Interested in starting your own entrepreneurial journey in business development but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Christina Wong, Clo-Founder of Employ to Empower, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.

What's your business, and who are your customers?

Employ to Empower (ETE) is a registered charitable organization serving the low-income residents of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES). We use entrepreneurship as a vehicle to cultivate community, a sense of belonging, and confidence for people facing work and social barriers. We provide free access to skills training resources like business planning, mentorship, and education opportunities to empower people who face barriers to becoming the resource themselves and helping others, creating a ripple effect of impact.

Tell us about yourself

Some background on myself, my name is Christina Wong, and I was born and raised in Vancouver, BC as the middle child alongside two brothers. Growing up, I always felt like a misfit and didn't quite belong. My parents divorced when I was four, and I moved back and forth between homes & families one too many times. The first time I felt a sense of connection and belonging was in the DTES when I started volunteering at age 14, where community members met me with authenticity and honesty.

More importantly, I learned that there was a lot more to the DTES community than the stereotypes the media had to portray (crime, drugs & violence.) I soon learned that entrepreneurship was a need in the DTES community as it's hard to work a traditional 9-5 job with barriers like chronic health issues/disabilities. This led me to leave my job and start to Employ to Empower in 2018 - where we offer accessible resources for people facing systemic barriers to embark on their entrepreneurial journey.

What's really exciting about our community is through facilitating entrepreneurship, we notice that it's a tool that helps cultivate belonging and confidence so that eventually, the entrepreneurs in our program become the resource and help others, creating a ripple effect of change. The entrepreneurs in my program motivate me every day. I learn so much from them -- and they keep me grounded. We invite our community participants to share their feedback to better improve our programming. We deeply follow the model of "Nothing about us without us."

What's your biggest accomplishment as a business owner?

Being able to build trust and rapport with the Downtown Eastside neighborhood.

What's one of the hardest things that come with being a business owner?

Believing that I can do hard things. Sometimes.

What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow a business today?

  1. Starting doesn't have to be a grand gesture, where everything is in place. Starting could mean having a 30-minute coffee with someone who you look up to and ask for advice. That's how I got started.
  2. Leading with humility has gotten me far. I know what I don't know, and I don't know what I don't know, and I own that proudly. When I know what I don't know, I ask for support - strategically.
  3. Asking for a 30-minute coffee and meeting up wherever they want is helpful.

Is there anything else you'd like to share?

Doing business is like a cha-cha. Sometimes we take one step forward, and sometimes we take one step backward.

Where can people find you and your business?


If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.

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