Like many immigrants from Central America, Marbell Flores, her husband and their six-month-old son came to Canada in search of a better life, leaving the political turmoil of their native Nicaragua behind.
The 53-year-old recalls her arrival in 1985 in Hamilton:
“It was not easy at the beginning. We needed to learn the language and adapt to a new culture,” says Marbell, who had earned a marketing degree in Nicaragua.
“I got a lot of support when I first came. My husband and I went to Sir John A. Macdonald School and obtained our Grade 12.” She continued, “It was wonderful to be a mom and at the same time go to school. While at school I took advantage of some of the accounting courses the school offered. I feel eternally grateful for the help Canada gave us when we arrived.”
She soon realized the growing number of people in Hamilton interested in Latin food and culture. Along with her husband, they started to import hammocks and to sell their goods out of their truck in Port Dover and other places. Marbell then decided to open a small store on James North. Hammocks Monimbo opened its doors in 1994.
“It was very difficult at the beginning. We only had three or four customers per day”, she said.
“James North was very different from now. Now we have a lot of customers, mainly because the area has become trendy.”
Marbell works in the small store on her own. Her second son was born in Hamilton and has also helped the business become stable. She thinks the arts community has not only brought her new customers but has also made the once neglected street a place to come and enjoy.
Marbell’s marketing background, plus some accounting courses, gave her the basic skills to run her own business, but she has some tips for others:
“You have to have a passion for what you do. You need a plan, even if it’s simple. You have to follow all government regulations that apply to small businesses, and you also need patience: a business needs time to succeed.”
Now, Hammocks Monimbo sells imported goods from all over Latin America, as well as, a large variety of Latin music CDs. During tax season, Marbell also prepares taxes for the general public.
Marbell offers a warm welcome to many newcomers to Hamilton. “If I can help, why not?” she says. “People who are new – and not new – to Canada have a friend.”