Every December, Vancouver hosts the Street Store, an annual free, dignified shopping experience for Downtown Eastside residents called the Street Store. This special event was started in 2014 by Christina Wong and takes place in the heart of the Downtown Eastside neighbourhood at the intersection of Columbia and Hastings. During her time leading and organizing the Street Store, and through her conversations with the community, she gained a better understanding of the real challenges and experiences of people living and working in the Downtown Eastside.
In 2017, Christina was at the Street Store when she met a four-year-old boy named Justin, who would effectively change the course of her life forever.
Upon opening the doors of the Street Store Justin came running in, full of energy and liveliness, excited about the possibility of finding a toy for Christmas. After spotting a guitar in Christina’s hands, he charged at her full force and immediately began playing with the strings and trying to make music. Later on, Christina had the opportunity to meet the boy’s parents, who expressed grief that they could not properly provide for their son, due to lack of a stable income.
It was in that moment that the idea for Employ to Empower was born and Christina’s quest to positively impact the community through employment and entrepreneurship began. The following month, Christina quit her full-time job and with the support of co-founder, Stephanie Chan, officially launched Employ to Empower.
We focus on providing personalized support.
Our mission is to empower individuals who face work and social barriers to cultivate community connections through entrepreneurship and self-advocacy opportunities.
Every person has the opportunity to achieve self-reliance, financial well-being, a sense of belonging and contribution to the community.
Our Annual Report
We aim to cultivate an interconnected community of impact makers.
We collaborate to unlock self-confidence, self-belief, and self-agency so our community can step into their power.
We strive to create an environment where we meet each other where we’re at, without judgment.
We work together to reduce the systematic barriers to endless opportunities.
What We Do.
Employ to Empower takes a compassion-focused, holistic approach to empowering residents in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside through business skill building, mentorship, and advocacy.
Meet The Team
Employ to Empower is a team of qualified, self starting, and adaptable professionals who put compassion first, and are committed to creating positive social change in the Downtown Eastside community.
Christina brings a diverse skillset to the team, reflecting a combination of: 14 years of volunteering in the DTES community, ten years of sponsorship experience, a major in Psychology from SFU and eight years working with people who face disabilities. She is very fortunate to have an incredibly team to help achieve a mission that is much greater than us - cultivating sustainable change for entrepreneurs who face barriers. Recently, she was nominated for the 2020 YWCA Women of Distinction in the Non-Profit category and a recipient for the Globe and Mail Top 50 Business Changemaker recipients in Canada.
Charissa is the Head of Advocacy Programs at Employ to Empower works directly with a team of events specialists to curate events that focus on destigmatization, education and awareness of the entrepreneurs in the program. She is also the lead for our annual Vancouver Street Store event.
Truman is an active champion in the community and is leading our development programming for our basic business fundamentals and ideation courses at Employ to Empower.
As Marketing and Communications director for Sageus Strategy + Digital, Hosea supports the external relations strategy by communicating ETE’s story to the broader community through impactful storytelling.
Vivian brings her contagious upbeat energy to the team AND is a project management QUEEN. She's led reputable events like TEDxSFU in her past experiences. She will be leading this year's Street Store event coming up in December 2022 and bringing her secret sauce to the team.
Robert Jago is an entrepreneur and journalist from the Kwantlen First Nation. He was born and raised on traditional Kwantlen territory in Richmond, and has a degree in political science. Robert has lived and worked on the Downtown Eastside for 20 years, first as a homeless teen, and then as a business owner in the education services sector.
Deborah has a combination of marketing, entrepreneurship and a boundless, genuine heart to support our community. She will be working on helping ETE curate and design a partnership/engagement strategy so ETE can engage corporations/donors/individuals in a meaningful way.
Lara supports individuals in creating the confidence that they need to stick up for themselves, and to create life that they want. She facilitates and leads the 10-week business fundamentals program, focusing on creating a business plan, get really clear on what the participant wants their business to be/look like, and create a pitch/presentation about their business.
Isa is passionate about creating an environment and culture where individuals feel valued, appreciated and seen and will carry this into all my work at Employ to Empower. She is excited to own all things engagement, culture, volunteer and operations within the Employ to Empower community.
Dr. Sarah Lubik
Len is supporting Employ to Empower's leadership team with integrating indigenous worldview in to ETE's programming.
Vivian is an advisor with ETE and supports with providing guidance around marketing, leadership and human resources.
Amanda is a digital marketer who is supporting the Brand and Marketing team with social media. She also supports the Development Course by teaching digital literacy to entrepreneurs who face work and social barriers.
Sheila is supporting Employ to Empower's leadership team with defining the brand purpose to achieve the goals in to ETE's programming.