The success of Portuguese entrepreneurs in Toronto.
By Marta Almeida | Translated by Loretta Murphy
Since the beginning of the of immigration process to Canada, even in the fifties, many Portuguese brought with them the dream of owning a business and being their own boss. In Toronto, projects were initially concentrated in the Kensington Market area, where many Portuguese chose to live. Over the years, business directed at the Portuguese community has expanded beyond Dundas Street West, reaching College as well, and that is how Little Portugal was born. Today, with the growth of the community in other areas of the city, you can buy a little of everything, speaking Portuguese, in regions such as Dupont Street, Rogers Road, and even outside of Toronto, including Mississauga, where there are several Portuguese businesses.
The Portuguese-based commercial niche brought to Canada products and services sought by immigrants. There are companies in virtually every segment that are managed by Portuguese, some already representing the third or fourth generation of pioneers. The Portuguese Commercial Guide, published for over 38 years, is a testament to Portuguese entrepreneurship on Canadian soil. There are about 300 pages with telephone numbers and addresses of Portuguese companies and professionals established in Canada. And there is no lack of optimism among them. Luís Pavão, owner of a traditional Portuguese sausage and butcher shop, states that the recent economic crisis has not affected business directed towards the Portuguese community in Toronto. “The Portuguese community is very hardworking, is highly connected with the construction industry, and not much has gone down in that sector,” said Pavão, whose company was founded by his grandparents in Portugal. Today he has four shops with 70 employees and 45 proprietary products, for a total of 30 tons sold per month. The entrepreneur credits this growth to the fact that his current focus is to serve other ethnic groups. In his opinion, business targeting only the Portuguese had its heyday 3 or 4 decades ago, and the secret to success is now to broaden horizons: “We are grateful to the Portuguese community, but I believe we can bring our expertise to other communities. The important thing is to show that our products are good. “