How chocolate-selling Syrian-refugee family defied skeptics, made their dream in Canada
It’s a long way from a refugee camp in the Middle East to a chocolate factory in Atlantic Canada. But for the Hadhad family, it’s been a smooth transition.
Their Antigonish N.S., business is a success, thanks in part, to a shout out from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at last September’s United Nations summit on refugees.
“Just eight months after arriving in Canada, the family realized their dream, and opened a small chocolate factory, in their new hometown. It’s called Peace By Chocolate. And you can follow them on Facebook,” Trudeau told world leaders in New York.
The demand for their business multiplied sixfold, allowing the Hadhads to sell their chocolate across Canada and through the power of the internet, to the entire world.
Tareq Hadhad says he and his father, Isam, were blown away by the response.
“I opened the online store, I opened it at 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., there were more than 1,500 boxes sold. In three hours, all across the country.”
With demand still increasing, the shed that originally housed the production of their chocolate is now strictly a retail shop — and a busy one at that. Every day there is a steady stream of customers.
Chocolate-making has moved to a new factory that opened at the beginning of September. Now, the burgeoning company will be able to make 10 times the chocolate they did before.
All of this has taken place in just a year and a half.
The family of nine came to Canada after their chocolate factory in Syria was destroyed by a bomb. Until they arrived here, they had been forced to live in a refugee camp in Lebanon.
“We can’t compare,” said Alaa Hadhad. “We have here, a lovely house, we found here a base, we have safe, we have secure.”
Her mother, Shahnaz Naisa, agrees.
“We found everything necessary for my children, for us,” Nasia said.
The Hadhads say the support they’ve received in their adoptive hometown has been a huge part of their success. A community group called Syria-Antigonish Families Embrace (SAFE) sponsored the family’s arrival to Canada.
“They didn’t come with money,” says SAFE member Lucille Harper.
“But, what did happen was the community saw their effort and the community got behind them. So there was some chipping in on the parts of community members, that was all repaid.”
WATCH: Peace by Chocolate is making the move to a bigger space to keep up with demand
Tareq Hadhad says even skeptics who questioned their presence in Canada have been converted.
“They messaged me back, after six months of my family’s arrival, and they said, ‘welcome,'” he said.
The Hadhads contributed to Fort McMurray wildfire relief, and, they’ve joined projects to help other Syrian refugees.
“We are not running a business. We are running a message, and, now it is an international message.”
With increased production, they plan to double the workforce, from 10 to 20.
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