Merritt is welcoming its first entrepreneurs through the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP).

“We want to welcome our first entrepreneurs in the BC PNP program,” said Manuel Olguin, Business Development Officer for Community Futures Nicola Valley (CFNV).

“Last year Merritt become one of those eligible communities for the program and we are happy to say that they are here, and they will be establishing a business in Merritt.”

Using the PNP program to bring in new entrepreneurs from other countries was a joint effort between the City of Merritt, CFNV, and the Chamber of Commerce.

According to the Province’s website, “The Entrepreneur Immigration stream of the BC Provincial Nominee Program is a path to immigrate to Canada and settle in BC for experienced entrepreneurs who can support innovation and economic growth in the province.”

Simon Ho and Florence Au, originally from Hong Kong, have arrived in Merritt and are ready to do business, but have struggled to find a location to set up shop.

“Originally what they had mentioned was they were looking for residential on the top and retail on the bottom, but that’s not possible, so now they have to find a different location in downtown and they will also have to find a place for them to rent,” said Olguin.

“That is one of the biggest challenges.”

“When I came here last year, I saw a lot of places available, but this year I came again and they are totally gone,” said Ho.

It was on that visit last year that Ho fell in love with Merritt and decided it would be an ideal place for his family to relocate, choosing the Nicola Valley over the more than 60 other eligible communities available through the program.

“We love Merritt, when I first came to town here, I went to Lynda’s Café, they’re closed now but it was a very good experience,” explained Ho.

“The local people helped me, they showed me the menu, gave me the newspaper and asked me if I wanted a copy. It felt good, I felt very welcomed, it was wonderful.”

Ho and Au also have two children who are already getting settled into Merritt life, now enrolled in Central Elementary.

Once a storefront is secured, the pair will open a sewing machine shop.

“We will set up a sewing machine shop, the sewing machine is our foundation, so it is what we sell,” said Ho.

Other than that, we have some training classes where we will teach other people to do sewing.”

The shop will also sell souvenirs for tourists, Merritt themed items and offer custom T-shirt printing and other personalized items.