A Nigerian-born Canadian woman has been navigating the difficult challenges of doing business in Saskatchewan.
Ronke Edoho, arrived in Canada 20 years ago as a business economics student. During that period, she started a food blog that gave her a front seat role into the food needs of immigrants here in Canada.
“So, I started a food blog and there was something I found missing with my audience. When people left home, or people migrated from West Africa there was always this disconnect about time and cooking. Most of our food takes a lot of time to cook,” Edoho said.
“Alot of people were moving away from our food, and for me, food is such a connection to a place and time. If you lose that you lose a part of you that takes you back home. So, it’s important that people continue to have that connection with food and home.”
This birthed an idea of producing a sauce that many immigrants can relate to: “Jollof mix” is produced out of the Saskatoon food center. It’s a sauce that gave many immigrants a taste of back home.
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“My goal was to create a brand that really bridged that gap of having something that is authentic but also convenient. So, people could still continue to have that food experience that they grew up with, but with the idea that no one has one hour to make a stew,” Edoho said.
Starting that business was not easy for Edoho.
“It was hard. It was 100% harder than I thought it would be. Because I think back home, you’re surrounded by entrepreneurship. If you wanted to say start a shop like a grocery shop, you probably have like three aunties that would already have done it.” Edoho said. “So, you had a reference point. For me I did not have a reference point. Every single thing that I needed to do, I had to do from scratch.”
The business process started in 2021, but she did not produce her first product until 2023.
“It took two years because every single thing I did, I had to learn. I had to figure out who could help me figure out who I could ask questions. And I think there’s also this inherent fear of doing something wrong and getting in trouble. There were a lot of mistakes that I made, I think that is just because I was an immigrant who was not familiar with the landscape.”
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Jearne Lehman CEO of Black Canadian Women in Action: a non-profit that supports Black entrepreneurs looking to expand their business, said her interactions with immigrants’ business owners show many can’t access funds.
“The problems many immigrant business owners face apart from mentorship is lack of funding. Sadly, they may not be able to access huge capital investment because they usually do business on a small scale. ” Lehman said.
Meanwhile, business coach Jeyna Amadasun, wants immigrant business owners to be more proactive in their learning process.
“There is a lot about the market, business owners do not know. Especially since they are not familiar with the Canadian market. The business landscape is different, so they need to work more on building that knowledge base,” Amadasun said. “They also need to network and connect with organizations that can help and support them. There’s also the need for equal access to financial resources. Without those things they would be in an uphill battle.”
Edoho plans to continue learning and expanding, hopefully to the store next door.
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