Connect Legal

Connect Legal

March 07, 2013 08:00 ET

Winners of Connect Legal Most Promising Immigrant Entrepreneur Award-Awarded for Grit, Vision and Ability to Take Their Businesses to the Next Level

Connect Legal's free legal education and advice pays off for two immigrant entrepreneurs.

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 7, 2013) -

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Carolina Velez, an importer of an exotic yellow fruit from her home country of Colombia, and Sanjay Pandrala of India, who started a pest control and landscaping business with nothing but a positive attitude and a $350 investment in a bug sprayer, were jointly presented with the inaugural Connect Legal Most Promising Immigrant Entrepreneur Award last night at a reception at the RBC Royal Bank Plaza.

The winners were among the five finalist immigrant small business owners who had received the support of registered charity Connect Legal, an organization that provides legal education workshops and free legal services in collaboration with Toronto's legal community.

"The two winners personify the mission and spirit of Connect Legal," says Founder and President of Connect Legal and lawyer, Marion Annau. "Both are on a trajectory to grow their businesses, and both successfully leveraged the legal resources through Connect Legal made available to them to make it happen."

The Winners are:

Carolina Velez, ColombiaExotic-importer of exotic fruits.

Carolina arrived in Canada with a business degree from her native Colombia. She saw an opportunity to leverage the new trading relationship between Colombia and Canada and bring some of her favourite fruits to Canada. Carolina formed ColombiaExotic, and became among the first distributors in Ontario of an exotic fruit called yellow pitahaya, and landed Loblaws as her first customer.

Attending a Connect Legal workshop helped Carolina understand the different forms of business organization. Further volunteer lawyer assistance enabled her to read and negotiate supplier contracts with confidence.

After just twelve months in business, Carolina expects to import over two tons of yellow pitahaya per week and is quickly expanding her importing to other exotic fruits and even non-perishable items. Carolina believes that Canada is a country of possibilities and anyone can achieve their goals with hard work and perseverance.

"Many times big corporations closed the door on me. Instead of feeling defeated I took the entrepreneurial path and now I couldn't go back to being an employee. Coming to Canada and becoming an entrepreneur have been the best decisions I have made in my life so far," says Carolina.

Sanjay Pandrala, BUGMAN Pest Control Landscaping Services & Trading Company

With a B.Sc. in horticultural science from India and work experience in India, Oman and Canada, Sanjay decided that if he truly wanted to get ahead, he should start his own business. With the purchase of a sprayer and the distribution of some flyers, BUGMAN Pest Control was launched.

Sanjay leveraged the Connect Legal program to develop the employment and customer contracts needed to run his business.

Today Sanjay's perseverance has paid off. He has served almost 800 clients and he uses every opportunity to market additional services to existing and potential clients.

"We hope," Sanjay explains, "that our experience will become an example for other new immigrant entrepreneurs who come to Canada to follow their own hopes and dreams."

To date, with the help of some of Canada's leading law firms, Connect Legal has served over 600 aspiring entrepreneurs. "I am especially appreciative of the hard work of our Board of Directors and of the tremendous support of the Maytree Foundation and founding law firms Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP and McCarthy Tétrault LLP," says Marion Annau. "Together, through free legal support, we have helped countless low-resource immigrants to achieve their entrepreneurial dreams."

The winners will each receive a $1,000 and a business mentoring session.

The Selection Committee for the award included Marion Annau, Founder and President, Connect Legal; Alan Broadbent, Chairman, Maytree Foundation; Pradeep Sood, President and CEO, XactScribe Inc.; and Martha Tredgett, Executive Director, LGT Capital Partners.

Speakers at the event include David Allgood, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Royal Bank of Canada; Ratna Omidvar, President, the Maytree Foundation; and Mark D. Wiseman, President & CEO, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

About Connect Legal (www.connectlegal.ca)

Connect Legal fosters entrepreneurship in the immigrant community by providing legal educational services and pro bono (free) commercial legal assistance to low-resource immigrant entrepreneurs. In this way, Connect Legal seeks to advance the integration of new immigrants into the economy for the benefit and prosperity of all. Concurrently, Connect Legal provides an opportunity for commercial lawyers to give back to the community by sharing their expertise and providing volunteer legal services.

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