Julia Cui emigrated from China in 2015.
When she first navigated her way around a fast-food drive-thru in Charlottetown, she was nervous about placing her order. And when she was asked to “pull her car ahead” she had no idea what that meant.
She realized other immigrants must have the same difficulties adjusting to Canadian culture, and decided to open a language school, which is also her interest. To test her idea, she researched the PEI market, and talked to many local people, including her own English and French teachers.
Avance Learning Centre opened in May, 2016. Currently, the school offers beginner and intermediate instruction in three languages: French, English, and Chinese. Julia plans to offer advanced courses in the future. In addition to language skills, some classes also focus on common scenarios such as shopping, banking, and ordering food.
So far, Julia has hired three teachers and an office administration person. “The teachers began designing the courses in May, and now we are interested in hiring more people to fill different time slots as we offer more courses.”
Teachers must have a Bachelor of Education degree and a criminal background check. “A letter of reference and bilingualism is a plus,” says Julia. “Someone who could teach both English and French would be ideal. They could also participate in our promotion activities from time to time.
“My present staff are excellent and they work really hard. Our teachers are very experienced. The courses were all designed by them, so they are willing and happy to teach.”
Julia regularly holds culture salons to introduce the culture, art, music, food, and customs of different countries. Three culture salons about Canada and Iran have already been conducted, and more are planned for the future. “Our slogan is ‘Participate as an audience member or a presenter, it’s your choice!”
Help to start the business
Julia credits The PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada as being very helpful to share information about her services and the culture salons on Facebook. They also partner with each other to host a social communication activity called “Friday Friendship Hour” at Avance Learning Centre on a regular basis from now until next May. The event aims to help new and established Islanders to meet each other, learn about different cultures, and develop a network.
“I am new to this area, and I am a new entrepreneur, so I am not familiar with the norms and regulations in Canada. A business consultant helped me to research the market, find a lawyer to register my company, introduced me to some experienced people who knew the market, and found the office space for me.
“I also found a HR consultant to help me establish my HR processes. I met her at a meeting arranged by PEI Connectors, where experienced entrepreneurs met with new entrepreneurs. They helped me learn more about the local business community, and about starting a business in Canada.”