit card insurance through independent insurance consumer reviews and cost comparison.

While he has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and five languages under his belt, Mr. Saltykov was unfamiliar with many challenges of starting a new business here.

“The hardest moment for a small company is at the very beginning. You think you know how everything works but there are so many different things to think about, from funding, product design and development to customer service, marketing and accounting,” he says.

Mr. Saltykov turned to the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), which believed in his idea and provided him with startup funding and an experienced mentor to guide him through the first two years of business.

Many newcomers arrive with skills that lend themselves to being successful entrepreneurs, says Julia Deans, CEO of CYBF.
“The very fact that they have moved themselves and their families around the world makes it clear that they are risk-takers,” she says. “They often come from cultures where self-employment is more prevalent and tend to be more creative and open-minded about how to make money.”

There can be significant challenges for immigrants looking to start a business in Canada, Ms. Deans says. First is a lack of familiarity with the Canadian marketplace and the available opportunities. Second is a shortage of connections to networks of professionals beyond their own culture that enhance entrepreneurial success. Third may be a lack of the cultural and language skills necessary to do business here. Access to startup funding is also a major hurdle.

Recognizing these challenges, CYBF launched the Newcomer Entrepreneur Program. Available to those aged 18 to 39 who have been in the country for less than five years, the program offers a series of tools and resources that empower newcomers to succeed in business.
Many immigrants interested in starting a business lack the credit rating necessary to qualify for startup funds. CYBF’s funding formula differs from many others by focusing on strength of character and drive to succeed rather than just collateral, says Beth Dea, CYBF’s Director of Programs. Newcomers who qualify may receive a loan of up to $15,000. Those who have established a credit rating may receive up to $45,000.

The program also provides access to culturally sensitive mentoring for two years. One-on-one, hand-selected mentors help cultivate a better understanding of how business is conducted in Canada and provide introductions that expand business networks.

Customized resources also help both mentor and mentee maximize the value of this critical relationship.

“Working with our business planning resources is an extremely important part of the process,” Ms. Dea says. “It can take newcomers three times longer than a non-newcomer to write a business plan. Being able to provide the tools needed to significantly reduce that time is one of our key goals.”

Strategic partnerships with like-minded organizations also help. For example Connect Legal is a registered charity that provides legal advice to qualified immigrant entrepreneurs that lack sufficient funds to afford the fees.

“CYBF is a great partner for us,” says Marion Annau, president and founder of Connect Legal. “Newcomer entrepreneurs may feel as though they are navigating a maze. Together we are helping to guide them around some of the walls they might bump into along the way.”


National Post |