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Zhao Bin /Joyce - Client

Joyce was born in Tianjin, a major port city in northeastern China bordering Beijing, and lived there for over thirty years. Comparing Charlottetown to Tianjin, a city of over fifteen million people, she says, “You can get anywhere in ten minutes. Living in Charlottetown is more convenient for me.”
Arriving in PEI in the first pandemic year slowed new connections. In the first few months of establishing Panda Sugar, the first bubble tea shop in Summerside, Joyce would drive back and forth between Summerside and Charlottetown to find the right location. This was in addition to learning English. She had not owned a business before this time. Back in China, she worked in a bank. “I did not know how to run a business. But I loved bubble tea so I thought I would open a bubble tea shop so that I could make one for myself every day,” she says. 
In her home country, Joyce had little time to stop and smell the roses. One day, she asked herself what kind of life she wanted and began the journey to Prince Edward Island. The landscape furnished with trees the colour of fire greeted her when she arrived in the autumn. Joyce recalls the loveliness of the people upon first meeting, and even now that they are her neighbours. 
She has drawn from her professional experience at the bank and modifies her products to suit local tastes. Listening to her customers and experimenting with her products have been her keys to reaching important milestones in business. The Strawberry Milk Tea and the Brown Sugar Milk Tea are bestsellers. “I learn a lot from my customers. I chat with them, and they give me very useful suggestions,” she says. 

  Joyce says that her business settlement officer first introduced her to PEI Connectors. She credits her program officer with providing her with useful advice both in her business and in her personal life, especially when she first arrived. “The help she provides is exactly what I need,” she says.

Written by: Elizabeth Iwunwa
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

Ann Worth - Volunteer Connector & Facilitator

When Ann Worth walks into a room of PEI newcomers, she feels profound respect. “They have picked up and moved to a completely foreign country, knowing virtually nobody, and then attempt to adapt and integrate,” she says. “I think that’s courageous.”
Ann is the president of Worth Consulting Group and a commercial real estate advisor with Cushman & Wakefield Atlantic.

She started facilitating workshops for PEI Connectors about four years ago. Her work grew out of her long-time involvement with the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce. She began with Connectors as a volunteer, mentoring clients in small group sessions. “I really understood through those sessions where the needs were and how important it was to help newcomers navigate the business environment,” she explains. “There needed to be some specific educational delivery in certain topics – and on some of those topics I had good experience.” Ann has since delivered workshops on career seeking, negotiating and finding commercial leasing space, and sourcing for supply chain success.

When she advises newcomers, she emphasizes the importance of research and networking. For aspiring entrepreneurs, that means getting familiar with the marketplace and working with local professionals to integrate a new business. For job seekers, it means meeting with different employers in different industries. She also tells job seekers to believe in themselves and work at what they love. “The sky’s the limit – you can do anything,” she tells them.
Ann says working with diverse audiences has helped her write more “digestible” content and appreciate new perspectives. “I learn every time I interact with a newcomer,” she says, noting newcomers bring a wealth of skills, energy, and experience to the province.

Ann says newcomers express deep appreciation for the information she shares, and she finds it fulfilling to be part of their new ventures. “It’s really satisfying to be able help somebody navigate and realize their goals and their dreams – especially in a new place,” she says. “I like seeing people succeed.”

Written by: Lori Mayne
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

Xu Sabrina - Client

A visit to Sabrina’s art gallery on Grafton Street revealed an intimate space housing oil paintings, watercolour and ink paintings, photography works by local Chinese artists, and a select collection by European and North American artists. Students gathered around a table to receive lessons from an art instructor. Exquisite postcards of varying styles and eras were on display at a stand near the front door. 

Sabrina landed in PEI a few hours before a snowstorm in February 2022. Originally from China, she studied in the United States, and studied art in England before immigrating to Canada. She had worked in management and oversaw the stock market listings of the company she worked for at that time. “We worked in a big city and did not like the traffic. We wanted to try new things in a quiet place,” she says. 

An immersion into the British visual art scene helped shape her business plan, which she is now implementing. The Sunday summer market in downtown Charlottetown has helped to spread the word and works of Vneed Art Gallery. “The people who visited our stall were happy to see the different artworks, including my daughter’s digital illustration,” she says.

