With a little encouragement from their Canadian friends, the Sourani family was able to establish their business, Alamal Baklava, now threeyears old and thriving in the Kingston community.
Omar and Mariam, along with their children Aisha, Khadija, Amal, and Ahmad fled their home country of Syria in 2014, landing in Turkey along with other refugees. In 2017, the Sourani family arrived and resettled in Canada.
“We like Canada because we saw how people live, and the freedoms, equality, and safety Canadians enjoy,” said Aisha. “We were assigned Kingston and decided to stay because it was small, quiet, has great schools, and we thought we could learn our way around more quickly than a big city.”
Since arriving to Canada, Aisha, Khadija, and Amal enrolled at St. Lawrence College and Ahmad is studying at Queen’s University. Omar and Mariam are focused on increasing their English proficiency. Deciding on a career was challenging with their academic schedules and language barrier.
However, it was during a visit to their home by their friends that the family saw a way to earn money and make connections within the Kingston community through their family recipes.
“We started making traditional Syrian desserts to enjoy at home and with our friends, and they suggested we try selling these desserts,” explained Aisha.
In 2017, Alamal Baklava – alamal means hope in Arabic – was created and formally registered as a business in 2019.
The company makes different kinds of baklava, a Mediterranean dessert, which uses phyllo dough, honey, and nuts. They also make date and coconut cookies and bird’s nest pastries.
Their first sale took place at the 2017 Kingston Multicultural Arts Festival and ever since, these pastry purveyors continue to make regular appearances at holiday markets, craft fairs and other similar opportunities.
“The people have been very helpful here,” said Aisha. “We have been fortunate to receive support from organizations like KEYS Newcomer and Employment Services and the Ontario Government’s Summer Company program administered through the Kingston Economic Development Corporation.”
As their studies progress, the family is considering whether their fledgling business could blossom into something bigger down the line, such as a small restaurant or café. In the meantime, their advice to other newcomers who are considering to start their own business is simple:
“Use your experiences and go with what you know,” Omar said.