Ten years ago, Kasim Hassam and his family migrated to Canada from Somalia to seek new and better life opportunities. He had many expectations of what life could present to him in Canada, but little did he know he would find fulfillment in something he was already working on.
Kasim is the owner of Jump Candy—an alternative healthy snack food made from basic ingredients including dates, almonds, cashews, pistachios, sesame seeds, and coconut chips—providing a healthy alternative to “sugar” snacks. He started his business about a year ago supplying his product to just one store. Now he is currently in over 30 stores in Edmonton.
Just as with many immigrants, Kasim’s desire to start his own business stemmed out of necessity and not necessarily from experience. In the last decade, he had worked many different jobs including being a security guard, Walmart cashier, bus driver, scaffolder, labourer, and Uber driver. However, due to the economic slowdown in Alberta a couple of years ago and his inability to find a job after being laid off, he turned to entrepreneurship as a redemptive path.
Despite the difficulty he’d had with finding a job, Kasim was determined not to give up on himself. It was during this period that he thought about starting his own business.
He had noticed a shift and trend into healthy food alternatives within the Canadian market. There was a lot of talk about health and wellness being the new way of life. With that in mind, and being a fan of healthy food himself, Kasim decided to start a food business introducing a healthy snack alternative using a traditional Arabian snack recipe. Wanting to stay true to his Arabian heritage and his new Canadian culture, he decided to introduce his Arabian snack with a Canadian twist to it—blending the best of his two worlds.
His reality today
Kasim started Jump Candy at home and did not know where to go for support. Faced with the challenges of running and growing the business, he soon realized and acknowledged his lack of business skills. He knew he had all the expertise to make the products but needed help to run a business. His first point of action was to seek support.
Kasim first contacted the Edmonton Chamber of Commerce, which after providing him with the necessary help, referred him to Business Link for foundational knowledge on how to set up and run his business. When asked about his experience with Business Link, Kasim in his own words said, “Business Link was just the help I needed; they absolutely believed in me.”
His deepest satisfaction, he said, is the expression people have on their faces when they first taste his snack, the nod of approval, and the “oh this is good!!” response he gets.
Growing forward—Looking into the future
Kasim is most encouraged by the level of success he has gained so far with his products, saying: “You discover your strengths and abilities in entrepreneurship.” He has become a role model within his community.
Kasim's words of wisdom for other aspiring entrepreneurs include:
“First believe in yourself that you can do it, for anything and everything is possible. You may not find support in your immediate community when you start, as was my case—I had a lot of naysayers.”
“Rid yourself of any negativity and self-doubt. It is necessary to surround yourself with positivity and people who believe in you and would encourage you along the way.”
“Quickly seek support and never attempt to do it all by yourself. There are organizations like Business Link who are ready to support you every step of the way.”
Entrepreneurship can be a tough venture. You will need to be everything in your business. You are everything from the operations person—running around sourcing raw materials, and producing and packaging the product—to the sales and marketing person—supplying and selling your products—to the cleaning person.
To do what you are good at and enjoy doing, it is important to arm yourself with organizations and resources that are available for entrepreneurs. Do not be afraid to look for and approach these organizations within your immediate municipality.
Ready to jump?
Kasim has come to realize that there is a lot of support in Alberta for small business.
“Start something amazing, be focused, and do your best and you will surely find a troop of cheerleaders for you.”
Kasim is motivated, and with the right skills development and resources like Business Link, the sky is his limit. He is poised to grow and flood Edmonton and the Albertan market with his healthy (and delicious) snack.
The government of Alberta in partnership with Business Link recently announced the Immigrant Entrepreneur Program. This program will include providing one-on-one support and delivery of training, immigrant business guidebooks translated into different languages, as well as resources and outreach for small business service providers and organizations in rural areas over the next two years.
At Business Link, we strongly believe that just because you are in business for yourself doesn’t mean you need to do it all by yourself. Contact us today and we will be your silent support partner, your number one champion, and we will cheer you on to success.
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