Members of the Manitoba-Chinese business community are marking the Year of the Rooster by celebrating new opportunities and relationships.
On Feb. 3, IDO Media (2615 Pembina Hwy.) is hosting the first annual Manitoba Chinese Business Gala, to coincide with the Lunar New Year, at Canad Inns Fort Garry (1824 Pembina Hwy.). The gala dinner will feature performances from Sichuan Cultural Exchange Performance Group and presentations from local political leaders and business executives, but networking will be in the spotlight that evening.
Fisher Wang, CEO of IDO Media and founder and president of the Manitoba Chinese Community Centre, said the Chinese population along south Pembina Highway is booming, with students arriving to study at the University of Manitoba and newcomers settling in the area.
"The Chinese population has been growing substantially in recent years," Wang explained, stopping short of labelling the region "new" Chinatown. "There’s more and more newcomers from China to Manitoba because it’s easier to apply for permanent residency."
According to Wang, the population, while small at about 30,000 people, is a wealthy one with members who are interested in becoming entrepreneurs, purchasing homes in the area, and having the means to make big ticket purchases. However, newcomers are also isolated in many ways Wang said, noting language barriers and different media consumption habits.
"That’s why we have had more Chinese businesses open and more businesses want to target this new demographic," Wang said.
The gala will be an opportunity for well-established local businesses and executives to connect with members of the Manitoba-Chinese community and entrepreneurs with new startups to build relationships with companies that have been operating in Winnipeg for years.
"There are many very interesting Chinese business that formed in the past year," Wang said. "For example, we have a stone countertop business, an instant print (business) and a Chinese company making frozen dumplings (founded in Winnipeg) and now it’s selling out of Superstore."
"There are many Chinese entrepreneurs and businesses that want to join a local business group and want to become more Western."
Glen Buhler, founder of local professional organization Today’s Executive Network (TEN), said adding a diversity of experience, culture and perspectives only benefits the group’s networking efforts. TEN has a membership of about 1,800 executives and business leaders in Manitoba and is a sponsor of the business gala.
"I’m fortunate that I was born here in Manitoba. My grandparents though, were not. They came to Canada, didn’t know anybody, and they wanted to start a construction business back in the ’50s. It’s a pretty daunting task if you don’t know the culture, the people, the language — they just spoke German and a bit of Russian," Buhler said.
"I can only imagine how difficult it would have been to get their start. So for us to be able to support people who have a similar challenge ahead of themselves, I think that’s a thing that we can do, to bridge that gap."
According to Buhler, business organizations can also miss valuable opportunities when they become isolated and leaders don’t look outside their immediate network of connections.
"We really try to represent entrepreneurs and executives from all the different segments across the business community in Manitoba," Buhler said. "By getting different perspectives and different exposure to ways people think and going beyond your initial network, there’s value to that."