Coming to PEI has been an opportunity to fulfill a life-long creative ambition. Her husband worked as a statistician but is the more artistic of the duo; he creates some of the art that adorns the gallery’s walls. Sabrina applies her management skills and experience to the gallery's operations. Sabrina’s cosmopolitan experience and perspective is already paying off. This past summer, Vneed Art Gallery held an exhibition at The Guild in Charlottetown featuring works of young artists with a collection that included landscapes, seascapes, and portraiture. This was well-received, and plans are currently in motion for another exhibition in a private house with a view of the sea. This intimate exhibition is titled “Painting and the Stories Behind,” and artists will share their aesthetic and life philosophies as influenced by Eastern and Western cultures. Guests will have the opportunity to experience a Chinese tea ceremony.
Sabrina notes the importance of connections especially in a new place and she says, “PEI Connectors provides useful information and the more I attend their events, the more benefits I get.”

Written by: Elizabeth Iwunwa
Photography: Robin Gislain Shumbusho, GR+AG Studio

Elisha Baptiste - Client

Elisha Baptiste moved to PEI to study but decided she wanted to stay. Now, she helps other international students do the same. “I have that insight and I have that passion. How can I help someone who has, in a way, followed in my footsteps?”

Elisha is the Program and Marketing Manager at the Atlantic Student Development Alliance (ASDA), a non-profit in Charlottetown that helps international students and graduates find meaningful work in Prince Edward Island.
She moved to PEI from Trinidad and Tobago in 2021. With a background in media and communications, Elisha found herself drawn to the marketing and advertising management program at Holland College. She also found herself drawn to the beauty of PEI. “Coming from an island, I thought, ‘OK, I’m going from one island to another,’” she says with a laugh.

Elisha took part in the Study and Stay PEI Program, which helps international students who want to live and work in PEI. She learned about PEI Connectors in the process. “As an international student, you don’t have a built-in network,” she explains.
She saw PEI Connectors as a way to learn and build that network. She attended a small group session on employee rights, and she also chatted with program officer Elmira Moghimi about her resume and goals. “She was very encouraging,” Elisha says.
After graduating in 2022, Elisha found her own employment at Holland College and then ASDA. Her current role includes promoting ASDA’s programs — to help even more international students and the province as a whole.
“It’s valuable to have students who are well-trained, who have a lot of experience. How can we help support them, so they can stay here?”
Elisha says her experience shows that organizations like PEI Connectors are key. Though she found her own employment, PEI Connectors gave her a sense of support and reinforced her decision to stay on this island.
“It’s been a bit easier to navigate and connect,” she says. “I feel comfortable here.”

Written by: Lori Mayne
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

KongPang Ng (Elvis) - Client

When Elvis Ng wanted to brand his business, he chose an image of two narwhals swimming in a circle.
“In Chinese that represents cooperation. It represents a relationship. It represents a partnership,” he says. “As a newcomer in PEI, we actually need to build our relationships with the Islanders, with our partners, with our customers, and also with other families.”
Elvis says PEI Connectors helped him build the relationships he needed to create Narwhal Business Solutions Inc.
Narwhal offers tailor-made IT solutions for retailers and other small businesses. The company specializes in point-of-sales systems — providing equipment, training staff, and integrating the technology into business operations. For example, Elvis might supply a point-of-sales system to a restaurant and then ensure orders automatically print off in the kitchen after the customer pays. “This is a totally a one-stop solution,” he explains. He also develops websites, often incorporating features like booking systems, and provides overall IT support. Elvis started Narwhal in Charlottetown in 2021, soon after his family moved from Hong Kong. They chose Canada for its diversity and openness, PEI for its scenery and landscape. “We would like our kids to be grown up in a very natural environment, so they can do more outdoor activities.”
PEI Connectors was his first stop for marketing research. “I have a lot of business ideas, but I’m not sure which one will go best in PEI,” he says. He credits program officer Frank Fan Liu for steering him away from ideas that had proven unsuccessful. Other staff, including Holsen Wei, gave him marketing ideas and introduced him to supports like the Greater Charlottetown Area Chamber of Commerce, Innovation PEI, and the PEI IT Alliance.
With his own business now established, Elvis — who has more than two decades of IT management experience — hopes to work with PEI Connectors and the Chamber to hold forums or talks specifically for the IT industry.
He adds that he’s still quick to call PEI Connectors when he encounters a challenge. “Every staff from there has lots of business experience,” he says. “They totally understand the business environment in PEI.”

