Jun 14, 2024

Junifer Torralba (left) made a delivery for his first customers in this social media post in December 2018.

On March 11 this year, the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce in New Brunswick shared on Twitter a story about a new immigrant to the Maritime province.

“Great article,” the business association said about the online Huddle Today’s piece regarding Junifer Torralba, who hails from the Philippines.

Torralba, his wife Myra Lynn, and four others have launched an online grocery to serve the growing Canadian Filipino community in Fredericton.

As an Internet-based business, the enterprise provides customers with the convenience of ordering online, with their groceries delivered at their doorsteps.

Called Ang Kapitbahay (https://angkapitbahay.ca/), the store offers a wide array of Filipino groceries, from canned goods to condiments, noodles, pan de sal or buns, and dried fish. (Kapitbahay is a Tagalog word that means ‘neighbour’.)

“Selling Filipino goods to Filipinos here is quite a fulfilling exercise because at least you bring to people a taste of their own home,” Torralba said in the Huddle Today article.

According to the online publication, the Torralbas came up with the idea for an online store after they moved to Fredericton in May 2018, and found it difficult to find Filipino goods.

“Instead, they’d have to wait for a vendor from Saint John to make weekly deliveries,” reported the publication.

It also recalled that Torralba and his partners began building the platform for the online store after he started attending the Business Immigrant Mentorship Program (BIMP), a partnership between the New Brunswick government and the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.

In February 2019, Torralba and 18 other newcomers finished the program through a graduation ceremony at the Fredericton City Hall.

Global News reported that the province’s minister of post-secondary education, training and labour attended the ceremony, and said that programs like this will attract more newcomers, opening businesses and job opportunities.

“These are amazing opportunities to grow the work force, to grow the business opportunities that we desperately need here in New Brunswick,” Minister Trevor Holder said in the Global News report.

According to Global News, BIMP has been running for a decade. It is a five-month course meant to integrate immigrants into the local business community.

Torralba delivered a speech at the graduation ceremony, saying the program taught him the ropes of doing business in Canada.

“If you work with the right people — with the same motivation, with the same passion as you — you collectively would definitely build something very, very tangible and useful for the community,” Torralba said.

Torralba and his wife are trained professionals in the Philippines.

According to Huddle Today, Torralba worked as a certified public accountant for two global accounting firms for seven years before moving to Shell for 13 years.

“There, he helped the multinational oil firm set up their shared services centre in Manila, and supported teams in Poland and Malaysia,” the publication noted. “Myra Lynn was formerly an operations manager at global testing company SGS, through which she was stationed in Nigeria for some time.”

Torralba visited Canada often as part of his work with Shell.

“My work would require me to travel a lot, long hours in the office, the same with my wife. So we kind of looked – is there something more to life in general? We’ve been married for 12 years now and we decided, why not take some time off and maybe start a family somewhere,” Torralba said.

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