Baker and owner of frozen food man­u­fac­turer Alba Graeca

NOW Magazine - Class Action - - EVERYBODY’S BUSINESS -

I im­mi­grated to Canada from Ser­bia nine years ago. I moved to Wind­sor as a baker on a work per­mit and started to learn English at a sec­ond-lan­guage school.

I moved to Toronto and started to work in a bak­ery, and af­ter a year I was pro­moted to manager, which I ac­tu­ally wanted to refuse be­cause my knowl­edge of English was very poor. So I con­tin­ued study­ing in ESL classes, and be­cause I didn’t know any­thing about busi­ness, I also took Ge­orge Brown Col­lege’s busi­ness man­age­ment cer­tifi­cate pro­gram. I de­cided to go course by course.

In Bel­grade I had taken cour­ses to be a baker at Bozi­dar Adz­ija Peo­ple’s Uni­ver­sity. My fam­ily are bak­ers, but I didn’t fin­ish school – it was a tur­bu­lent time in my coun­try – so my brother, who was a baker, ac­tu­ally taught me ev­ery­thing about bak­ing.

Af­ter eight years at the bak­ery in Toronto, I de­cided to open a frozen food man­u­fac­turer, Alba Graeca. We spe­cial­ize in a va­ri­ety of hand­made prod­ucts, such as the burek – tra­di­tional pies from the Balkans – and pi­tas. They are ready to bake and sold to spe­cialty gro­cers, bak­eries and restau­rants.

Things at work didn’t re­ally go well dur­ing the 2009 re­ces­sion, so I started to take the cour­ses more se­ri­ously. There was a busi­ness plan devel­op­ment course that helped me un­der­stand fi­nan­cial ra­tio, cash flow and in­come state­ments.

I did a lot of re­search as part of two classes, es­pe­cially in a busi­ness devel­op­ment class and one about how to pro­mote your busi­ness. I col­lected in­for­ma­tion on po­ten­tial sup­pli­ers, cus­tomers, dis­trib­u­tors. While work­ing at the bak­ery, I kept my busi­ness plan on my dining ta­ble and read it three or four times a night. It’s hard for any­one to go into busi­ness, but I didn’t have many con­nec­tions here. Tak­ing the classes and cre­at­ing the busi­ness plan helped me build con­fi­dence and be­lieve in my­self when the time came to leave my job and start the busi­ness.

The best ex­pe­ri­ences on the job are meet­ing new peo­ple. I’ve met amaz­ing store own­ers who have helped me a lot with many things – from la­bels to get­ting bet­ter prices from sup­pli­ers. Peo­ple are re­ally ready to help you, and that’s some­thing that sur­prised me.

To do my job, you have to love the food busi­ness, be­cause it’s very hard. Most of my days run to 12 hours. There is no ques­tion if you want it or not. Even week­ends are not my own – it de­pends on what the needs are that week. You have to be 100 per cent ded­i­cated. When I do pro­mo­tions in stores and peo­ple taste my prod­uct and love it, I get a huge re­ward from that.

Where to study

AL­GO­NQUIN COL­LEGE (Ottawa) Bak­ing and pas­try arts: $1,305/ term (plus fees). al­go­nquin­col­lege.com CEN­TEN­NIAL COL­LEGE (Toronto) Bak­ing – com­mer­cial bak­eries; bak­ing – pas­try arts man­age­ment: $3,558/year. cen­ten­ni­al­col­lege.ca FAN­SHAWE COL­LEGE (Lon­don) Ar­ti­sanal culi­nary arts: $3,589/ term. fan­shawec.ca GE­ORGE BROWN COL­LEGE (Toronto) Bak­ing and pas­try arts man­age­ment; bak­ing – pre-em­ploy­ment pro­gram: $3,820/year (plus fees); baker/patissier: ap­pren­tice pro­gram. george­brown.ca HUM­BER COL­LEGE (Toronto) Bak­ing and pas­try arts man­age­ment: $4,860/year. hum­ber.ca NIAGARA COL­LEGE (Niagara-on-the-Lake) Bak­ing and pas­try arts: $5,331/year. ni­a­gara­col­lege.ca

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