ANTIGONISH: The chocolate company founded by the Hadhad family, who were fighting for their survival just a few years ago in Syria, has announced they will hire 50 refugees and provide mentorship and guidance to 10 Canadian refugee startups by 2022.
Tareq Hadhad, the eldest son and CEO of the family business Peace by Chocolate, said it’s his family’s focus to give back to newcomers, because they know first-hand the struggles of immigrating to a new country and starting a business from scratch.
“Peace by Chocolate is a result of people with passions coming together to advocate for such an open cause like building peace,” he said on February 15. “Since coming to Canada our family has been really excited about the growth in our company and [the] opportunity to expand our team with a focus of hiring 50 refugees by 2022. This country has given us so much, now it’s our turn to give back and pay it forward.”
After arriving in Antigonish a mere three-years ago, the Hadhad family wanted to bring chocolate – the product of happiness – to the people of their new home and restore their Damascus chocolate business which was started in 1986 and was completely destroyed by bombings in late 2012, during fallout of the Syrian Civil War.
Since then the family has gone from making 200 pieces of chocolate each week in their kitchen and selling it at the Antigonish Farmer’s Market, to selling boxes of chocolate out of a community-built shed outside their home, to then opening their very own chocolate factory in Antigonish, and finally, distributing products with Canada’s second largest food retailer, Sobeys, through its storefronts and subsidiaries nationwide.
With the extraordinary amount of support from local residents in the town and county of Antigonish and the belief from many people across the country, the Hadhad family is building on their Canadian experience and believe it’s now their time to give back.
“We really know what it means to come to a new country wanting to start a new business – but there are always some challenges at the beginning. It’s never easy to turn your idea into reality,” Hadhad said. “We want to make it as easy as possible for their businesses to get going. People connect to stories, so when refugees hear that as a family we came here three years ago, and started a national business, they will get inspired before they learn anything.”
Learning from Hadhad, someone who has experienced similar situations to the refugees that he’ll be mentoring and will make it easier to relate to, will provide webinars with first-hand advice about business development and guidance on operating in rural areas.
In addition, he also plans to help four refugee businesses access new markets through the company’s distribution and retailing networks. Since the company’s inception in 2016, Hadhad has continously pledged the goal of hiring refugees.
Hadhad made the announcement February 7 during a speech at the Canadian Business Summit in Toronto organized by Tent Partnership for Refugees, an organization that encourages hiring refugees.
For the most part, the anticipated 50 refugees Peace by Chocolate wishes to employ by 2022 will not be located in their Antigonish facility, but rather through branches of the company elsewhere.
“We’re in the process of planning on opening other facilities across Canada hopefully soon by next year and the year after. I believe Peace by Chocolate is on its way to become a major chocolate company in Canada.” he said. “The community supported up and helped us to feel like we belong, and like any other business we keep strong relationships with our community and we want to support other refugees like our community supported us.”