Today in the “Life As a Canadian Immigrant” series, we spoke to Wilfrid Komaclo, the Co-founder of Smarket4you; a marketplace for all Black-Owned Businesses in Canada. Immigrating to Canada is a result of his childhood dream which he had held on to for 12 years. In this episode, he states his challenges as an immigrant and what he is doing to actively help mitigate this and make the path smoother for other immigrants alike.
Please tell us a little about yourself.
I am Wilfrid Komaclo from the Benin Republic. I’m the Co-founder of Smarket4you; a marketplace for all Black-Owned Businesses in Canada. When I’m not Managing the platform, I’m working as a mortgage specialist or helping promote black-owned businesses on our social media pages.
Where in Canada do you live, and what motivated you to migrate?
I currently live in Kitchener, ONTARIO. I migrated to Canada in 2015 after holding onto a childhood dream for 12years. I’ll share this with you. I was a kid when I got a Christmas gift from a Canadian family. I didn’t know how or when, but I held onto the letter in the gift and told myself that one day I would meet this family. That motivated my dream to move to Canada and once the opportunity showed up, It didn’t matter where I was landing. I just wanted to leave. Unfortunately or fortunately, the picture was nowhere to be found once my Visa was issued and my Ticket to Canada was purchased. Talk about coincidence or destiny.
What are the key differences you can point out between living in Canada and back home?
The weather is a key factor to point out. But with time, we all adjust to it. Now let’s discuss some important facts. There is a huge difference between Canada and my country. I come from a busy and family-oriented country but Canada is like we say “one man for himself”. The opportunities are unlimited but It takes a lot to access them. Think about your native name as a major barrier to your own success. You are qualified but they need more proof compared to an individual that studied here.
The trend is not noticeable in the mega cities but in small towns like mine, you got to do more than just know your stuff.
What would you say you enjoy most about living in Canada?
The peace of mind and the resources that are made available to all individuals. It is easier to start a business in Canada compared to my country. There is a great support system made available by the government and as long as you “meet” the requirements, you can qualify.
Career-wise, how have you been able to navigate the waters and would you say the process is easier here?
The process is easier here for sure, but it all depends on where you live and you really don’t need to know someone to get the right job. You probably need to be in the right town and more.
As an immigrant in Canada, are they any major challenges you experienced/ are experiencing?
I came here speaking French compared to most Black living in my city. I thought it would be easier but it was even harder to integrate into the black community as a black. Even though we strive to change this way of things, the lack of support between black folks is breaking the chain of success and closing doors to newcomers. This is the reason why we created Smarket4you a platform that allows Black-owned businesses to sell their products and make their products available to the general public. This will hopefully add more visibility and boost sales.
You are the founder of a platform called Smartmarket. What motivated you to create this platform? And what key learning outcomes did you get from this?
Smartmarket is not just a marketplace for black-owned businesses in Canada, it is a community for black folks in Canada, to help promote their businesses and reconnect with their roots. As an immigrant in Canada, I faced some difficulties in the early days. The struggle to connect with fellow blacks In my city, the lack of information, resources, and support. I soon realized that having a platform where we can all come together as one, could unify us and connect others to the Black culture. This will be a way to create opportunities for all sizes of Black-owned businesses in Canada and immigrants.
As the platform grows, I derive pleasure knowing that the goal of Smartmarket is valid and that marketers are joining the community. I also got to learn about the barriers to the success of Black businesses in Canada and the opportunities that we are missing due to the lack of education in those domains.
As an immigrant in Canada, you are creating a platform for other immigrants and most importantly blacks in Canada. What level are you hoping to take this platform to and what are you looking to achieve with it?
Smartmarket is aiming to become the go-to for all things black in Canada. We are hoping to create more opportunities for Black folks in Canada. We are hoping to extend Smartmarket to all the communities in Canada, develop a delivery process that will help Black businesses with logistics, and create jobs. We are hoping to also partner with various institutions to educate Business owners on all the opportunities available to them in Canada, in order to take their businesses to another level. Have I mentioned grants, training, and physical Marketplaces? They are all part of our plans for the future. So, connect to Smartmarketforyou at http://www.smarket4you.com to either create a store as a black business owner and start selling, or Purchase all things, Black.
If you also believe in the dream, scroll to the footer, and donate to grow the Black community.
What pathway brought you to Canada, in retrospect do you think you could have gone through another pathway?
I migrated as a student and to date I argue with myself that I could have done things differently. But as a believer, it’s right to say that my path was ready before my decision was made. Every day I look for ways to create an impact in the Black community in Canada. Smarket4you came as a medium to connect Black folks to the world and we will keep doing more in our community to change the trend.
What advice do you have for those looking to migrate to Canada?
IT’s great to seek the help of immigration consultants, but while they are assisting you, kindly do your work as well and make sure you understand what you are getting into. Connect with the people that are already in the country and succeeding, before you complete the process. This will help you land in the right place.