Client and Connector Stories
Riley Aiello’s journey to post-secondary employment began during his time as a summer intern with PEI Network under the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. Holland College’s Learning Manager, Brenda Compton, connected Riley to the program manager of PEI Network, Alana Walsh. As part of his duties, Riley worked at the PEI Network booth during a job fair put on by Skills PEI. That was where he got talking with Gloria Welton of the Employment Journey of PEI, a magazine created to highlight job opportunities found throughout Prince Edward Island, and provide resources for both employers and potential employees.
Gloria learnt of his interest in human resources and informed him of an opening at the Construction Association of PEI. At that same fair, he got introduced to Sam Sanderson, who oversaw the hiring. A few months later, Riley accepted a position as the human resources advisor of the Construction Association of PEI (CAPEI). Read more
Teresa Tu’s dedicated involvement with the international student body at UPEI. She was a member of the UPEISU Student Council, where she represented the interests of international students attending UPEI. Teresa also worked at the International Student Office and served as coordinator of the UPEI Buddy program, where she organized efforts to help international students integrate better into UPEI and Canadian society, by befriending and mentoring new students.
She moved to Canada from China to study business administration, and the connections she made by immersing herself in the local community helped her land a role as a program officer at the PEI Office of Immigration.
Daniel Ohaegbu moved from the capital city of Nigeria, Abuja, to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island to begin his university education. When Christmas came and several international students could not make it back home, Daniel’s solution was to throw a party in a small apartment in a residential area. Eventually, the crowd was shown the door because of noise complaints. That was the first, not the last party. With time, the crowd grew and began to include more locals. That’s how Overtime Entertainment was born. So far, it has grown to include Jonah Chininga, whose background in business from UPEI supports the vision.
Overtime Entertainment now aims to give people more than just a good time. It works to promote diversity and inclusion through social interaction. It is completing a residency at the Startup Zone, hosted events for Black History Month and more. Daniel did all of this while completing an honors program in psychology at UPEI. He was nominated for the 2019 Fusion Awards under Arts and Culture. Daniel and his team show that with passion and diligence, dreams are valid and viable in PEI.
When Dawn Binns first volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters, she only wanted to make connections in her new home province. She grew up in Hantsport, Nova Scotia and moved to PEI once she obtained her Bachelor of Education degree from Acadia University in 1998. Using skills she acquired from her degree, she became a facilitator with the Adult Connections in Education (ACE) program at UPEI. As she worked, she became more interested in adding value to the community and did so through volunteering. Her first key role at Big Brothers Big Sisters was Bowl for Kids Sake, the organization’s fundraiser. In this role, she helped with marketing and communications, and did the same while volunteering with the Canadian Cancer Society.
Interestingly, these roles indicated what her job in the future would be. Volunteering helped her meet people and provided opportunities to blend her education with real-world experience. Today, Dawn is the Managing Partner of Insight Brand and Marketing Studio and serves as the 2019—2020 Board President of the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. She continues to serve in different roles, and as a connector throughout the Island community and beyond.
When Jessica Fritz served a fruit tart with marzipan filling, people raved. So when she couldn’t find the marzipan on P.E.I., she became concerned. Then she became inspired. “Why can’t we just bring it to Canada — starting with P.E.I.?”
Jessica and Mike Fritz have since launched Maritime Marzipan, which sells treats made from the tempting smooth mixture of sweetened ground almonds. “Everybody loves sweets, right?” says Mike, standing in the couple’s new summer shop at St. Peter’s Landing.
The couple’s love of food helped prompt their move to P.E.I. Jessica not only enjoys cooking, but also writing about food and exploring foods from other cultures.
“I somehow infected Mike with that,” she says.
When Seacy Pan and Ray Cai brought Formfree Branding to Charlottetown, they created more than a new branding, printing and photography studio. They created another support service for newcomer entrepreneurs.
“We can become a connector with Chinese people and local people,” explains Pan, chatting at Formfree on the lower level of the Confederation Court Mall.
“Most of our clients are Chinese,” Cai explains. “We have no language block. We can talk directly to them.”
This husband-and-wife team operated Formfree for about two decades as a design studio in Guangzhou, a city of approximately 14 million people in southern China. Seeking a more relaxed pace of life, the couple emigrated with their son to P.E.I. in 2015 and set up Formfree in May 2016.
When Nguyet Hoang moved to Prince Edward Island, she found few places to buy solid wood furniture with classic lines.
“I haven’t seen such kind of furniture here,” she explains, sitting at a dining table in a store showcasing polished pieces in rich dark caramel tones.
“There should be room for me to enter this market,” she says.
Nguyet “Ivy” Hoang entered this market in early 2018, when she opened Ivy Furniture on the main floor of the Confederation Court Mall. Her shop offers living room, bedroom, dining room and library furniture crafted in her native country of Vietnam and imported to P.E.I. She describes the furniture construction as more traditional, the design more classic — reminding some Islanders of the Victorian furniture from a beloved grandmother’s home.
When Michèle Lihrmann moved into her Victorian home in Alberton, she knew she had to open it to visitors. “We couldn’t buy this house, close the door and live inside,” she says. “That’s not possible to live like this.”
That’s because Michèle and her husband, Hubert, had purchased an Alberton landmark with a history filled with community connections and fondly remembered gatherings. Built in the 1890s for Fred L. Rogers, the Rogers House has over the years provided a home for a member of parliament, David MacDonald; and a lodge for senior citizens.
Lihrmann chats in the parlour, where the upright piano promises to entertain, and the antique furniture begs a visitor to sit and stay awhile.
Jabbar Pourbahman will quickly divulge the secret to success at Café Thomas-Martin.
“My wife makes everything here,” he says, as he slices chicken breast in the kitchen. “But I help her,” he adds with a smile.
Jabbar and his wife, Farah Jahandideh, have owned this downtown Charlottetown café since 2015. Glass cases and containers at the counter tempt visitors with baking from Farah’s kitchen.
Today, customers can indulge in peach-mango or raspberry muffins or molasses spice, peanut butter or “everything but the kitchen sink” cookies; or order salads, all-day breakfast, or sandwiches on Farah’s homemade bread.
“I’m too busy,” Farah says with a laugh.
Aman Sedighi walked into Papa Joe’s with a small bowl of produce — and a desire to make a sale.
But the Iranian immigrant had no idea what to charge the Charlottetown restaurant for the fresh dill, cilantro, zucchini and tomatoes he had grown on a small plot of land. Sedighi thought he would be happy with $5 or $10. As a sharp entrepreneur, he asked the chef what he would pay.
“Around thirty dollars,” Chef Irwin offered.
“I’m not giving it to you for less than fifty!” Sedighi replied.
The pair bartered to $40, and Sedighi launched his foray into his farming business in P.E.I.
Five years later, his A-OK Gardens has grown from a plot on the dairy farm where he used to work to the 15 acres he now grows in Brookfield — plus another 91 acres for possible expansion.
When Hamid Sanayie moved to Prince Edward Island, he found it strange that so many restaurants served frozen French fries. “Being in the Island, which is famous for the potato, I wondered how come everybody used frozen fries here,” Sanayie explains. “Then I realized, if they want a fresh potato, they have to cut it by hand.”
As president of Fry Factory, Sanayie hopes to change that — not only in P.E.I. but across North America. His company manufactures an automatic fry-cutting machine that can turn a 50-pound bag of potatoes into fries in just one minute.
“Doing that by hand takes too much time,” he says. Instead of pressing potato after potato through a manual cutter, the operator of the Fry Factory machine simply loads piles of potatoes into the top and then sees the machine spin out a shower of fries.