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Meet Denzel: Different Perspectives

1.       What brought you to Leeds and Grenville/Canada?

I came to Canada for the work opportunities, and to run away from corruption. I came to Brockville for work, as I was able to get more hours here than when I worked in Kingston. Now, I’ve started my own business with my partner, Jenni Stotts, called Tandem Unified Wellness.

2.       Did you find Canada welcoming when you first got here? Why or why not?

I didn’t find Canada welcoming when I first arrived. The country seemed welcoming during the application process, but when I arrived, I was detained at the airport for four hours. They questioned me the whole time, like they didn’t believe my story, before they finally let me enter. It’s been much better since then.

3.       What do you think this area does well in being welcoming?

I think this area needs to work on being more welcoming, on accepting different peoples and cultures. I get looks, and often people ask if I’m from Toronto. It doesn’t feel very welcoming at those times.

4.       Was there anything that surprised you about this area/Canada?

I like how things work in general. If something is broken, you can find someone to fix it without issue. You can also see where your tax money goes. You might not agree, but you know where it’s being used, which is quite different from Zimbabwe. I find the people here different from Americans. People are very nice, and want to help people, but sometimes aren’t assertive, which can be to their detriment. I do find the Canadian education system amazing.

5.       How was it finding housing? A job?

Finding housing was fine, up until 2018. I was still in Kingston at the time, and the market exploded. My rent essentially doubled.

6.       Have you been satisfied with the health care (physical and mental) in this area?

I find health care depends on what your immigration status is. Before I had Permanent Residency, I had no benefits and had to pay out of pockets. Now that I have my Permanent Residency, most things are covered by OHIP which is great. There’s a lot more coverage here in Canada. We have to pay for health insurance in Zimbabwe, and there are still things not covered even with it.

7.       Are you involved in the community? If so, how?

I’ve been very involved with my local communities. First in Kingston, where I volunteered at the YMCA for a few years, as well as working with Youth Diversion, where I did workouts and gave talks. I started Kingston Freestyle Dance at Queen’s University because people my age had nowhere to dance there. It ran for four years. I’ve also been on art grant panels, since I’m also a dancer, mostly out of Ottawa.

In Brockville, I’ve participated in sidewalk sales, the Pride Parade, and other local events. Tandem Unified Wellness, our company, will be in the Pride Parade again this year in Brockville.

8.       What groups/organizations/services do you wish were here in this area?

I think Canada should have more information in central locations or in-person centres, focusing on information about free local services, the immigration process, and other supports for newcomers.

9.       What was the most important thing you found was already here?

When I received my Permanent Residency, I could work anywhere. Before that, I worked a lot of different jobs for cash. It’s different here, where there are labour shortages. In Zimbabwe, people are sometimes begging for work. I love that education up to secondary school is all free. In Zimbabwe you have to pay for all levels of education. It’s a game changer here.

10.   What do you think is most important for people to know/think about when working/connecting with immigrants?

I think people should really listen to immigrants’ stories. Try to visualize it and understand. We need to listen and focus on the person, not just prepare to respond with our own experience. Immigrants are already here, and have gone through a lot to get here, so it’s nice to listen to their stories and why they came.

11.   What supports do you know about that can help newcomers in this area?

I worked with KEYS in Kingston, specifically with refugees who were accessing their services. I played games with them and listened to their stories.

12.   How did you come to start your business?

I first started volunteering at the YMCA in Kingston, then worked as a personal trainer there for a year. I then moved to Brockville for more hours, and have been here for a few years. Recently, my partner and myself left the YMCA to start Tandem Unified Wellness.

13.   Did any experiences from Zimbabwe help you in opening/running your business?

One of the biggest is the every day hustle mindset. Coming to Canada, I see different opportunities, compared to those who grew up here, as I have a different perspective. The various jobs I’ve worked, both in Zimbabwe and here in Canada, have all taught me different skills and things that have helped started and run this business. Even my parents, my father being an accountant, and my mother was a teacher, have helped shape me and my business. I did have to change some of my focus, as I’ve found aesthetics are a big thing here, as are DIYs, but that’s all helped make Tandem Unified Wellness what it is.

14.   Did you use any local supports or programs to help start your business?

We participated in Starter Company Plus through the Small Business Centre, which gave us a grant as well as information and training.

15.   What challenges have you found in starting the business?

Rent has been one of the biggest challenges and expenses. We’re breaking even, but it’s been hard starting out. We’re still working on gathering new clients and growing Tandem Unified Wellness to make it a success. Another challenge can be having friends as clients/customers, as the lines between professional and personal get blurred. But that’s true of any business.

16.   Have you experienced any expected or unexpected successes with your business so far?

It’s not unexpected, but our members are the biggest success for Tandem Unified Wellness. They know why they come to us and keep coming back. We attract people who want to transform themselves physically and spiritually, which has helped us create a respectful and welcoming environment for all of our clients.

We’ve also begun collaborating with other local businesses, including Queen Care and St. Lawrence Psychotherapy and Wellness. It’s been great to work together with other businesses, so we can help each other grow.

17.   Are there any programs or supports do you wish you had access to, that would help you?

I think more financial opportunities would be good for us, and any new business. Though we would likely reinvest anything into the business. We’re working hard at increasing our client base.

18.   Do you have any advice for anyone looking to start their own business?

If you want to start your own business, you have to know that it’s your personality, as well as who you’re working with. Your business is like a baby, and you have to raise it until it can function on its own, which often takes years. It’s not for everyone. It’s a high-risk undertaking, and you have to protect yourself while you do it.

19.   What do you wish people knew about you or your business?

I’d like people to know that Tandem Unified Wellness is fun! We try to stay up to date on everything, we tailor our programs and work to each client, and we guarantee that our clients will see growth in a month’s time. We’re dedicated to our clients and want them to succeed!



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