If you have a taste for savoury cuisine, here's some food for thought: there are about 72,000 restaurants for you to try in Canada. This is salivating news for Chantelle Buffie, a self-professed foodie and business administration student at Simon Fraser University's Beedie School of Business. There, she has put her entrepreneurial spirit and passion for food and cooking to work as the co-founder of Fusion Kitchen, a social enterprise she started with fellow student Sonam Swarup.
Recipient of the 2013 National HSBC Woman Leader of Tomorrow Award from Enactus Canada, Buffie describes Fusion Kitchen as a platform for immigrants to gain work experience, build self-confidence, and develop transferrable skill sets in a Canadian, inclusive, and non-judgmental environment.
When immigrants come to Canada ÔÇª they tend to fall into jobs that aren't necessarily aligned with what they want to do career-wise, so we're trying to target individuals who are more interested in the cooking or teaching industries and helping them transition into the Canadian workforce through our platform, says Buffie. She says the HSBC award recognizes and celebrates female post-secondary students for their ingenuity, love for community and country, and entrepreneurial leadership. She and her Enactus team at SFU were given a $2,500 grant to put towards the development of an initiative to advance women in their community.
With a drive for business that has thrived for as long as she can remember, Buffie says her perspective of the industry is always changing, especially as she continues to navigate through university and simultaneously run her organization. But balancing so many items on one plate is all part of the tradeoff.
Beedie School of Business has been great in encouraging and supporting me to grow as an individual beyond just school and academia, says Buffie, adding she's been fortunate enough to go on an international exchange to Milan. I've also done a co-op term at Telus, which actually led to me getting a permanent role with the organization, and there's a bunch of faculty and staff that have been supportive and instrumental in my pursuit of entrepreneurship. So just having that environment where they really encourage you to become an overall, well-balanced person has been great.
According to Buffie, she and Swarup spent about two years working for Enactus SFU, a non-profit global organization that brings together university groups to develop social, environmental, and economic projects in the local community. We took a social entrepreneurship class at the Beedie School of Business and everything just kind of aligned, in terms of using our non-profit background, our skills of business, and the fact that we wanted to help empower these groups of individuals that we also personally connect with, she says. And we also just love food, travel, and culture.
She advises young, aspiring entrepreneurs to leverage the fact that you're a student because people are generally more willing to offer you their time and feedback knowing that you're in school. I've been fortunate enough to meet and sit down with people I don't think would make the time if I was not a student already, says Buffie. Make as many connections as possible as a student because I think students tend to be afraid to make mistakes, but people are more forgiving when you're a student.