While working at the Association for New Canadians I am fortunate to see plenty of newcomers with happy stories, stories that motivate me and bring a smile to my face. When I first moved to Canada in 2016, I was instantly surprised with how fantastic this province is, but I also had my struggles which I needed to overcome. It is very interesting to learn stories of newcomers to Newfoundland and Labrador from their perspective. I spoke to Mithun Mathew, an entrepreneur and aircraft maintenance technician who was born in India and came to St. John’s in 2019.
Mithun, tell us a little bit more about your journey. Where did you grow up and why did you decide to move to Canada?
I am from Kerala, one of the beautiful states in India. Our state is known as “God’s own country” because of its diversity in religions and cultures. My father works for a life insurance company and my mom is a home maker.
My parents are my true inspiration, especially my father. He started from zero, worked hard to get a good reputation in the community.
He also provided a lot of support to myself and my three brothers so we can fund our education. He showed me that nothing is impossible. He is my real hero!
When I was a kid, I was fascinated by airplanes and my desire to work in the aviation industry grew. Pursuing pilot training was very expensive, so I have decided to study how to fix airplanes instead.
I did a 3-year aircraft maintenance course before moving to Canada which allowed me to learn more about planes and its dynamics. After graduating I was employed by an airline, but soon after the recession time hit the aviation industry and the company shut down. That was when I decided to pursue my dreams in Canada.
You came to Canada as an International Student. Tell us a little bit more about it.
Canada is a very big country with many provinces. I had to choose where I wanted to study. I set my eyes on Nova Scotia Community College and applied for Aircraft Maintenance Engineering course. I was accepted and soon after I moved to Nova Scotia.
The course was very interesting and fun, and because I had already studied a similar subject at home, I didn’t find it particularly challenging. I received a lot of support from our international team and I didn’t even feel like I was away from home.
After my 2nd semester at NSCC, I got an opportunity to be an International Student Ambassador, which allowed me to volunteer and organize various events for students. I was also helping international students by guiding them to the available resources.
I really enjoyed participation at the Study and Stay program by EduNova, which was designed to encourage students to remain in Atlantic region after they graduate. They showed me the opportunities to grow and also improved my entrepreneur skills.
So what made you move to Newfoundland and Labrador?
During my studies I worked part-time with PAL Airlines in Halifax as an aircraft refueller. Two months prior to graduation PAL offered me another position, this time as an Aircraft Technician. The only catch was that I needed to relocate to St. John’s in Newfoundland. Of course, I jumped on this opportunity and since June 2019 I work for PAL Aerospace in St. John’s.
I work in line maintenance which means I do daily inspections and schedule maintenance work on various aircrafts.
Moving from Halifax to St. John’s was not a tough transition because both places have some similarities. The only struggle was getting used to the weather and to the roads here. I still haven’t figured out the roads in the downtown area, so I always use the GPS.
St. John’s has a lot of marvelous places and it is a popular spot for tourists to visit. People are very friendly and supportive.
What is your current immigration status in Canada?
I am currently on a post-graduation work permit, but I have applied for my permanent residency.
Fortunately, the immigration path called the Atlantic Immigration Pilot Program helps you get the PR faster than other programs. You have to be employed by a designated employer in the Atlantic provinces. My employer is designated with the AIPP, so I was able to submit my application for PR.
Can you shed some light on your experience with the immigration process in Canada?
My first step when I got a full- time job offer was to apply for provincial endorsement. It took about one month for me to get the confirmation of endorsement. After the endorsement was received, I needed to submit my PR application.
AIPP is employer driven therefore my human resources team at PAL Aerospace assisted me with the remaining paperwork.
I was hoping to receive my PR status this month, but it got delayed due to the pandemic.
The most important thing was to read the application instruction and ensure that I didn’t miss any important documents. If documents are not submitted, it may delay the process even further.
You recently started your own business. We are curious to hear more about it.
It was one of my goals to start my own business, especially something I enjoy doing. During my student life I planned to start a food stall/cart in Halifax. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough financial resources at that time, so I had to put that idea on hold.
After moving to St. John’s, I finally started making my dreams come true.
I decided to open SpiceX, an Indian take-out restaurant, in February 2020. We are at 31 Malta Street, on the corner of Empire Avenue. SpiceX is close to Memorial University, and we are encouraging students to step in and try our authentic Indian food such as our butter chicken meal, chicken biriyani, beef masala, samosas and much more. We also have some fusion specials coming soon.
Our samosas are extremely popular! We have sold over 10,000 of them in our first five months.
I’m not going to lie, it’s not easy to manage my full-time career maintaining aircrafts and also running a business but I am enjoying it!
It makes me happy to serve food to the community and I am even happier when people compliment the quality of our food.
I am passionate about giving back to the community so we try to help people in need as much as we can, at least with a delicious meal.
If somebody has a business idea but does not know how to go about it – what would your advice be?
If you have a business idea and you are ready to take the risk, go for it. It might be extremely hard in the beginning, but slowly you will reach your goal. Remember to always have a back up plan!
My advice is to research everything thoroughly and take all the necessary steps prior to opening the business.The regulations and requirements differ depending on the kind of the business and the location. For a restaurant business I needed a city permit, food safety certificate and more.
Do you have any advice for newcomers in NL or people who want to immigrate here? What should they know?
From my experience, having a vehicle is especially important. It was hard in the beginning to commute because bus service doesn’t cover all areas in the city. Having a car can also help you to secure a job, because you will be able to get to many places faster than on the bus.
My advice to all newcomers is to believe in themselves and work for it!
I believe that every person that I meet might be an opportunity towards my goal. It’s crucial to understand the value of networking and meeting people.
Also, don’t wait too long before looking for employment. If you’re a student, start searching eight months before you graduate. If it’s a challenge for you to find a job, then create jobs with your ideas. Be confident and do not allow other people to demotivate you.
So, what is your long-term plan?
My future goals are to create more jobs. I want to give back more to the community as an entrepreneur. Few years down the line I am planning to launch SpiceX in Halifax.
Thank you Mithun for sharing your great story with us and we wish you good luck with your career and business. We hope you can make all your dreams come true!
If you have any questions about Settlement and Integration in NL, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org