Written by: Lori Mayne
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

Amin Ataherian - Client

Amin Ataherian says finding a job means networking — especially in PEI.

“In PEI, I think it’s a hundred times more important,” Amin says. “Everyone knows each other here.” 

Amin moved from Iran in 2018 to study at the University of Prince Edward Island. The fourth-year business student, who specializes in finance, wants to build experience in his field. “I’m hoping to find a good secure job on the Island after I graduate,” he explains, noting he wants to eventually apply for his master’s after gaining more work experience. Though he might have to leave PEI for graduate studies, he would prefer to stay. “People are really friendly and kind,” he says. “It’s an Island that I really want to be in.”

On PEI, Amin has completed two summer internships. UPEI Experiential Education helped him find an administrative role with PEI Public Safety on its PEI Pass project in 2021. Then, in 2022, he found his own internship at an accounting firm, where he filed corporate taxes and completed financial statements. He became a PEI Connectors client after reconnecting with Elmira Moghimi at an event on campus. A former UPEI student herself, Elmira had become a program officer with PEI Connectors. She told Amin the organization could help him network, connect with employers, and find work. She sends him job postings every week. “I’m a full-time student now and I don’t really have the time to go over all of the job websites and career websites to find what I really want to apply for.”

Amin is considering part-time work that he can start as a student and that might evolve into full-time work after graduation, or full-time work that he can start after his current studies. He says students should take advantage of services like UPEI’s Experiential Education and PEI Connectors. He notes they not only help students gain experience. “They help them get more familiar with the Canadian working culture and help themselves settle more than before.”

Written by: Lori Mayne
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

Ji Mo & Jin Jia - Client

Before Ji arrived in Prince Edward Island with his family in March 2018, he had lived in Chengdu, voted the happiest city in China for twelve consecutive years, and then in several cities across the country including major hubs like Shanghai and Shenzhen. He worked as a regional sales manager for a big manufacturing company, a demanding role for which he travelled weekly. These pressures combined with the exhaustion of life in a busy city led him to look for alternatives. A family friend had earlier moved to PEI and spoke highly of the Island at a reunion. This was Ji’s introduction to a life of peace and quiet outside his home country. “At that moment, we felt that maybe this was guidance from God,” says his wife, Jin. 
The next steps came swiftly. Ji and Jin decided on the way back home from the reunion that they would take the leap. So far, PEI has lived up to their expectations. “When we walked along Victoria Park, we saw the water and the blue sky. It was very peaceful. The people said hello to us. The weather was cold, but the people were warm.”
Together, Ji and Jin run Moji-Fast Technology Limited, assisting Islanders transition to renewable energy by installing solar-based solutions that are cost-efficient and easy on the environment.  Ji’s extensive career experience in sales and technical support and Jin’s professional background in office administration makes them a winning team. Despite challenges like the rising cost of materials and the difficulty of building trust in a relatively new business environment, they have been able to apply their previous corporate experience to their entrepreneurial endeavours. When they first began, their English teacher in the LINC program was their first client. This gave them great encouragement, which has helped them win more customers over the years.
They credit PEI Connectors with providing helpful information and connection with the right people in their industry. Ji and Jin say that choosing a path and not giving up is their recommendation to newcomers. “The business environment here is very fair. If you persist in your business, you will find success,” they say.
Written by: Elizabeth Iwunwa
Photography: Greg Ellison, Ellison Media

