Filipino business leaders in Alberta have formed a new chamber of commerce to give a voice to that community, which they say is badly needed.
Organizers hope the chamber will help unify Filipino business owners in Alberta and give those enterprises more visibility, along with improving collaboration and advocacy.
The idea came from a leadership forum earlier this summer.
“There’s a massive business community that doesn’t have a voice,” said the chair of the newly formed Filipino Chamber of Commerce Alberta, Michael Siervo.
Siervo says about 175,000 Albertans identify themselves as Filipino, with 25 per cent of newcomers to the province coming from the Philippines.
“Our mission is to increase the visibility, the standards and the ethics of all the businesses. And that’s going to help the cultural welfare, the civic welfare and the economic welfare of all those businesses,” said Siervo.
He says networking and connecting businesses can help share best practices and valuable experience.
The 14-member board is made up of business owners from a wide variety of backgrounds — from the medical sector to the restaurant industry.
“Just that sense of belonging to something is really, really important in the Filipino community,” said Siervo.
Mike Lescano is a local business owner backing the idea of a Filipino-specific chamber of commerce to improve visibility and better connect Filipino businesses. (Dan McGarvey/CBC)
“A lot of the Filipinos that come here might not feel comfortable joining one of the larger groups. And that connection with other Filipinos going through the same journey that they’ve gone through might help them feel a bit more comfortable sharing their thoughts and stories,” Siervo added.
Siervo says the chamber will also help challenge stereotypes of Filipinos as hard workers rather than successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.
“There are a lot of entrepreneurial stories that are not being shared,” he said.
Stories like Mike Lescano’s. He just opened his own printing business in Airdrie. He’s one of many Filipinos taking the lead as a business leader who supports the idea of a chamber.
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“Filipinos, we’re talented and skilled people, but in a way we’re not united as a group. If we’re going to be forming this I think it’s going to be big because everybody will know everybody, supporting each business,” said Lescano.
“If everybody has one common goal, at the end of the day you’re going to be successful,” he added.
“Everybody knows Filipinos are hard working. We want to contribute to the Canadian economy. It’s good to get involved in a community and share your success.”
Chamber chair Michael Siervo says the chamber will help build relationships in other provinces and territories across Canada and abroad, including building links back to the Philippines and into the U.S.
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