From Business to Social Entrepreneurship
There are many uncertainties as one leaves their native country to come to Canada and embark on an immigration process, but one thing is certain – hard work is required, but it pays off and eventually most of the newcomers to Canada feel happy about their decision.
Chuang Wei Mu, with an MBA degree and 10 years of experience as a public servant in a Provincial Government of China, and his wife Ming Shan Gu, a teacher of English language for 13 years, planned to continue their careers in their respective fields when they arrived in Canada in 2003 with their 4 year old daughter Ivy.
In pursuance of this goal, Ming completed a one year BA program in Education from Lakehead University in Thunder Bay. However, when the time to search for employment came, it turned out to be very difficult to find a job as a teacher, because of a recent policy that had allowed retired teachers to come back to work, leading to excess of teachers in the job market.
At this time, the experience that the couple had at a Mac’s Convenience Store during Ming’s studies appeared to suggest the solution that would open up a new career path for them. After a rigorous interview and training process, Chuang and Ming were selected to be a business partner with Mac’s Convenience Stores Inc - Canada’s largest convenience retail chain with a network of over 2000 stores across the country. Chuang and Ming’s first store was in Brockville.
The work at Mac’s Convenience Store was a good opportunity, not only to become established entrepreneurs, but also to meet with many community members who were their customers and to make new friends. Ming and Chuang worked hard and achieved good reputations in the community. Ming gratefully remembers how one of their customers brought a special gift for her father when he learnt that they are going to visit their parents in China.
After three years of successful work, Mac’s Convenience Stores Inc. promoted them to a high volume store with a gas station in Smiths Falls. Their life in Canada became more stabilized.
But the dream of being a teacher was still alive and it once again came to light when Ming heard about the International Language Program of the Ministry of Education from her daughter’s teacher of Mandarin in Ottawa. Until this point, the couple were driving their daughter to Ottawa every week to take Mandarin classes, because there were none in the area that they lived.
The International Language Program created an excellent opportunity for Ming to teach Mandarin to her daughter in a classroom with other children, as well as share her native culture with her host community. It took only two months to apply for the grant through the French Catholic School Board and establish the first class in St. Margaret School of Merrickville, with enrollment of 26 students. The success was followed by the Chinese Arts and Culture Immersion Summer Camp in Brockville and the establishment of a permanent Saturday class in Brockville’s Ange-Gabriel School with current registration of 60 students.
The couple’s entrepreneurial skills and love for both of their countries and people led Ming and Chuang to establish the Wenbo Language School, which in Mandarin means Sharing Culture. Its mission is to offer free Chinese Mandarin Language and culture classes to children of all ethnic backgrounds. “Language and culture are inseparable,” says Ming. “I believe learning a new language is opening a window to a new world, and I want to provide this opportunity to my Canadian friends and to the friends of my daughter.”
The mascot of the school is an Owl, and was designed by the 11-year old Ivy, the talented girl of the proud parents. Ivy has thrived in Canada’s social and education systems, demonstrating excellent abilities in arts and culture and during the past few years she has won several awards, including: a Spelling Bee Contest; Royal Canadian Legion Remembrance Day Poster Design Contest; Brockville Music Festival.
But the ambition of Ming and Chuang has not stopped with the opening of the Wenbo Language School. They have started to actively look for ways to promote even greater partnerships through international education and tourism among their host communities and their hometown of Zhengzhou - the capital of the most populated Henan province of China. A partnership agreement is already signed with the Upper Canada District School Board to assist with recruiting Chinese students. Chuang has the necessary contacts with the education administrators in the Henan Province to help build an educational bridge between the two regions.
“It’s not about money. We may, or may not, gain income from this activity,” says Ming “but our motivation is to do something good for both of our countries. Chinese teenagers need the Canadian education and the economies and communities here will benefit from the increased tourism, demand of goods and services and diverse student population that the Chinese youth bring with them. We have been well accepted in Brockville and Smiths Falls, provided with assistance and an opportunity to build our lives here - and we want to give the same good in return.”
The couple was interviewed by CBC Network as a Smiths Falls Entrepreneur and was selected as one of Smiths Falls’ ambassadors in 2010.