Bringing a Dream of Entrepreneurship to Canada

Alberto and Eloisa Garcia, owners of Wag, Ottawa

Alberto and Eloisa Garcia, new owners of Wag, Ottawa’s first pet friendly shop and cafe

Going from diesel repair to doggie day care is less of a stretch than you think. Why? Because the skill sets required for both are transferrable. And that’s what Alberto Garcia counted on when he moved to Ottawa from Querétaro, Mexico, to buy Wag, a doggie-themed business in Old Ottawa South.

Building a strong basis for success

This was Alberto’s second move to Canada. From ages 6 to 12, he lived in Toronto while his father studied and taught at the University of Toronto. Alberto returned to Mexico to finish his studies, earning a degree in mechanical engineering.

After university, Alberto worked in a diesel repair and parts retail business, first with his uncle and then with his father. There he gained experience in all aspects of running a business: managing staff, keeping inventory, balancing the books, and regulating the workflow.

While working, he and his wife, Eloisa, who is lawyer by education but a ballet dancer and teacher by passion, built their wealth, accumulating a home, property, and their interests in their businesses, which included Eloisa’s two ballet schools.

Taking the big decision

But clouds were brewing in Mexico. Alberto and his wife began to worry about their future, now with a young son, amid the problems of drugs, violence, corruption, and creeping advances from the cartels. While they considered moving to other countries, they decided on Canada.

In 2013, Alberto travelled to Toronto to begin the process of coming to Canada on an investor visa. His lawyers in Mexico and in Canada gave him the advice he needed. Through an Internet search, Alberto also found Sunbelt Business Brokers.

His initial contact with Sunbelt was for a flooring business in Toronto. While that lead didn’t materialize, Alberto continued his search, which became more focused after he and Eloisa decided to move to Ottawa, a city that offered the safety and the quality of life they sought.

Setting the final process in motion

Alberto returned to Toronto to work on his visa application and then to Ottawa to meet with Greg Kells, owner of Sunbelt’s Ottawa office.

Greg worked with Alberto to determine how his skills could be applied to taking over a business in Canada. “Greg was an excellent connection,” Alberto said. He also praises Greg for his encouragement: “Don’t worry. You’re coming to Canada.”

Making the right move

Wag storefrontOne day, Greg asked Alberto, “Do you like dogs?” Greg then presented Wag, a business that combines a dog and cat retail outlet with the Doggin’ It Café and a doggie daycare facility.   Located on a busy street in an established residential neighbourhood, Wag stocks everything from cat toys to gourmet coffee with names like Bad Dog.

One customer raves: “Wag is hands down the best pet store in Ottawa, not to mention how great the coffee is!”

Alberto and Greg met with Joan Garvey, the owner of Wag. In early 2015, Joan accepted his offer, which was what Alberto needed to finalize the paperwork with the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City. Alberto realized the value of Greg’s skill at getting the buyer and the seller together to work out a fair deal for both parties. “Greg helps you all the way.” Alberto adds, “Without Greg’s help, none of this would have happened.”

Alberto and Joan remain in weekly contact. Greg also remains in the picture, regularly following up with Alberto to make sure things are going well.

Doing your homework

Buying a business from outside Canada is complicated, especially when considering the cultural differences. If you’re looking to buy a business in Canada as an investor immigrant, follow Alberto’s advice.

First, get a good business broker to help you through every step of the process. And because Greg worked to make sure that Alberto was the right fit for the purchase of Wag, the chances of his success were increased.

Second, research the immigration process. Get a good immigration lawyer. Check the person’s credentials and past performance.

Third, plan on a visit to Canada. It’ll help you to choose the right place to set up your business.

Fourth, be financially prepared to cover the unexpected things that come with buying a business and moving to a new country.

“I’m really grateful to Greg and the Sunbelt team. They are why I’m here.”

“Alberto, Eloisa and their son are enjoying life in Ottawa even though they moved here in mid-winter,” says Greg. “The family is a wonderful addition to the city. And the individuals that worked with me locally to meet their pressing needs—i.e. the visa (Richard Morris, partner with Langevin Morris Smith LLP) the business plan, financing (Joan Garvey), even living arrangements—are what true community is all about.”

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