Beyond Survival: One immigrant’s triumphant journey to self-employment

Kar Kare
With over 30 years of automechanic experience in his home country, Nusrat Mehmood did not want to settle for a ‘survival job’ in Canada. Now the owner of Hamilton’s Ustad Kar Kare, Mehmood opened his automobile repair shop just four years after immigrating to Canada. / MICHELLE BOTH

By Michelle Both

“You have a lot of experience in your field, so don’t go for a survival job.”

Those were the words that Nusrat Mehmood remembers hearing while attending the Job Search Workshop program at the Immigrant Women’s Centre. Those are the words, he said, that changed the course of his life in Canada.

After living in Hamilton for just four years, he is now a licensed auto mechanic with an established automobile repair shop.
Mehmood ran a shop in Pakistan for over thirty years, but the leap to expanding his business in Canada seemed daunting. The advice from his friends was always the same: ‘The easiest way to make money in Canada is as a taxi driver.’

The advice was not without merit. Until recent immigration changes, an estimated 150,000 newcomers came to Canada each year through the economic class. Many faced difficulty finding work in their field. But, as Statistics Canada found, university graduates who immigrated to Canada in the last five years are 50% more likely to be out of work than a Canadian-born worker with a high school diploma.

“His philosophy is simple: Do a good job, charge reasonable prices, and people will come again.”

Mehmood credits Rosemary Aswani, Employment Specialist at IWC, for setting him on a different path. “If you want to live in Canada successfully, you should work in your field,” he recalls her advising him. He decided to take her advice and meet with the National College of Trades to make a plan.

Mehmood began working at two auto shop jobs In order to meet internship and reference requirements for his licensing application, while working at a chocolate
factory in the evenings to supplement his income. With his wife still job searching and two children in university, it was not an easy time.

After two years, he was ready to start his business. He solidified a location, began accumulating equipment, and set out to promote his services in the community. Today, he has a solid customer base, two employees, and most importantly – the ability to work in his area of expertise.

What does he credit for this business success? His philosophy is simple: Do a good job, charge reasonable prices, and people will come again. So far, it’s been working well.

Mehmood confirms the Job Search Workshop program didn’t just help him on the right career path, but also gave him the confidence to live in Canada as a professional. “It was very helpful and useful – how to deal with people, how to speak and interact professionally in Canada,” he notes.

Now, he can confidently say coming to Canada as an immigrant was a decision he will never regret: “This is my Canada now.”

Michelle Both works as the Communications Coordinator at the Immigrant Women’s Centre and is Managing Editor for Unpack Magazine. Follow her on Twitter: @MichellelBoth.