Martina MacDonald - Connector

Martina MacDonald sees connecting people as a way of life.
“It’s rewarding,” says the self-professed extrovert. “It’s all about helping people and making it a little easier for them.”
Martina is executive director of CBDC PEI East and general manager of the Rural Action Centre in Montague. The CBDC helps entrepreneurs start or expand businesses, while the Rural Action Centre provides a hub for organizations dedicated to business and community development.
Martina says she started volunteering as a PEI Connector because she values its work, understanding firsthand the challenges newcomers encounter. She is the daughter of Dutch immigrants, who faced language barriers, isolation, and even prejudice as they tried to integrate into PEI.
“Unless immigrants have support, it is extremely difficult,” she says.
As a Connector, Martina has welcomed newcomers on bus tours to eastern PEI, chatted over lunch with the visitors, and ensured they felt comfortable to reach out. In her work, she also meets newcomer entrepreneurs individually and makes sure to personally walk them to any other support organizations at the Rural Action Centre that can help.
“Networking on Prince Edward Island is pretty easy — and pretty necessary,” she says. Martina notes “who you know” on the Island can often lead to employment, business opportunities, and access to information.
She says helping newcomers build their own networks on the Island has a big payoff. “It really only takes a little bit of your time, maybe an hour out of your day to meet with someone face to face, but the end result is huge for the person looking for the information, and it’s established a trust and a relationship.”
She suggests, in turn, everyone gains from supporting newcomers and building the diversity of the place they call home. “It brings such a beautiful blend to the community.”

Mohammad Rakhshan - Client

Mohammad Rakhshan (Makan) first visited Prince Edward Island in the summer of 2018 to look at the prospects of living here with his family. He travelled from Toronto to PEI, stopping at places in between – Halifax, Montreal, Moncton, Fredericton – and realizing that PEI was the most appealing choice. The family eventually settled in August of the following year.
Although originally from Iran, Makan studied obtained a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Dubai with concentrations in management and marketing. He went on to Switzerland where he got an MBA in international business.
He chose to settle in Canada because of its stable economy, safety, and openness to immigration. Makan was engaged in the furniture and mattress manufacturing in Iran and had his own plant, but had also worked for a mattress company for over fourteen years and was a general manager. This made the choice of what business to establish in Canada simple. His mattress and furniture store, Sleep Concept, is based in Montague and is available online as well.
He lives in Charlottetown, but being accustomed to living in bigger cities, the daily 45-minute drive does not faze him. “Building a business in Canada is doable when I compare it to other countries. There is room to grow and there is room for more people to come in. Immigrants are welcome,” he says. Makan met with a PEI Connectors program officer before starting his business and received information and resources to help him find his footing. Of the time spent on the Island so far, he says, “We are happy with the place; we like PEI and our business is going well.”

David Sun - Connector

When David Sun got off his flight to study in Canada, he could speak one sentence in English. “‘How are you?’ That’s all,” he says with a laugh.
Support from other students, teachers, and the community helped him learn English and settle into his new home in Newfoundland. Then, looking for work, he faced new challenges. How could he find a job when he felt so shy to introduce himself to employers? Again, he received support, this time from the newcomers’ association.
“Being a newcomer myself, I’m understanding the challenge of transitioning to a new country,” says David, who now manages TD Bank in Summerside. “I would like to improve that experience for other newcomers coming to Canada.”
“Every business is a people business. Without people, your business won’t be successful in the community.”
David, who moved to PEI in 2018, has made it a priority to help newcomers here by volunteering as a PEI Connector. As a guest speaker, he provides guidance by sharing his own experience as a Chinese immigrant making a career in Canada. He also provides a hand to newcomers seeking work.
In a new culture, newcomers can face barriers even understanding job descriptions — as cultural differences may mean jobs have different names. “They have to understand ‘what do you do’ for this job description exactly,” David says. People in industry, like David, can help newcomers understand what jobs might make a good fit for them.
David sees volunteering with PEI Connectors as a way to build the province and its economy. “We want to increase our retention rate to keep our newcomer to settle on this Island,” he says.
He also sees benefits for himself and his business. By volunteering, he meets more and more people — helping him source new talent for his branch. All of that networking also helps boost his bank’s brand.

Luke and Hai Nguyen - Clients

Luke and Hai immigrated to Prince Edward Island from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The couple visited the Island months prior and spent most of their time exploring coffee shops. Hai planned to establish hers but had never worked in a coffee shop before. In fact, she had a 15-year career in advertising and communications and had the double challenge of moving to a new country and building a new business from the ground up.
Luke had a career in the petroleum industry in Vietnam, and found work in PEI as a Fleet Services Project Manager. Shortly after they arrived, Luke attended a session facilitated by the Construction Association of PEI and was connected to the Association’s director by his program officer. He completed a four-month course, applied for a position at Aspin Kemp and Associates, and landed it. His previous experience with oversea projects has made for a smooth transition to his current role.

