Ricardo and Marites Elna

Couple Finds Success Through Hard Work

Ricardo and Marites Elnas came to Canada in the late 90’s with nothing more than a conviction to succeed. Today, they run a successful sushi place in Kelowna.

“It started with a vision and a very determined spirit,” said Ricardo. “Starting a business is a lot of hits and misses but we soldiered on.”

Marites reflected the many personal sacrifices she and her husband had to endure to start a new life in an unfamiliar environment.

“We needed to integrate ourselves into new culture and jump some very serious hurdles.”

Those hurdles included staring down language barriers and mobility issues. They had to learn the nuances of English. They needed a vehicle if they were to go into the restaurant business. There were supplies to be bought and shuttled. There were customers to meet and cultivate relationships with. Of course, they needed to get a vehicle first and learn to drive it under a new, very different set of rules.

“On top of all that, we had to live with the reality that our education in the old country is not worth much in Canada.” said Marites. This meant many doors as far as jobs go were automatically shut-, a source of deep humiliation to many highly educated newcomers.
The couple rolled up their sleeves and took on the challenges.

Marites became a nanny and babysat for a relative. When the time was ripe, she upgraded her education and pursued a

course in care-aid. She already had a practical nursing degree from the Philippines.

Ricardo took employment at a local restaurant to gain experience.
When he felt he had the necessary skills, he opened his own. It was not a Filipino restaurant as one might expect, it was a Japanese restaurant with a mix of Asian cuisine. The couple called it the Zaru Sushi Family Restaurant.

Soon the odd-sounding food place in Willow Park, Rutland gained notice.

“Being my own chef was rewarding,” said Ricardo. Soon customers were coming in regularly to sample the couple’s menus. Ric and Tes, as they were known, took their early success in stride and kept “soldiering on.”

Ric’s creative passion soon became a hallmark of his menus. It did not take long before the couple opened a second restaurant, this time in Glenmore Plaza.

Today, the couple has a bit of time to kick back and relax.

“We love Canada”, says Tes and Ric. “There are many opportunities here that newcomers should never take for granted. There is freedom here to pursue your dreams; there are safety nets in case you fail to help you keep going.”

Ric in his own words:

“We have to value our freedom of speech in Canada. We have to value the freedom to move around wherever you want to live in this wide spacious and beautiful land. Tes and I marvel at the warmness and friendliness of the people in the community. In Kelowna, the people are most welcoming, diverse and community-oriented. Canada is unique, having many cultures brought in by immigrants from different corners of the world. Its cultural mosaic is what makes Canada beautiful. We all bring a set of skills to the table. Everyone partakes.”

With happy smiles, Ric and Tes summed up their Canadian experience this far in five words: “We have found a home.”

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