Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

She turned her passion into a successful business

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She came to Canada from Pakistan in 1994 with her husband, three little kids and hope for a beautiful life.

"I wanted to do something but never got a chance," recalled Rahat Mirza, now the owner of Rahat Professional Skin Care.

In Winnipeg, the young mom from Rawalpindi got her chance. After her husband found a job at 7-Eleven, she pursued her passion, attended beauty school and worked her way up to owning her own salon.

"I thought I should start fresh," Mirza said. "Instead of staying home and being a mom, I thought I should start right away.

"It was a good thing for me. My daughter was a year old and went to day care. My two boys had started school."

She and her husband didn't have close family here, so the couple had to rely on each other.

"That was a very hard time, but we did it," said Mirza. "If you're both partners and honest with each other and helpful and supportive, then it works."

After finishing her esthetician's course at Scientific Marvel, she got her first job at Giselle's and worked and saved.

"In 1998, I started my own business at a small place downtown in a hair salon."

Her husband became the 7-Eleven store manager. She kept working at what she loved.

"It is my passion," she said. "I really like to spend time on myself and look good," said Mirza, who kept saving.

"In 2006 I decided to have my own place. I bought this property and renovated." She made a go of it as Rahat Professional Skin Care.

"Now I have two girls working with me," said Mirza. "I'm pretty happy. I can say I've been successful running my own little business."

After nearly 20 years in the beauty business, she's beautified a lot of Winnipeggers.

"I don't know how many faces, hands and feet I've worked on." Mirza said. She's never counted.

"I love it."

She sees the beauty in giving back, as well. Mirza and her husband volunteer with the Husaini Association of Manitoba Inc. The registered charity brings in speakers, helps out newcomers and assists families when there's a death in the family.

Mirza is one of nearly 10,000 Pakistani Canadians in Manitoba, said fellow entrepreneur Dost Mughal. Since arriving in 1977 from Pakistan, he has carved out a niche serving the growing population with his General Tours and Travel Service.

It bothers him that most Canadians only see the ugly side of Pakistan, reflected in media coverage of disasters and violence, and never its beauty, like K2 in the Himalayas or the culture and history of Islamabad.

Pakistan has had disasters and terrorists, but it also has water slide parks and peaceful places and people, and that's what Hammad Khan thinks of when he hears "Pakistan."

The 33-year-old president of the Pakistani-Canadian Association of Manitoba came to Winnipeg 14 years ago from Lahore. There, Khan was a local TV personality. As a child, he hosted a show at a water park, where kids raced down water slides and went on treasure hunts.

Now he's hosting events for his community in Winnipeg, and celebrating Pakistan.

"We're peaceful people, not extremists at all. A few individuals have painted the whole country." They have not killed expatriate Pakistanis' pride in their young country, though.

March 23 is observed every year as Resolution Day, marking the 1940 call for independent Muslim states in then-British India.

"We need to celebrate freedom and the successes of our ancestors," said Khan. The Pakistani-Canadian Association is celebrating with a banquet April 15 in Winnipeg, and everyone is welcome, he said.

"When we do our functions, we don't limit them to Pakistanis. We invite people from India, the Vietnamese and all our Canadian friends."

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition March 31, 2012 J16

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