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My Immigrant Story from Hong Kong to Toronto Canada

Around 2 weeks ago, our Immigrantion Minister made a huge announcement on the most aggressive immigration plan ever in Canada’s history.

$1.2 million immigrants in the next 3 years, around 400,000 per year.

Just last week, he made another big announcement, specifically for Hong Kongers.

A new expedited immigration program will be launched in early 2021 to attract young people in Hong Kong to come study or work in Canada, and eventually become permanent residents.

He started his opening speech by stressing the importance of immigration.

In terms of health care, more than one-third of our family doctors, nurses and pharmacists come from abroad.

In terms of job creation, 1 in 3 businesses with employees in Canada is owned by an immigrant. 

These entrepreneurs employed over a quarter of a million people across the country.

So it makes perfect sense that immigration will drive our economic recovery.

Hong Kong is getting special treatment because of the recent political movements and the deep ties between Canada and Hong Kong.

Do you know how many Canadians were born in Hong Kong?

Half a million.  And I’m one of them.

But only around 200,000 live in Canada and around 300,000 are still living in Hong Kong.

In the 1990s, we were very worried about Hong Kong’s handover from Britain to China in 1997.  So we came to Canada.

In the 2000s, things in Hong Kong were still pretty much the same as before, so a lot of people moved back to Hong Kong for job opportunities.

In the recent couple years, China started exercising more and more power over Hong Kong.  That was exactly what people were worried about 20 years ago.

So more and more Hong Kong Canadians have started coming back to Canada.

Whether you are a Canadian debating whether you should come back…

Or you are a newcomer trying to start a new life in Canada…

My immigrant story can give you some inspiration.

During my last high school year in Hong Kong, many of my classmates started leaving for other countries like the UK, Australia and Canada.

My close group of friends happened to be going to Toronto.

As a high school boy, I really just wanted to follow my friends.

So I told my parents that I wanted to attend university in Toronto.

In 1991, I arrived in Toronto alone as an international student.

I lived in a basement and attended Grade 13 in a neighbourhood school.

School was very easy because I had already learnt all that stuff in Hong Kong.

So I had a lot of time to spend with my friends and talked about all these money making ideas.

Then I got into the University of Toronto for an electrical and computer engineering degree.

The tuition fees for international students were very expensive.

And I was so sick of delivering pizzas, so I started my very first business with 2 other friends.

Back in the 90s, computers were very expensive.

A brand name IBM desktop would cost you $5,000.

So most people would be buying no name assembled desktops, at around $2,000 each.

We had a great idea.

How about we buy the computer parts, assemble them together and then sell the desktop to make money?

I asked my dad for money to buy a cheap old car, so I could drive around to pick up all the computer parts.

The assembling part was actually the easiest.  It only took us around 3 hours to do 1 desktop.

But now the biggest question, who do we sell this desktop to?

Back then, the internet was just born, social media didn’t exist.

TV, newspapers, magazines, flyers…impossible for poor students to afford.

One of my friends was studying at Queen’s University in Kingston, 3 hours away from Toronto.

He said that it’s very hard to buy these assembled computers in Kingston, students would have to come out to Toronto to buy them.

Bingo!  Isn’t that the perfect market for us to serve?

We put up an ad in the Computer Paper, which was a popular campus paper that students read.

The first order came in and our business officially started!

During the week, we were very busy driving around getting parts and assembling them together at home.

Then every Friday, we would take all the assembled desktops to the downtown Greyhound bus station and get them shipped into Kingston.

Guess how much net profit we made on each desktop?

$300.  That was a lot of money for a student.

My dad helped me pay my tuition fees and I was able to take care of all other living expenses on my own.

I actually felt like I was rich because it seemed so easy to make money.   

However much I made, I spent it all.

Good thing I still managed to finish my engineering degree.

After my graduation, I ran the computer assembly business full time and we were making good money.

2 years later, IBM came out with desktop solutions that cost just about the same as our assembled desktops.

Other brand names soon followed.

Sadly, our value in the marketplace would soon diminish to 0.

Instead of waiting for our business to die, we decided to shut it down and look for a job instead.

With my engineering degree, I got a job as a computer chip designer in the biggest technology company in Markham.

And my 2 business partners went back to Hong Kong for other job opportunities.

So that’s the end of my first entrepreneurship.

It taught me valuable business lessons that I would have never learned in engineering school.

From business owner to employee…

I was actually getting comfortable earning that 6-figure income and climbing that corporate ladder to the management level.

Everything was great for around a decade.

Then one day, the company suddenly announced that all operations in Canada would be shut down and moved back to the US.

I literally lost my job overnight.

I felt bad of course, a decade of hard work got wiped out in the blink of an eye.

I could easily get a new job in the technology company next door, but maybe it’s a chance for me to do something else…

You see, I always say a crisis is an opportunity and I truly believe in that myself.

So I could move to California and work at Google or Apple.

I could move back to Hong Kong.

But I came to the conclusion that I like the Canadian lifestyle the best.

So I decided to try a brand new career.

I was very interested in real estate because my own investments had turned out pretty well.

And my experiences working with real estate agents told me that it’s an area where I could add significant value and be successful.

My entrepreneur gene just kicked in again.

This time, the business adventure brought me to the owner of an established real estate brokerage today.  

And I’m proud to say that we’ve been creating new jobs for other Canadians every single year.

By the way, we are currently hiring licensed agents to work in our rental management department, if you are interested, you can send your resume to hr@condowong.ca

The biggest message I want to bring out to you today is: nothing is forever.  Changes are happening constantly, don’t get too comfortable and don’t be afraid of changes.

Embrace change.  If you can adjust and transform yourself to live with constant changes, you’ll always be successful.

Every crisis is an opportunity, be it your career or your investment.  I do mean it.  It’s all about how you react in the crisis.

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