The Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre Helps Newcomers Succeed In Business 


This Barrie 360 content is brought to you by Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre

Moving to a new country is a huge step, but taking the leap also means you have the strength and motivation to welcome change and make a difference. Both of these are key characteristics for any entrepreneur.

To help nurture these qualities and empower those moving from abroad to Simcoe County, the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) at Georgian College is launching a new program. 


XcelerateNOW will connect Newcomer, Refugee and Immigrant entrepreneurs to:

  • Resources
  • Supports
  • Events
  • Activities
  • Mentorship
  • Networking
  • Funding opportunities

The goal of the program is to address gaps in service and support for Newcomers in Simcoe County’s growing ecosystem while strengthening our community of entrepreneurs.

“When you move abroad you are faced with different challenges, new job, new culture, new home and new life. Newcomers, Immigrants and Refugees are motivated, strong, brave and active, but they have to remember that they don’t have to do this alone, as there is a whole community and resources available out there that will help them feel supported during this new beginning,” Cecilia Doucette, International and Newcomer Entrepreneurship Coordinator at HBEC. 

Cecilia Doucette is heading the XcelerateNOW program with Sara Bentham, Director of HBEC and with the support of community partners including:

  • Georgian College
  • County of Simcoe
  • The Town of Innisfil
  • Invest Barrie
  • South Georgian Bay Small Business Enterprise Centre
  • Small Business Centre for Barrie, Simcoe County and Orillia
  • Nottawasaga Futures

In 2011 Cecilia moved to Canada from Guatemala where she continually advocates for a diverse and inclusive community. Her commitment and dedication to sharing her culture led to her becoming the recipient of the 2021 Simcoe County Newcomer Recognition Award. 

Cecilia continues, “This is why partnerships between thought leaders like the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre and the County of Simcoe are important not only to strengthen our community but to open doors to opportunities for Newcomers, Immigrants and Refugees who are trying to build a new life, including starting or growing their business journey.

XcelerateNOW is a great program that will help Newcomers, Immigrants and Refugees connect with our community but will also guide them through their entrepreneurial experience. Simcoe County is a region that has a rich business ecosystem and is always welcoming, this is what is needed when they face new challenges as they make this region their home away from home” 

Start Now Series

XcelerateNOW will launch with the Start Now Series. This Series, which is funded by the County of Simcoe, includes a collection of workshop and networking events that address topics specific to business owners who are new to Canada. In addition to providing information and support, the Series will help Newcomers transition more smoothly to existing programs. This includes programs like: 

  • Further Faster – a 7 week training program that helps entrepreneurs develop their business whether they are just starting out or looking to grow an existing venture. 
  • Ask an Expert – access a diverse network of experts to ask questions about your business and entrepreneurship. 
  • Job Finding Club for Immigrants – connect with mentors in your field of business to access guidance and support. 
  • The Sandbox CNNX Groups – experts share information on building a thriving business culture, attracting talent, supporting your organization and more. 
  • XcelerateHER – resources and support for women entrepreneurs. 
  • AYBB Accelerate Your Black Business provides resources, support and mentorship for black business owners. 
  • DMZ Innisfil – one of Canada’s largest business incubators for emerging tech startups.
  • Other existing mentorship programs

XcelerateNOW Program Launch Fiesta

The first XcelerateNOW event will take place during the Xcelerate Summit at The Mexican House in Barrie. 

Details For The XcelerateNOW Launch Fiesta

Date: Tuesday, October 25, 2022
Time: 3:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Location: The Mexican House – 24 Maple Avenue, Downtown Barrie, ON
Cost: FREE

During the Launch Fiesta, attendees will network while enjoying delicious food. They’ll also hear from two successful entrepreneurs who started businesses after moving to Canada. 

The first is Zahara Al-Hazari, an award winning entrepreneur and leadership expert. 

In 1996 after surviving two civil wars, Zahara moved from Yemen to Canada with her 3 children. With no higher education or connections, she turned her frustration into courage and propelled forward. She is now an inspiration to many, sparking creativity, growth and transformation. 

Attendees will also hear from Ricardo Irivarren. Ricardo is a local Peruvian business owner from Miski Organics. He will share his story of starting and scaling a business in Simcoe County. 

Following the completion of the workshops, content will be distributed on Bernick Online. This will ensure that the XcelerateNOW series continues to be a useful tool to current and future Newcomers, Refugees and Immigrants. To sign up for the Launch Fiesta, head over to the event site.