To fulfil a lifelong dream of owning a coffee roastery on an island, Hai opened The Shed Coffee, a specialty coffee shop in downtown Charlottetown. “We have everything here. Everything is beautiful and fits with our lifestyle,” she says. Her previous advertising experience has been extremely useful. “Every principle is the same,” she says. Hai has been through a process of learning and understanding local insights directly from customers and adjusting her operations accordingly. 
As clients of PEI Connectors, the couple says their program officers are always available to assist. “One of the most valuable things is that our previous skillset was recognized. Even though we were ready to start from the entry-level, we could keep building from our previous level,” Hai says. 

Jamie Arsenault - Connector

Jamie Arsenault tries to imagine how a newcomer must feel, trying to find services in a foreign place.
“You don’t just want to go off the street and talk to somebody,” says the partner at Fitzpatrick & Co. “You want a referral. You want to have trust in a person.”
Jamie says PEI Connectors provides a platform where newcomers and local businesspeople can build those relationships — and establish that trust.
His involvement as a Connector grew out of his work at accounting firm Fitzpatrick & Co., which serves many newcomer clients. As a volunteer, Jamie participates in networking events, meets newcomers to exchange ideas, and offers tax education sessions.
“It all comes back to providing information,” he explains.
Jamie sees his firm’s partnership with PEI Connectors as a two-way street. Fitzpatrick & Co. provides tax information and networking opportunities. In return, participating in such activities builds business. For example, Jamie recalls that two or three years after he gave a particular tax presentation, one of the newcomers he’d met approached him to say, “OK, I’m ready for an accountant now.”
Jamie says he gains new perspectives by meeting so many newcomers. “It’s a good way to learn about different cultures, about how people do business, and about different ideas that we’re able to incorporate into our firm.”
Networking through PEI Connectors has also helped him locate new employees and make new friends. He and his family have savoured the cuisine at the homes of some clients; he has commiserated about his golf score with others. “I’m able to meet some great people,” he concludes.
Overall, he describes any act of volunteering as an investment of time. “With PEI Connectors, I can honestly say the value of what you gain from that time far outweighs the actual time you’re inputting.”

Abraham Roy - Client & Connector

Abraham came to Canada from India with the hopes of providing a better future for his children. Before starting his business journey, he used to work for some of the best IT Companies, including a few years in an IT company in PEI, where he exhibited his prior skills in the latest Technologies and Program Management for almost two decades. However, due to the company’s downsizing, he had to consider other opportunities.

He focused on utilizing his advanced knowledge of technology and decided to start his company called Contacts-DB Inc (ContactBoss) ( Contact Boss is a one-stop shop for contact management requirements of small to mid-sized organizations and not-for-profits where the software not only includes Contact Management but has a variety of other features like Event Management, Follow Up Management, Visitor Management, etc. Contact Boss is developed by Contacts-DB Inc., a Canadian-based information technology and business management software developer. ContactBoss is honored to manage the entire database of PEI Connectors’ operations.
Abraham loves PEI due to its amazing beaches and mesmerizing weather in the summer. He loves how the local community is very friendly, and you can interact with people here, unlike the hustle and bustle of a big city where it is hard for people to find time for one another. Commute times are much lesser when compared to bigger cities. Abraham wanted to take this opportunity to thank all the advisors and mentors for the ongoing support in building his base in PEI.

Abraham came across PEI Connectors when he decided that he wanted to grow his local network within the community. He then became an entrepreneur client. “The PEI Connectors program was very helpful because I got to develop my network and establish business contacts, especially in events like information sessions, six on six, and some workshops. I got an outlet to discuss and promote ContactBoss to various business organizations”, said Abraham.
Abraham eventually transitioned from a client to a Connector as he wanted to give back to the community. He says he understands the initial years of struggles for a newcomer, as he himself was once in their shoes. He wants to share his experience in the hopes of helping people succeed in their business or job search in PEI. He says, “PEI is what we now call home. The economy of PEI will prosper even more if we help each other grow within the community.”

