Employ to Empower to Open More Doors for Aspiring Entrepreneurs on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side

By Rachel Campbell

September 23, 2022

By: Rachel Campbell

Nearly a quarter of the individuals residing on Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) have a dream to become an entrepreneur. Employ to Empower (ETE) helps turn these dreams into a reality. Through self-advocacy, entrepreneurial resources and opportunities, the Vancouver-based non-profit organization meets individuals where they are at, providing equitable opportunities based on each individual’s needs. They provide aspiring entrepreneurs on the DTES with tools, mentorship and most importantly, compassion to turn one’s dream into a business. 

After securing its first federal grant, ETE will receive funding for the next two years from Employment Social Development Canada to foster organizational growth and expansion. This funding enabled ETE to open a new (and improved) office space to assist as they scale to offer increased support for social services and economic development in Vancouver’s DTES community. 

To celebrate, they hosted a grand office opening in their new space where guests ate, mingled, and met some of the talented entrepreneurs at their showcase booths in the pop-up Make Change Store. Normally an online marketplace, the Make Change Market is an online platform that fills a gap for individuals on the DTES: a marketplace, without barriers that is accessible to those with limited resources and an opportunity for individuals to achieve both long-term social and financial well-being. It showcases art, businesses, and services led by the entrepreneurs with 100% of proceeds from every purchase going directly to the entrepreneur. While touring the Make Change Store guests exchanged stories, compassion and products founded by the ETE entrepreneurs themselves. Something that makes the organization so incredible is its circular economy. The individuals who have embarked on their entrepreneurial journey are invited back as the next generation of leaders for incoming aspiring entrepreneurs. Guests also listened to inspiring and empowering remarks by two entrepreneurs: Yvonne Mark and Julie Melanie, and an advocate, Magdi Ramdani as they reflected on how ETE has changed their life for the better. 

ETE’s new 1,500-square-foot office will serve as a part-time workspace for entrepreneurs as they kickstart their businesses, host events and mentorship programs, and safe destination for whoever needs it. Executive Director, Christina Wong predicts that the funding received means they can support nearly four times the amount of entrepreneurs than they were able to prior. 

Thanks to their non-traditional approach to entrepreneurship, ETE has helped many individuals receive the support they deserve. They have, and continue to foster confidence, a circular economy, and self-advocacy amongst the DTES while they combat social and work barriers. 


About Rachel Campbell

Executive Assistant to the Founder & Communications Assistant

While studying Media Information and Technoculture at Western, this energetic foodie was focused on accelerating the world’s sustainable energy transition as an executive with the university’s Student Energy chapter. Having joined the Switchboard Team, Rachel is using her tech-oriented background, top-notch organizational skills, and background in social media management and content creation to support Canada’s first tech-focused strategic communications firm. Comfortable and confident in fast-paced environments at work and at leisure, Rachel’s out-of-office hours are spent exploring nature with her dog Harvey, dining on Italian food with friends, or attempting a DIY project found on Pinterest.