Nearly 40,000 international migrants came to Alberta last year. Since arriving, many of them are looking to start their own businesses. A local expo is providing them with the resources they need to get going.

The event hosted nearly 100 people on Saturday and featured panellists and workshops throughout the day.

The expo teaches newcomers about building a business from the ground up — provincial regulations as well as how to access financing. The biggest resource on offer, however, is networking.

“You don’t know where to go but you have just this one spark, you just have this small flame in you, you need to have a mentor,” said Jezryl Austria a small business owner.

Austria came to our country from the Philippines and launched his apparel business, North Rage, last November. He says he received a lot of help from the non-profit, Business Link.

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“They’ve been guiding me to start up from scratch, up to my producing by the summer this year,” said Austria. “It’s gym clothing, gym sports clothing apparel so I’m aiming to be kind of like a mini Lululemon which everyone can afford the product.”

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Austria isn’t the only one receiving support. Business Link hosted a Newcomer Entrepreneur Expo at the Edmonton Expo Centre Saturday providing resources to up-and-coming business owners.

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“We feel that this event is so important. We’ve seen a lot of inquiries come from newcomers that are looking to start a business so almost 20 per cent of our inquiries,” said Abdalla Mohamed, immigrant services manager at Business Link.

“When we arrive here, we perhaps know a handful of people, we come with our families. But we’ve not been here and established that big network that we perhaps have back home,” said Matt Hill, Business Link client services and operations director.

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“I’m from the UK and I know a lot more people there, it’s easier for me to start that business. So really events like this are aimed at expanding their network.”

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Hill says Business Link helps more than a thousand newcomer entrepreneurs annually and that number has been steadily rising in recent years.

“We see Alberta’s a great place to start a business, lots and lots of opportunity and compared to lots of places in the world, remarkably simple,” said Hill.

For Austria, the expo provided even more motivation to follow his dreams.

“Being a business owner, founder we all have those days that we’re really down. Having that support system at your back like those mentors and those people in the community will really help you a lot,” he said.

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