In a series of short profiles, Capital Current introduces some of the people working hard to improve life in Ottawa.

Who is Karla Briones?

Briones is a small-business owner who also mentors mostly immigrant entrepreneurs through her own business, Karla Briones Consulting, and organizations such as Invest Ottawa and The Indigenous Business Hub. Briones is a member of the Ottawa Board of Trade’s board of directors and an entrepreneurship professor at Algonquin College.

What is her background?

Briones grew up in Chihuahua, Mexico. Her family moved to Canada in the late 1990s because their environment became too dangerous, She told Capital Current.

“You know the drug cartel stuff that you watch on Netflix? That was my reality, unfortunately,” Briones said.

Her father worked as a veterinarian in Mexico. Briones said her family thought he could do the same in Canada, but that was not the case. “It took about eight years to recertify (as a veterinarian) and then eventually open his own practice — which he made a lot of mistakes in because, being an immigrant, he didn’t know what he didn’t know,” Briones said. As a result, Briones told Shift Management, he lost a lot of money, which affected his retirement fund.

Briones said her passion for helping immigrants succeed in business stemmed from seeing that difficult experience firsthand.

One important skill that can be difficult for immigrant entrepreneurs to learn is networking, she said.

“For example, in other cultures, women don’t culturally speak to men … that they don’t know,” Briones said. Creating spaces for these women to network is important. Invest Ottawa’s Immigrant Women Entrepreneurs Meetup is one such space Briones has helped foster.

What is Briones known for in Ottawa?

Briones and her husband are franchisees of Global Pet Foods in Kanata and Hintonburg. She is also known for two things in Ottawa’s business community.

“I think when you mention my name in the business community, they associate it with small business advocacy and immigration … how (we can) help immigrants in Canada open businesses in Canada,” Briones said.

Briones has written columns for local media, including the Ottawa Citizen, where she has been a voice for small businesses on topics ranging from rental policies to taxation to pandemic measures.

What do people say about Briones?

Briones says people have questioned why she does entrepreneurship consulting specifically for immigrants. “I used to get a lot of pushback,” she said.

A profile in Canadian Immigrant says of Briones, “beyond (her) businesses, the list of her accomplishments is formidable.”

What’s a fun fact about Briones?

When she lived in Mexico, Briones was a semi-professional ballet dancer. A week before her audition for Mexico’s national ballet company, she injured her knee playing basketball, causing her to miss her audition.

“Shortly after, it was like, okay, I guess I’ll come to Canada,” Briones said.