As we celebrate Small Business Week, there is no better time to highlight some of the outstanding small businesses in Toronto-St. Paul’s that contribute so much to our community! Small businesses are the restaurants, stores, services and artists that we love, and they are the backbone of our economy.
One example is Zezafoun, a Syrian restaurant run by the Aleid family right here in Toronto-St. Paul’s. The Aleids are refugees from Syria who first arrived in Canada four and a half years ago and realized just how difficult it was to get into the job market.
In Syria, Diala Aleid and her sister were involved in the media and production fields, while their mother was a teacher. Unfortunately, despite their credentials and experience in Syria, they spoke very little English and lacked Canadian work experience. Within two months of arriving in Canada, Diala’s mother had enrolled in English classes, participated in other training programs and started building-up work experience. The family eventually found their calling – to bring a taste of authentic Syrian cuisine to their new home. Things were tough in the first two months, as the family had never worked in a restaurant and financial stability was hard to achieve.
When the Aleids arrived from Syria, they were unsure how people would react to them, but soon learned just how welcoming and warm Canada can be. Through perseverance, and with the acceptance and support of our community, Zezafoun quickly became a popular favourite in Toronto-St. Paul’s. Since the restaurant opened six months ago, at the corner of Yonge Street and Manor Road, numbers have doubled and strong reviews have been pouring in! In fact, Zezafoun has needed to hire several more people to help them keep up with the expansive growth in business.
One of the Aleid family’s missions is to make their restaurant as inclusive as the country that has welcomed them with open arms. They have hired other refugees, members of the LGBTQ2+ community, and staff with special needs for positions throughout the restaurant. The Aleids want to open doors for people who may not have been given a chance elsewhere, just like the people of Toronto-St. Paul’s have done for them.
The inspiring story of Zezafoun and the Aleid family’s journey to success in Canada is also a wonderful example of how government policies and initiatives can do more than simply strengthen Canada’s economy and grow the middle class. By welcoming refugees, funding skills development programs and supporting small businesses, we can help provide opportunity to all kinds of people who might never have the chance to succeed otherwise – while also enriching our local communities.
Photo from BlogTO – Jesse Milns (2018-04-27)