Kent Thompson - Connector

How can we keep newcomers on the Island?
Kent Thompson says even one connection can make the difference.
“I see so many people moving to PEI and wanting to make it their home, but they’re just lacking that network or lacking that one connection that could mean the difference between them having a family, raising it here, and becoming members of the community — or leaving,” says the chief operating officer of Upstreet Craft Brewing.

“PEI’s a close community. Since so many people grew up here, it is a bit of a closed community. It’s really welcoming once you get your step in,” he says.
Kent volunteers as a PEI Connector to help newcomers get that “step in.” Meeting with newcomers, Kent works to have them articulate their specific goals. Then, he tries to connect those newcomers with people in his network who might have employment opportunities or helpful information to pass along. Some of the connections he’s made have resulted in introductions to local firms and even employment.
He describes networking as essential for a job seeker, noting that employers often reach out to their own networks when hiring. “A lot of the best jobs are never posted,” he says.

Kent says volunteering with PEI Connectors has benefits for Upstreet. “We’re a growing company, so we’re looking for people too,” he explains.
For Kent himself, helping others simply provides “a great feeling.” He says he feels grateful to have grown up and continue living on Prince Edward Island. As a Connector, he might simply have a conversation for a half-hour with a newcomer, then connect that newcomer to someone who connects the newcomer to a job — and a way for the newcomer to stay on Prince Edward Island.
“It’s probably the simplest way that you can change somebody’s life.”

Ranjit and Priya Chatterjee - Clients

In bringing the Instant Imprint brands to PEI, Ranjit and Priya Chatterjee have “a burning desire to succeed and offer tremendous customer service,” in the couple’s own words.
Their franchise, which opened in August 2019 after the couple did extensive training, provides a range of customized marketing products, from apparel to signs to printed materials. Customer feedback has been very positive, says Ranjit: “Seeing the smiles when they get their end result, and knowing we’ve succeeded in meeting their expectations, makes us happy.”
Because 90% of orders are managed in-house, Ranjit says, they can finish jobs faster than competitors. But perhaps their biggest advantage is the product range: “A customer comes in with a picture on his phone of his family or dog – we can put it on a mug, a t-shirt, a postcard! They dream and we build it!”
“And it’s about the personal touch, the relationships we’re developing,” Priya adds. The couple is grateful for the opportunities the Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) and PEI Connectors have provided, describing them as “springboards” that helped them make their new home on PEI when they arrived from Dubai in July 2018.
“Ali has been very helpful and friendly – he always answers any questions. He gave us advice on who to approach and develop relationships with. The entire team is amazing. Nindiya and Nicole have been very helpful.”
Ranjit adds that the “Charlottetown Chamber of Commerce has been very supportive,” and he appreciates the opportunities that being a member has presented.
“They’ve all been very, very helpful. They organized meetings so newcomers working on business plans could connect with members of different business sectors about opportunities and to learn from their experiences. We learned everything we needed to know.”

Lian Zhang - Client & Connector

Lian was born in Xiangzhou but lived in Beijing, China. She had an established career in media and completed a master’s degree in journalism and mass communication. But the aftermath of the Sichuan earthquake led Lian to join a charity organization responsible for providing psychological assistance to survivors. She began to re-evaluate her choices and look for opportunities to spend more time with her family and write another book. She saw a picture of downtown Charlottetown and took a leap of faith in 2013.
The Island’s quiet appeal was a perfect complement to her new aspirations. But the going was not so smooth, especially in the beginning. Lian was keen to join in community-building activities and pursue economic opportunities, and soon found PEI Connectors events to be just what she needed. “Of course, we had work experience in our country, but the experience here for the newcomer was just so different,” she says.
Partnering with her husband, she bought the space where her rental properties, New Life Building and Cozy Plaza, now stand. Both spaces are available for business owners looking for office space. “The most exciting thing is meeting people and talking about experiences from our motherland,” she says.
The first two years after buying and outfitting both properties were difficult because it was a new experience. But her optimism and desire to set a good example for her daughter has helped her find her footing. Lian is currently on the Board of Directors of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) Foundation and is co-authoring a book entitled Prince Edward Island Diary with her daughter. 

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