Working with Calgary’s newcomers to set businesses up for success

Calgary celebrating Small Business Week

Starting a small business is both exciting and intimidating. In addition to assuming several roles as an entrepreneur, there’s a lot to consider when taking a great idea and turning it into a profit - a business plan, financing, the perfect location, and the permits and licensing that may be required.

While all new business owners will encounter challenges, new Canadians face additional challenges when starting and sustaining a business. Language, culture, and access to resources can quickly become barriers when trying to establish a small business in a new country.

The 300-hour, 10-week intensive Build Your Business – Newcomers Entrepreneur Program through the Calgary Catholic Immigration Society (CCIS) aims to help . CCIS provides settlement and integration services to all immigrants and refugees in southern Alberta and the Build Your Business program offers knowledge, tools, and support to help newcomers successfully launch a small business.

As part of CCIS’s Build Your Business program, The City of Calgary, through representatives from the Business Experience Representative and Business & Local Economy teams, has participated in several workshops to share information about our role in starting and growing your business.

As of August 2023, all applicants for business licenses in Calgary will be served by a member of the Business Experience or Business Approvals Representative team. They are dedicated file managers who can guide an applicant through the entire licensing process. This saves entrepreneurs time and money, and the individual focus can be especially helpful for new Canadians who are unfamiliar with our language and processes.

Since July 2022, the Build Your Business program has supported 83 graduates, resulting in in 26 new businesses being launched in Calgary. 

Program graduate Frida Murillo launched her Calgary business, Frida’s Coffee Home, just two months after graduating from the program. Her shift from being a lawyer in Mexico into being an entrepreneur in Calgary has been an incredible business journey, she says.

“This year, I graduated from CCIS's incredible Build Your Business Program, which provided me with a fantastic opportunity to connect with new fellow entrepreneurs in Calgary,” Murillo wrote on LinkedIn. “It's inspiring to witness this community growing; it signifies a city brimming with opportunities and innovation. I'm thrilled to see what can be achieved when brilliant minds come together.”

More information about opening a business can be found at