Multiculturalism Week in British Columbia is Nov. 13-19, 2016, a time to celebrate B.C.s rich, cultural mosaic. Nana’s Kitchen & Hot Sauces Ltd. is one of five multicultural champions profiled this week.
Shelina Mawani and Nasim Dhanji are no strangers to hard work and challenging situations. After arriving in Canada from East Africa, the sisters had to learn a new way of life in a new country. In 1998, they opened a restaurant but had to close their doors after only a year. Undeterred, Mawani and Dhanji took a more scaled-back approach – selling their gourmet samosas door to door to small cafeterias and to coffee shops. Their persistence paid off and in 2000, Nana’s Kitchen & Hot Sauces Ltd. rose from the ashes of the failed restaurant. Today, the company employs 40 people at a 2,250 square-metre (25,000 square-foot) production facility in Surrey.
“As our business started to grow, we found that we were primarily employing women with a variety of cultural backgrounds from around the world,” Mawani says. “Since then, we have strived to create an environment where language is not a barrier to employment because we believe multiculturalism and diversity are strengths, not weaknesses. We are nothing without our amazing staff.”
Mawani and Dhanji’s dedication to fostering multiculturalism also earned them a 2015 British Columbia Multicultural Award in the business category. The multicultural champions are keenly aware of the importance of embracing cultural diversity and promoting acceptance.
“As new Canadians, we’ve found a way to give back what was given to us so many years ago. It’s created many proud moments,” Mawani says. “For example, women who only a few short years ago spoke no English and had no computer skills are currently in management positions with our company. Others are now fully certified to operate forklifts where previously they often had no idea how to drive when they arrived in this country. We are empowering them and helping them to find their independence through patience and kindness.”
One year after receiving their British Columbia Multicultural Award, Mawani and Dhanji continue to ride the wave of their company’s success, selling their food products to vendors in 5,000 grocery stores throughout North America. They are also encouraging other businesses around the province to promote multiculturalism in their communities by creating workplaces based on acceptance and diversity.
“British Columbia is vastly multicultural, so don’t make language, culture and diversity a negative issue,” Mawani says. “Rather, embrace differences with love and respect and offer to help newcomers to our country. I guarantee you will reap the rewards a thousand times over.”
The 2016 British Columbia Multicultural Awards to honour B.C.’s multicultural champions will be held November 18 in Vancouver.
British Columbia Multicultural Awards: http://www2.gov.bc.ca/gov/content/governments/celebrating-britishcolumbia/honours-and-awards/bc-multicultural-awards
2016 B.C. Multiculturalism Week: https://news.gov.bc.ca/12795