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This article was published 21/9/2019 (758 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
An immigration company with an office in Brandon isn’t just trying to lure Chinese immigrants to town, it’s trying to make sure Chinese immigrants want to stay when they get here.
Yiwii International has five offices. Four of them are in Canadian cities: Kelowna, B.C., Toronto, Winnipeg and Brandon. The fifth is in Beijing, China. The Brandon office has 10 to 15 employees, depending on the time of year.
Company founder Paul Xu first came to Canada from Liaoning, China, 18 years ago to study accounting at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, B.C.
After graduating, he worked as a finance manager at a couple of companies in Toronto.
Part of his motivation to start Yiwii came from wishing he’d had access to similar services when he was getting settled in Canada.
"From younger student all the way to immigrant, to entrepreneur, it’s pretty difficult for new immigrants," Xu said at his Brandon office. "I would say a lot of common practices, industry practices are pretty different from what they do in China."
"I like to use my past experience to help (clients) to get on track sooner to start their own business, to adapt to the Canadian way of doing business," he added.
He started his own business helping recruit Chinese students for Brandon University in 2012, with the first group of students arriving in 2014.
Since 2012, he has expanded the scope of his business to other cities and even started three new businesses in Brandon to support his operations.
Yiwii and Xu have also helped Chinese entrepreneurs start their own businesses in Canada, though none of them has been in Brandon.
Xu estimates he’s brought approximately 50 students to BU in the last five years. Over time, he came to a realization that changed his approach to recruitment.
"As time (went on), I realized that not many students were going to stay here," Xu said. "They will probably transfer to another university, leave Brandon after a year."
"The reason they left is there’s not many Asian elements," he said. "There’s a couple of Chinese restaurants, but there are lots of Chinese things or Asian things they cannot get here. They have to drive to Winnipeg or Toronto to get them."
Brandonites might know Neo Tea Shop on Eighth Street and Neo Mart Grocery Store on 18th Street.
Both of those businesses were started by Xu in an effort to provide some of the comforts of home to Chinese immigrants by giving them a place to purchase bubble tea and Asian grocery items.
Their logos both feature a bison logo rendered in a Chinese style in a nod to their cultural origins as well as their location in Manitoba. Additionally, Xu said that the "neo" pronounced in Chinese means bull or bison.
"Conservative" is the word that Xu uses to describe the people of Brandon. He said locals are warming to the bubble tea shop, but it’s taking a while. However, he said, locals do like the bubble tea when they get around to trying it.
Investors from China and clients of Xu’s have since invested in both businesses and taken over operations.
A third business, Neo Biz Solutions, is a consulting company that supports the businesses Xu started as well as businesses started by his clients in multiple locations in Canada.
"I want to see Brandon grow," Xu said. "That’s why I started businesses here."
The next business Xu is looking into starting in Brandon is a private daycare. He said that students and immigrants coming to Brandon have a hard time finding daycare spaces for their kids.
"I know many new immigrants that are pretty talented but they cannot get a new job, they cannot go to work because they have to take care of their kids," he said.
Research Xu and his company have done show that even locals are having a hard time finding daycare spaces, he said.
If "Neo Daycare" pops up in the Wheat City, it’s likely being masterminded by Xu.
» Twitter: @ColinSlark