Flavias Maboto has a natural enthusiasm and optimism. That drives her company, Flavias Magical Domestic Cleaning and Cooking.
But starting out as an entrepreneur, she wasn’t always sure that was enough. “I never thought I would make a business from it,” she says.
But she also knew how to clean and how to cook. And she thought people would like those services. “They know what they want to eat, how they want their house,” she says. “So, when we come they can be free to enjoy their life.”
Maboto had just arrived in Halifax from Moncton, N.B., where she first lived in Canada in 2010. She’s originally from Mozambique, but spent 20 years living in Italy where she worked as a housekeeper for a family. While there, she went to cooking school and became a trained Italian chef, eventually owning her own restaurant.
Her sister was living Shediac, N.B., at the time, and encouraged her to move. “She was telling me ‘Canada is my country,’” Maboto says.
She first moved to Moncton, where she met her boyfriend Phil Calvert. But she moved on to Halifax, arriving in the city with $40 and looking for a job. Then she thought about opening her own cleaning business.
Maboto posted an ad on Kijiji and got a call from one woman. “She said, ‘How long are you going to stay here?’’ Maboto remembers that client asking. “I told her I needed a job.” That client was so impressed with her work, she recommended her to a few friends.
She started her business in 2013 with one other person. She continued to expand, searching the Internet for ideas on how companies did such cleaning and cooking services. She also checked out the competition.
Now, she employs nine people, including the boyfriend from Moncton, who is now her husband and business office manager. In her driveway are three cars, all decorated with her bright clean and blue logo, which sports a mop and a chef’s hat in the centre.
In addition to a full suite of cleaning services, she cooks, creating menus and meals for clients who are hosting parties. She also offers lessons in how to cook those meals. She specializes in Italian and Mozambican cuisine, which includes dishes of vegetables, rice, coconut, and polenta. Her Facebook page shares photos of the dishes she makes, such as Mozambican roast beef with Pulau rice and risotto and sausages. The company also offers customized meal plans and grocery-pick-up service.
But Halifax offers Maboto other benefits besides business success. “In Italy you’re a number,” she says. “Here, you’re a person. If they don’t know you, they greet you and say hello. People say hello because they like your face.”
Alicia Browne, a business counsellor at Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia (ISANS), helped Maboto develop her business idea, offered support as decisions needed to be made, helped her find resources, and shared with her the business rules and regulations in Canada. She also helped with basic business skills and referred Maboto to language programs where she worked on business communication.
Browne remembers being impressed by Maboto’s energy and entrepreneurial vision. She says she has great problem-solving skills and a natural ability with people.
“She set smart goals and was able to create the steps to get to her end goals,” Browne says.
She has advice, too, for other newcomers to the city, like Maboto. She suggests they first speak to the ISANS business team, who will help define success and set goals.
She says entrepreneurs should also track what they do and make sure they are making a return. Find a team of professionals to help with accounting, legal issues, and those who can mentor you. Learn the rules and the regulations of how business is done locally.
And make connections, even in a new city where you know no one. “Building your network is key so attend a variety of events in the city and be the friendliest person in the room, even if you are shy or think your language skills are not perfect,” she says. “Nova Scotians are great people.”
But she also suggests immigrant entrepreneurs build on their global knowledge like Maboto did by incorporating her knowledge of cuisine into her business. “Don’t be afraid of bringing your international experience to your business even when you are trying to fit in,” she says. “There will be times it will appear to be in conflict but being authentic is important.”
Maboto is slowly growing her business and without debt. “That is the best thing,” she says. She is looking at purchasing a fourth car for her fleet.
Now, her company has one crew in Halifax, one in Dartmouth, and one in Bedford. Maboto plans to expand. “Right now, I see we can do the Maritimes very well,” she says. “Then after that maybe we can franchise. But it takes time”
She says she enjoys working with and getting to know her clients, who appreciate her work. “Cleaning is not for everybody, cleaning is hard,” she says. “When they come back to their house, they feel treated. The women, the men, the kids love us so much.”
She has advice for other newcomers to the city. “They have to be willing to take risks,” she says. “But Halifax is open. Whatever you want to do, you can do in Halifax.”