It’s been eight months since Magda Wierzbicka opened the doors to The Café, a cozy café in Hamilton’s Crown Point neighbourhood. While it serves an array of loose leaf teas, baked goods, and steaming coffee – regulars are coming for more than just to fill their palate. Whether it’s a knitting club, workshops, or community meetings, The Café also serves as a hub for neighbours to meet and engage with one another.
Originally from Poland, Magda moved to Canada in 1997. She studied English, went to College, and graduated from Immigrant Working’s Centre’s Women of Action program, which lead her to where she is today. We asked Magda a few questions about starting her own business in Canada as an immigrant.
Why did you decide to open The Café?Magda: Since moving to Hamilton I’ve been involved with variety of non-profits, community groups and volunteer work. Together with Fatima Mesquita, we started the Hamilton Dialogues, our non-profit. Under this umbrella we created Community Cinema, deLight Hamilton Light Festival and more. I love doing it. Reality however requires paying bills.
We thought about doing something that will complement our community work and give us some sort of income. The Café was born.
Where does your inspiration for community involvement stem from?Magda: There was time when I was busy single mom and didn’t have time or energy to do anything other than just surviving. I think there is this moment in your life when you stop and revalue your needs and wants. With me it started with overcoming my post divorce depression. I started connecting to people. I met a Sudanese refugee and got involved with Amnesty International Refugees Network. Then I started to be involved with women issues and it’s been evolving since then.
What is the most rewarding part of your work?Magda: The great part is the people! My neighbourhood is full of amazing people. This has been the best part of moving here. We have a knitting club in our space. The Crown Point Planning Team is connected as well. The Point team – our newspaper’s creators meet at our café. We’re becoming a wellness-mindfulness centre. We have great relation with Erich’s Cupboard. And we’re building a safe space for LGBQT community.
What I also find most rewarding are people like Theresa. She comes for our colouring Tuesdays. She’s over 60. She’s so happy to come and spend time at the Café. One of my best customers is 2 years old boy. His mom told me that one day he said he wants to go to Magda for Italian Straw (a baked good) – it was all he wanted.
Why did you decide to settle in Hamilton?Magda: People, people, people. I’ll be honest – we first moved here because of house prices. My partner and I wanted to start our life together. Then we met people. I know more people here after 5 years than I’d ever known in Toronto after 15 years there. And I think people of Hamilton are unique and amazing! And so many welcoming groups and organizations; The Women’s Centre, Immigrants Working Centre and the Well were my first great experiences here.
What advice do you have to other immigrant entrepreneurs?Magda: Be brave and persistent. Connect with people. Look for resources – they are all around. Follow your dreams, but be realistic. Your own business is hard work. Get a good understanding of finances and marketing. Don’t be ashamed to accept your limits and find someone who can help you with them. You don’t need to be good at everything (I’m still learning this).
For more information visit The Cafe’s Facebook Page or stop by for a bite to eat at 1365 Main Street East, Hamilton, Ontario.