THE BLOG

The Wisdom Of A Former Refugee - "Do Not Take Anything For Granted"

04/26/2013 05:29 EDT | Updated 06/26/2013 05:12 EDT

Just a decade after arriving to Canada from Eritrea, Thomas Tewoldemedhin is living the ultimate Canadian dream. Calling himself a "serial entrepreneur", the onetime refugee turned Harry Jerome award-winning business extraordinaire is making an impression whereever he goes. He reflects on his success and looks at the humble journey that has prepared him to "not take anything for granted."

The passionate young man is intent on "pushing the envelope in every possible way" in attaining a great Canadian success story.

Thomas you have had a very interesting Canadian life so far. Tell me about yourself?

I am a graduate of the University of Toronto with Electrical & Computer Engineering degree. While doing a summer internship during my undergrad studies, I started an onsite paging company (TNTech Canada) which would later become the largest supplier of on-site paging systems in Canada. I have since ventured heavily into real estate where I own a Home renovation company and a property management firm along with a partner.

I now practice real estate trading both as a licensed realtor, investor and advisor. I have been very successful in assisting and advising home buyers, sellers and investors in their decision and wealth building process. I consider myself a serial entrepreneur.

You were born in Eritrea and came to Canada as a refugee.

I was born and raised in Asmara, Capital city of Eritrea. After war broke out in my home country, I immigrated to Canada in 1999 as a refugee at the age of 14. I never took anything I have for granted since then. Facing a lot challenges as a newcomer, I was already out of my comfort zone. I forced myself to be comfortable with being out of my comfort zone. This thought process now plays a significant role in pushing the envelope in every possible way.

Why is home ownership a great investment for new Canadians?

Home ownership is the best vehicle to creating wealth that will transfer into generations to follow. As an immigrant, I educate this simple but vital concept through seminars and workshops. Creating a lasting legacy of wealth is a way to elevate our society to the higher standards of living.

You started your first company as a student - TNTech Canada

TNTech Canada started as a school project for one of my business class. The idea came while I was waiting for a restaurant table on a busy Friday. I thought to myself that it would be nice if you can give some sort of pager to customers while they wait for a table. This would save the staff from yelling out your name and de-clutter the waiting area. After conducting market research, I came to realization that there is no known paging system product used in Canada. I then pitched the idea out to a friend and formed a partnership. TNTech Canada would then become the largest distributor of on-site paging systems in Canada.

You have been an active member of the National Society of Black Engineers. You must have been excited when it made its first international voyage in Toronto recently.

The National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) played a significant role in my life. As a high school student I was tutored by NSBE members at the University of Toronto. After being accepted to University of Toronto, I became a NSBE member tutoring high school students and later served as a leader in the organization as Director of Programs and Vice President.

Having NSBE conference in Toronto, the first time it has ever been held outside the United States after 35 years shows the growing number and support of black engineers in Canada. The mission of the organization is to increase the number of culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. I believe the conference accomplished its mission very well.

What is one thing you have not done that you want to be able to achieve in the coming years?

As an adviser, investor and realtor, my personal goal in the next 5 years is to reach out and educate every single person in the community the value of creating wealth through real estate. This will lead to generational wealth within our community. I plan to do this through workshops, seminars, presentations and other means of reaching out.