Surrey program for immigrant entrepreneurs earns CANIE award

April 24, 2020

By Surrey Now-Leader |

A Surrey program for immigrant entrepreneurs has been recognized with a Canada Innovation & Entrepreneurship Award.

Florence Kao is the employment specialist in charge of DIVERSEcity’s Immigrant Entrepreneur Program, which was recently named the British Columbia Region CANIE winner for the Enterprise Support Award.

Kao, who first came to Canada from Taiwan in 2007, says her dedication to helping newcomers is spurred by her drive to never quit.

“I always look for solutions, instead of problems,” she said. “I become their champion and help them as they work toward their self-employment goals.”

And how does she do that? By helping newcomers explore business ideas, do market research and competitor analysis, write a business plan, register their business, understand financial loan options, learn about marketing, sales and operational plans, and more.

Among those Kao has helped is the pair of entrepreneurial women behind CAE Fashion (CAE stands for confident and elegant).

Originally from Eritrea, a northeast African country on the Red Sea coast, sisters-in-law Zahraa Alkorde and Bekhita Mohamed both have backgrounds in teaching but decided to pursue fashion as a small business idea in Canada.

“Wearing a beautiful dress makes me feel confident,” says Bekhita. “But I didn’t know how to start the business. With Florence, I learned a lot about business and am gaining more confidence.”

Garrison Duke is director of the employment and language programs at DIVERSEcity.

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