Yerusalem Berhane - Berhan Immigration & Settlement Services

Tell us about yourself

My name is Yerusalem Berhane, I left Asmara, Eritrea my home country in the summer of 1990. My sister and I lived in Milan, Italy for about a year before we moved to Toronto, Ontario to join our 3rd sister who has already been living in Toronto.

I completed my high school in Toronto, Ontario but when it came to choosing a post-secondary school, I moved to London (in 1994) with plans to attend Western University. Instead, I decided to start a family and my plans to study law were put on hold. Eventually, I found time to enroll at Fanshawe College where I took a diploma course in computer programming and web design. While studying I worked as a certified interpreter for Languages of Amharic and Tigrigna. I assisted in hospitals, provincial and federal court, and other private and public service providers.

After working as a computer programmer for several years, working as a freelance interpreter and my experience working in a settlement field for about 11 years, in 2017 I decided to go back to school and became licensed Immigration consultant. I started my own business in May 2017 which I have been enjoying assisting people with all their immigration needs.  In March of 2020, I expanded my business by opening an additional office in Woodstock, Ontario.

Tell us about your business

I started my own company in May of 2017. I have been enjoying assisting individuals with all their immigration needs. And in March of 2020, I expanded my business by opening an additional location in Woodstock, Ontario.

Has your business been impacted by COVID-19?

Covid-19 has impacted my business especially the Woodstock location as I had just opened on March 1st, 2020. My plans of Networking with other businesses and marketing in Woodstock was put off. I had also planned to provide free seminars to International students and New immigrants which also had to be postponed. To adapt with the changes, I immediately started attending webinars through the Small Business Centre to learn more about social media marketing, learn about services available to help with coping and adapting with the impact of COVID-19.

What led you to start this business?

I have always been interested in studying immigration law and help individuals with all their immigration needs. I have held several jobs over the years as an interpreter, computer programmer and in a settlement field. However, my interest in Immigration Law has always stayed with me. After exploring my options, I decided to go back to school and earn immigration consultant diploma, and become a Licensed Immigration Consultant. I find my work rewarding and love helping individuals and families.

My unique occupation also allows me to navigate the complexities of immigration law, act as a proxy for those who need it, recommend the best course of action for an individual or family applying, and - in best case scenarios - welcome them to Canada.

Was there something that drew you into being an entrepreneur?

I have always wanted to run my own business. I knew it was not easy to do, so I waited until my children were all teens; which has freed some of my time to peruse my education in Immigration Law and start my own business. 

What were some of the challenges you faced getting started and how did you overcome them?

Once I finished my school and become licensed, I needed to learn the technicalities of starting a business. I knew it wasn’t easy or something I can figure out on my own. So, I contact the Small Business Centre; and immediately booked an appointment to meet with a Business Advisor. I have learned so much, built my confidence and was able to overcome the obstacles of starting my business I have always wanted.

As a busy entrepreneur, what do you like to do when you take a break?

I like to read, go for a walk when the weather permits, travel and, most of all, spend time and relax with my family.

If you could sit down with any business leader or industry expert, who would you choose and why?

I would like to sit with an entrepreneur who has succeeded in business and learn from the person what their challenges were and how they have overcome it. 

What is the #1 small business book/blog/website you would recommend?

-        Profit first
-        How to win friends and influence people
-        The lean startup

Is there anything currently happening in the London business community that excites you?

During COVID-19, I have noticed that businesses have come together to support local businesses and learn from each other. I have also been able to be part of several entrepreneur networks which has been a great support. I am also excited to see the Canadian government has made very good announcements in the past few months in regards to shortening the processing time for spousal sponsorship, exemptions to the arrival of International students, visitors, and the parent & grandparent sponsorship to help families reunite.

Can you tell us about an entrepreneur you admire and why?

I have a great friend who has started his business from scratch and now has 8 full time employees. He is extremely dedicated business owner with amazing discipline and work ethics. I have learned so much from him and am encouraged everyday to keep going. I am also surrounded by my 3 beautiful children, family and friends who are a great pillar and encouragement.

What's the best business advice you've ever received and why?

“Whatever you do – give it 100%” & “Don’t ever stop learning and growing as a person – keep reading”
And my everyday advice to myself is “Be kind to people; treat people as you would like to be treated”.

What advice would you give to someone starting a small business today?

Never give up! Starting a small business is like a roller-coaster; it has ups and downs, but remember your vision for your business and keep going never give up!

What's in the future for your business?

My short-term plan for my business is to provide if possible, give seminars in regards to immigration policies and changes, assist as many people as I can, and eventually grow my business by adding more offices in other cities of Ontario and overseas.

Learn more about Berhan Immigration & Settlement Services here!

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