Marinda Breese, a Preschool Teacher in her hometown of South Africa followed her dream and passion to help people and make a difference in her community. As the country she lived in struggled with political adversity her Father asked her one day what she was going to do for the future of her own children. Her parents always made her feel that she accomplished her very best. With a willingness to work hard, take a risk and bind their faith to their dreams the Breese family made the necessary plans to move to Canada. Although finances were tight and a move of this capacity was quite unlikely, the disguised blessing of her husband’s job retrenchment package made it possible for them to move from South Africa to Canada in April 2000. Marinda stated that they came to Vancouver not knowing a soul; ‘I wasn’t able to work as my teacher qualifications were not recognised in Canada and when I applied for jobs was told I don’t have Canadian experience, my husband Tom, an electrician could only earn $14 an hour, our rent was $850 a month and we had young children that needed to be cared for’ she added. It was with these challenges that Marinda saw the need to do something different and follow her dreams.
She continued to draw strength and courage from her unwavering faith and went back to school to take a business course. While in school she looked for an office job and found a lady that had a bookkeeping business. Marinda asked if she could work for this lady even if she had to clean toilets, so that she could gain some sort of Canadian work experience, the lady went on to tell her that she had no space in her office for a worker, Marinda was persistent and said she didn’t need much space, just a job. She was given the task of doing the bookkeeping for some of her clients and went to the office every day after school. Marinda said that ‘while not knowing what I had to do I asked my teacher to give me tips on how to do the bookkeeping and that is how I learnt and was able to get through my first month’. The owner of this business was selling the business and Marinda was looking to buy a business, but she couldn’t afford this one. A little while later a retail store became available and Marinda and Tom Breese soon became the owners of African Breese Imports.
Marinda went on to say that ‘I love the store and most of all the connection with the people; through the store I started a ladies network group that meets once a month, friends and acquaintances, women in business to help network, share and promote their business, promote each other, create friendships and find jobs’.
‘My inspiration to do this is my love to help people. Your attitude is what transitions you to become successful. You have to be open to change. The opportunities for women are more than what it used to be. Women are strong and determined and there is opportunity if we stand together. We are looked upon more as equals now than before. Our women’s group has started to raise funds, if there is a need in our newcomers or community circles. This year we did a boerewors roll (southern africa spiced sausage) sale and supported families at Christmas. We are also raising funds to support an organization in Zimbabwe. We all have to build our new country and are open and invite all women out there to join our group, if you are a newcomer and don’t know where to start with finding your success this group will inspire you to get and go and do what you must or been called to do’.
African Breese Imports opened a second store in Kitsilano in November 2012. ‘I don’t see myself as a thriving individual the passion that I have just comes naturally’ Marinda stated. She added that the help also came from Business Development Bank Canada; ‘they have been amazing and helped me move my business forward’.
Breese’s advice to everyone is: ‘follow your dream, have faith and believe what you must do and go and do what your heart tells you to do. Don’t be shy to ask for what you need, this will help you propel, set your heart on what you want and go for it, positive energy attracts positive energy, set high goals. To the youth don’t think that something is unachievable don’t think that you can’t do things if you don’t have money.
I prayed everyday and asked God to help me; I had the drive and passion, you can achieve what you set your heart and soul to. I believe that if a door opens it opens for the right reason. I always get reassurance from God and propel myself forward that way. I am blessed with a loving and understanding family they are very supportive. I’m very energetic with my thinking and have so many ideas that I wrestle with continually.
I believe that it doesn’t matter what your race or colour is you can excel no matter what or where you come from. I’m inspired by my fellow African’s as I see them all excel here and they are all so radiant’.
African Breese Imports specializes in South African delicacies like biltong, boerewors, peri peri spice, chutneys and African handcrafted products. Marinda stated that they are trying to bring Africa to Canada. Food, fair trade products, beadwork from Reach Out To Africa an Aids Orphanage that has amazing beadwork artists. There are still some food items that they can’t import due to food rules and regulations of Canada like one of the staple and traditional foods Mealie Pap (a corn meal) that Canada considers to be an enriched food. This is traditional food people of Southern Africa were raised on and their bodies need this. It’s a shame because we see a lot of other ethnicities bring in all kinds of foreign foodstuffs that doesn’t even include English and/or French labelling.
Marinda concluded our interview and said that she would like to be remembered in the community as someone who gave back and helped people that are less fortunate. ‘Connecting with people is my passion. This store is just a by product. I really just want to help people reach their dreams and reach their full passion’.
Interview by Honore Gbedze TRANSCRIBE by Deidre Heim