International Women's Day is a global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. In Canada, immigrant women face unique challenges when it comes to starting and growing their own businesses, particularly in the food industry. Many lack the resources and networks necessary to navigate the complex regulations and cultural norms that can make entrepreneurship difficult.
In honour of International Women’s Day, we’re showcasing the women of Flavours of Hope - one of Coho’s community partners that empowers immigrant and refugee women to start their business in the food industry in Canada. Their 9-month Dream Cuisines program provides educational workshops, peer knowledge sharing, kitchen space at Coho Commissary, access to various sales channels such as stands at the Vancouver Farmers Markets, and a network of supportive relationships with mentors and Dream Cusines Alumni.
Flavours of Hope
Trixie Ling was born in Taipei, Taiwan. Growing up and living in many places from Taiwan, Singapore, The United States, and Canada, she found food was the easiest way to build friendships and connections across cultures. She launched Flavours of Hope in March 2018 as a labour of love, stemming from her passion for creating intercultural spaces and opportunities to learn together, break down barriers, and share stories through food.
Since the beginning of their Dream Cuisines program, Trixie is most proud of the growth that each woman has shown, explaining that many of them came to Canada with a few phrases of English on hand. Through the program, they are able to sell their products at Vancouver Farmers Markets, work and learn from other food businesses at Coho’s Commissary, and share their stories and connect with customers both in person and online. Trixie has seen these women gain independence and flourish in environments that were once daunting to them.
Jasmine Noble joined the Flavours of Hope team this year as their Communications and Design coordinator. She’s worked with them in the past through the BC Association of Farmers' Markets as a photographer and writer, and was excited to join their team formally in January. Having spent half of her life growing up in the Philippines, food for her is a means to welcome people, show love, and foster community. She is happiest while eating a spoonful of fresh warm rice dipped in sinigang (tamarind stew), eating with her hands, and finishing each meal with buko pandan (coconut dessert), while sharing stories with her loved ones. Her favourite part about working at Flavours of Hope is witnessing and experiencing the support and camaraderie within this community of women who inspire each other every day.
Mis Cazuelas Mexican Food
Angeles Canedo is a longtime Flavours of Hope member, who started Mis Cazuelas Mexican Food in 2020 with the Dream Cuisines Pilot Program. When Angeles arrived in Canada in 2016, she did not know anyone in the city was considering if she should find a new line of work or start her retirement. After meeting Trixie through a church program, she was inspired to start her business to share the food she missed from home with others and showcase the variety of dishes in Mexican cuisine. Since opening Mis Cazuelas, Angeles has found a sense of belonging amongst the Flavours of Hope community and a newfound confidence to share her story through her delicious Mexican food.
Currently, Angeles cooks her food at Coho’s East Vancouver kitchen and wakes up at 4am every weekend to prepare for the Vancouver Farmer’s Markets. Angeles aims to take her business to the next level to operate a virtual kitchen and stocking her packaged products on the shelves of local grocers.
Mis Cazuelas’s advice for young female entrepreneurs: “Be loyal to your recipes and be loyal to your story. Sharing the story behind your food and the reasons why you started making it, is what makes your food unique.”
Super Awesome Eats
In 2020, Vijaya Bhat moved to Canada and, like many others, began experimenting with sourdough during the pandemic. She had always dreamed of owning her own food business, and decided to turn it into a reality by creating her signature sourdough cinnamon rolls inspired by Asian flavours. With the help of Flavours of Hope, Vijaya launched Super Awesome Eats through the Dream Cuisines Program. Juggling a full-time job in addition to her food business, Vijaya is preparing to meet the growing demand for her unique buns.
Vijaya’s words of wisdom to women hoping to start their food business is to not give up. “There will be a lot of struggle, especially in the first couple of years because you’re still trying to figure things out. See what works and see what doesn't work. Do farmers markets, do events, do catering. Through those, you'll get tons of feedback and keep on improving, and keep on doing better.”
Keep an eye out for Vijaya, as her ultimate goal is to open an Indian cafe, where she can sell her cinnamon rolls, Mangalore buns, and share the special dishes from her community in India.
Rose Royal Persian Bakery
Rose Minachi and her daughter Ariana arrived in Canada from Iran two years ago. Rose handcrafts, exquisite Persian desserts using rosewater, cardamom, and other aromatic ingredients. She treats her baking as an art form, with meticulous attention to detail in every cookie and baclava she sells.
Initially, Rose worked at Celeshmet Restaurant, a Persian restaurant located in Vancouver. Through the Dream Cuisines program, Rose opened Rose Royal Persian Bakery in 2022. She has since joined a community of women and friends who share similar experiences as immigrants and passion for food. In her two years in Canada, Rose has courageously launched a business, improved her English, and can confidently navigate her way around the city.
Rose dreams of eventually opening her own Persian cafe in Vancouver. She hopes to share authentic treats from her home country, provide jobs to those in need, and support her daughter.
Rose’s advice for other women hoping to pursue their dreams was نترس, translated in English meaning “don’t be afraid”.
6 years ago, Angelica Davalos Ramirez fell in love with the art of sweets. She moved to Canada in 2020 and joined Flavours of Hope’s Dream Cuisine Pilot Program, where she started Tinker Bake, selling Mexican desserts and sugar cookies with meticulous designs. When Angelica first arrived, she didn’t know any English aside from “hello” and “goodbye”, but by the end of her first year with Flavours of Hope, she was proud to be sharing her background and the story behind her products with customers. Angelica has recently expanded her menu to include breads and vegan products to make her Mexican sweets available for as many people as possible.
Angelica described owning a small business to be like a big hug. “Sometimes we think we need to do it alone, but there are always people behind you to lean on, people beside you that are encouraging you, and the people in front of you that are inspiring you. If something gives you happiness, take it. Believe that you are capable, improve your skills, and share your story with others.”
Huda Abdelhamid moved to Canada six years ago from Egypt with her husband, daughter, and son. In 2020, she joined Flavours of Hope’s Dream Cuisines Pilot Program and started SuperDishes, making Egyptian halal food with pride, love, and fresh ingredients. Huda currently operates out of Coho’s East Georgia commissary, where she makes each of her dishes by hand, with cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, and coriander in her back pocket.
It wasn’t until Huda came to Canada that she grew proud of her Egyptian culture. She’s excited to now be able to share her food made with her mother’s recipes and loves the community she’s built through Flavours of Hope’s access to sales channels and within Coho Commissary. With her food acting as an aid to overcome any language barrier, Huda has learned techniques from her neighbours and has been gracefully sharing her story with customers. She hopes to one day share her Middle-Eastern spices, tasty herbs, and vegan options with even more customers, and eventually open a store or restaurant in Vancouver.
One of Flavour’s of Hope’s key goals is to increase access, equity and representation in the food industry for newcomer women. As Coho continues to partner with Flavours of Hope, we are excited to support this community of courageous female entrepreneurs. Later this year, Flavours of Hope will be announcing 5 new women who are part of their 3rd cohort to join the Dream Cuisines program. Follow Flavours of Hope on social media to stay in the loop as they announce these new businesses.