Eva Sun, President of Libra National Inc. – better known as The Rice People – has been committed to the community in greater Vancouver and helping others in her industry for over three decades. As a member of the Women Presidents Organization (WPO), among other business organizations, she’s provided mentorship, support and inspiration to other women in the food industry.
Involved with multiple charitable and philanthropic causes, Eva believes giving back to the community is essential as a business owner. She also feels strongly that a lot can be done to empower the immigrant community through new work opportunities.
It is for these reasons, Eva was awarded the Community & Charitable Giving Award at the WPO’s Celebrating Women in Business Awards earlier this month. We spoke to Eva, to find out the value of getting involved, and her reasons for giving back.
Why is it so important to you to help provide opportunities to immigrants in the workforce?
When I started my business in Canada, I realized most of my employees were immigrants. I didn’t purposely recruit them, but I realized then that the value of my business is not just about making money. I realized I can and I should give a little bit more, by helping people to settle in and bridge the gap between themselves and the younger generation. It’s through this sharing philosophy that they are able to settle in, by becoming aware of certain cultural norms in Canada. Then, they can start sharing their experiences with other new immigrants.
How can other entrepreneurs consider offering immigrants similar support?
As entrepreneurs, we should empower immigrants by offering opportunities to explore and learn new things and to add new value to their lives.
It could be as little as teaching immigrant staff one English word a day, or assigning a staff member to collect and post news in the staff room in their languages about local communities, provinces, or Canada. Provide a monthly "sharing time" to staff during work hours for them to experience and learn the value of sharing their Canadian experiences with others. Besides recruiting from the public and HR companies, also post job opportunities within the company and encourage the staff to apply. I constantly advocate that The Rice People’s employees should feel happy at work and have learned something new at the end of each workday.
How has getting involved with business organizations helped you as an entrepreneur?
I joined the WPO three years ago without knowing much about it. That’s when I realized my experience could be useful to other entrepreneurs.
For all entrepreneurs, peer-to-peer coaching has great value. We learn a lot, whether it’s hard or soft skills. But more importantly, once a month we get to share our experiences and support. As women, family is always the priority, and through the WPO, we can understand and support each other as entrepreneurs who also have other priorities to take care of.
If entrepreneurs don’t have the energy and drive they need, then even the best business coaches in the world won’t be able to get the business where we want it to go. But through WPO meetings, I’m able to get energized, and go back to the business, and refresh my goals.
Do business owners have a responsibility to give back to their communities?
Very much so. The challenge is that there are so many options for us to choose from in terms of getting involved, and a lot of the time you don’t know where to start. My approach right now is to diversify my charitable involvement, whether financially or time-wise.
I think starting with organizations or causes you’re familiar with is the best place to start. I have children, so I pursue involvement with children’s hospitals or schools. I also get involved with organizations related to immigrants, because I came to Canada from Taiwan. For example, I participate in the Taiwanese Chamber of Commerce and try to help members get connected with the mainstream.
Many business people might wonder what they get back by getting involved. What would you say to them?
When you share experiences through business organizations or other opportunities in your community, that’s when you realize the value of your own business. Of course, you also gain networking and PR opportunities, but getting involved is really about realizing that the value of your business is more than your bottom line.
Yes, you have to have strong financials. But as an entrepreneur, when you realize your company can serve a higher purpose, that really makes you feel good. That’s what makes you jump out of bed in the morning.